Recent Jury Verdict Demonstrates the Risk of Litigation

January 7, 2019 Injury Lawyer San Diego 0

Clients occasionally seem to be puzzled by the fact that, sometimes, even if they win a trial they might not obtain any monetary recovery. They generally realize that they could lose a trial–that the jury might decide completely against them. But not receiving money for injuries after a jury decides in their favor? Unimaginable.

However, the following recent jury verdict shows that this can happen and demonstrates how it can happen.

Pfc. Jesse Klingler was injured when he was shot at close range with a blank round by an actor hired by a local TV production company. The TV production company was working with the Marines to conduct a simulated interrogation during a military training exercise. Pfc. Klingler was participating as an on-duty marine in the exercise.

A jury awarded Pfc. Klingler $91,000. However, due to litigation strategy, allocation of fault, and the jury’s verdict, Pfc. Klingler will not receive any portion of that verdict.

Paralyzed San Diego Rollover Car Accident Victim Beats Ford Motor Co….Again (x6)

December 1, 2018 Injury Lawyer San Diego 0

We’ve written before about Benetta Buell-Wilson’s ongoing fight with Ford Motor Company regarding her record-breaking $369 million trial court verdict after her Ford Explorer rolled over on Interstate 8 (I-8), which left her paralyzed due to a crushed spine (Crippled San Diego Injury Victim Beats Ford Motor Co.; Record San Diego Roll-Over Verdict to be Reviewed).

Well, Buell-Wilson won again and this time it is final. Ms. Buell-Wilson has been fighting since she was injured earlier this decade and for the last five years since a San Diego jury awarded her $369 million, including $27.6 million in compensatory damages and nearly $340 million in punitive damages. After several appeals, including a reduction of the total verdict to $82 million, the United States Supreme Court finally ended this legal ordeal by failing to accept Ford Motor Company’s appeal. Ford will now be forced to pay Buell-Wilson the $82 million verdict.

In June 2002, Buell-Wilson was severely injured and paralyzed while she was driving on I-8 near Tavern Road in Alpine in East San Diego County. The San Diego County auto accident occurred when she swerved to avoid an object on the freeway, causing her vehicle to roll over several times and come to rest on its’ roof. Buell-Wilson alleged that the design of the Ford Explorer because it was unstable and had a weak roof, particularly at its’ “C pillar” behind the front seat and in front of the rear seat.

Congratulations to Buell-Wilson and her husband. It takes a great deal of determination and courage to fight a multi-billion dollar company like Ford to get the compensation one deserves and to punish Ford for its’ knowing failure to make a safe vehicle. We hope they now have peace.

Orange County Jury Awards Injured Construction Supervisor $4.7 Million After Being Struck by Commercial Truck

July 28, 2018 Injury Lawyer San Diego 0

Orange County Jury Awards Injured Worker $4.7 Million After Being Hit by Commercial Truck

On July 28, 2009, an Orange County jury awarded a severely injured construction supervisor $4.7 million after he was struck by a commercial truck while supervising the installation of a natural gas pipeline in Orange County. The 36 year old man was left with severe injuries that made him disabled and restricted his physical abilities.

The underlying commercial truck accident occurred on December 8, 2006, while the plaintiff was supervising the installation of a natural gas pipeline when he was struck by a Chevrolet Tahoe driven by an employee of the defendant making a lunch delivery. The defendant was a franchisee of three El Pollo Loco restaurants. The defendant driver had pulled from a stop sign into the intersection in front of an approaching Toyota 4-Runner. Neither driver saw the other before the collision. After both vehicles struck each other, the Chevy was propelled into the plaintiff, causing severe injury, including a shear fracture of the pelvis and a massive injury to the left shoulder. Total medical care costs exceeded $405,000 and the plaintiff lost $63,000 in income. He underwent three surgeries to stabilize his pelvis and beat two separate bouts of MERSA following the surgeries.

As a result of the accident, the plaintiff was forced to give up his field supervisor position in favor of a sedentary job as an estimator for underground construction. There was no claim for future medical care since the experts on both sides agreed that no medical treatment would improve the plaintiff’s condition. The medical evidence was also largely undisputed. The plaintiff was relegated to a largely sedentary lifestyle following the auto accident. He could not lift over 20 pounds, had difficulty walking over half a mile, and could not sit or stand for prolonged periods. Prior to the car accident, plaintiff was in excellent health and had a very active lifestyle with his wife and two children.

The defendant driver pointed the finger at the driver of the 4-Runner and did not take responsibility for his own role in the accident.

