Columbia-based Goings Law Firm, LLC, through the work of attorneys Robert Goings and Jessica Gooding, recently obtained a large verdict against a drunk driver. Our client, a South Carolina highway worker, was seriously injured in an accident caused by a habitual drunk driver in 2018. After deliberating for just three hours, the jury returned with a verdict, awarding our client a staggering $12.5 million in damages.
The $12.5 million in damages consists of $3.5 million in actual damages and $9 million in punitive damages, which are designed to punish a defendant for excessively reckless behavior.
Back in 2018, our client was traveling northbound on Interstate 77 as part of a caravan of construction vehicles, clearing construction debris from the highway, when a Columbia-based attorney rear-ended our client’s truck. At the time of the accident, our client’s truck actually had flashing, lighted signage on the rear of his vehicle, instructing other drivers to keep left.
Our client sustained injuries to his neck, shoulders, and lower back due to the collision, ultimately costing around $380,000 in medical expenses.
We presented evidence that demonstrated the culprit’s liability. He had a staggering BAC (blood alcohol content) of .148 around four hours after the crash. The legal limit is a BAC of .08. This same man had been charged with driving under the influence a total of three times in the past, incurring two DUI’s in South Carolina and another in Virginia. While the defendant’s attorney argued that his past convictions were irrelevant to the case at hand, Goings Law Firm, LLC established that the driver had a dangerous pattern of driving while intoxicated that ultimately led him to severely injure our client.
As part of his closing argument before the jury, Robert Goings stated, “You need to return a verdict that is big enough to make it in the newspaper, to send a message to any drunk driver that is out there that drunk driving is not tolerated in Richland County — that our lives, our families’ lives are worth more than to be endangered by a reckless, careless drunk driver.”
The size of the verdict that Goings Law Firm, LLC was able to obtain for our client was called “unprecedented” by Steven Burrit, the executive director for the South Carolina branch of MADD (Mothers Against Drinking in Driving). Of the verdict, Burrit added, “I can’t recall hearing anything that large in a DUI case. That jury took the opportunity to express just how serious this crime is, and how frustrating it is to see this kind of behavior, which puts all of us at risk.”
Robert Goings indicated that the firm would do everything in its power to ensure that their client was able to collect on the verdict.
Contact Goings Law Firm, LLC Today
If you have been injured in an accident that was caused by a drunk driver in South Carolina, contact Goings Law Firm, LLC today. We have the experience and skills to independently investigate your claim, gather evidence to support it, and aggressively seek the compensation you deserve. With our proven track record of success, you know your case is in good hands when you hire us. Contact us today at (803) 350-9230 for a free case evaluation.
Earlier this month, the University of South Carolina School of Law Mock Trial hosted a regional of the National Trial Competition. Nineteen teams traveled to Columbia, South Carolina to compete at the event along with the USC School of Law’s Mock Trial Team to earn a spot at the 2019 National Competition.
Mock Trial is a program that was developed to help students from middle school to law school to advance their trial advocacy skills. These skills include a working knowledge of the United States judicial systems as well as the ability to analyze and communicate effectively. In addition, students learn all about the obligations and responsibilities that they will have as future members of the Bar. Students try out for teams, and competitions held all across the country throughout the fall and spring semesters.
Our office actively supports the USC School of Law—after all, it’s where two of our attorneys, Robert Goings and Jess Gooding, graduated from! We were proud to be sponsors of this year’s Regional Mock Trial competition, and we were even more proud of how the USC School of Law Mock Trial Team represented our local university. Their team was named a 2019 Regional Champion! This is the second year in a row that they have been champions of their region, and this is the fourth time in the last five years that they have advanced to Nationals. They’ll head to San Antonio from March 27 – 31 of this year to compete against the regional winners from across the nation.
