Wednesday, May 22, 2019

City Rejects Settlement in Fortner Lawsuit

Hours passed by as the calls poured in yet the city of Jackson took no action to protect the public from a broken manhole cover that would later kill Franny Fortner.  Court records provide a more complete picture of what took place the morning of May 17, 2018 before the Jackson Academy senior struck the open manhole on Ridgewood Road  and fatally flipped her Mazda convertible. 

Franny Fortner's parents filed a wrongful death lawsuit against the city of Jackson, IMS Engineers, Superior Asphalt, Sigma Corporation, and several John Does last November in Hinds County Circuit Court.  The case is assigned to Judge Faye Peterson.  Attorneys Roderick Ward and Lance Stevens represent the Fortners.  Young Franny was their only child. 

The case is currently trudging through a muck of discovery, cross-claims, and counterclaims as everyone tries to blame each other.  However, the Fortners filed a motion that included the Public Works Dispatch logs and a deposition of the first police officer to arrive at the scene as exhibits last month.

 The Public Works dispatch logs show there were numerous reports of the open manhole yet Supervisor Hoskins said he would check the site in three hours (9:12 AM) after he finished work at another site.  JPD notified the Public Works dispatch center about the manhole at 10:04.  The log states it was the second call made by JPD.  The Dispatch Officer states she will notify the supervisor "at 12:30 PM also."

Dispatch received more calls about the manhole at 11:30 and 11:48 that morning.  Dispatch asked the second caller for the "exact address."   Dispatch called the on-call supervisor at 11:51 and informed him he didn't have an address.  The supervisor said he would send "Cory" when he finished the work at the other site.  JPD called again at noon and gave the location as Ridgewood and Reddoch.   The log finally states at 12:31 PM that Corey was "en route to put barricade up at 5300 Ridgewood Road."  The log finally states at 1:00 PM that a barricade was placed in front of the open manhole, after the accident took place.

Officer Hankins testified in her deposition she arrived at the scene to help Jean Holmes when Holmes struck the manhole and blew out two tires.  She said the cover was teetering in the manhole.   She said she didn't have cones in her vehicle to place around the manhole.  T

Jackson Mayor Chowke Antar Lumumba said at a press conference last year that the city "failed to appropriately secure the site."    Earlier post about Mayor's press conference.

The case remains tied up in litigation as the various parties point fingers at each other.  The city of Jackson reached an agreement with the Fortners in mediation.  The city would pay the family $500,000.   The Forter family would gift $25,000 for the purchase of cones to place in police cars.  The family would donate another $25,000 to the Museum of Art because of their daughter's love of art.  However, the City Council rejected the settlement in executive session.

Kingfish note: More evidence of how bumbling bureaucrats caused a young woman's senseless death.


Anonymous said...

Why was she northbound on Ridgewood if on the way to Christ United to graduation practice? Should have turned right on Old Canton if going from JA. We still dont know if she was distracted on driving too fast.

Anonymous said...

WTF. so the city council rejected the $500K? unbelievable. It will be worse now.

Anonymous said...

Appreciate KF clearing comments like 6:45 to remind us that there are truly warped individuals roaming free in our community.


"She one'a them... Next."

Anonymous said...

Every city in this country would be dead broke (many are) if incompetent employees were held accountable for their failures. There is simply no excuse for this death to have occurred. This was not an "accident". An accident is something beyond your control. This was plain and simple incompetence.

It's just a shame that the city will be sued, the taxpayers will pay and the incompetent people responsible will likely get promoted.

Anonymous said...

North on Ridgewood. East on Adkins. Come out on Old Canton one block from Christ United. I take that route all the time.
Speculate all you want to about driving too fast, distracted. That's all it will ever be. Speculation.
One thing is clear; she's dead because of the city's lack of action.
Stupid, postulating, apologetic (for the Radical City) morons like you
make me want to puke.

Anonymous said...

Pure racism.

$ 500,000.00 is a cake walk in a wrongful death suit.

They're going to pay, it's just a matter of when and how much.

Anonymous said...

6:45, I agree with you. A lot of people do. We all would be dead if every pothole or manhole we hit did this to a vehicle under reasonable conditions.

It’s a shame but reality.

Anonymous said...

Lesson learned. The next time in the city of Jackson I see a manhole cover not on a manhole I will stop and secure the manhole cover over the manhole; or block the manhole with my auto, turn on my flashing lights and wait for the city of Jackson to respond. And hopefully it will not take 3 hours for the city to respond.

Anonymous said...

Idiot at 7:52
This was NOT a pothole. This was an unsecured manhole cover. Plate steel.
6:45 = 7:52
Once again, jackwagons like you make me want to puke.

Anonymous said...

The responsible folks at the city should be physically tarred and feathered forcefully and painfully. The hell with the money. They owe with their ass

Anonymous said...

@7:39 Defaulting to "racism" is lame and uninformed. And only lawyers who don't really try cases and uninformed non-lawyers would say that any plaintiff's case against a municipality is a "cake walk". There is no incentive to pay $500,000 when that is the most a city can be required to pay. Rarely does any plaintiff get a full $500,000. But keep your fake news flowing.

Anonymous said...

I hope they bury the City of Jackson in lawsuits. F them.

Anonymous said...

Apart from Virgi the entire city council is both I g but total morons. Baby chokwe is as bad a leader as any I've ever seen. He's a arrogant fool.

Anonymous said...

City council rejected it? When?

It wasn't last week.

Anonymous said...


A pothole and an open manhole are apples and oranges. I know of no one who has driven over an open manhole.

Anonymous said...

Lance Stevens is going to wear their asses out.

Anonymous said...

there is one thing you can be sure of in this case. no city or governmental employee will be so much as demoted, suspended, sued, fined,disciplined or fired, even though they displayed total, unmitigated incompetence. if anything they will end up promoted in a couple of years. do all you humanoids now understand why everybody wants to work for the government?

Anonymous said...

It sucks. And none of this is going to bring her back. Prayers for her family and prayers for this city and for all of the people getting satisfaction out of this. The whole thing just sucks. Please quit making this another Jackson vs anti-Jackson internet battle.

Pound Law said...

Time to call Morgan & Morgan. City of Jackson might go bankrupt if M&M live up to their advertisements.

For the People vs Free the Land (by any means necessary)

Anonymous said...

@9:01 is correct. No accountability in government. I worked at MDOT in the 1990's. I had someone under my supervision who might have performed two hours of work total in the 30 months I was employed. He slept all day long with his head on his desk. They wouldn't let me fire him. So I left for greener pastures. Unreal.

Anonymous said...

There is an incentive to pay the $500,000, even though it is the statutory max, because trials take lots of time and (even more) taxpayer money gets wasted. They also tie up judicial resources in a county where there is a significant backlog. The city does not have any legitimate defense and the economic value (ignoring pain and suffering) of someone like the deceased is in the millions - there is a 100% chance the city will pay the full $500,000.

Not that this seems to matter to Jackson's current leadership, but it's also the right thing to do in a case like this. If there were any grown men in that administration, they would have paid it immediately, offered a sincere apology and let this family start trying to heal itself.

Anonymous said...

God forgive me but if this was any black child even a Bladckmom or a Sweet 50k would be the max.

Anonymous said...

Doesn't the city have insurance coverage for this?

Anonymous said...

I recall a certain TV weatherman (Eric Law) who was given the full 500k to settle. He was laid up in the hospital b/c of a police chase.

Anonymous said...

The plantiffs couldn't win in Madison much less Jackson. Stick around JJ, you and all of your boys should take note

Anonymous said...

A couple of questions for you attorneys:
1. If you had a case where this was reported by phone to the city but no one actually went to the site before the accident, what would be a reasonable amount time time for the city to correct the problem? How would that be determined? Of course what is reasonable has no relation to when the accident occurred. Accident could happen one minute after reporting. Is three hours reasonable? Two? One? 30 min?
2. Complaint references defective manhole or cover. No attempt to say how it was defective. All other reports sound as if the cover was just not in place. Probably not defective. Any idea what this language is about? Seems like plaintiff would have been allowed to inspect the cover before submitting this.

Anonymous said...

12:03 - I know it was early a.m. when you posted, but, can you not read? The report clearly says manhole cover 1/2 off. No mention of defective in the report notes shown above.

'Call him back to remind him in three hours'? No shit? "I'm busy" is NEVER a reason to delay response to a safety issue. NEVER.

Anonymous said...

