Excerpts on Notable Trial Verdicts / Settlements
Case settles on third day of trial for $1.6 Million
On August 6, 2012, Ms. Kirby suffered a fractured left ankle when Wright Celebrations and AG Air Conditioning left an air conditioning vent open on the floor of a tent that was being constructed for a wedding in Jackson Hole, Wyoming. Ms. Kirby was working for Revolutions, an event planning company from Virginia that specializes in high-end events such as Duane Wade and Gabriel Union's recent wedding in Miami, Florida. While on site at the Jackson Hole event, Wright Celebrations was placing carpet over the floor when they covered a hole cut for an AC vent. They then failed to re-cover the hole, leaving a trap that Ms. Kirby stepped into while she was working with her crew to place chandeliers. She suffered a fracture of her left Tibia and Fibula, requiring open reduction and fixation. She had that hardware removed over the next two years in subsequent surgeries. She had a total of $83,000 in medical expenses and $20,000 in lost income.
Prior to trial, Defendants offered a combined $150,000. On the third day of trial, the case resolved for $1.6 Million.
Jury Awards $3.2 Million For Injuries Caused By Drunk Driver
On June 1, 2012, Amy Elliott and Steven Galvan were standing on the sidewalk at the corner of Fair Oaks Boulevard and Howe Avenue when a drunk driver struck them as they waited to cross the street. After the initial collision, the drunk driver did not stop, but continued to drive several hundred feet before colliding with another vehicle that was stopped at a stop sign. A blood test of the drunk driver would later reveal a .28 percent blood alcohol content. The driver also had a record of two prior DUI convictions and was a certified social worker.
The collision was caught on video by a red light camera located on the opposite side of the intersection. An additional video was recovered from a Sacramento Police Department patrol vehicle that was responding to a 911 call reporting a drunk driver swerving between lanes and nearly striking other vehicles on the road. The 911 caller reported that the drunk driver had already traveled several miles and had passed a number of schools, including Sacramento State University and St. Francis High School, prior to arriving at the Fair Oaks/Howe Avenue intersection. This all occurred between 2:30 and 3 p.m.
As a result of the collision, both Ms. Elliott and Mr. Galvan sustained several debilitating injuries. Although he stayed by Ms. Elliott's bedside until her ultimate release, Mr. Galvan also incurred severe injury as a result of the collision.
For their injuries, a Sacramento County jury awarded Amy Elliott and Steven Galvan in excess of $3.2 million.
Tomasetti v. Hemi Express, Inc., et al.
(Brain Injury/Right Hip Fracture and Leg Injuries/Tractor-Trailer v. Tractor-Trailer Collision)
SETTLEMENT: $5.5 MILLION
Sacramento County: February, 2013
Roger Dreyer and Christopher Wood represented Benny and Lorraine Tomasetti who live in Riverdale, California, a small farming community south of Fresno. Mr. and Mrs. Tomasetti own and operate a small trucking business that hauls grapes, tomatoes and other produce out of the Central Valley. Mr. Tomasetti was 58 years of age when the incident occurred.
On October 21, 2009, Defendant George Popovich was in the course and scope of his employment with Hemi Express, Inc. Mr. Popovich got lost on southbound 101 just north of Monterey, California. Defendant Popovich pulled onto a small frontage road, turned around, and then came to a stop at the stop sign with U.S. 101. It was dark and defendant had a clear line of sight for a mile down the highway. Despite having a clear line of sight for oncoming traffic, defendant Popovich pulled out in front of Plaintiff Benny Tomasetti who was traveling northbound on U.S. 101 driving a 1972 tractor trailer. Mr. Tomasetti could not avoid the impact and struck the back axle of on the driver's side of the tractor. The impact was significant causing Mr. Tomasetti's head to go through the front windshield striking Defendant Popovich's trailer.
