Gym-mat death spawns two million-dollar lawsuits, so far

Charlotte Personal Injury Attorney Matthew R. Arnold of Arnold & Smith, PLLC answers the question “What exactly is a wrongful death claim?”


The death of a Georgia teen found in a rolled-up high school gym mat two years ago has spawned both a $100-million wrongful-death lawsuit and a $1 million defamation countersuit by three defendants in the wrongful-death action.

Wrestling Mats Charlotte Wrongful Death Lawyer Mecklenburg Car Accident AttorneyKenneth and Jacquelyn Johnson filed the wrongful death suit against thirty-eight defendants after their 17-year-old son, Kendrick Johnson, was found dead in a rolled-up gym mat at his Valdosta, Georgia high school in January 2013. Johnson was found upside-down in the matt, which was rolled up and stacked vertically, in what officials have insisted was a freak accident, according to the Valdosta Daily Times.

In the lawsuit, the Johnsons suggest that Federal Bureau of Investigations agent Rick Bell and his two sons—Brian and Branden—were responsible for Kendrick Johnson’s death.

The Johnsons filed suit in Superior Court in DeKalb County, Georgia near the second anniversary of their son’s death. In their lawsuit, they alleged that the Bell brothers sought revenge against Kendrick after one of the boys fought with him. The Johnsons alleged that the boys’ father, Rick, commanded them to assault Kendrick Johnson.

Investigators have said that the Bells were not involved in Johnson’s death and were elsewhere when the young man died. However—as the Atlanta Journal-Constitution reports—the boys were notified last year by United States Attorney Michael Moore that they were targets of a federal grand jury’s investigation into Johnson’s death. That investigation is ongoing.

Brice Ladson, an attorney who represents the Bells, has called the Johnson’s lawsuit “frivolous.”

While Kendrick Johnson’s death was officially ruled an accident, Johnson’s parents have alleged that foul play was involved and that school and law-enforcement authorities have engaged in a cover-up.

The Bells contend that the Johnson’s lawsuit lacks “substantial justification” and has “a complete absence of any justiciable issue in law or fact,” according to the Daily Mail.

In their countersuit, the Bells allege that the Johnsons sabotaged Brian Bell’s college football prospects by directing a Facebook post at officials at Florida State University in which the Johnsons stated that Bell “exhibited violent tendencies and a highly unusual appetite for fighting.” They alleged that Bell’s social media activities showed the young man had psychopathic tendencies. Florida State University rescinded a scholarship offer it had previously made to Bell, according to the Bells’ lawsuit.

The Bells contend that the Johnsons made “similar slanderous statements” to the University of Louisville and Clemson University.

The Johnsons have pointed out that while more than 100 students cooperated with investigators, only two—the Bells—refused to talk to police. Police asked to speak with Brian Bell after learning that he had been in a fight with Johnson in 2011, but were referred by Bell’s father to their family attorney. The attorney told investigators that the boy would not be making any statements, according to CBS News.

If you or someone you know has any questions regarding potential personal injury claims, feel free to contact the experienced personal injury attorneys at Arnold & Smith, PLLC in Charlotte, North Carolina for a free consultation. Call toll free at (955) 370-2828 or click here for additional resources.



About the Author

ARNOLD & SMITH LAW Matthew Arnold is a Managing Member of Arnold & Smith, PLLC, where he focuses on the areas of family law, divorce, child custody, child support, alimony and equitable distribution.

Mr. Arnold was raised in Charlotte, where he graduated from Providence Senior High School. He attended Belmont Abbey College, where he graduated cum laude, before attending law school at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill on a full academic scholarship.

A board-certified specialist in the practice of Family Law, Mr. Arnold is admitted to practice in all state courts in North Carolina, in the United States Federal Court for the Western District of North Carolina, in the North Carolina Court of Appeals and Supreme Court, and in the Fourth Circuit United States Court of Appeals in Richmond, Virginia.

In his free time, Mr. Arnold enjoys golfing and spending time with his wife and three children.






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