As president of the State Bar of Georgia, I have occasion to work on a number of issues and controversies beyond the scope of my own personal injury, wrongful death and commercial trucking accident trial practice.  The following is excerpted from an article by Kathleen Joyner in the Fulton County Daily Report on September 23, 2011.


Bar committee OKs rule change
Public defenders in same circuit would be allowed to represent co-defendants under proposed amendment

The State Bar of Georgia’s Disciplinary Rules and Procedures Committee on Wednesday unanimously approved a rule change that would allow public defenders in the

The following profile article about me was written by Linton Johnson and published in the August 2011 issue of the Georgia Bar Journal. While it briefly touches on my practice as a personal injury and wrongful death trial attorney focused on commercial trucking accidents, the focus is more on background for bar leadership.


A Truck Wreck Lawyer Faces the ‘Truck Wreck’ of the Judicial System After Years of Court Budget Cuts

Linton Johnson

As the newly installed 49th president of the State Bar of Georgia, Ken Shigley knows to expect the unexpected. Having served on the Executive Committee

Over the years in my Atlanta personal injury practice, I have worked on cases involving catastrophic tire failure. It has certainly made me more alert to issues when tire issues arise with vehicles in our family. 

And it helped to increase my patience with the replacement process when I recently ran over some sort of metal strip on an exit ramp, resulting in the loss of both front tires — one immediately and the other a couple of days later when I was still driving on my spare.

At the risk of sounding like President Wilson, here are my "Fourteen Points" for tire safety, with thanks to California lawyer Mike Danko and Gerry Maloy at MSN:

1. No on-the-rim repairs. The tire must be dismounted so that the tire can be properly inspected and sealed against moisture. Short cuts on this can put the survival of your DNA at severe risk.

2. No repairs near the shoulder. This is the weakest part of the tire.  Only holes in the middle of the tire can be repaired.  If you pick up a nail near the shoulder, just spring for the price of a new tire. It’s cheaper than a funeral.

3. New tires go on the rear.  Installing the new tread on the front can lead to loss of control.

4. Check tire pressures and adjust at least once a month. According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) on tire-related crashes, the leading cause of tire failure is underinflation.

5. Inspect tires regularly for abnormal wear or damage. This is easily done at the same time you check pressures. If repair is needed, see #1 above.

6. Rotate tires every 6,000 miles or according to owner’s manual. I know, this is as boring as flossing teeth, but uneven wear pattens can have really bad outcomes such as catastrophic tire failure, rollover, death, quadriplegia, etc.

7. Maintain tires in proper balance.  See #6.

8.  Maintain steering and suspension in proper alignment. See #6 again.

9. Never overload a tire. Overloading is the second leading cause of tire failure, next to underinflation. So don’t load down your old Pinto with rocks  to build that cool stone patio and outdoor fireplace for the coming spring. Read the load capacity stuff in the owner’s manual.

10. Avoid overheating tires.  Excessive speeds, heavy loads, underinflation, rough pavement or concrete, and aggressive driving all contribute to high tire temperatures. All these, especially in hot weather, can lead to sudden tire failure.See #6 again re: bad outcomes.

11. Replace tires when . . .

  • Any portion of the tread is worn to the "wear indicator bars"—lateral bars molded into the tire grooves at about 20 percent of their new tread depth—or to a depth, as measured in a groove, of 1/16th inch or less.
  • Tread wear is severely uneven (in which case have the wheel alignment checked) or the center is worn much more than the edges. (See #6 again about bad things happening to good people.)
  • The tire sidewalls are severely cracked or there are bulges anywhere on the tire.
  • There is any indication of tread separation from the tire carcass.
  • The tire has been punctured and cannot be satisfactorily repaired. (See #1 & #2 again.)

12.  Install tires in matched pairs or complete sets.  I just taught this one to my frugal daughter who had one tire go bad. I hope she remembers when she, rather than Dad, is paying for the tires.

13.  Select the right tires for your vehicle and driving environment. There is quite a variety of specialized tires available. In our generally mild southern climate, "all season" tires are generally good enough for most of us. My daughter’s boyfriend is an advocate of snow tires in upstate New York, where they are in college. I tell her to ride with him in the winter since we Southerners don’t know how to drive on that stuff anyway.

14. Review 1 through 13. I didn’t really have "Fourteen Points" but as a former history major, I couldn’t resist a nod to the President who once had a law office near where our Georgia Bar Center now stands.

Year in and year out, most lawyers handling back injury cases see a lot of herniated discs and fractured vertebra.  A less common and for many lawyers poorly understood back injury is syringomyelia.

