Zachariah Werner, 37, and his wife, Jodi, filed the suit Thursday in Gwinnett County State Court against Penske Truck Leasing Corp. Inc.; Rollins Leasing Corp.; Rollins Leasing LLC; and Warren. The registered agents for the three corporate defendants are in Norcross, according to the suit.
The Rollins firms own the property in Kennesaw where police say Warren went on a shooting rampage on Jan. 12, 2010, killing three people and injuring two, according to the suit.
Penske Leasing Corp. had its operations on the site, but is not the same company that employed Werner, according to the suit. State law prohibits anyone receiving worker’s compensation from suing that employer.
Werner was left with a bullet lodged in his brainstem and is unable to function in any normal manner, the suit claims. He cannot breathe or communicate on his own, must use a feeding tube, is bed-ridden, and will require continuous medical treatment for the rest of his life, according to the suit.
A spokesman for Penske said only that the company is evaluating the lawsuit and has retained Moore Ingram Johnson and Steele, of Marietta, as counsel for the local lawsuits. The defendants have 30 days to file their answer with the court.
Attorney R. Keegan Federal Jr., a former DeKalb County Superior Court judge and founder of the Federal & Hasson law firm in Atlanta, filed the suit on behalf of the Werners.
Werner, he said, cannot speak or perform any bodily functions on his own.
“He is conscious, and he can occasionally blink his eyes,” Federal said. “That tells us his brain is still in there, but he has that bullet lodged in his brain stem.”
Werner had worked for Penske Truck Leasing Co. L.P. since October 2005, while Warren, the accused gunman, worked for that firm from June 2005 to July 2008, according to the suit.
The suit alleges that the defendants were warned “on numerous occasions” that Warren had plans to kill people at the site but “failed to provide adequate security and safety,” despite employing security guards for a time.
The suit also claims that Warren was diagnosed as a paranoid schizophrenic in 2005 and that he had received psychiatric treatment at the request of the Penske defendants.
Werner’s wife, Jodi, has become a certified nursing assistant and provides much of her husband’s care, which means she is unable to work outside the home, Federal said. The couple has three children who range in age from 12 to 17.
Worker’s comp is covering most of the family’s medical bills, Federal said, though “there are some needs that they have, such as a van to be able to transport Zach to rehab, that we hope the suit will be able to provide them and improve their quality of life.”
As of Tuesday, Federal said, he is also co-counsel with attorney Mark Tate, of Savannah, in lawsuits filed by Joshua Holbrook, the other survivor of the Penske attack, and widows of two of the men who died. Van Springer, Roberto Gonzales, and Jaider Marulanda were killed in the attack.
Warren has pleaded not guilty to murder charges. District Attorney Pat Head is seeking the death penalty.