A Fulton County, Georgia, jury awarded $9.6 million to the son and estate of a man who was killed when he fell through a broken guardrail at the Metropolitan Atlanta Rapid Transit Authority’s (MARTA) Civic Center stop.
Carlos Hicks, 42, was on the upper level of the MARTA station in February 2013 when he fell through a missing section of guardrail, causing him to plummet 20 feet to his death. The metal guardrail had been removed and replaced with a wooden section as part of a construction project that was never completed. Part of the wooden replacement had fallen off but was never repaired, leaving a gap of more than two feet.
According to Daily Report, lawyers for the Hicks estate said defense attorneys tried to blame Mr. Hicks for the deadly accident by arguing that he had been drinking heavily when it happened.
But the plaintiff’s lawyer said that Mr. Hicks needed a ride home because he had been drinking. “MARTA holds itself out as a designated driver for people who’ve been drinking. It’s not illegal to be drunk,” the lawyer told Daily Report.
Video presented at the trial showed Mr. Hicks leaning against a concrete parapet wall for several minutes waiting for the MARTA train. He turned and stepped back in an apparent attempt to lean back on the wall but leaned through the missing section of guardrail that he had been standing next to.
“The last thing MARTA did was put in a demonstrative exhibit of how much Carlos drank. They put into evidence a 750 milliliter bottle,” the plaintiff’s lawyer told Daily Report. “I grabbed the bottle and said, ‘This is a lot of liquor. That doesn’t mean he had to die. Maybe Carlos needed help, but he needed a ride home first.’”
The lawyer also said that MARTA turned down a $5 million settlement offer earlier this year and never responded or reached out to the plaintiffs or their lawyers, even during trial.
A lawyer for MARTA said that they are “definitely going to appeal” the Fulton County Superior Court jury’s decision.