He was briefly unconscious and was confused for a week following the collision. In the collision, Mr. Tomasetti suffered a significant fracture dislocation of his right hip. The acetabulum was fractured in such a fashion that surgical repair was required but difficult due to the significant nature of the injury. Mr. Tomasetti went on to have five hip surgeries. In addition to his severe hip injury, Mr. Tomasetti suffered a lumbar plexus injury resulting in drop foot. He requires an AFO to walk.
Benny Tomasetti had in excess of $400,000 in medical bills. His future medical bills were expected to be between $500,000 and $600,000. Mr. Tomasetti also had a past wage loss of $160,000 with an expected future wage loss of $200,000. Defendant's paid $5.5 Million on the Sunday before trial.
Baldo v. Chuck Swift Dodge-Chrysler, et al.
(Cervical Spine/Right Shoulder Injures/Motor Vehicle Collision)
VERDICT/POST JUDGMENT SETTLEMENT: $1,499,618.00
Sacramento County: November, 2012
Robert Swift who was the owner of Chuck Swift Dodge-Chrysler, Inc. in Sacramento, California, rear-ended Ms. Baldo at a red light on February 22, 2008. Ms. Baldo suffered injuries to her cervical spine, right shoulder and right hand. She went on to have arthroscopic surgery on her shoulder and carpal tunnel release on her right wrist. Three years later, Ms. Baldo underwent a three level cervical fusion due to the chronic pain and radicular symptoms in her right upper extremity. Her medical bills at the time of trial were $84,000 and her past wage loss was $50,000. Her expected future medical expenses were significant for a low back facet injury.
Plaintiff served a statutory offer for $299,000 on September 17, 2010. Defendants offered $60,000 up to the time of trial and then eventually offered $300,000. During trial, the offer went to $600,000. This was a five day bench trial, and the Court awarded $1,146,549.82. The ultimate verdict and judgment paid by defendants totaled $1,499,618.00.
Avery v. M.V. Transportation, City of Roseville, et al.
(Brain Injury/ Wheel-Chair Lift Failure)
TRIAL VERDICT: $6,396,687.89
Placer County: October, 2010
Roger Dreyer and Chris Wood obtain $6.4 million verdict in Placer County for brain injury that resulted from Mr. Avery being dropped 4-6 feet off of a wheelchair lift onto his head. This is the largest personal injury verdict in Placer County history.
On April 12, 2008, Thomas Avery, a 38 year old C4-quadriplegic, was dropped off a wheelchair lift while being loaded by MV Transportation who operates the Paratransit System for the City of Roseville. Thomas Avery was rendered an incomplete quadriplegic in 1989 when he was involved in a motor vehicle collision. Despite his disability, he returned to college and continued his education. He was then successful in obtaining multiple jobs in the computer aided drafting field where he excelled. He also worked in two different after school programs with at risk children. He was inspiration to those who knew him and understood just what he had overcome. "He was never a victim" his father Marvin Avery told the jury. He made the best of his quality of life despite his severe disability.
The City of Roseville replaced a part on the wheelchair lift on February 22, 2008 (six weeks before the injury). However, the City failed to replace the part properly and as a result, the nuts and bolts began to loosen and literally fall off. The City failed to inspect the wheelchair lift on a routine inspection on March 4, 2008, so the condition continued to worsen. The driver for MV Transportation who is charged with the duty to inspect the lift, failed to do so and loaded Mr. Avery onto the lift. The driver also parked on a severe slope so the lift was tipped down toward the ground. To make matters worse, the driver then failed to use the occupant restraint belt to ensure Mr. Avery would stay on the lift. The City and MV Transportation combined to create one of the most dangerous situations possible for Mr. Avery who was relying upon them 100% for his safety.
The lawyers for MV and the City argued it was Mr. Avery's fault and the Ricon Corporation who manufactured the lift. MV Transportation was so indignant that they only offered a small sum to resolve the case before trial. Once the jury left to deliberate, that nominal offer was withdrawn and MV stated they wanted to "go with the jury verdict." Well, the jury awarded Mr. Avery $6.4 million, and apportioned the fault between MV and The City of Roseville. MV was held 83 percent at fault and the City was 17 percent. That equates to the City being responsible for over $1 million of the judgment. MV will be responsible for the remaining $5.4 million.
