|Kenneth and Jackie Johnson, parents of Kendrick Johnson|
Why the Johnson Family Will Never Refile Their Wrongful Death Lawsuit
On March 1, 2016 Jackie and Kenneth Johnson voluntarily dismissed their $100 million dollar wrongful death lawsuit related to the death of their son Kendrick. Their Attorney Chevene King and family spokesman Marcus Coleman have publicly stated that the lawsuit will be refiled sometime in the next six months. For reasons I will lay out below, the wrongful death lawsuit will never be refiled.
Many have suggested that the voluntary dismissal was triggered by the sworn depositions of Jackie and Kenneth Johnson where they admitted under oath they do not have any evidence to support their claims of foul play. While this is powerful and compelling testimonial evidence, it does not provide the strongest case as to why the wrongful death lawsuit will never be refiled. The strongest case to be made for why the lawsuit will never be refiled is based on the Johnson family’s failure to file responses to requests for admissions.
What are requests for admissions?
In a civil action, a request for admission is a discovery device that allows one party to request that another party admit or deny the truth of a statement under oath. If admitted, the statement is considered to be true for all purposes of the current trial. Parties may also use this discovery device to request that other parties verify that documents are genuine.
Requests for admission are generally used toward the end of the discovery process to settle uncontested issues and simply the trial.
O.C.G.A. 9-11-36 (a)(2) Holds that failure to file a timely response to requests for admission results in a legally binding admission that the statement is true and correct. Jackie and Kenneth were individually served sets of requests for admission by the various defendants in their wrongful death action. The Johnson family chose not to file a response to any of the RFA’s. As a result the RFA statements are now legally admitted to be true and correct by the Johnson family as an operation of law. This is discussed thoroughly in the Bell family brief in support of summary judgment and statement of undisputed material facts.
The requests for admission submitted to Jackie and Kenneth Johnson are linked below:
By failing to file a timely response to the requests for admissions, the Johnson family has made legally binding admissions that the following facts are true and correct:
- Kendrick Johnson died from positional asphyxia after getting himself stuck in rolled up gym mat. (RFA #3)
- Kendrick’s body was undisturbed from the time he entered the rolled up gym mat until the time his body was found the following day. (RFA #4)
- There were no witnesses to Kendrick’s death. (RFA # 9)
- Video surveillance proves that neither of the Bell brothers entered or exited the gym at any pertinent time. (RFA # 7)
- Branden Bell was on a bus to Macon Georgia at the time of Kendrick Johnson’s death (RFA # 5)
- Brian Bell was in his weightlifting and biology classes at the time of Kendrick Johnson’s death (RFA # 10 & 11)
- Brian Bell had nothing to do with Kendrick Johnson death (RFA # 36)
- Branden Bell had nothing to do with Kendrick Johnson death (RFA # 37)
- The Johnson family has never had any basis to suspect or accuse the Bells of being involved in Kendrick Johnson’s death (RFA # 38 - 40)
O.C.G.A. 9-11-41 (d)
Georgia Revised statute 9-11-41 (d) reads:
(d) Cost of previously dismissed action. If a plaintiff who has dismissed an action in any court commences an action based upon or including the same claim against the same defendant, the plaintiff shall first pay the court costs of the action previously dismissed.
In order for the Johnson family to refile their wrongful death lawsuit that was voluntarily dismissed on March 1, 2016, they must first pay all court costs incurred by the first lawsuit. Because of the rapidly diminishing support for the Johnson family and dwindling donations, it is unlikely that the Johnson family would pay the court costs on the initial lawsuit and once again incur the same expenses in a subsequent lawsuit.
Collectively, the arguments I have set forth in this article show the reason the lawsuit will never be refiled is that the Johnson family has made legally binding admissions that there is no basis for a wrongful death suit as alleged. This forces the Johnson family to come up with a new set of allegations. Once these new allegations are made, any new Defendants can easily impeach the Johnson family on the basis of prior inconsistent statements. For these reasons, the Johnson family will never refile their wrongful death lawsuit.
Guest blogger, David Piercy: This blog post has been developed to provide general information related to civil wrongful death lawsuits. I am a paralegal. I am not, and do not claim to be, an attorney. As such, I cannot and do not give legal advice nor do I provide services to the general public.
More on Kendrick Johnson Case
More on Kendrick Johnson Case