Syringomyelia is a condition in which a cyst or cavity forms within the spinal cord. While it may be congenital or caused by illness, when there are no symptoms and then it immediately shows up on an MRI after a truck folds up the rear of the person’s car, there is a good chance it is caused by trauma. Motor vehicle collisions are the most common traumatic cause of syringomyelia.

This cavity or cyst, called a syrinx, expands and elongates over time, destroying the center of the cord. Since the spinal cord connects the brain to the nerves in the extremities, this damage may result in pain, weakness, and stiffness in the back, shoulders, arms or legs. Other symptoms may include headaches and loss of the ability to feel extremes of hot or cold, especially in the hands and disruption in body temperature. SM may also adversely affect sweating, sexual function and bladder and bowel control. In extreme cases it may lead to paralysis.

Conservative treatment may involve multiple pain medications. In some patients it may be necessary to drain the syrinx, which can be accomplished using a catheter, drainage tubes, and valves. Surgery is usually recommended for syringomyelia patients, though the rate of success for surgery is not as high as with, for example, ruptured intervetebral discs.  However, surgery is only recommended when the condition is severe enough, and doctors may choose to defer surgery as long as appears safe.

As a country boy raised in a time when three black & white TV channels with an outdoor aerial was the height of technology, I get a kick out of it when I find that someone I don’t know in another part of the country reposts on the Internet one of my video clips.

Recently I was surprised to find that a lawyer  in Missouri reposted my video about spinal cord injuries.

Thanks for the free publicity!

In my Atlanta-based law practice, one of greatest challenges I face is the attempt to recover adequate compensation for survivors of catastrophic spinal cord injury.

No amount of money is ever really sufficient to fully compensate a person whose life has been tremendously changed by such an injury. Therefore, I am always interested in new treatments that might help alleviate the effects of injury.

Now, a new study  in the current edition of the journal Science suggests that the cancer drug Taxol could be useful in the treatment of severe spinal cord injuries.Researchers in Maryland, Florida, Germany and the Netherlands found that the drug may contribute to the regeneration of neural cells in the spinal cord. They administered the drug directly to the area of a spinal cord lesion in rats immediately after an injury. Over time, they found that the animals who were given the drug regained far more movement that those who did not.

We may be a long way from clinical treatment of human spinal cord injury survivors, but the animal studies are of considerable interest.

Jim Langevin was paralyzed from the chest down in a gunfire accident as a teenager 30 years ago while working as a police volunteer. For 10 years he has been the only quadriplegic in the U.S. Congress. Before being elected to Congress, he was Rhode Island’s secretary of state and also served in the General Assembly. Last week, Langevin was re-elected to another term in the House of Representatives.

Whatever your political leanings, you have to admire the indomitable spirit of a person who despite the horrible disability of quadriplegia rises to serve in Congress.

A quadriplegic since 1995, Paul Boyd has sued the Alabama Medicaid agency in an effort to get home-based care that would enable him to move out of a nursing home where he now lives.

Boyd argues that the agency would save money by letting him live in a house, with some assistance. He wants to live closer to the University of Montevallo campus, where despite his quadriplegia he is a graduate student in community counseling.

For the first 11 years after his paralyzing accident, Boyd living with relatives. Four years ago, when they were no longer able to serve as caregivers, he moved to a nursing home. However, the nursing  home is 13 miles from the university campus.There is no public transportation to get to his evening classes. He uses his scholarship money to pay a maintenance worker from the nursing home to drive his wheelchair-equipped van back and forth to campus.

You have to admire the indomitable spirit of folks like Mr. Boyd who are determined to live productive lives after a devastating injury. I find it extremely fulfilling to help such folks recover the resources necessary to restore as much of a productive life as possible.

It’s a long way from experiments with lab mice to clinical treatment of humans, and as a Georgia trial attorney in Atlanta, I only represent human spinal cord injury survivors.

However, it is interesting to observe progress in animal experiments that may someday carry over to treatment of humans.

According to an article published in Nature Neuroscience, researchers from UC Irvine, UC San Diego and Harvard recently announced they had induced nerve regeneration in mice with severe spinal cord injury.  They deleted an enzyme called PTEN (a phosphatase and tensin homolog), which controls a  molecular pathway that regulates cell growth. PTEN activity is low during development but turns on when growth is completed. Previously, researchers showed they could block PTEN in mice to regenerate nerve connections from the eye to the brain after optic nerve damage. The new research gives some degree of hope that such nerve regeneration could take place in the injured spinal cord.