MUSCOGEE COUNTY, Ga. (WRBL) — History has been made in Muscogee County. The jury in the 2016 wrongful death lawsuit between the family of Judy Madere, 58, and Schnitzer Steel has reached a verdict, awarding the Madere family more than $280 million. Madere was one of five victims in a tragic July 2016 vehicle accident on U.S. Highway 80 between a tractor trailer and an SUV.
The $280 million award is split between a phase one verdict of $150 million for wrongful death and $30 million for pain and suffering. The second phase of deliberations finished with the jury awarding the family an additional $100 million for punitive damages, plus $65,000 for attorney fees.
The wrongful death suit names Schnitzer Southeast, Schnitzer Steel Industries, and the driver of the tractor trailer, Kenneth Cathey. The plaintiff is Larry Madere, Judy’s husband. Larry Madere was represented by Butler Wooten & Peak LLP with lead counsel Brandon Peak.
Back in July 2016, Alabama State Troopers confirmed responding to a serious wreck on U.S. Highway 80 at Jowers Road. The accident involved a tractor trailer and a small SUV just outside of the East Alabama Motor Speedway. Witnesses on the scene said the two vehicles hit head-on just 10 miles west of Phenix City.
The victims were Judy Madere, 58; Trudy Herbert, 58; Carrie Jones, 23; and Jones’ two children, 7-year-old Trinity and 4-year-old Jackson. All five victims were from Albany, Louisiana.
Although the crash happened in Alabama, the civil case was moved to Columbus because that is where Schnitzer Steel is based.
During the court case, the jury heard testimony Cathey’s trailer crossed the center line and hit the SUV that Madere was riding in without any visible signs of evasive maneuvers. Plaintiff attorneys questioned whether Cathey fell asleep at the wheel, though Cathey himself maintains he didn’t.
The award amount now stands as the largest judgement delivered in the local circuit court history.
Photos of the crash and initial accident coverage can be seen below: