ATLANTA - The Georgia Supreme Court on Monday reinstated a $35 million jury award stemming from a violent 2007 beating incident outside Six Flags Over Georgia that left a Marietta teen permanently brain damaged.
The Supreme Court upheld the finding of the lower court that Six Flags was liable for Joshua Martin's injuries, and reversed the 2015 Georgia Court of Appeals decision which tossed out the jury award.
“This case stands for the common sense proposition that a property owner does not escape liability for an attack that begins on its premises simply because the victim moves outside the premises before the attack is completed,” says today’s unanimous opinion, written by Justice Britt Grant. “We now expressly adopt this narrow principle, and hold that although the landowner’s duty is to maintain safety and security within its premises and approaches, liability may arise from a breach of that duty that proximately causes injuries even if the resulting injury ultimately is completed beyond that territorial sphere.”
Attorney Ashley Wilcott said it is important to note that in its initial finding, the Georgia Court of Appeals did not reverse the Cobb County court's decision that Six Flags along with the identified attackers were liable for the beating incident.
"It only reversed as to damages, as damages were apportioned among all of the attackers," Wilcott said. "It is saying damages were incorrectly allocated, as it should have allowed the jury to allocate among all attackers."
According to the Supreme Court's reinstatement, Six Flags and the four young men convicted in the attack are all liable -- a new hearing will have to be held to determine the exact amounts each will be responsible for.
The court record says that on July 3, 2007, Joshua Martin--who was 19 at the time--had gone to Six Flags with his brother and another friend to celebrate the friend's acceptance to college. Earlier that day, several young men tied to a gang known as YGL had harassed and threatened at least two families inside the amusement park, and later in the parking lot. Notably, according to police, the gang included employees of the amusement park.
The families had alerted Six Flags security officers, who had confronted and reprimanded the young men but afterward released them back into the amusement park.
Just before the park's closing time of 9 p.m., Martin, his brother and his friend left the park and walked to a nearby hotel to use the restroom. By the time they returned to the front entrance of the park to await the 9 p.m. bus, they had missed it and had to wait on the next one. They sat on a nearby guardrail to wait.
After noticing a large group of similarly dressed young men and hearing murmurings of a fight, they left the guardrail and began to walk back toward the bus stop itself. The group of young men followed the trio. It had grown considerably by that point, and included the young men that had accosted the families inside the amusement park.
For no apparent reason, the group attacked Martin when they got back to the bus stop, beating him with brass knuckles, knocking him to the ground and repeatedly stomping on him.
The attack left Martin in a coma for the next seven days and with severe and permanent brain damage as a result of his injuries.
Four Six Flags employees -- Willie Gray Franklin Jr., Brad McGail Johnson, DeAndre Evans and Claude Morey III -- were each convicted of aggravated assault and violating Georgia's Gang Act in criminal court in connection with the attack on Martin.
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