Off-Road Park Hit With $22M Verdict After Avoidable Death
An off-road park was hit with a $22M verdict after a tree fell on a man who was riding a dirt bike. A Georgia jury returned a verdict in favor of the plaintiff after they heard arguments that the park was taking down trees along the dirt bike path. The park has since been shut down, sold, and re-opened under a new name.
This was not the first massive verdict the park took in the past few years. Another lawsuit was filed against them after a teenager nearly lost his leg after crashing into an exposed pipe. The park was faulted for not remedying an open and obvious danger to park goers. In that case, a judgment of $15 million was entered against the park.
Two more people died after the plaintiff was named above. It remains unclear if lawsuits have been filed in those cases. As of right now, the park has at least $37 million in liabilities and no insurance policy to recover the damages from. Attorneys for the plaintiffs will need to use “old school” collections efforts to recover the judgment. Alternatively, the family and the business can declare bankruptcy.
What happens when a defendant won’t pay?
In a typical lawsuit, a claim is filed against an insurance policy. But if you remember the OJ Simpson wrongful death lawsuit, the families won that suit against Simpson. Simpson, however, paid very little of the judgment entered against him.
When there’s no insurance policy, the plaintiff’s lawyers have to employ “old school” collections efforts. What are those? Well, our clients essentially become the equivalent of a creditor and the defendant becomes the equivalent of a borrower. The creditor can file a lawsuit against the borrower to enforce the judgment. Once the borrower has a judgment against them, the creditor can file a lien on their real estate, garnish their wages, or levy their bank accounts.
As of right now, the plaintiffs are attempting to get an injunction on proceeds relating to the sale of the park, so that money isn’t immediately spent or sent to an off-shore account.
Ultimately, tracking down the money costs money. So, in some cases, a defendant can make it so difficult to track down the money, that it costs more than the plaintiff would receive. However, when you’re talking about $37 million, folks are going to put their best foot forward to try to track down any and all assets a borrower/defendant has. This could go on for decades. The judgment could even survive the defendant’s estate.
While some defendants can discharge judgments in bankruptcy, those who own parks tend not to qualify for Chapter 7 protection. They can file under Chapter 11, but the bankruptcy will remain open until a negotiated repayment is entirely repaid. In a case like this, the plaintiffs will move quickly to get a judgment for the debt, and begin aggressively pursuing the repayment.
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