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Parties settle lawsuit over town man’s death

FRONT ROYAL – The family of a man who died after a vehicle crash in 2016 settled a lawsuit Thursday against the driver blamed for causing the collision.

Judge Thomas Horne accepted the settlement agreement between the victim’s survivors and attorneys for the automobile insurance companies involved in the wrongful death lawsuit in Warren County Circuit Court on Thursday. Manassas attorney Kevin Locklin represented the survivors of the victim, Dennis Lee Ralls, whose brother Jack also appeared in court.

Jack Lapidus, attorney for the defendant, Emmanuel T. Georgewill, and Mark Whittingon, representing State Farm Mutual Automobile Insurance Company, appeared for the brief hearing.

The victim’s family originally sought $5 million in damages from the driver, Emmanuel T. Georgewill. The survivors ended up settling for a fraction of the demand.

International law prevented the plaintiffs from seeking much in the way of damages, Locklin explained after the hearing outside the courtroom. Georgewill is a Nigerian citizen, according to court records.

The crash occurred a short distance from the victim’s home in Front Royal. Dennis Ralls was driving to visit his brother Jack, Locklin said. Georgewill was driving a rental vehicle with a minimal amount of automobile insurance required under law, which also limited how much the victim’s family could seek in damages, Locklin said.

Jack Ralls expressed frustration with the outcome.

“You can’t fight this for so long,” Jack Ralls said outside the courtroom. “They need to change the laws.”

Locklin filed the wrongful death lawsuit against Georgewill in Warren County Circuit Court in mid August 2016 on behalf of Jack Ralls, administrator of his brother’s estate. The complaint states that Georgewill, while traveling north on Virginia Avenue on May 28, 2016, failed to stop at a stop sign and caused his vehicle to collide with Dennis Ralls’ “with great force and violence.”

Dennis Ralls, 68, had been traveling east on West 8th Street and proceeded through the intersection at Virginia Avenue.

Front Royal police charged Georgewill, 53, with reckless driving less than a week after the crash, but several days before Dennis Ralls died. Georgewill, who also provided police with a McLean address, pleaded no contest to the charge in Warren County General District Court on April 25, 2017. Judge W. Dale Houff sentenced Georgewill to 30 days in jail, all time suspended, and ordered the defendant to pay a fine of $2,500 plus surrender his driver’s license for six months.

The civil complaint states that the crash led to the death of Dennis Ralls on June 6, 2016.

“The surviving family of Dennis Lee Ralls have suffered sorrow, mental anguish, solace which includes society, companionship, comfort, guidance, kindly offices, and advice of the decedent,” the complaint states. “Further, the surviving family of Dennis Lee Ralls have incurred reasonable funeral expenses and related costs for Dennis Lee Ralls’ burial.”

The plaintiff and the beneficiaries sought $5 million in compensatory damages plus prejudgment interest and post judgment interest at the legal rate. Locklin requested a jury trial.

Lapidus and fellow attorney M. Therese Waymel filed a response to the lawsuit on behalf of Georgewill in which the defendant denied most of the allegations in the complaint. In fact, Georgewill’s attorneys placed any blame for Dennis Ralls’ injuries on Ralls. The attorneys asked that the court dismiss the complaint with prejudice, award costs to the defendant and grant him any other relief.

A consent motion for approval of the wrongful death settlement and distribution of proceeds was filed in the court Jan. 19.  The motion states that as a result of the crash, Dennis Ralls was transported by ambulance from the scene to a hospital. Dennis Ralls died while in the hospital. Medical bills totaled $115,817 and Medicare payments were made toward that amount.

Dennis Ralls’ survivors also include his mother Evelyn Mauck and his brothers Charles and Thomas.

The consent motion states that parties agreed at the time of filing to resolve the claim for $75,000 distributed to Enterprise RAC Company of Maryland LLC and to State Farm Mutual Automobile Insurance Company. The proceeds of the settlement would pay outstanding bills with CMS for Medicare, Locklin & Coleman law firm and the remainder to Charles and Jack Ralls.

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