A national corporation (MV Transportation, Inc.) and a powerful government entity took on a quadriplegic. They threw lawyers and hundreds of thousands of dollars in professional witnesses at Mr. Avery in an attempt to twist the truth. After dropping him on his head and taking from him what little he had left, they refused to take responsibility and attempted to take advantage of Mr. Avery and his disability. They forced him through a two year litigation process and then through trial. This is a classic case of David versus Goliath. The benefit of our legal system is that David can take on Goliath, or even two Goliaths and get justice. This is a wonderful example of just how valuable our legal system is to the citizens of our state. Even the most vulnerable of our citizens can beat the most powerful of corporations and obtain justice.
Bodeman v. Carson
(Cervical Spine Injury/Motor Vehicle Collision)
VERDICT/POST JUDGMENT SETTLEMENT: $1.5 MILLION
Marin County: November, 2008
Maria Bodeman was 42 years of age, married and had two children at the time when she was rear-ended on northbound US 101 in Marin County. She was coming home from her job in Marin to Sacramento when she was struck from behind in a three car chain reaction collision. Ms. Bodeman sustained an injury to her cervical spine resulting in a single level cervical fusion. Ms. Bodeman continued to have symptoms related to her injury following the surgery, and required ongoing pain management and care.
The pretrial offer was $300,000. The jury returned a verdict of $1,237,485.46, and ultimately $1.5 million was paid which included costs and interest.
Castillo v. E. Kent Halvorson, Inc., et al.
(Lumbar Spine Injury, Knee Injury/Construction Site injury)
Napa County: January, 2013
Adrian Castillo was a 38 year old glazier who was working in the City of Napa constructing the Avia Hotel. He walked out to his truck which was parked in the alley between the hotel and the parking garage, and his left leg fell into a drain inlet/catch basin that had been covered with plywood and then further covered with dirt and rock. Mr. Castillo sustained a right knee injury as well as a low back injury. He underwent two arthroscopic procedures on the right knee and had to have epidural steroid injections in his lumbar spine. At the time of trial, Mr. Castillo had $50,000 in medical expenses and $200,000 in income loss.
Defendant E. Kent Halvorson was the general contractor and defendant John Benward Company was the underground contractor who installed the drain inlets and catch basins. The two defendants pointed the finger at each other with respect to who was responsible for properly covering the drain inlets and catch basins. Each defendant claimed that the other had the responsibility to make sure it was covered with metal as opposed to plywood and make sure it was safe for other contractors. Ultimately, E. Kent Halvorson paid $500,000 and John Benward Company paid $450,000 to avoid trial.
Shukry v. Salas
(Motorcycle v. Motor Vehicle Collision)
SETTLEMENT: $3.5 MILLION
Sacramento County: February, 2010
Mr. Shukry was riding his motorcycle on Marconi Avenue when defendant Carole Salas made a left turn in front of him in her Ford Explorer. Mr. Shukry attempted to take evasive action and steer to the left but could not avoid the impact. Mr. Shukry sustained a mild to moderate brain injury and has permanent cognitive deficits as a result. The defendant had $3.5 Million in insurance and while the defendant claimed Mr. Shukry was not wearing an appropriate Department of Transportation approved helmet, policy limits were paid in full.
Vallejo v. Terzian
(Burn Injuries, Cervical Injury/Motor Vehicle Collision)
SETTLEMENT: $1.9 MILLION
Shasta County, December 2006 (Settlement)
The Vallejo family was stopped to make a left turn into a driveway off of westbound Highway 299 just east of Shasta College. While stopped and waiting for traffic to clear, the Vallejo family was rear-ended at 50 miles an hour by defendant Terzian. The Vallejo vehicle immediately caught fire causing burn injuries to all three occupants. In addition, Mark Vallejo suffered an injury to his cervical spine which required a single level spinal fusion. The case settled for $1,900,000.