Photo by: Nicholas Brausch
Our law clerk, second year University of South Carolina School of Law student Chris Pascal, is a member of the University’s Mock Trial Team. Chris competed with his team in the Regionals and afterwards, was named an Outstanding Advocate for the completion. What an incredible honor—congratulations, Chris! We’ll all be cheering you and your team on during Nationals!
Photo by: Nicholas Brausch
This Thanksgiving, our team is reminded of all of the wonderful blessings and people in our lives that we’re thankful for each and every day. We’re all exceptionally thankful to be able to do the work that we love in a community that we love. Our clients are a constant reminder of why we do what we do, and we’re grateful to be able to serve them.
What else are we thankful for this Thanksgiving?
“I’m thankful for my family because without them, I wouldn’t be able to do what I do each day at Goings Law Firm. I’m also thankful that I get to work with my friends everyday at the office.” – Robert Goings
“I really am thankful for family and friends. I’m blessed with friends that I practice with, and family that I love and that loves to spend time together. I’m thankful for my new practice and the clients that I get to represent. They are good people who just find themselves in really bad predicaments, and it makes me want to work even harder for them.” – Christian Boesl
“This Thanksgiving, I’m very thankful for community. This time last year, I had just become a mother, which is a wonderful but overwhelming experience. I am so thankful for the community of people who have stepped in and supported me through all the adjustments that come with becoming a parent, especially my Goings Law Firm family and other members of the bar. The grace and encouragement I’ve received from people in my professional world has made all the difference, and I’m thankful to be able to practice among such caring and heartening people.” – Jessica Gooding
“I’m thankful for my family, friends, and a career that I love. As a recent cancer survivor, I’m especially grateful for my health, and a new perspective on just how many wonderful blessings exist in my life.” – Catherine
“I’m extremely thankful for a job that allows me to truly help people in their time of need—I have the opportunity to interact with and get to know so many wonderful people on a daily basis. I’m thankful for my Goings Law Firm family that has made me feel so welcome in my move back to Columbia, and for the support of my family and friends.” – Mallory
From our team to yours, we wish you a Happy Thanksgiving!
Can you believe that we’ve already been in our new location on Calhoun Street in downtown Columbia for over a year? Our new location has been wonderful—we love everything about the new-to-us house that our firm’s office is located in.
The house that we’re in is a historical home that was built in the mid-1800s, prior to the start of the Civil War. It was originally built on the grounds of the mental health asylum here in town and in 1982, was moved to its present location on Calhoun Street. Our historical home has a sister structure that was built at the same time and was also moved to Calhoun Street in the 1980s. Both structures resemble one another—they are two-story rectangular clapboard buildings with metal roofs, full front porches, and multi-paned wooden windows.
When we were working towards making the historical home our perfect office location, we rehabilitated the home only as needed without replacing any of the original features. There was so much history and charm to be found in the house and we did not want to ruin or take away any of it. We prepped and painted the building, repaired some of the rotting and deteriorated trim and features with like materials, and fixed up the front porch.
As we’ve heard told, the homes were originally built for two sisters by their father, who ended up becoming a Confederate General in the Civil War. When General Lee and his troops came to Columbia during the Civil War, we’ve been told that the troops shot at a portrait of the Confederate General that they found hanging over the fireplace and that the bullets are still lodged in the fireplace today. We love the history found in our office!
This stately home has been a great location for our team to practice out of—it has plenty of room for everyone on our team and since we all love history (especially South Carolina history!), it was a perfect fit for us. Each day, we make the space a little bit more of our own. Have you been to see us yet in our new location? We’d love to give you a tour and tell you more about it the next time that you drop by for an appointment!
Our team loves living, working, and playing in the community that we call home: Columbia, South Carolina. There is so much to love about our town!
There are so many great local businesses, entrepreneurs, artists, and more that make our hometown a wonderful place. Have you taken the time lately to explore what Columbia has to offer these days? It has grown by leaps and bounds over the last few years and we’re happy to have been a part of that growth.
