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Lawyer's 'Death Warrant' Remarks Get $18M Verdict Reversed

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The Georgia Court of Appeals reversed a verdict of $18 million Monday, citing “inflammatory remarks” a lawyer made during closing arguments.

Judge Brian Rickman wrote a unanimous opinion tossing the results from a damages-only Mitchell County Superior Court trial in the small town of Camilla before South Georgia Circuit Judge Heather Lanier. The defense had admitted liability. The fight was over how much to pay.

The decision turned on a lawyer telling jurors that, if they didn’t award the full amount requested for his client’s care, they would be “signing his death warrant.”

“We cannot conceive of any civil case in which it would be proper for the jury to be told that its action would result in a party’s death. Such is not even permissible in the first phase of a death penalty trial,” wrote Rickman, a former district attorney.

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