Clifton v. S.M.U.D., et al.
SETTLEMENT: $1.1 MILLION
Sacramento County, November 2006 (Settlement)
Perry Clifton was exposed to asbestos while working at Rancho Seco Nuclear Power Plant in the early 1980s. The exposure has now, 20 years later, caused severe restrictive pulmonary disease. Mr. Clifton underwent surgery in 2001 to release his "trapped lung" on the right side which had become encased in fibrosis consistent with asbestos exposure. Mr. Clifton incurred $30,000 in medical expenses. The case was resolved by way of settlement for $1,100,000.
Cortelyou v. Orchard Supply & Hardware
(Knee Injury/Trip & Fall)
SETTLEMENT: $1.3 MILLION
Shasta County, April 2006 (Settlement)
Denise Cortelyou and her husband, Robert, visited the Orchard Supply & Hardware (OSH) on Athens Avenue in Redding, California to shop for gardening supplies. As Denise Cortelyou entered the store, she stepped onto part of a display that had been left on the entryway floor. She slipped and fell causing a severe fracture of her right tibial plateau. Through the discovery process, it was revealed that the manager was building a display and then left the area unattended in violation of OSH's own safety policy. The manager also violated store policy by failing to place any cones or signs out warning customers that a display was being constructed.
Robert Cortelyou had a stroke shortly after his wife's injury. Because of Denise's badly fractured right knee, she was unable to care for her husband at home. He was forced to live in a convalescent hospital nearly an hour away. As a result, the two, who had not been apart for 30 years, were now separated indefinitely.
The case resolved after motions in limine had been filed and trial was set to begin for the sum of $1,300,000. The settlement allowed Denise Cortelyou to bring her husband home.
Smith v. Vista Verde Farms, Inc.
(Brain Injury/ Motor Vehicle Collision)
SETTLEMENT: $7.65 MILLION
Fresno County, April 2006 (Settlement)
This is a motor vehicle collision where the Plaintiffs, Chalene, a 28-year-old single woman, and her mother, Dixie, a 60-year-old drama and arts professor at West Hills College, were struck head-on by an adverse driver who was a partner in the Vista Verde Farms and significantly under the influence of alcohol. Chalene Smith suffered a back injury that ultimately resulted in surgery on her spine and a knee and foot injury which also required surgery. She was further diagnosed as suffering from a mild brain injury. Dixie Smith suffered a complicated comminuted fracture of her right ankle. After her original surgery failed to fuse, she required an ankle fusion. She was able to return to teaching, but was unable to demonstrate to her students the dance maneuvers and aspects of performing on stage. Chalene Smith's economic damages were between $600,000 and $1,800,000, depending upon what impact her injuries would ultimately have on her ability to return to work. Dixie Smith's economic damages were $200,000. Chalene Smith's case settled for $5,750,000 and Dixie Smith's case for $1,900,000 for a combined settlement of $7,650,000.
Nguyen v. Amerimax, et al.
(Hand Injury/Products Liability)
SETTLEMENT: $1.2 MILLION
Sacramento County, March 2006 (Settlement)
Viet Nguyen was injured by a faulty product at his place of employment. Mr. Nguyen was employed in Yolo County and operating a welding machine for Jeld Wen window frames. Mr. Nguyen was a temporary employee and had very little experience in the industry. His dominant right hand was caught in an unprotected belt that crushed his fingers and hand. Mr. Nguyen's injury is permanent, and he will never regain full use of his hand or fingers.
It was determined through investigation and discovery that the welding machine lacked a required guard to protect against the exact injury that occurred. The manufacturer of the welding machine failed to supply that guard to the company who had purchased the machine and hired Mr. Nguyen. The case settled for $1,200,000.
