Ralph E. Hughes – Attorney at Law

Wrongful Death

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Decatur Georgia Wrongful Death Attorney Representing Clients Throughout DeKalb County & Beyond


Michael and Amey were seven years old and best friends who moved into their neighborhood at the same time.  They loved to play on the big vacant lot which the builder had set aside for a kids play area.  The lot was sloped and led from the street to a creek below.

One day a bulldozer operator dragged a 1,500-pound steel pipe off of a construction site and left it at the top of the slope leading down to the children’s play area.  He braced it with some pieces of scrap wood.  Within a day or two all of the neighborhood kids, including Michael and Amey, were crawling through the pipe and playing on it the way they did the playground areas at the local McDonald’s Restaurant.  One of the adult neighbors became concerned when he saw the pipe wobble and called the subdivision construction superintendent, warning him that the pipe appeared unsteady and he was afraid a child may be hurt.

A week later, Michael and Amey rode their bikes to the vacant lot and began playing around the pipe.  It broke loose and started to roll down the slope.  Michael ran along beside it.  As the pipe gained momentum, it began to bounce and then spun around rolling over Michael, killing him.


A suit was filed against the subdivision property owner and the bulldozer operator who dragged the pipe out of the woods.  After two years of litigation, the case was resolved when the defendants agreed to pay their combined liability insurance policy limits.  The settlement amount was confidential; however, it was believed to be the largest amount paid on a child death case up to that time in DeKalb County, Georgia.

(Medication Error)

Eighty-four-year-old Katrina was an active and vibrant senior who enjoyed playing bridge, attending church, and going for daily walks. Katrina developed a mild bleeding ulcer which would occasionally flare up and require a day or two of treatment at her local hospital. On her last hospitalization, Katrina was sitting up in bed chatting with her daughters when a nurse came in and administered the prescription medication ordered by her treating physician earlier that morning. As the nurse left her room, Katrina began to gasp for breath, she looked at her daughters and said: “my God, they’ve given me something and it’s killing me”. Her daughters called for the nurses who rushed in and tried to revive Katrina. She died while her daughters looked on.


An autopsy revealed that Katrina’s blood had at least twenty times the normal dosage of a certain medication utilized to treat her condition. We obtained experts, including the County Medical Examiner, who testified the overdose of medication caused Katrina’s death. A suit was filed against the hospital and after twelve months the case was settled for a confidential sum.

Nathan’s Dad
(Motor Vehicle Accident)

Nathan called our office after his 65 year old father had been run over.  The police report indicated that Nathan’s dad had walked across a lane of traffic and stepped in front of an oncoming car which hit and killed him.  The report stated that Nathan’s dad came from the driver’s left and stepped in front of his car leaving no way for the driver to avoid him.  The investigating officer blamed Nathan’s dad.  Other lawyers refused to take the case because the investigating officer believed it was his dad’s fault.

I agreed to review the case and represent Nathan if I believed I could help him.  My investigation showed that Nathan’s dad was in the habit of walking across the street at this location every morning and waiting on the opposite side shoulder of the road until his ride for work arrived.  Our review of the driver’s statement made to the investigating police officer indicated she never saw Nathan’s dad before hitting him.  She said she thought she had hit “a dog or something lying in the road” but could not tell because it was dark.  She did not know she had hit Nathan’s dad until she parked her car, walked back and saw him lying on the side of the road.

I obtained a copy of the accident scene photographs taken by the investigating officer and a copy of the autopsy report prepared by the County Medical Examiner.  An examination of the photographs of the driver’s car showed the damage was done to the front of the car toward the passenger side as well as the passenger side, side-view mirror.  The autopsy report revealed that Nathan’s dad had died from severe internal injuries; however, his left leg and ankle were shattered in several places.  After reviewing all of the evidence, we agreed to represent Nathan in a wrongful death claim for his dad.


I drafted a letter to the driver’s insurance carrier and pointed out that, logically, the incident could not have happened as described by the investigating police officer.  Importantly, if Nathan’s dad crossed the street from the driver’s left and stepped in front of the driver, all of the injuries should be on the driver’s side of the vehicle and most of the injuries should be to the right side of Nathan’s dad’s body.  However, the photographs taken clearly show damage to the passenger side of the vehicle and the autopsy clearly showed that Nathan’s dad suffered the majority of injury to his left leg and side which would have been impossible if he was crossing the street as the investigating officer suggested.  I argued that given the location of the damage to the car, including the passenger side, side-view mirror, and the location of the injuries to Nathan’s dad, in all likelihood, Nathan’s dad was standing on the side of the road waiting for his ride when the driver drifted off the road and hit him.  No other reasonable conclusion could be drawn from the physical evidence.  After receiving our letter and demand for payment, the driver’s insurance carrier agreed to pay Nathan the sum of $100,000.00, the limits of its liability policy.

(Motor Vehicle Accident)

Jessie was four years old.  Her mom and dad divorced when she was only one and a half, but Jessie’s dad saw her every weekend and kept her during the summer.  Jessie was the apple of his eye and he treated her like a little princess.

Jessie’s mom was on her way to shop one morning and Jessie was in the back seat in her car seat.  It had snowed the day before and there was snow on the ground but the roads were clear.  A car coming from the opposite direction lost control and ran head-on into Jessie’s car.  The impact was so great that Jessie and her mother died instantly.  The other driver claimed he slid on “black ice” which he never saw, but which caused him to lose control of his car and drive into oncoming traffic.  The investigating officer did not charge him with the wreck.


Our investigation involved obtaining copies of photographs taken by the investigating officer as well as reviewing statements of witnesses who drove through the roadway both before and after this tragic wreck occurred.  I determined that as many as 100 vehicles would have passed the same spot before this incident occurred and there had been no other wrecks reported.  The evidence plainly suggested the other driver had become distracted and drifted into the path of Jessie’s mother’s car.

Jessie’s father filed suit against the driver who caused this horrible wreck for the wrongful death of his little girl.  After two years of trial preparation and one day of mediation, the case was settled for a confidential sum.


Larry and his sons, Donnie and Mickey, along with Mickey’s best friend Richard, left Atlanta for Kentucky to start new jobs as satellite installers for a new company.  Larry and Donnie rode in one car while Mickey and Richard rode in another.

The route they chose took them through the Smokey Mountains in Tennessee.  As they were driving down a two-lane highway before 6:00 a.m. on morning, Larry noticed Richard had steered his car from the roadway onto the paved shoulder, as though he were stopping for some sort of emergency.  It was still dark, and foggy, but Larry had a clear view of Richard and his son Donnie, who was asleep in the front passenger side of Richard’s car.  As Richard pulled into the emergency lane, Larry, to his horror, saw the back end of an illegally parked tractor-trailer.  Larry watched as Richard drove under the back end of the tractor-trailer.  Larry saw both Mickey and Richard decapitated.


A suit was filed against the truck driver and company for whom he worked for failure to have his emergency flashing lights engaged and failure to have placed reflective triangles which would have alerted Richard to the truck’s presence in the dark and foggy conditions.  During our pretrial investigation, it was discovered the truck driver had stopped not because of any accident; rather, he had pulled off the roadway and into the emergency lane to catch a few hours sleep.  The evidence we uncovered suggested the truck driver did not turn his emergency flashers on because the clicking sound the flashers made would have kept him awake.  Additionally, we discovered that the trucker was fired from his company after this incident for refusing to take a blood test following the wreck.

After eighteen months of intensive trial preparation, the case was settled for a confidential sum.