Track coach hit by truck's side-view mirror gets $1 million settlement

A Hall County track coach who suffered serious injuries after being struck in the face by a truck's side-view mirror has settled her lawsuit against the driver for $1 million.

Stacey Merck, a coach and teacher at Chestatee High School, was jogging with four of her

Chestatee High School teacher and track coach Stacey Merck. (Photo: Cox Media Group)

cross country team students on a Sunday morning in September 2016 when she was struck by the side-view mirror of a 2011 Dodge Ram 2500 truck driven by Eric Stover.

Merck, 39, filed suit against Stover on March 24, seeking compensatory damages for her injuries, medical expenses and pain and suffering. The case recently settled for ten times the $100,000 limit of Stover's insurance coverage, Canton attorney Jon Pope, one of Merck's lawyers, said. Her medical bills for facial surgery and treatment have totaled more than $150,000.

Attorney Jon Pope. (Photo: Hasty Pope law firm)

"In my 22 years of practice, there's nothing better than getting a good result for such a deserving client," Pope said. "She's a wonderful lady, a great teacher, a great coach."

Just days after the accident, the Chestatee High boys' and girls' cross country teams won the county championships. Afterward, they posed with their trophies holding a large banner that read, "RUN 4 MERCK." Merck was unable to attend the event.

Gainesville attorney Ronny Hulsey, who also represented Merck, said the coach has returned to Chestatee High and her injuries have improved since the accident.

"She's doing better, but she has vision loss in her right eye and still has some facial scarring," he said. "But she's teaching and that's a good thing."

Atlanta lawyer Thomas Sippel, who represented Stover's insurance company, Horris Mann, said he wanted to consult with his client before issuing any comment.

Merck and her students were running in the roadway, Stover told police, according to a Georgia State Patrol report.  He also later raised that as a defense, Pope said.

But Merck, backed up by sworn statements from her students, said the team ran single file on the grass along Chestatee Road, Pope said.

Merck and cross country runners regularly ran in the grass, the suit said. On the day of the accident, they were running against the flow of traffic, the weather was clear, the roadway was dry and Stover should have been able to see the group from 300 feet away, the suit said.

Stover, less than two miles from his home, failed to maintain his lane and must not been watching the road, the suit said.

One of the cross country team joggers, running in front of Merck, felt the wind of the passing truck's mirror on her hair, Pope said.

"When he veered off the road, that caused his mirror to strike (Merck)," Pope said. "He should have seen her. It's very scary. We're glad shes alive."

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About the Author

Bill Rankin
Bill Rankin
Bill Rankin covers criminal justice, the death penalty and legal affairs. He also hosts the AJC’s “Breakdown” podcast.