Darrow v. Somers Building Maintenance
(Shoulder Injury/ Slip & Fall)
SETTLEMENT: $2 MILLION
Sacramento County, October 2005 (Settlement)
Plaintiff, Darrow, slipped and fell at work on a vinyl floor that had been mopped minutes before by a janitor employed by Somers. The janitor failed to place any "wet floor" signs out in order to provide pedestrians with any warning of the slick conditions. This failure was a clear violation of Somers' own safety policy. Somers argued that the fall was "curious" since the surveillance video captured Plaintiff walking down the hall without ever falling. Plaintiff suffered a cervical spine injury requiring physical therapy and a rotator cuff tear in the right shoulder. Plaintiff underwent surgery to repair the rotator cuff which caused CRPS (RSD) in her right arm. This case was settled for $2,000,000.
Slender v. Golden Eagle Insurance Company
(Arm Injury/Motor Vehicle Collision)
SETTLEMENT: $1 MILLION
March, 2005, (Binding Arbitration/Settlement)
Claimant was involved in a vehicle collision on Highway 70. Her vehicle was struck and run off the road down an embankment. The window frame of the passenger door flexed outward from the vehicle at the time of impact with a tree wedging her right arm between the window frame and the vehicle frame. When the window frame snapped back into place, it caused injuries to Ms. Slender's right arm. Claimant had reconstructive surgery to her right arm and regained use of the arm. However, Claimant will suffer from permanent residual limitations. The case was settled for the uninsured motorist policy limits of $1,000,000.
Greer v. Buzgheia
(Low Back Injury/Motor Vehicle Collision)
Sacramento County Superior Court, February, 2005, (Trial / Verdict)
Greer was 50 years of age and single. He was struck by an oncoming vehicle that ran a red light at an intersection at approximately 10 miles per hour. Defendant denied that he had run the red light. Plaintiff underwent a spinal fusion four years later at L5-S1. Defendant argued that at the impact speed of 10 miles per hour, he could not have caused the injury requiring surgery. In addition, Defendant argued that Mr. Greer's own surgeon could not apportion the need for surgery between the collision and the "poorly understood aging process." Defendant's insurance carrier, Progressive Insurance Company, only had a $100,000 policy of insurance available to Plaintiff. That policy was demanded early in litigation and the offer was denied. The policy was offered prior to trial by Progressive. The jury returned a verdict of $321,500.
Farris v. Smith
(Arm Injury/Motor Vehicle Collision)
SETTLEMENT: $1 MILLION
Sacramento County Superior Court, September, 2004, (Settlement)
This case involves a single-vehicle collision wherein Plaintiff was a passenger in an older model pick-up truck. Plaintiff was seat belted with a lap belt only when the vehicle went off the road into a ditch. Plaintiff was thrown forward and his right arm broke through the windshield. As his arm broke through the windshield, his right arm suffered severe lacerations resulting in nerve damage to his right upper extremity. Plaintiff was hospitalized and incurred $64,000 in medical expenses. His arm was repaired and he did regain use of his right hand. Defendant claimed that Mr. Farris would regain nearly full use of his hand and should not notice any permanent restrictions. This case resolved for the Defendant's policy limits of $1,000,000.
Salamanca v. CF&T Available Concrete Pumping
(Right Shoulder Injury/Construction Incident)
Alameda County, June, 2004, (Trial / Verdict)
This case involved an industrial accident that occurred at the Bechtel Power Plant in Costa Contra County. Plaintiff Salamanca was a 52-year old laborer who had immigrated to the United States as a teenager. Plaintiff was in a large ditch acting as a hose man for a concrete pump truck that was filling a ditch with a slurry mix in order to protect pipelines for the power plant. Mr. Salamanca noticed a clog in the delivery line while he was holding onto the hose. He advised the pump operator to turn off the pump and return to the hopper and clear the clog. Mr. Salamanca continued to hold onto the end of the hose, and when the pump was turned back on, the clog broke loose causing the hose to whip violently and strike Mr. Salamanca.
