Teen viciously beaten at Six Flags amusement park settles suit for $35 million

COBB COUNTY, Ga. – The thrills and chills are supposed to stop at Six Flags Over Georgia once you get off the rides.

That wasn’t the case for Joshua Martin on July 3, 2007.

The 19-year-old Marietta kid was with his brother and their friend just outside the park when several gang members descended upon them at a bus station 200 feet from the amusement park’s property line.

It was a flurry of brass-knuckled punches and kicks.

Martin had a shoe print embossed on his forehead when he was rushed to Grady Memorial Hospital from Austell.

He was in a coma seven days and suffered severe brain injuries.

Martin sued the amusement park and his assailants, who have either pleaded guilty to or been convicted in the gang beating. The case went before Georgia’s Supreme Court, which found that Martin was owed $35 million.

A decade later, it appears the legal portion of Martin’s journey has been resolved.

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The case has been settled, Six Flags’ appellate attorney Laurie Webb Daniel told The Atlanta Journal-Constitution on Thursday.

She and Martin’s attorney, Michael Neff, both declined to give details of the settlement reported this week by a local law blog, including how much money was paid out.

The case was set to return to court to determine who would pay the $35 million Martin was due.

Six Flags was supposed to pay $32.2 million of that tab. The other $2.8 million was to come from the four convicted gang member assailants: Willie Gray Franklin Jr., Brad McGail Johnson, DeAndre Evans and Claude Morey III.

In 2015, the Georgia Court of Appeals threw out the $35 million jury award and ordered a new trial because there were more — but unidentified — attackers.

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The state Supreme Court reversed the appellate court’s ruling in June 2017. The state’s highest court determined a new trial wasn’t needed, but that the other offenders should have to pay a portion of the $35 million in damages.

The settlement was reached sometime after that decision.

Neff declined to comment on Martin’s health this week, citing the family’s privacy.

About two months after the 2007 beating, The AJC interviewed Martin’s mother.

“He’s improving every day. We’re taking it day by day,” Barbara Martin said in August of 2007.

She was helping her son walk around their Marietta apartment and having him use putty to strengthen his hands.

At the time, Neff said the right side of Martin’s brain was affected most, making it tough to have a conversation with him because he forgets things easily.

The teen was an aspiring artist and wanted to attend the Art Institute of Atlanta.

Six Flags argued that it was not responsible for the attack because it didn’t happen on the amusement park’s property, but the Supreme Court justices decided differently.

“This case stands for the common sense proposition that a property owner does not escape liability for an attack that begins on its premises simply because the victim moves outside the premises before the attack is completed,” Justice Britt C. Grant wrote in her opinion of the 10-2 vote.

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On the day of the attack, the gang of between 15 and 40 people roamed the park pestering patrons and yelling obscenities, according to the opinion.

Park security responded to one incident in which the group harassed several families, reportedly saying “we’ll get you out in the parking lot.”

The families notified a security guard who testified that he should have kicked them out of the park, but didn’t.

The gang later saw the families who initially reported them and chased the families out of Six Flags. Heading back from the parking lot, they saw Martin and his group outside the main entrance about 9 p.m.

They testified to hearing the gang planning to fight someone, anyone. One gang member was reportedly overheard saying “some guy’s going to get messed up,” according to the opinion.

That’s when Martin and his party moved to the bus station technically off Six Flags property but within sight of the park. The gang followed and that’s where the beating happened.

A Cobb County police officer who worked off-duty as a Six Flags security guard said many of the seasonal employees were gang members and that gang issues were spoken about in daily briefings at the park.

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According to the opinion, a police investigator testified that a Six Flags official reached out to him a few days after the attack seeking assurance that police would “not release any information that would lead the public to believe that Six Flags Over Georgia was anything but a safe, family atmosphere.”

A Six Flags spokesman declined to comment Thursday, saying the company doesn’t speak about litigation.

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