Childs v. US, CV 494-252

Citation923 F. Supp. 1570
Decision Date30 April 1996
Docket NumberCV 494-239.,No. CV 494-252,CV 494-252
PartiesLynette CHILDS and Larry B. Scott, as Co-Administrators of the Estate of, and Natural Parents of, Ashley Latrise Scott, Plaintiffs, v. UNITED STATES of America, Defendant. Rosa L. REESE, Individually, and as the Parent of Debra Gordon, Deceased, and as the Administratrix of the Estates of Debra Gordon and General Gordon, and for the benefit of the Next of Kin of General Gordon, Plaintiffs, v. UNITED STATES of America, Defendant.
CourtUnited States District Courts. 11th Circuit. United States District Court (Southern District of Georgia)

Jeffrey W. Lasky, Savannah, GA, Childs and Scott for Myra H. Dixon, Atlanta, GA, for Reese.

Lawrence B. Lee, Melissa S. Mundell, Savannah, GA, for defendant.


NANGLE, District Judge.

Plaintiffs brought the above-captioned actions under the Federal Tort Claims Act seeking recovery for the wrongful death of their decedents. Defendant admitted liability in both cases and the Court consolidated the cases for a bench trial on the question of damages. After considering the evidence adduced at trial, as well as the parties' exhibits, pleadings, stipulations and proposed findings of fact and conclusions of law, the Court enters the following Findings of Fact and Conclusions of Law. Fed.R.Civ.P. 52(a).

I. Introduction

On November 10, 1992, Ashley Latrise Scott ("Ashley"), Debra Reese Gordon ("Debra") and her unborn child, General Gordon ("General"), were traveling in Debra's automobile through an intersection in downtown Savannah, Georgia, when a United States Postal Service ("USPS") truck wrongfully entered the intersection and struck Debra's automobile. The force of the collision pushed the automobile head-on into another truck that was sitting at the intersection. Ashley, Debra and General died almost immediately after the collision.

Plaintiffs brought the above-captioned actions against the United States of America ("USA" or "Government") under the Federal Tort Claims Act ("FTCA"), 28 U.S.C. § 2671 et seq., seeking damages for decedents' wrongful death, pain and suffering and funeral and medical expenses. Plaintiffs Childs and Scott, as administrators of Ashley's estate, subsequently withdrew the estate's claim for pain and suffering because they had not properly presented this claim to the United States Postal Service as required by 28 U.S.C. § 2675. The Court, moreover, dismissed the claim of General Gordon's estate for pain and suffering after the Georgia Supreme Court held in Peters v. Hospital Authority of Elbert County, 265 Ga. 487, 458 S.E.2d 628 (1995), that there is no cause of action under O.C.G.A. § 51-1-19 for an unborn fetus' personal injury.

With respect to plaintiffs' remaining claims, the Government admitted that it is vicariously liable for the negligent acts of the Government employee operating the USPS truck,1 and the parties have stipulated that this Court has jurisdiction over these actions pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1346, that venue is proper under 28 U.S.C. § 1402(b) and that plaintiffs had properly presented their remaining claims to the United States Postal Service as required by 28 U.S.C. § 2675. The parties have further stipulated that Ashley's estate is entitled to $5,545.46 for her funeral and medical expenses and that the estates of Debra and General Gordon are entitled to a total of $8,794.00 for funeral and medical expenses, as well as expenses related to the damage done to Debra's vehicle. Remaining for resolution, then, is the question of damages as to plaintiffs' wrongful death claims and as to the claim of Debra Gordon's estate for her pain and suffering.

II. Background of Decedents
A. Ashley Latrise Scott

Ashley was a female born on July 9, 1986. On the date of her death, November 10, 1992, she was approximately 6.3 years old. Ashley was in good physical health and, according to the Mortality Table for 1949, Ultimate,2 had a life expectancy at the time of her death of 73.19 years.

Ashley's natural mother is plaintiff Lynette D. Childs and her natural father is plaintiff Larry B. Scott. Childs and Scott have never been married to one another and do not live together. Ms. Childs lives in Savannah, Georgia, holds a college degree and is employed as a claims analyst for a major insurance company. Mr. Scott lives in Hardeeville, South Carolina, where he owns an excavation business.

At the time of her death, Ashley lived with her mother in Savannah, Georgia. By all accounts, Ashley and Ms. Childs had a very close relationship and spent a great deal of time together. They regularly attended church in Savannah where Ashley sang in the choir. At home, Ashley was required to contribute to the daily maintenance of the house and to complete her homework before engaging in any other activities. Ashley was also very active in the Girl Scouts. In sum, Ms. Childs provided a home environment for Ashley that was nurturing, supportive and disciplined.

Although Mr. Scott lived apart from Ashley, the testimony indicated that he was also involved in Ashley's life. Mr. Scott testified that he provided her with financial support; however, his testimony on this point was noticeably vague, he admitted that he did not make regular support payments and he failed to present any documentary evidence (i.e., checks, etc.) to support his claim of financial assistance. Mr. Scott further testified that he frequently visited Ashley in Savannah and occasionally took her back to Hardeeville to be with his family. Ashley and her father also regularly took trips to the beach and to amusement parks such as Six Flags and Walt Disney World.

