All posts tagged: attorney

Successful Jury Verdict in High-Profile Shooting Case

WRAL recently covered one of our Jury Trials in a mini-series, Presumption of Fear.  Below is their story from the day after the verdict.  You can also watch video of closing arguments here.

A Harnett County jury Wednesday found that an Angier pastor is responsible for the wrongful death of his son-in-law, who he shot and killed in 2013.

The Rev. Pat Chisenhall has said 23-year-old Christian Griggs was threatening him and breaking into his home when Chisenhall shot him six times with a .22-caliber semiautomatic rifle. Griggs was struck once in the stomach, once in the shoulder and four times in the back. The pastor was never criminally charged in the shooting, and said he was fearful for his and his daughter’s lives.

The Griggs’ family filed a wrongful death lawsuit against Chisenhall in 2015, disputing his version of events. They say their son was at the Chisenhall homestead to pick up his then 4-year-old daughter for scheduled visitation.

The case was the subject of an investigative series published and aired by WRAL News in November.

It took the 12-member jury about an hour and a half to return a unanimous verdict that Chisenhall is civilly liable for the wrongful death of Christian Griggs and was not protected by arguments of self defense, defense of his daughter’s life or defense of his home. They awarded $250,000 in damage to Griggs’ estate, money that will go to his 10-year-daughter Jaden.

Dolly Griggs, the plaintiff in the suit and the mother of Christian Griggs, said after the verdict that the citizens of Harnett County “saw the truth in the courtroom today.” She also called on elected officials to act.

“The truth is out there, and now I challenge DA Stewart, Sheriff Coats, Governor Cooper, Josh Stein to look into this case, because Harnett County needs help,” Dolly Griggs said. “Please help us here.”

Speaking for Chisenhall, who left the courtroom shortly after the verdict, attorney Robert Levin said his client was disappointed in the decision, but did not plan to appeal.

Neither Harnett County Sheriff Wayne Coats, whose office investigated the case, nor District Attorney Vernon Stewart, who ultimately decided not to press criminal charges, were available for comment Wednesday afternoon following the verdict.

At the center of the civil case was North Carolina’s Castle Doctrine, which protects those who injure or kill in defense of their lives or their property while in their homes, workplaces or vehicles.

Testimony recounted Griggs’ final moments

The jury heard five full days of testimony in the case, which saw evidence from the medical examiner who performed Griggs’ autopsy, detectives who investigated the case, Griggs’ father and Chisenhall himself, who said on the stand he had trouble remembering many of the details of the shooting.

The pastor of the Abundant Life Worship Center in Angier said on the stand that Griggs had arrived at his home in Angier on the morning of Oct. 12, 2013 hostile and demanding to see his estranged wife, Katie, and their then 4-year-old daughter Jaden.

Chisenhall said Griggs became enraged when he was informed his wife had taken out a restraining order against him for an incident the night before. There was no such restraining order, but Katie Griggs had taken out misdemeanor warrants against her husband the night before for breaking and entering, property damage and domestic criminal trespass.

Chisenhall and his daughter both called 911, the jury heard, and retreated into Chisenhall’s home on NC Highway 210 in Angier. He said he struggled to get the door closed with his son-in-law on the other side, and moments later heard the glass in the front window shatter. But following a diagnosis of post-traumatic stress disorder, Chisenhall said he couldn’t remember anything after that glass broke.

That left him unable to remember interviews he gave to Harnett County sheriff’s deputies in the days after the shooting, when he said he shot Griggs from behind a sofa 10 to 12 feet away from a partially busted in window as his son-in-law was attempting to crawl in. Chisenhall told investigators at the time that Griggs at threatened to kill him and his daughter, and that they were both terrified of what would happen if he got into the house.

On the stand, Associate Chief Medical Examiner Lauren Scott said her autopsy on Griggs in 2013 showed that he had been shot six times. Four of those shots were in the back, with upward trajectories that suggested Griggs was either bent parallel to the ground or lying down when he was hit by the Winchester rifle.

