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Between 2013 and 2016, the Georgia Department of Transportation (GDOT) reports that at least 600 sewer grates were stolen by thieves looking to sell them as scrap metal. Before replacing the grates, GDOT took time to consider options that may deter thieves from taking the new ones. Not replacing the grates immediately turned out to be a serious issue.

While trying to determine the most effective way to deter the theft of sewer grates, one person lost his life and three were seriously injured by falling into uncovered openings. Lawsuits followed and, as a result, GDOT has agreed to pay over $2 million in damages to the victims through a global settlement reached early last month.

Lance Lourie and Robin Lourie of Lourie, Chance, Forlines, Carter & King represented Ann Sisson, one of the plaintiffs in this case. Mrs. Sisson is the widow of Raymond Sisson, the only person to suffer fatal injury after falling into one of these uncovered sewer openings.

Mr. Sisson’s injury occurred in October of 2014 when he and his wife were clipped from behind while driving on I-75. Following the collision, Mr. Sisson pulled over to the shoulder to check the camping-trailer they were hauling for damages. An uncovered sewer opening next to the Sisson’s vehicle had been obscured by foliage and could not be seen from Mr. Sisson’s vantage point. He fell into the opening and struck his head.

Unaware of the seriousness of his injury, Mr. and Mrs. Sisson continued towards their destination of Waycross, but at a gas station near Alma, Mr. Sisson because nauseous and incoherent, prompting his wife to drive him to Bacon County Hospital. There, Mr. Sisson was diagnosed with acute brain bleed due to subdural hematoma and was airlifted to Jacksonville trauma center.

Mr. Sisson was pronounced brain dead upon arrival at the trauma center. He would not live to see the next day. He was 79 years old.

In the lawsuit against GDOT, Lance and Robin Lourie, along with representatives of the remaining victims, were able to establish that the department of transportation was aware of the risks posed by missing grates and was negligent in its delay to repair. As a result, Ann Sisson was awarded $750,000 for the loss of her husband’s life, receiving the largest portion of the $2,095,000 settlement reached in this case.


An average of 50,000 people dies each year in the United States due to traumatic brain injury, making it a factor in 30.5% of all injury-related deaths in our country. Many of these lives could be saved if swift action were taken following injury, but head trauma is often very slow to produce symptoms and not everyone seeks medical care following impact to the head.

As was evident in the case involving Mr. Sisson, it can take hours, in some cases even days, for symptoms of fatal brain injury to become apparent. In cases that are not fatal, it may take months or even years for damage to be known. This is why it is absolutely essential that you seek medical treatment any time you sustain a blow to the head – even if the injury seems minor. When a brain injury is caught early on, additional damage can often be prevented and lives can be saved.

Sadly, even when action is taken, brain injury often results in irreversible damage and may necessitate near-constant medical care. Victims of brain injury and their families can expect to pay out millions over the course of a lifetime to cover medical and rehabilitation costs, and many victims are unable to work or contribute financially following the injury.

When you or a loved one sustains a serious injury, you need an injury attorney on your side who is willing to take your case as far as needed to secure every penny you are due. Call Lourie, Chance, Forlines, Carter & King at 404-760-7400 to schedule a free consultation and learn more.

The Atlanta personal injury lawyers at Lourie, Chance, Forlines, Carter & King represent victims of brain injury in Savannah, Columbus, Decatur, Augusta, and all nearby areas of Georgia.