After a jury trial, the jury rejected the argument that the driver of the 4-Runner was negligent and concluded that it was not reasonable for him to anticipate that the driver of the Chevy would enter the intersection when it was unsafe. The jury awarded over $405,000 for past medical costs, past wage loss of over $63,000, past “pain and suffering” of $2,000,000, and future “pain and suffering” of $2,250,000 for the remaining 40 years of plaintiff’s life.

Congratulations to the plaintiff on receiving a fantastic and well-deserved victory. We wish him and his family the best in the future.

San Diego Man Awarded $5.7 Million for Undiagnosed Skin Cancer

May 23, 2018 Injury Lawyer San Diego 0

It’s always nice to trumpet the accomplishments of friends and their deserving clients.

Last Friday, a San Diego Superior Court jury awarded $5.7 million verdict to a bedridden San Diego man who claimed a doctor failed to diagnose his skin cancer. Under the Medical Injury Compensation Reform Act, the award will be reduced to $1.9 million. The 1975 state act requires the court to cut general damages to $250,000 in medical-malpractice cases. It is the largest medical malpractice award in the state this year. The verdict came after a four week trial.

The jury agreed that the plaintiff, Regis M. Reilly, 53, suffered from life-threatening skin cancer after dermatologist James C. Powers failed to remove cysts on the right shoulder that eventually metastasized into cancer.

Reilly’s attorney, Denise Asher, said she was pleased by the size of the award because it represented a sum large enough to offset the trauma caused by the misdiagnosis.

“When you see pictures of the cysts, they are football-sized and deep in the tissue,” Asher said. Reilly went through a series of surgeries to remove the cancerous tissue. His wife, Karen Reilly, served as his nurse during the multiple surgeries and radiation treatments.

Reilly is confined to his home under around-the-clock medical care and had to be hospitalized during trial.

Good job, Denise.

Record San Diego Roll-Over Verdict To Be Reviewed….Again (x3)

May 21, 2018 Injury Lawyer San Diego 0

Know all those HUGE, “outrageous” verdicts that tort reformers cite as proof that juries are out of their minds and are too plaintiff-friendly? This is the story of one such verdict and, unfortunately, it is not unusual.

In 2004, a San Diego jury awarded Benetta Buell-Wilson and her family nearly $370 Million dollars in a Ford Explorer roll-over auto accident case. Now, the Supreme Court will review the verdict and possibly reduce it. The Supreme Court will be the third court to do so after the trial court and the Fourth District Court of Appeals both reduced the verdict from $122 Million in compensatory damages and $246 Million in punitive damages to $27.6 Million (compensatory) and $55 Million (punitive).

What happened to Benetta?:

On a January afternoon in 2002, Buell-Wilson was driving at a normal speed on Interstate 8 east of San Diego when she swerved to avoid a metal object that had fallen off a motor home. Her 1997 Explorer fishtailed and rolled over four times. Part of its roof was crushed, and Buell-Wilson suffered a severe spinal injury.

As a result of the accident, Benetta is now paralyzed and confined to a wheel-chair.

Now, Ford had previously won 13 trials without a loss. And they weren’t shy about sharing that fact during litigation in the hopes of forcing Benetta and her husband to settle.

Plaintiffs were 0-13 and Benetta and her attorneys were risking a huge disappointment. These cases are not cheap to try. I’ve heard some estimates that Benetta’s attorneys paid upwards of $750,000 to experts to prepare and try the case. And if they lost, the lawyers would lose that investment, Benetta would be forced to pay for all future care by herself out of her own pocket, and, worse still, Benetta would be forced to pay Ford’s litigation costs.

Given all this risk, and the evidence that Ford knew of problems with its’ vehicles for roof crush and roll over propensity, is $370 Million dollars outrageous to pay for a permanent injury and to punish Ford for its’ callousness?

In fact, the problem had been well-documented for years:

No recall has ever been ordered for these vehicles. How many are still out on the road? How many more roof crush injuries or deaths will still occur? Will Ford EVER be forced to pay enough that they will consider the safety of their customers?

The Supreme Court should uphold the reduced verdict. Ford is already emboldened by the two prior reductions. No need to make it worse for consumer safety.

San Diego DUI Driver that Killed Mother Found Guilty

April 11, 2018 Injury Lawyer San Diego 0

An El Cajon jury reached a verdict regarding a Nov. 21, 2009 car crash that killed 35-year old Cydil Deann Kohlmeyer. The guilty driver was sentenced for 15 years on the charges of misdemeanor hit-and-run and gross vehicular manslaughter for driving while intoxicated.