Scott also testified that two of the four shots in the back would have been fatal wounds for Griggs, regardless of any medical intervention.

Chisenhall described his son-in-law as a great, but troubled man who he loved and was close with throughout a tumultuous, on- and off-again relationship with his daughter. He presided over their marriage when they were just out of high school at 18 years old, new parents of a two-month old daughter. Griggs wrote the pastor letters while he was deployed as an enlisted soldier, and considered him at one point to be his spiritual adviser.

Chisenhall even baptized Griggs in his backyard swimming pool three weeks before the shooting.

But he said Griggs had a darker side that emerged on Oct. 12, 2013, when he said he saw his son-in-law launched into a “monstrous rage” that terrified him and his daughter. His lawyer argued he had no choice but to take Griggs’ life in self-defense.

Attorneys for Griggs’ family countered that the shots in Griggs’ back demonstrated that he was no longer a threat, and that arguments of self-defense and defense of habitation did not apply.

 

Robby JessupSuccessful Jury Verdict in High-Profile Shooting Case
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One Million Dollar Recovery Reported in Trial Briefs Magazine (Wrongful Death Case)

Trial Briefs Magazine reported as follows on one of our recent cases:

In February of 2019, Robby Jessup [of RDU Injury Law] in Raleigh settled a Wake County wrongful death case for the policy limit of $1 million. Plaintiff’s Decedent was a 75-year-old man who was hit in a marked crosswalk at Rex Hospital. Despite heroic efforts to save him, he ultimately died from his injuries.

Liability was disputed, but the main issue in the case was how to determine life expectancy and economic loss. These obstacles were overcome by a complete medical history summary and an economist’s opinion of the value of the home health care services the Decedent had been providing to his wheelchair-using wife. Gary Albrecht, PhD was utilized as Plaintiff’s expert.

Robby JessupOne Million Dollar Recovery Reported in Trial Briefs Magazine (Wrongful Death Case)
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Hurricane Insurance Claims 101

Expanding in size, Hurricane Florence is continuing on a beeline toward Eastern North Carolina as an “extremely dangerous” Category 4 storm.

Catastrophic flooding and destructive winds are becoming very likely everywhere from the Triangle to the Coast.

Meteorologists are reporting that this storm may be comparable to Hurricane Hazel in the 1950s.

Nearly one in four homeowners and business owners in Eastern North Carolina can expect some level of property damage from Hurricane Florence.

In light of these odds, we have prepared the below tips for preparing for and making inevitable hurricane related insurance claims:

  1. Photograph the condition of your property before the storm.

Oftentimes, insurance companies will raise questions as to whether damage was storm related or pre-existing. If you have damage from a hurricane, you will want to be able to show your insurance company proof of your property’s condition immediately before the storm. This includes both real and personal property. Take your I-Phone and photograph the condition of the interior and exterior of your home or business. This includes furniture, fences, sheds, garages, attics, basements, trees and landscaping.

  1. Have copies of your insurance policies and/or declaration pages.

It is important to know what insurance coverages you have before a storm hits. Of equal importance, you need to review these documents to know how to quickly make an insurance claim if and when you sustain damage.  This should include but not be limited to any and all policies of car insurance, homeowners insurance, flood insurance, and business insurance that you have.

  1. If you have storm damage, make an insurance claim as soon as possible.

In catastrophes, insurance companies generally handle claims on a first come, first serve basis. If you call your insurance company immediately after the storm, you may experience long wait times, but be patient. It will pay-off in the speed at which your claim is adjusted. Likewise, don’t let someone put you or claim on the backburner. Be persistent in your communications. (As an aside, many companies now have apps or websites where you can make your insurance claims online, which may save you time on the phone.)

  1. Write down your claim number and keep it handy.

When you make an insurance claim, it is easy to overlook writing down your claim number. However, writing this number down and keeping it handy can save you a lot of time down the road. If you keep this number, insurance company representatives will be able to immediately find your claim each and every time you call.