Plaintiff sustained a torn rotator cuff and underwent surgery. Plaintiff incurred $29,000 in medical expenses and returned to work in a different capacity other than construction within one year. However, Plaintiff's physician recommended he not return to concrete construction due to his injury. Defendant argued that the accident was Plaintiff's fault for holding onto the end of the hose knowing that when the pump was turned back on, it had the potential to whip violently. Defendant also argued that even if Mr. Salamanca could not return to work, his work life expectancy in the concrete trades could only have been three or four more years since he was already in his 50's. Pre-Trial offer by the defense was $100,000. Plaintiff offered to settle the case via C.C.P. Section 998 for $400,000. Verdict: $650,000. After the verdict, Defendants had to pay costs and interest which brought the total judgment to over $700,000.
Graham v. County of Sacramento
(Leg Injury/Dog Bite)
SETTLEMENT: $1.5 MILLION
Sacramento County, September, 2003, (Settlement)
Represented a 22-year old woman who was walking home from a friend's house at approximately 11:00 p.m. While walking home, she was attacked by a Sacramento County Sheriff's Department police dog. As the dog attacked her, it bit through her peroneal nerve in her left lower leg causing nerve damage to her leg, causing "foot drop." This case resolved for $1,500,000. Shortly after this case resolved, the County of Sacramento embarked on a new program to refrain from the use of dogs that actually "bite," and have gone to a program where the dog will stop and bark.
Henry v. Kaldor
(Low Back Injury/Motor Vehicle Collision)
SETTLEMENT: $1.4 MILLION
Sacramento County, April, 2001, (Settlement)
This case involved a rear-end motor vehicle collision wherein Plaintiff was struck from behind on Highway 50. The impact aggravated a pre-existing low back condition. Plaintiff struggled with pain and was potentially going to undergo surgery for his problem, but never underwent the procedure. He was an employee of the State of California and a transportation officer for the Department of Corrections. He returned to work full-time and continued to drive for the Department. Defendant's insurance company, State Farm, only had a $100,000 policy of insurance available. However, a $1,400,000 settlement was obtained, 14 times the policy limits.
McCall v. Hudson
(Low Back Injury/Motor Vehicle Collision)
SETTLEMENT: $1.1 MILLION
Sacramento County, August, 2001, (Settlement)
This case involved a broadside motor vehicle collision wherein Plaintiff sustained an injury to his low back. He was treated conservatively with epidural steroid injections and considered lumbar surgery but never underwent the surgery. The defense argued that he did not require the fusion as the impact was not significant enough to cause the damage that was to be repaired. The case settled for $1,100,000.
Downs v. Reinke
(Low Back Injury/Construction Incident)
SETTLEMENT: $1 MILLION
El Dorado County, January, 2001, (Settlement)
This case involved a 30-year old construction worker who was walking down an exterior stairwell of a small shopping center in Georgetown, California. Plaintiff was descending the stairwell in the evening time and slipped and fell, causing an injury to his lumbar spine. Plaintiff ultimately underwent lumbar surgery and with instrumentation. Defense argued Plaintiff had been up and down the stairwell over 1,000 times, and he was intimately familiar with the stairwell because it was just outside his office door. In addition, Defendant argued that Plaintiff had fallen previously and complained to his brother-in-law that he had fallen and was having back pain just days before the subject fall. Plaintiff's brother-in-law testified Plaintiff had back pain before the fall and, in fact, was complaining of back pain minutes before the fall. The case ultimately settled for the policy limits of $1,000,000.
Diddens v. Conners Well Drilling
(Internal Injuries, Low Back and Foot Injuries/Motor Vehicle Collision)
Modoc County, December, 2000, (Trial / Verdict)
This case involved a disputed liability motor vehicle accident. Plaintiff was a passenger in a vehicle driven by her husband. Defendant contended that Plaintiff was traveling at an excess rate of speed, overreacted to the circumstances, and caused the subject accident. Defendant offered the sum of $100,000 on the first day of trial. Previous offer had been $50,000. Verdict: $713,000 (largest personal injury verdict in Modoc County history). This case was co-tried with Roger A. Dreyer.