United States District Court, D. South Carolina, Florence Division
Georgeanna Benjamin, as Guardian ad Litem for Curtis Dolford, Plaintiff,
Adrian Shaw, Defendant.
FINDINGS OF FACT, CONCLUSIONS OF LAW, AND
Bryan Harwell United States District Judge
Georgeanna Benjamin brings this negligence action on behalf
of her son, Curtis Dolford, against Defendant Adrian Shaw
seeking actual and punitive damages for injuries that Mr.
Dolford sustained in a motor vehicle accident. The matter is
before the Court following a bench trial held on June 27,
2017. The sole evidence presented at trial was
the testimony of Ms. Benjamin and nine stipulated exhibits.
Defendant did not dispute liability,  but did dispute
the amount of actual damages and Plaintiff's entitlement
to punitive damages. Having considered the evidence and the
parties' arguments, the Court issues the following
Findings of Fact and Conclusions of Law pursuant to Rule
52(a) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure. To the extent
that any findings of fact constitute conclusions of law, or
vice-versa, they shall be so regarded.
the Court notes that after Plaintiff rested her case,
Defendant moved for nonsuit and directed
verdict. First, Defendant moved for judgment based
on the same grounds argued in his summary judgment motion and
also based on the Eighth Defense raised in his answer, which
asserted res judicata/estoppel by prior judgment. The Court
denies this motion for the same reasons explained in its
order denying Defendant's motion for summary judgment.
See ECF No. 44. That order thoroughly summarizes the
procedural history of this case, Defendant's arguments,
and the Court's legal conclusions.
Defendant moved for judgment on the issue of punitive
damages. The Court took this matter under advisement and now
denies the motion, as explained below in the Conclusions of
Plaintiff Georgeanna Benjamin (“Ms. Benjamin” or
“Plaintiff”) is a citizen and resident of
Darlington County, South Carolina. [Amended Complaint (ECF
No. 23) at ¶ 1; Answer (ECF No. 24) at ¶ 1]
Curtis Dolford (“Mr. Dolford”) is a citizen and
resident of Darlington County, South Carolina, and is legally
incompetent, thereby necessitating the appointment of a
guardian ad litem. [Am. Compl. at ¶ 2; Answer at ¶
2; Order on Petition to Appoint Guardian ad Litem (ECF No.
Benjamin was appointed as the guardian ad litem for Mr.
Dolford. [Am. Compl. at ¶ 3; Answer at ¶ 3; Order
on Petition to Appoint Guardian ad Litem]
Defendant Adrian Shaw (“Defendant Shaw” or
“Defendant”) is a citizen and resident of North
Carolina. [Am. Compl. at ¶ 4; Answer at ¶ 4]
automobile collision that is the subject of this action
occurred in Darlington County, South Carolina. [Am. Compl. at
¶ 5; Answer at ¶ 5]
January 31, 2013, Defendant Shaw was driving north on U.S.
Highway 17 in a 1999 Mack dump truck with VIN
#1M2AD62C3XW007692 and North Carolina License Plate #LR9702.
[Am. Compl. at ¶ 7; Answer at ¶ 7].
January 31, 2013, Mr. Dolford was lawfully traveling south on
U.S. Highway 17 in a 1989 Lincoln Sedan driven and owned by
Brent O'Neal. [Am. Compl. at ¶ 8; Answer at ¶
January 31, 2013, while traveling on U.S. Highway 17,
Defendant Shaw swerved to avoid a vehicle, crossed the
centerline, and struck the vehicle carrying Mr. Dolford. [Am.
Compl. at ¶ 9; Answer at ¶¶ 9, 11].
Dolford was injured as a direct and proximate result of
Defendant Shaw's vehicle striking the vehicle carrying
Mr. Dolford. [Am. Compl. at ¶¶ 11-14; Answer at
parties stipulated to the admission of nine exhibits, which
consist of (1) a medical bill from Palmetto Health Richland,
(2) a medical bill for air ambulance services provided by Air
Methods Corporation, (3) Mr. Dolford's state
identification card, and (4) six photos of the Lincoln Sedan
and Mack truck involved in the accident. [See
A. The bill from Palmetto Health Richland is for a total
amount of $742, 327.27. The bill itemizes various medical
charges for intensive care, pharmacy/drugs, multiple
operating room services, medical imaging (X-rays, CT scans,
and an MRI), physical and occupational therapy, speech
pathology, and other medical services. The bill indicates Mr.
Dolford was admitted to Palmetto Health Richland (located in
Columbia, South Carolina) on January 31, 2013, and was
discharged on June 10, 2013. [Exhibit 1]
B. The bill for the air ambulance is for a total amount of
$33, 104.60 for services provided on January 31, 2013.
C. Mr. Dolford's state identification card indicates he
was born on December 21, 1975. [Exhibit 3]. Thus, he was
thirty-seven years old at the time of the accident, and
currently is currently forty-one years old.
D. The six photos depict the 1989 Lincoln Sedan (in which Mr.
Dolford was a passenger) and the 1999 Mack truck (that
Defendant Shaw drove). [Exhibits 4-9] The Lincoln Sedan is
demolished: the hood is crumpled, the engine is exposed, the
front wheels are twisted, the roof is crushed-in, the doors
are broken, and the interior passenger compartment is
exposed. [Exhibits 4-8] The Mack truck appears relatively
undamaged. [Exhibit 9]
Ms. Benjamin's Testimony
Benjamin was the sole witness at trial. The Court observed
her demeanor and finds her testimony wholly credible and
Benjamin testified she is Mr. Dolford's mother and legal
guardian, now provides care for him, and now handles all of
his financial and legal affairs.
Benjamin testified she first learned about the accident from
her cousin while she was keeping her grandchildren. She
arrived at the accident scene just as Mr. Dolford was being
airlifted via helicopter to the hospital. Mr. Dolford was
in a coma for five weeks while in the hospital in Columbia,
Benjamin testified about her personal knowledge and
observations of Mr. Dolford's physical and mental
condition before and after the accident, ...