Civil case settled in Giddings killing

Telegraph staffJanuary 13, 2013 

The apartment complex where Mercer University law school graduate Lauren Giddings was slain has avoided a looming lawsuit.

Attorneys for the Giddings family sent the company insuring Barristers Hall apartments a demand letter -- a prelude to filing a lawsuit -- April 9, 2012.

The Giddingses sought $1 million, criticizing security at the apartments. They said alleged killer Stephen McDaniel “could not have pulled off murdering and discarding Ms. Giddings’ remains in the manner he did” without a master key that they claimed one of the owners misplaced.

McDaniel, 27, lived next door to Giddings, 27, who was also his law school classmate. He could face the death penalty if convicted of killing and dismembering her in late June 2011.

There was a fall summit involving lawyers, the Giddingses and the apartment owners in Macon. An agreement was finalized in November.

While the amount of money awarded to the Giddings family is veiled by a confidentiality clause, the type of settlement indicates they received less than the $1 million insurance policy limit.

The “compromised settlement” also ended the case without a finding of fault or admission of liability, said Boni Bush, co-owner of the apartments, which sit across Georgia Avenue from Mercer’s Walter F. George School of Law.

Had the case gone to trial and a jury found the apartment complex owners liable, the money awarded would have been based in part on an estimate of Giddings’ lifetime earnings.

“You’re looking at millions of dollars,” Bush said.

The apartment owners didn’t want to settle the case.

“We maintain to this day that there was nothing that we did or didn’t do that would have changed the outcome,” she said.

The Giddings family declined to comment about the settlement. Attempts to reach the Macon lawyer representing State Farm Insurance in the case were unsuccessful.

Bush doesn’t begrudge the Giddings family getting money.

“It wasn’t about the money,” she said. “It was about the liability.”

To contact writer Amy Leigh Womack, call 744-4398. To contact writer Joe Kovac Jr., call 744-4397.

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