The guilty, 53-year-old Deborah Felix, had fatally injured Kohlmeyer, a mother of three while driving drunk along Pepper Drive in El Cajon. Felix had also managed to strike mailboxes and a pickup after hitting the victim. Felix will be sentenced on May 11 by El Cajon Judge Lantz Lewis. Jurors also found Felix guilty of a sentence-enhancing allegation that she had fled the scene of the accident after committing the crime. According to Felix, she wanted to urinate and had gone farther away from the scene to relieve herself. What a silly and inexcusable reason to leave the scene of the accident!

Our office is in agreement with the verdict and hope that Felix serves all of her time for taking the life of Ms. Kohlmeyer. People driving under influence should be punished harshly. We hope that other drivers learn from this, and restrain themselves from drinking and driving. If a drunk driver is unfortunate enough to cause an accident, please be responsible enough to stay at the scene and try to assist the injured until help arrives.

San Diego Wrongful Death Verdict to be Reviewed by California Supreme Court

March 5, 2018 Injury Lawyer San Diego 0

A San Diego jury awarded the widow of a motorcycle rider and his two children $4.9 million after he was struck on a motorcycle by a truck driver. After the verdict was read, the judge–as is typical–polled the jurors for their votes. However, the judge forgot to get the answers from one juror to two of the 13 questions asked during the polling process.

The juror did agree with the other jurors that the truck driver was negligent and caused the trucking accident. However, the judge forgot to ask him if he agreed with the other jurors on the apportionment of damages. The jury verdict found to the truck driver to be 80% responsible for causing the accident but also found the motorcycle rider to be 20% responsible.

On appeal by the insurance defense counsel for the truck driver, the judge’s mistake led to a reversal of the verdict by the Fourth District Court of Appeals. The Court of appeals held, in part, that:

…the trial court erred in accepting the juror declarations to inquire into and resolve the results of the jury’s decision making process, and also when it made a credibility determination that Santana could not effectively have voted other than 80/20 at any relevant time.

The Keeners, the family of the motorcyclist, have appealed to the California Supreme Court to reinstate the jury verdict.

Judge to Review Verdict in San Juan Capistrano Bicycle Accident

February 5, 2018 Injury Lawyer San Diego 0

This Friday, a judge will review a $8.3 million verdict against the City of San Juan Capistrano awarded to a 14-year-old boy, Trenten Miller, who lost his leg during a bicycle accident.

The judgment was to be finalized last month. However, San Juan Capistrano decided to file an objection to the jury findings and overturn the verdict. Superior Court Judge Thierry Colaw set a hearing to hear the City of San Juan Capistrano’s motion this Friday.

In December, an Orange County jury found that the City of San Juan Capistrano liable to Miller because the City created a dangerous condition at an intersection. Miller was the passenger on his friend Scott Agostini’s dirt bike. Overgrown vegetation in the median of the intersection made it difficult for Miller and Agostini to see oncoming traffic as they attempted to cross the intersection of San Juan Creek Road and Paseo Christina.

The jury ruled in favor of the bicyclists, ruling the City of San Juan Capistrano to pay Miller $7.1 million and $1.1 million to Agostini. The verdict was reached three years after the bicycle accident and after Miller unsuccessfully attempted to settle the suit in mediation. Prior to the jury’s verdict, the City of San Juan Capistrano’s only offer was $1 million, which Miller rejected.

San Diego Teacher Awarded $1 Million in Discrimination Lawsuit

January 6, 2018 Injury Lawyer San Diego 0

On December 11, 2007, a former Chula Vista third-grade teacher won a judgment of more than $1 million after a jury decided that she had been wrongfully terminated due to becoming pregnant.

Danielle Coziahr was a third-grade teacher at Silver Wing Elementary School in Otay Mesa from 2004-06. She was “probationary”, meaning that she had not obtained tenure at her position. Although the Chula Vista School District can generally choose not to renew teaching contracts for any reason, a jury decided that the real reason Ms. Coziahr was let go was because she is a woman and she was pregnant.

The jury awarded Coziahr $1,012,720 with the largest portion being future economic loss due to future lost wages. Coziahr presented evidence that she had been effectively blackballed and could not obtain another teaching position.

Ms. Coziahr provided an interview to local media. The extent of the discrimination that she suffered was inexcusable and Ms. Coziahr rightly feels justified.