(By: Joe Raedle Getty Images News)
MURFREESBORO (The Tennessean) - In one of the largest judgments in recent Rutherford County Chancery Court history, a judge on Monday awarded a man severely injured three years ago in a road rage altercation more than $1 million.
Tony Lynch, represented by attorney Howard Wilson and co-counsel Kris Oliver, was awarded the civil damages at the culmination of a trial before Chancellor Robert Corlew that named Matt Garrett as the defendant.
Garrett was convicted in criminal court in February 2010 of knocking Lynch unconscious May 11, 2009 during a road rage incident that ended outside Kroger on Middle Tennessee Boulevard, court records show.
He was convicted of reckless aggravated assault, after it was shown that Lynch suffered life-threatening injuries as a result of the assault. Garrett had claimed he punched Lynch in self-defense and out of fear that Lynch had a gun.
Testimony introduced at both his criminal and civil trials by local neurosurgeon Michael F. Moran showed Lynch fractured his skull from the temporal region to the base and suffered permanent brain damage when his head hit the asphalt ground after he was knocked unconscious.
The damage to brain left him unable to drive, smell, hear out of one ear and with short term memory loss. Lynch, who drove for a living, was rendered permanently disabled, and his wife has taken over as bread winner of his home, according to Wilson.
"He is still being treated by neurologists to this day, three years after this incident," Wilson explained.
Wilson said the large judgment should send the message to other motorists who participate in road rage activities that their actions could have unintended consequences that can change lives.
"When someone is in their car, for some reason they feel emboldened in it," he said. "The message should be, stay in your car and be calm. If you get out all crazy and hit someone and they fall to the ground and hit their head and really get hurt, you are liable for that."
Wilson said he believes another reason he believes the jury found Garrett guilty in the civil case was what he did after Lynch fell to the ground.
"He left him there," Wilson explained. "He just looked over him while he was on the ground having seizures and having blood come out of his ears. Then he just left."
Corlew cited Lynch's medical expenses and loss of consortium among the reasons he was entitled to such a large judgment.
"It's one of those cases where you look at it, and you feel like justice has been done," Wilson said.
Wilson said it is one of the two largest judgments of his career, and one of the largest awards granted in recent chancery court history.
"Not counting (medical) malpractice suits," he said. "Usually our verdicts are pretty modest (around $15,000, he said)."
Garrett has already served his sentence on his criminal conviction and is now free.