The mayor has admitted the City was at fault. And the evidence shows it. The City Council should have accepted this settlement, which actually put some money back into the City's pocket. They are going to pay the $500k one day. And if they appeal there can be post-judgment interest tacked on. So the $500k is not the City's worst day. And they waste the City Attorney's time and resources in the meantime. This is a no brainer. Pay your $500k and move on.

Anonymous said...

I understand why there are so many emotional responses. This is a horrible tragedy.
But, everyone seems to forget that tragedies can happen when humans make mistakes and there is a deadly cluster here.
The person who first reported avoided the manhole cover problem. So , at the time of day it was discovered, it was visible and avoidable.
But, the description of " half off" failed to adequately describe the potential danger so that a car flipping could be easily imagined from that point on.
If you just stop to think rather than just emotionally react, or if you are even moderately curious, you must ask yourself some questions. " How did this manhole cover become dislodged or damaged so as to cause this accident? What does the potentially fatal danger look like? Can such a danger be prevented in the future? What words would have helped better visualize a danger beyond damaged tires/car?"
Be honest. How many of you would have known that a manhole cover was an emergency that would cause what happened and understand the urgency given the speed limit? All physics majors, are we?

Anonymous said...

The manhole cover was sticking straight up in the hole! how? I don't know but it was wedged in there. Way more dangerous than just an open hole. I know this, because I drove right by it (heading north)around 11:30 AND at the next light, met a JPD car headed southbound. Thinking surely, they would do something. But they didn't.

Anonymous said...

If she was driving like she was supposed to her car wouldn’t have flipped.

Bottom line.

If it was a tree or a deer do you call the wildlife or forestry commission?

Accidents happen fools.

Anonymous said...

i hate to tell you this ,but the insurance carrier can suggest the city settle for 500k. the city attorneys can advise the city too settle for 500k. but the city council has the final say. and just look what they said. REJECTED! and 500k is their maximum liability cap thanks to the 'tort reforms ' enacted by the legislature back in the early 2000s. i willing to bet alot of the people on this blog were playing cheerleader for tort reform back about 2002. well........just look at you now. this is what happens when you hand over this state to the insurance lobby. insurance companies..............they got your money, now they want your rights. oh, wait a minute, they already got your rights as well.

Anonymous said...

Guess the 10% set aside was not sufficient.

Anonymous said...

9:24 PM John Morgan doesn't even live in Mississippi. He could give a rat ass. He'll will just assign it a partner. He's just out for the Benjamins!

Jackson is like all these other Democratic cities. Bankrupted, Crime infested, Sewers!

The city sowed the wind, and now, they are going to reap the whirlwind. Hosea 8:7

Kingfish said...

Oh really.

Anonymous said...

Bottom line. Was the city negligent? Is the city legally liable? They is to be seen by jurors of the city of Jackson and a judge in the city of Jackson. I bet the judge and jurors rule in favor of the city for none other than to show who is in charge. The Fortner's will more than likely have to appeal up a few courts to get a fair trail.

Anonymous said...

I deal with sewer daily. Manhole lids are round so that there is no way they can fall in the manhole. It is mathematically impossible. A square or rectangular lid could be dropped into the hole. Manhole lids can most certainly stick straight up. If you don't put them on correctly, you can step on one side and the lid will rotate. It's really pretty simple.

I can think of no reason why a report of an open manhole in a street wouldn't be an immediate emergency. I can't fathom why someone would say "I will get to it later, so call me in 3 hours and remind me". And if it was in the yard, it would also be an emergency, because if someone falls in, there is no soft place to land. Very dangerous.

Anonymous said...

to 9:16am ahhh yes , another BRILLANT LEGAL MIND. hes not a lawyer but he plays one here on JJ. GOT NEWS FOR YOU MISTER,, when suing a city the plaintiff is not allowed a jury. it a bench trial.

Messick said...

Nice empathy ya got there, Anonymous 8:38 AM.

"If she was driving like she was supposed to her car wouldn’t have flipped."

... and the manhole cover would still be laying there, not covering the manhole.

Anonymous said...

due to tort reform about 19 years ago damages against the city are capped at 500k. the insurance companies said "if you give us tort reform all your insurance premiums will go DOWN". TELL ME all you humanoids, have your insurance premiums gone down?

Anonymous said...

@12:03 a.m., to answer your questions, I think you have co-mingled elements of premise liability law and products liability law. I believe what applies in this case is negligence and governmental immunity, along with statutory caps on damages.