  1. Keep Notes.

Take notes documenting every contact with your insurer, noting the person with whom you spoke, his or her contact information, the date that you spoke, and what you spoke about. After catastrophes, insurance companies are overwhelmed, and you should take the initiative in making sure your calls and correspondence make it to the right person and also that adjusters do what they promise. Additionally, if things go haywire with your insurance claim, it is important for your lawyer to get these notes down the road.

  1. Keep Receipts.

If you sustain storm damage, you have a duty to mitigate further damage to your home or business. This means you must make any and all reasonable temporary repairs to prevent further damage to your property. However, keep receipts for any expenses related to immediate repairs you had to make, as your insurer will generally be required to reimburse you for these expenses.

Likewise, keep receipts for any living expenses you incur (i.e. lodging & meals) if you could not return to your home in the wake of the storm. With wind claims, you should generally get reimbursed for such additional living expenses. If your claim is limited to flood insurance, additional living expenses might not be covered.

If you are a business owner, quickly develop a short-term plan for your business (i.e., open in temporary location, shut down etc.), and keep receipts/records for all purchases and services from the date of your loss until your claim is satisfactorily resolved.

  1. Photograph the condition of your property after the storm.

If you have storm damage, it is important that you photograph it, and that you photograph it before any temporary or permanent repairs are made to your home or business. Do not rely on the insurance company to document the damage to your property. Take the initiative and do it yourself. This instruction is not limited to real property and structures. If you have personal property that was damages in the storm, photograph that damage too.

  1. Know who you are dealing with.

When the insurance company sends out an adjuster, ask if he/she is an employee of the insurance company or an independent adjuster (I.A.). In catastrophes, insurance companies will oftentimes contract claims out to third-party companies. If you encounter an I.A., ask if they are authorized to make claim decisions and payments on behalf of your insurance company and ask for the name of the in-house company adjuster to whom the I.A. will be sending your information. If you have problems or issues with the I.A., having the contact information for the in-house company adjuster can be of great assistance.

  1. Flood versus Wind Damage

If you think you only have flood damage to your home or business, and you don’t have flood insurance, call your insurers anyway. Some homeowners and business policies that exclude damage related to flooding may cover damage from water and wind.

  1. Your vehicles should be covered.

Damage to your vehicles from downed trees and flooding should be covered by the comprehensive portion of your auto insurance. If your vehicle is damaged, promptly make a claim with your car insurance company and photograph its condition.

*Ask for help if you need it!

Most insurance claims are resolved on friendly and fair terms, but sometimes they are not. If you run into an adjuster who is making your life more difficult than it should be, arguing about what is or is not covered, or arguing with you or a contractor about the extent of damage to your home or business, call a lawyer immediately.

For a free consultation, you can reach me at [email protected] or (919) 821-7700.

Stay safe in the storm,

Robby Jessup

Robby JessupHurricane Insurance Claims 101
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Two Million Dollar Recovery Reported In Trial Briefs Magazine (Wrongful Death Case)

NCAJ’s Trial Briefs Magazine recently featured the following story on one of our cases:

In April of 2018, Robby Jessup and Joan Davis [of RDU Injury Law] obtained a Two Million Dollar settlement for the wrongful death of a motorcyclist.

Phil Sabino, a 45-year-old father, was killed in August of 2015 when a Honda Accord crossed under the median cable on I-540 and entered his lane of travel.  The driver of the Honda Accord was an inexperienced driver, who became confused and panicked in the merging traffic lanes of the I-540/I-40 interchange.

The insurance company for the Honda Accord tendered its liability policy limits of $100,000 within weeks of the crash.  Sabino had UIM coverage on his motorcycle of $250,000, and the attorneys discovered another automobile policy with $250,000 of UIM that was stacked for a $500,000 recovery.  A limited release and waiver of subrogation for the liability and UIM policy limits was negotiated.

