Honda suit in litigation

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, June 19, 2007

The Selma Times-Journal

Testimony is scheduled to continue today in civil proceeds in Dallas County Circuit Court where a Dallas County man is seeking damages against Honda American Motors because of a one-vehicle accident that left him paralyzed from the neck down.

A Georgia forensic pathologist, the plaintiff’s expert witness in auto crashes, testified Tuesday that Darren Lumpkin’s 2004 crash resulted in “breaking his neck.” The paramedic who answered the call on Dec. 15, 2004 testified he knew Lumpkin had a spinal injury soon after he arrived at the scene on Dallas Co. Rd. 954 south of Orrville.

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Lumpkin, who was 39 at the time of the accident, was traveling alone headed south at about 2:45 p.m. when he said his 1998 Honda Civic flipped, after trying to avoid hitting something in the road. His attorneys, led by Montgomery attorney Jere Beasley, are seeking damages estimated at $150 million to care for their client the rest of his life and damages.

Proceedings held before Judge Tommy Jones began last week with selection of the jury, seven men and seven women, and are expected to continue through this week. Beasley questioned the plaintiff’s expert witness, Dr. Joseph L. Burton, who used a skeletal manikin to show jurors just where the injury occurred.

“Mr. Lumpkin has a fractured neck,” said Burton. “The neck has seven vertebrae in it. Something happened at C4 and C5 that caused four to slide ahead of five. When you interrupt that line it put a bad kink in the spine. As a result he lost feeling from his upper chest to the rest of his body.”

Honda’s Huntsville-based defense attorney Doug Martinson II attempted to classify Burton as “a hired gun.” Burton admitted his firm owned a private jet, which was the most practical method of travel for him to meet a hectic schedule of depositions and court proceedings. Burton also testified his firm is paid a flat fee of $25,000 per case, and Martinson pointed out Burton earns about $4,000 a day to testify in court proceedings throughout the country.

Burton testified Lumpkin’s condition was a result of “a common type of injury, associated with rollover crashes.”

Paramedic Anthony Hall, who worked at Haynes Ambulance in 2004 and responded to the accident, testified Lumpkin was alert and told him he had been wearing his seat belt.

The seat belt issue is expected to become a major point in the case, since attorneys for the plaintiff maintain the seat belt security system in the four-door Honda “was inadequate.” Joining Beasley and Greg Allen’s team of lawyers is Selma attorney Hank Sanders, and attorney Bill Gamble. Marion attorney Robert Turner Sr. is on the defense team.