Families to get millions for deaths of nursing students


The families of four of the five Georgia Southern University nursing students killed last year in a fiery wreck on I-16 have been awarded millions to settle wrongful death lawsuits, attorneys said Wednesday.

A settlement also was reached with the family of one of the two nursing students who survived the tragedy.

But the money does nothing to explain why the tractor-trailer driver blamed in the wreck failed to stop.

“The settlement amounts are large, and they should be,” attorney Joe Fried told The Atlanta Journal-Constitution. “The deaths were senseless, and nobody gets to know the real answer at the end of the day for what happened.”

Fried, who represented three of the families, declined to release the settlement amount, but his partner told The Associated Press that one family would receive $14 million.

On April 22, 2015, seven young women were traveling in two cars to Savannah for their final clinical of the school year when the deadly pileup occurred.

Five students perished: Emily Clark, 20, of Powder Springs; Morgan Bass, 20, of Leesburg; Abbie Deloach, 21, of Savannah; Catherine “McKay” Pittman, 21, of Alpharetta; and Caitlyn Baggett, 21, of Millen.

Two were injured and lived: Megan Richards of Loganville and Brittney McDaniel of Reidsville.

Investigators believe a tractor-trailer driver, John Wayne Johnson, 56, of Shreveport, La., rear-ended the Toyota Corolla carrying Clark, Pittman and Baggett. It then hit the Ford Escape carrying Deloach, Bass, Richards and McDaniel.

Prior to the wreck, Johnson has been texting on his cellphone, and he was at the end of his shift.

“What we know is that the truck was going 68 mph and there was a long straightaway, perfect visibility, and up ahead is a line of red, bright, brake lights,” Fried said. “There’s no reason in the world if he’s paying any attention at all, he doesn’t see and avoid this wreck. It’s just totally senseless.”

The settlements mean that the Pittman, Clark, Deloach, Baggett and McDaniel families will not pursue trials. Cases are still pending for the Bass and Richards families.

The lawsuits were filed against Johnson and Total Transportation of Mississippi and its parent company, U.S. Xpress of Chattanooga.

The settlements were announced two days before the one-year anniversary of the crash. The money, attorney Bob Cheeley said, does nothing to ease the families’ pain.

“The families would gladly give these tens of millions of dollars back if they could have their children back,” Cheeley said. “There’s always going to be an empty chair at the dining room table, and these families will grieve every time they see it.”



Next Up in Local

Repair work continues on key Paulding highway
Repair work continues on key Paulding highway

Water is flowing again along U.S. 278 in Paulding County, but it could be midday Saturday or later before all traffic lanes reopen. Flooding from a water main break Friday reduced eastbound traffic to one lane on a stretch of the highway in Hiram, officials said. Also, water service was off for awhile to businesses in the area. Crews worked overnight...
Warm will be the norm again Saturday
Warm will be the norm again Saturday

Today: Sunshine, afternoon clouds. High: 88 Tonight: Mainly clear skies. Low: 66 Tomorrow: Sunny, afternoon clouds. High: 86 College football will resume with big games in Atlanta and Athens on Saturday. Must be fall, right? Well, for the second straight day, the temperature will feel more like summer, even though fall officially arrived...
Why a MARTA move into Cobb County wouldn’t have to be all or nothing
Why a MARTA move into Cobb County wouldn’t have to be all or nothing

A view of the Cumberland Community Improvement District looking northward from the Cobb Energy Centre. BOB ANDRES / BANDRES@AJC.COM Local communities are largely the product of two constituencies. One is business-based. The other is voter-based. Political, in other words. The two don’t always approach change at the same speed. An unusual and...
Trump: McCain ‘never had any intention’ of backing latest health care bill
Trump: McCain ‘never had any intention’ of backing latest health care bill

President Donald Trump took a shot at U.S. Sen. John McCain early Saturday in a series of tweets, saying the Arizona Republican “never had any intention” of voting for the latest GOP health care bill. McCain’s rejection of the Graham-Cassidy proposal effectively ends the party's chances at repealing Obamacare -- for now. >>...
Middle school runner chooses kindness over competitiveness
Middle school runner chooses kindness over competitiveness

A middle school athlete from Michigan showed that sportsmanship was more important than winning a cross country race, UpNorthLive.com reported. >> Read more trending news Amelia Malburg, an eighth-grader at Mason County Eastern, was running in a meet when she noticed her teammate was on the ground and struggling. Malburg said she generally...
More Stories