Thereafter, upon completing an accident reconstruction, witness interviews, and evaluation of thousands of records from the NCDOT, numerous problems with the cable median barrier were discovered.

A tort claim was filed in the Industrial Commission against the NCDOT, and after a year of litigation, a separate lawsuit was filed against the NCDOT contractor charged with maintenance and repair of the cable medians.

After 23 depositions, including eyewitnesses, state officials, maintenance crews and company representatives, as well as local accident reconstruction engineers and national cable median experts on both sides, the cases against the NCDOT and contractor were settled post-mediation, two weeks before trial, for an additional $1.5 Million.  An aggregate settlement of Two Million Dollars was recovered for the Sabino family.

Robby JessupTwo Million Dollar Recovery Reported In Trial Briefs Magazine (Wrongful Death Case)
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Five Million Dollar Recovery Reported In Trial Briefs Magazine

The April 2018 Edition of Trial Briefs Magazine featured the following story on a recent litigation victory by our lawyers:

“In December of 2017, B. Joan Davis and Robby Jessup [of RDU Injury Law] obtained a $5.2 Million Dollar recovery for a condemnation client whose property was impacted by the Peace Street Bridge Project in downtown Raleigh.

In November of 2016, the NCDOT filed a condemnation action against the subject property to take approximately 0.22 acres of a 0.75 acre tract.  The action further imposed control of access across most of the remaining tract.

The NCDOT originally estimated the entire property to be worth $3,255,500 and deposited $1,227,900 with the Wake County Superior Court, which the NCDOT estimated to be just compensation for the portion of the property taken.

Subsequently, after having the property privately appraised and utilizing a traffic engineer to evaluate future access to the property, the NCDOT settled the condemnation case for $2,300,000.

During the pendency of the litigation, Ms. Davis and Mr. Jessup assisted their client in negotiating a sale of the remnant piece of the subject property for $2,905,375.

Accordingly, the landowner received a total recovery of $5,205,375 for their 0.75 acre tract of land.”

 

Robby JessupFive Million Dollar Recovery Reported In Trial Briefs Magazine
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One Million Dollar Recovery Reported By NCAJ’s Trial Briefs Magazine (Wrongful Death Case)

The truck driver’s story just didn’t add up, and when our attorneys, Robby Jessup and Joan Davis, began to investigate and ask questions, the whole thing unraveled.  NCAJ’s Trial Briefs Magazine reported as follows on their work:

ROBBY JESSUP and JOAN DAVIS of the law firm RDU Injury Law in Raleigh, in association with RUSSELL JOHNSON of the law firm Diener Law in Greenville, obtained a One Million Dollar Settlement in a disputed liability wrongful death case. These attorneys represented the estate of a Mexican immigrant who was killed in a head-on collision with a transfer truck. The truck driver and trucking company initiated the lawsuit by asserting claims against the estate for personal injury and property damage. The estate proceeded to counter­claim for wrongful death.The State Troopers and initial experts who investigated the crash all said that the Mexican immigrant was at fault for causing the wreck and had crossed the center line. In fact, in the incident report, the investigating officer indicated that he suspected alcohol was a factor in the wreck. The family of the decedent reported that he had just left for work, approximately fifteen minutes before the wreck and was sober. The autopsy confirmed that the decedent was not under the influence of alcohol.

After investigating the claims, an eyewitness to the crash was discovered who had called 911 (but had not spoken to law enforcement at the scene). This eyewitness reported that it was the truck driver who crossed the center line and caused the wreck, not the Mexican immigrant.

In discovery, it was found that the truck driver had a revoked driver’s license at the time of the wreck, and had a driving history that disqualified him from employment as a commercial driver. Surveillance videos of the truck driver (taken by the trucking company’s workers comp carrier) also came to light that cast serious doubt on his claimed injuries.

Policy limits for the trucking company of $1,000,000 were paid at mediation with Bill King in April of 2017.

Robby JessupOne Million Dollar Recovery Reported By NCAJ’s Trial Briefs Magazine (Wrongful Death Case)
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