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MLN Law Settles Prisoner Wrongful Death Case for $500,000

On March 27, 2013, the Estate of John Fillmore Glass and Jonathan Glass, settled the wrongful death claim for John Glass, a prisoner who was killed while on a work detail in Troup County, Georgia.

On November 14, 2007, John Glass was a prisoner Troup County Correctional Institute in LaGrange, Georgia. On that day, John was a part of a grass cutting crew made up of several other prisoners. Glass and another inmate were operating tractors with large lawnmowers called “bush hogs,” and the detail was acting under the supervision of a correctional officer.

Even though the bush hog’s operating manual stated that operators should not mow near ditches, one inmate was using his tractor and bush hog near a ditch, and the tractor became stuck. Troup County knew that a bush hog could propel a rock with sufficient force to kill or injure a person. However, neither the guards nor the prisoners were ever trained on the proper techniques for operating a tractor and bush hog. Further, no one had ever read the operator’s manuals.

Also, Troup County had a rule that if a tractor became stuck, the correctional officer was supposed to call back to the prison for help. However, in this case, inmates were instructed to use a chain to connect the front of the stuck tractor to John’s tractor so that John could free the stuck tractor.

Tragically for John, when he was pulling the stuck tractor out, the other bush hog was turned on, and a rock flew from beneath the bush hog and speared John in the neck. The rock severed his carotid artery and jugular vein. John was conscious for several minutes at the scene but was later pronounced dead at the hospital. On the day of his death, he was only two days away from being released.

During the case, the Defendants argued that it was Mr. Glass’s responsibility to read the operators’ manuals. They also argued that Glass had caused his own death because he had told the other inmate to turn on the bush hog.

Also, Troup County had purchased three insurance policies which potentially covered the incident. The Defendants argued that sovereign immunity was not waived through the purchase of these policies. Michael L. Neff, T. Shane Peagler, and co-counsel Brian Spears litigated the case up to the Supreme Court on issues of sovereign immunity. After the Supreme Court found for the Plaintiff and remanded the case for trial, the case settled.

Prior to his untimely death, John Glass had written a number of letters to his family expressing his regret for being in prison and explaining that he wanted to reunite with his minor son when he was released.

Michael Neff was lead counsel on the case. He was assisted by his associates, D. Dwayne Adams, Susan Cremer, and T. Shane Peagler. Co-counsel was Brian Spears. Nick Moraitakis mediated the case and was instrumental in facilitating settlement.