This fall, our law firm has been featured in Fig Columbia. Fig Columbia is a quarterly lifestyle magazine that highlights all things local to Columbia and this issue, the Arts & Culture issue, focuses on the artists and creators that make this town a vibrant place to live.
In our office, we celebrate local history by turning historical South Carolina flags into artwork to adorn our walls. This Moultrie Flag, located in our conference room, is one of our favorites. It was commissioned in 1775 for use during the Revolutionary War down at Fort Moultrie, just outside of Charleston, South Carolina. It’s a flag that’s filled with history and we love having it hanging in our office.
Have you spotted other flags in our office? Robert has collected quite a few over the years!
This month, our attorney Jessica L. O’Neill Gooding celebrates her two year anniversary with Goings Law Firm. We absolutely love having her on our team! She’s a dedicated attorney who works incredibly hard for and is dedicated to each one of her clients.
“My favorite thing about working here is just working with the clients,” Jess said. “I grew up wanting to be a teacher. I actually had a couple of my favorite teachers talk me out of that but, this type of practice allows me to educate clients and take them through the legal process. I really enjoy that type of interaction with clients. Also, Robert is really hilarious to work with!”
She also loves the history found in the walls of the historical home that houses our firm in downtown Columbia.
“My favorite part of our office is the bullet in the chimney,” Jess said. “Downstairs in the conference room, in the brick chimney above the fireplace behind the finished walls, there are bullets from the Civil War. This house is one of two that was built for a pair of sisters—they’re twin homes with almost the exactly same layout. A confederate general built them for his two daughters. When Sherman was burning the south and raiding all of the homes, they came into this house. There was a portrait of the young woman’s father—the Confederate general—over the mantel of the fireplace. When the Union troops saw it, they shot through the portrait and the lead bullets lodged themselves in the brick of the chimney.”
Jess stays active our local legal community, and is a member of the South Carolina Bar’s Young Lawyer Division, South Carolina Women Lawyer’s Association, the South Carolina Young Lawyers Division, the Richland County Bar Association, and the American Bar Association.
“In Columbia, it’s really easy to get involved with the Bar Association,” Jess said. “There are always a lot of events going on, the Annual South Carolina Judicial Conference is here in town, and it’s a great hub for the legal community with the government and the non-profits that are located here. It’s cool to be a part of that and to stay involved with it.”
Congratulations on your 2nd anniversary, Jess! We hope to celebrate many more work anniversaries with you!
Meet Chris Pascal, who has been working with Goings Law Firm this summer and will continue with us into the fall as he begins his 2L year at the University of South Carolina School of Law.
Chris attended undergraduate at Wofford University and he graduated in May 2017. When he arrived at Wofford as a freshman in 2014, he decided to get involved in Wofford’s Student Government and was elected as a Freshman Delegate. Chis went on to lead the Student Government as Student Body President during his time at Wofford (just like Robert Goings did!)
When Chris began his classes at the University of South Carolina School of Law, he didn’t immediately jump into student government. However, at the encouragement of his friends, he decided to run for a Student Body Association position and was elected to the SBA as the Class Representative for the Class of 2020. He will begin his term this fall when he begins his 2L year.
“I’m really happy to be working for Robert and for Goings Law Firm,” Chris said. “It’s been a great experience, and I’m blessed to have it. I love seeing what it takes to be a successful attorney. You have to be hardworking and client driven. Goings Law Firm has taught me that you can be both principled and family oriented. Yes, it can be hard work and a lot of hours, but at the end of the day you still want to have your principles, your morals, and your beliefs.”
Like Chris, both Robert Goings and Jess Gooding, attended the USC School of Law. Because of our firm’s close ties with the University and because of our proximity to campus, we believe in being actively involved at the USC School of Law and try to do as many things with the school as we can. We are firmly invested in the futures of the law students there and want to do what we can to help further their education and their experience.
