Attorney: $22 million wrongful death verdict against Durhamtown will 'take years' to collect

In April a Greene County jury awarded $22 million to the family of a man who died at Durhamtown Off Road Park, but according to the family's attorney, collecting that money will be a lengthy process.  

Dr. Adam White, 47, died Sept. 28, 2019 after a tree fell and hit him as he rode his motorcycle on a dirt trail at the facility. White was a longtime member of the park and was wearing safety equipment at the time of the incident.  

"He had all of the best protective equipment — helmet, chest guard, gloves, boots, everything — the best stuff.  And the tree, which was probably 18 inches in diameter, struck him in the face as he was driving by and fractured every bone in his skull and killed him instantly," said Render Freeman, the attorney who filed a wrongful death lawsuit on behalf of White's family.  

When deputies from the Greene County Sheriff's Office arrived that day, they found the park's owner, Mike McCommons, at the scene. McCommons told first responders that he was on a trackhoe in the woods when he heard a loud noise and went to see what happened.  

Body camera video shows the deputies, however, quickly began to question that account after finding the shovel of the excavator stopped at the base of the downed tree.  

"It's just hard to get around the photographs taken by the sheriff's deputies and the coroner of that shovel stabbing downward into the base of the tree that has fallen," said Freeman. "It just seems beyond belief that that would be coincidental. Obviously, the trackhoe knocked down the tree that killed Adam."  

The lawsuit named McCommons, Durhamtown Off Road Park, Inc., and Durhamtown Pro Shop, Inc., along with several other people and entities. The jury found all of them responsible.

"Our family is very thankful that the jury spoke the truth and declared that Mike McCommons’ gross negligence killed our Adam. We hope that their verdict will change how Durhamtown is run so that no more families suffer a heart-breaking loss like ours," Debi White, Dr. White's widow, said in a statement to FOX 5.  

Adam White was a husband and a father of three daughters. Dr. White was also a well-known orthodontist in Braselton and $22 million was the amount Freeman said White would have earned if he had not died.  

"It's a tremendous amount of money," said Freeman. "To arrive at that number after just two and a half, three hours of deliberation was really remarkable."  

The Whites, though, are not the only family that has sued Durhamtown.

In 2019, another jury awarded a family $15 million after their son nearly lost his right leg at the park. The then 15-year-old was in a motorbike race when he hit an exposed metal pipe just off the track.  McCommons lost an appeal in that case in 2021.  

Despite the juries' verdicts, Freeman said the park does not have liability insurance to cover the damages.  

"We knew that from the beginning. It says it in the waiver that Dr. White signed that day that there's no liability insurance. So, we went into it with our eyes open. We wanted to pursue it nevertheless, even if it meant sort of old-fashioned collection efforts of garnishing bank accounts and things like that. But it was just the conduct was unacceptable and outrageous and we wanted to stand up for the family," Freeman explained. "It probably will take years."

The plaintiffs could also have a hard time collecting because, according to court filings, McCommons and others have created a complicated maze of companies and people that operate the park.  

"We knew that Mr. McCommons from other cases that had been brought against him had set this place up in a way to try to insulate himself from any kind of personal responsibility for things that he might do or things that might go wrong out there," said Freeman.  

The park abruptly closed its doors earlier this year.  

"It is with a heavy heart that we announce Durhamtown will be closed effective immediately," read a post on the park's Facebook page January 4.  "We appreciate each and every one of you over the years and your continued support.  Much love to you all.  Mike and the staff."  

About two weeks later, McCommons' niece, Hailey McCommons, registered a new company called "Georgia Off-Road Rentals" with the Georgia Secretary of State.  

A new website and Facebook page quickly followed and "Georgia Off-Road Adventures" announced it would be open on February 18.

FOX 5 reached out to Georgia Off-Road Adventures, Mike McCommons and his attorneys multiple times, but they did not return requests for comment.