Anonymous said...

If $500k is the max, how did the Ruth Helen Harrion case result in $1 million award?

Anonymous said...

@9:51, so you're saying an even better change the Fortner's get railroaded by the city of Jackson? City of Jackson judge to rule on if the City of Jackson was negligent and judge has to decide whether his/her employer has to pay? I see no conflict of interest or reason why they wouldn't get a fair trail.

Anonymous said...

Hey, 8.38 AM

Go to YouTube and type in "car manhole". Look at a few videos.

I don't know how fast she was driving, but based on the video evidence of other accidents, it doesn't require excessive speed for an open manhole to flip a car.

In any case, if the manhole wasn't fitted properly, it was the cause of the accident. The city and/or its contractors is liable.

Anonymous said...

8:38, if a tree was in the road and it was the forestry commission's job to remove trees from the road and you called them to report a tree in the road and they said "piss off," then yes, they would be liable. That's not an accident, that's negligence.

We need a weekly column called "Facebook Law," where someone who actually has a law degree comes in and explains common misconceptions about basic legal concepts. Up first: Why Taco Bell Isn't Violating Your First Amendment Rights.

Anonymous said...

I'm glad the city rejected the demand. This should go to trial where this family will get a much larger verdict.

The public needs to push officials to revaluate this arbitrary low cap on damages.

Ms. Fortner's and Ms. Harrion's untimely deaths were completely preventable. $500,000 is an insult.

The only winner here is the insurance company protecting their profits.

Anonymous said...

@11:44 there's no cap for lost wages, actual medical expenses, etc. the caps are for the "soft stuff"

Anonymous said...

The City is self insured so the limit on State Law Claims, simple Tort claims is $500,000. The City has a separate self insured fund, so this would not come out of the general budget. If this was a civil rights claim the cap would not apply in federal court. Additionally, the City does have several immunity defenses, which even when negligent may prevent liability. So there may be some reason for not offering the full payment at this point. But that doesn't solve the long term problem, that the City has an uphill battle to win on those defenses.
That said, It seemed that the settlement offer included some pretty notable gifts back to the City, which tells you the Family was being very practical and decent. I would not blame the family for taking those off the table, and at some point, in hindsight, the City may say... darn that was a good offer.

Anonymous said...

"9:24 PM John Morgan doesn't even live in Mississippi. He could give a rat ass. He'll will just assign it a partner. He's just out for the Benjamins! May 23, 2019 at 8:55 AM"

That fool even quoted a Bible verse! Please tell me what/which lawyer is NOT 'out for the Benjamins'. Take your time.

Anonymous said...

to 12:02 it fair to assume that english is not your first language?

Anonymous said...

How did the manhole cover get to be sticking " straight up"?

Was it badly done when placed or did the effects of Yazoo clay or did heavier traffic than expected shortened the "shelf life"?

For all anyone knows, some neighbor who resented speeding cars going by his house stupidly thought he could slow folks down and get some " revenge" never imagining a fatal result.

Rather than everyone choosing up sides, basing opinions on incomplete information , trial by media and spreading the conflict , wouldn't life be better if people again had enough patience for the system to work and mind their own business until then?

Anonymous said...

@9:32 am - you must be new here

Anonymous said...

10:13AM LMAO! I know right. Bless his heart

Anonymous said...

"@11:44 there's no cap for lost wages, actual medical expenses, etc. the caps are for the "soft stuff""

There were no 'lost wages' or 'medical expenses', so we're back to the cap.

Anonymous said...

Just tossing this out there:

1. Money and legal stuff aside, this was a tragedy. A young lady with a promising future was killed. Touching upon many parts of this tragedy, including the legal aspect, Chuckmeat admitted in layperson's terms that the city bore some level of responsibility. There is no way to put a positive spin on that, legally or otherwise.

2. There is debate in legal circles about how caps are calculated. Might this be a case of first impression should the Fortners appeal an award that isn't completely and inarguably covered by the cap? Simply put, I will predict the city FU'ed by not accepting their offer to settle this tragedy before it gets much more expensive.

3. There may be multiple torts in the overall situation. Cap for each? See above.

4. The Fortners may not be in this solely for the money. I won't speculate on what they may be looking for other than to say that the city and Chuckmeat may not like the denouement. Yet again, see above.

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