“Everyone here is very involved,” Chris said. “They have spoken to our entire graduating class, they help put on the Alumni and Student BBQ every June, and they participate in the On Campus Interviews each year. Goings Law Firm shows that even small firms can have a big presence on campus.”
As the summer begins to wind down and students begin making their way back to campus, we want to wish everyone at the USC School of Law a good school year. We look forward to seeing the new class and the returning students around campus!
The Goings Law Firm, LLC has been featured in the Summer 2018 issue of Fig Magazine.
Fig is a local publication that explores “shopping, dining, arts, history and community in Columbia.” The current issue focuses on food and drink.
Jess Gooding is one of the newest members of the Richland County Bar Association’s Newsletter Editorial Board, and she has been charged with the Newsletter’s pop culture column.
“Bar Bites” is a column featuring tidbits on what local attorneys are interested in; it includes reviews on restaurants, bars, television shows, podcasts, and more! This fall, the new Netflix series, Stranger Things, received particularly high praise. The newsletter and column alike will be published quarterly. To read the column, see pages 18 and 19 of the RCBA Newsletter.
Lawsuits brought against bars and restaurants who have over-served their customers are on the rise according to a report in The State Newspaper. South Carolina law makes it illegal for a bar to knowingly serve alcohol to an intoxicated person. Dram shop cases, as they are known, seem to be increasing in frequency in South Carolina, and unfortunately, there is no shortage of tragedies that lead to these type of actions. When a drunk driver is in an auto accident and injures or kills a passenger in their vehicle or someone else on the road, the bar or restaurant who served the driver to the point of intoxication can — and we believe, should — be held liable for over-serving. Sadly, there are many such cases currently pending in South Carolina, including one against Tin Roof in Columbia’s Vista. In that case, 19-year-old Caitlin Clark of Lexington was killed when James Gainey Jr. was over-served and recklessly got on his motorcycle to drive home, leaving her family devastated and rocking the entire community.
Another example of recent dram-shop litigation in South Carolina is the 2015 case against The Loose Cockaboose, where the jury awarded $3.85Million to the family of six-year-old Emma, who was killed by a drunk driver on a Sunday morning on the way to church. The drunk driver, Billy Patrick Hutto, was a repeat DUI offender, and Emma’s family sought redress from The Loose Cockaboose in a wrongful death action, indicating that the driver had been served past the point intoxication in the wee hours of the morning in the establishment. The family also appeared before the state legislature and advocated for legislation known as Emma’s Law, which Governor Nikki Haley signed into law on April 30, 2014. Emma’s Law stiffened penalties against DUI offenders, and especially repeat offenders, but it did not direclty address the over-serving issue.
State Senator Luke Rankin of Horry County called the over-serving problem “rampant,” and indicated that he expects to introduce a Bill in the upcoming Legislative Session that would, if passed into law, require bars and restaurants to provide mandatory safe alcohol service training for any employees who would be serving customers alcohol. The South Carolina Senate considered a similar bill last year, known as Alli’s law (named for Alli Cousins, who was over-served and died in a fatal car crash), but it died in committee. John Durst, president of the S.C. Restaurant and Lodging Association, indicated that many drinking establishments recognize that there is a problem with regard to over-serving, and the Association will be backing the Bill to be introduced in January. The State reported that, according to the National Restaurant Association, seventeen states currently require similar training, which teaches servers and managers how to check IDs for age and recognize signs of intoxication, and also teaches them the best ways to handle situations where someone should no longer be served alcohol.
The personal injury attorneys at the Goings Law Firm, LLC understand the devastation that can follow a drunk driving accident, especially if serious injury or wrongful death is involved. We are experienced at handling legal claims and lawsuits involving drunk drivers and bars that serve alcohol. We will work hard to hold the drunk driver and bar or restaurant responsible. If you or someone you love has been injured or killed because of a drunk driver or the negligence of a bar or restaurant, please contact us at (803) 350-9230 to find out if we can help.