At the time of her death, Ashley was in the first grade. Ashley's teacher, Margaret H. Parker, testified that Ashley was an exceptional child, both as a student and as a person. On her only quarterly report card, Ms. Parker awarded Ashley an "excellent" in every school subject except arts and science. According to Ms. Parker, Ashley had, during the short time that she was in the first grade, exhibited a level of intellectual ability and behavior that surpassed that of most of the other students in her class. Ashley was in fact described by all witnesses as being mature for her age, intelligent, thoughtful, well-mannered and respectful. Ms. Parker further testified that Ashley did not seem to have the fear and trepidation that most children exhibit when they start first grade. Ashley was voted "Student of the Month" in her first-grade class during the month before she was killed.

Both Childs and Scott testified that they had always planned for Ashley to attend college. Mr. Scott also testified that he had two certificates of deposit at a local bank totaling $16,500.00, which he intended to be Ashley's college fund. The certificates were, however, in Mr. Scott's name only and, again, plaintiffs did not introduce any documentary evidence which would indicate that the certificates were in fact intended for Ashley's benefit.

B. Debra and General Gordon

Debra Gordon was a 33 year-old female who was, at the time of her death, eight months pregnant with General Gordon. Debra was in relatively good physical health and, according to the Mortality Table for 1949, Ultimate, had a life expectancy at the time of her death of 46.80 years. General Gordon, who upon autopsy appeared to be a healthy fetus, had, according to the same table, a life expectancy of 73.18 years.

Debra grew up in a large, close-knit family on a farm in Millen, Georgia. Debra's mother, plaintiff Rosa Reese, and her father, General Reese, were married for 53 years, and Debra was one of eight children. Debra remained extremely close to all of her family, enjoying the counsel, advice, society and companionship of her mother and siblings until the time of her death. Debra was generally regarded as the favorite child in the family and the moving force in assuring that the family remained close.

Debra attended Jenkins County High School in Millen, Georgia, where she was an excellent student. She was on the Student Council, was vice-president of the National Honor Society, was president of the Foreign Language Club and was very active in the Future Business Leaders of America. Debra was also very popular at school.

After graduating from high school, Debra attended college for approximately three years, during which time she studied to become a nurse. Many of Debra's siblings, and almost all of her nieces and nephews, have attended college or have college degrees.

Debra did not, however, attain a nursing degree. Instead, she began working at M & M Foods, a grocery store in Savannah, Georgia, that subsequently became Kroger Foods. Debra worked her way up to produce manager in 1983 and held that position until the time of her death in 1992. She worked at Kroger for a total of 13 years.

Debra was an exceptional employee who took great pride in her work. The Court heard testimony from two of Debra's former superiors at Kroger. Both testified that she was the best produce manager that they had ever worked with, and one of the witnesses indicated that he had rated Debra's job performance as high as any employee he had ever rated at Kroger. In sum, Debra was an extremely successful produce manager: her department was consistently profitable and she had an excellent relationship with both her co-workers and the store's customers. Both witnesses also indicated that Debra could have advanced into upper management in the company if she had been so inclined.

Debra's personal life centered around church and family. She regularly attended the same church that Ashley and Lynette Childs attended in Savannah. Debra was Ashley's godmother and they had a close relationship. Debra liked people and was extremely outgoing and friendly with the those in her life.

Debra was married for five years but did not have any children from that marriage. In 1985, her husband committed suicide. Thus, at the time of her death, Debra was an unmarried...

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4 cases
  • Dammarell v. Islamic Republic of Iran
    • United States
    • U.S. District Court — District of Columbia
    • December 14, 2005
    ...methods of calculating the full value of life," but rather are distinct elements of a total valuation. See Childs v. United States, 923 F.Supp. 1570, 1582 (S.D.Ga.1996). 14. A subsequent decision by the same court made clear that "lack of privilege" is not an element of the tort that the pl......
  • Walsh v. Strenz
    • United States
    • U.S. District Court — Middle District of Pennsylvania
    • August 30, 1999
    ...en banc denied, 132 F.3d 1462 (11th Cir.1997)(table), cert. denied, 118 S.Ct. 1363, 140 L.Ed.2d 513 (1998), with Childs v. United States, 923 F.Supp. 1570, 1584 (S.D.Ga.1996)(punitive damages not available under Georgia's wrongful death statute); Mundell v. Beverly Enterprises-Indiana, Inc.......
  • Pringle v. Valdez, 06SC92.
    • United States
    • Colorado Supreme Court
    • November 26, 2007
    ...example, in Georgia, "pain and suffering is a generic name for several types of damages falling under that head." Childs v. United States, 923 F.Supp. 1570, 1586 (S.D.Ga.1996). The Supreme Court of Utah held that "pain and suffering" includes "not only physical pain but also mental pain or ......
  • Spence v. U.S.
    • United States
    • U.S. District Court — Middle District of Georgia
    • February 2, 2001
    ...effect, and defining "punitive damages" as damages that depend on the nature of the defendant's conduct); Childs v. United States, 923 F.Supp. 1570, 1581-84 (S.D.Ga. 1996). Accordingly, the Court will not hear arguments on this ...
1 books & journal articles
    • United States
    • Notre Dame Law Review Vol. 96 No. 4, March 2021
    • March 1, 2021
    ...States, 665 F. Supp. 976, 997 (D.R.I. 1987); Tarpeh-Doe v. United States, 771 F. Supp. 427, 455 (D.D.C. 1991); Childs v. United States, 923 F. Supp. 1570, 1585 (S.D. Ga. 1996); Childers v. Sec'y of Health & Hum. Servs., No. 96-194V, 1999 WL 218893, at *56 (Fed. Cl. Mar. 26, 1999); Unite......

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