Woman crushed by tree files suit against Savannah city officials
By Lesley Conn
A Savannah woman who was crushed under a massive tree limb has filed suit against the city, four months after she and her attorney went before City Council to plea for a settlement.
Howard Spiva, attorney for Shanta Greene, said Monday he got no response from city officials after the November meeting. He filed suit Wednesday in Chatham County State Court. The city will have 30 days upon receiving formal notice of the suit to respond.
City Attorney James Blackburn said he was aware the suit had been filed but had no other comment.
The accident happened in July 2010, and Spiva contends city maintenance records show the city had sufficient information before Greene’s accident to know the tree had significant structural damage, had at least one prior limb failure and was not properly maintained.
Greene, now 30, was a passenger in a pickup that was traveling north on Bee Road near the intersection of 42nd Street when a branch measuring almost 3 feet in diameter collapsed, crushing the pickup’s cab. Greene was pinned in the vehicle. The driver, Louis Anderson, and his young son, Xavier Anderson, also a passenger, were injured, too, and are plaintiffs in the suit.
Greene’s injuries were the most serious.
Her right leg was amputated at the pelvis, and she has permanent internal injuries that require ongoing medical care. She has had more than 40 surgeries, including one earlier this month. She has incurred medical bills of more than $786,537. Spiva is seeking compensation for those expenses, all future medical expenses and rehabilitation and reimbursement for all future replacements of her prosthetic leg.
Additionally, Spiva is seeking damages to cover more than $9,000 in medical expenses for the Andersons and for property damage to the truck for $5,000.
Spiva also is seeking unspecified compensation for pain and suffering and for the loss of enjoyment of a full life.
Determining amounts for those damages, he said, is something he wants to leave to a jury.
“We feel confident 12 citizens of Chatham County will determine what this loss is for her,” he said. “And we will happily accept their determination.”
Spiva and Greene attended a November council workshop session, with Spiva arguing in part that it might benefit the city to negotiate up front rather than risk losing a jury verdict that could cost substantially more.
Then-Mayor Otis Johnson was angered by Spiva’s presentation, saying he believed the attorney was going to speak in general terms about the city’s tree maintenance program. Spiva asserted city staff knew what his presentation would cover.
For her part, Greene is saddened by the city’s inaction but prepared for a lengthy court case.
“I really don’t have a choice,” she said. “I try to deal with it as best I can. I have my kids and my family. That keeps me up and keeps me going.”