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Motorcyclist Who Rear Ended Van Receives $187,000.00 From Jury

Defendant motorist suddenly pulls into carpool lane to avoid collision with vehicle in front of him; cuts off motorcyclist in the carpool lane, who then rear ends defendant.  Defendant claims comparative fault by plaintiff, contests injuries, makes low offer to settle the case.  The jury found the defendant 100 percent at fault and awarded $187,000 in damages.  For a full report see Jury Verdict Alert.

Injuries and Other Damages

  • Physical Injuries claimed by Plaintiff:2-3mm C6-7 disc bulge. Physical therapy and 2 EPSI injections. Traumatic arthritis of the wrist resulting in surgery.

Special Damages

  • Special Damages Claimed – Past Medical: Per plaintiff’s counsel: $80,000. Per defense counsel: past medical bills claimed by plaintiff were $110,974 and the defense conceded reasonable past meds of $52,000.
  • Special Damages Claimed – Future Medical: Per plaintiff’s counsel: $20,000. Per defense counsel: $100,000

Demands and Offers

  • Plaintiff §998 Demand: $100,000
  • Defendant §998 Offer: $25,000 Per defense counsel: Defendant’s 998 was served pre-hand surgery, which occurred on June 6, 2013 and specials for which were not presented until the eve of trial. Reasonable medical specials at time of defendant’s 998 offer were $30,000.

Medical Malpractice By Doctors or Other Care Providers Can Be Decreased

Many politicians and citizens believe that trial lawyers are responsible for medical malpractice lawsuits.  Bunk!  According to a blog post by Pro Publica it’s long been known that medical errors are a major problem—a national panel concludedmore than a decade ago that nearly 100,000 people die each year as a result of errors in hospitals. Despite the resulting national focus on patient safety, patients continue to be harmed and killed by medical shortcuts, inadequate training and breakdowns in communication.

Pro Publica notes that

Unlike the airline industry, which relies on a safety net of checklists, the medical community has been slow to adopt them in all areas and often puts its faith in the outdated idea that doctors are infallible.

Time and again reporters have uncovered unfathomable lapses at medical facilities, often resulting in patient injuries and death. Time and again, hospital officials have put in place solutions that seem ridiculously obvious.  And the fixes are frequently ignored or ineffective.”

Californians face a statutory cap on pain and suffering in medical malpractice cases.  Attorneys fees are also capped.  In an state that has essentially tried to legislate away medical malpractice cases, they are still filed at an alarming rate.

Since the 1970s California  has limited the amount of attorneys fees in medical malpractice cases to 40 percent of the first $50,000, 33 1/3 percent of the next $50,000, 25 percent of the next $500,000, and 15 percent of any amount that exceeds $600,000. Cal. Bus. & Prof. Code § 6146 (West 1990). This limit applies regardless of whether the recovery is by settlement, arbitration, or judgment.  If the contingent fee arrangement is based on an award of periodic payments, the court is to place a total value on the payments based upon the projected life expectancy of the claimant, and then calculate the contingent fee percentages.

More importantly, California law places a cap on non-economic damages for medical malpractice cases. Non-economic damages, defined as compensation for pain, suffering, inconvenience, physical impairment, disfigurement, and other non-pecuniary injury, are limited to $250,000.  The cap applies whether the case is for injury or death.

Pro Publica reports that

In mid-2003, reporters began writing about problems at Martin Luther King Jr./Drew Medical Center, a public hospital near Los Angeles with a troubling history of poor patient care.

One of their first stories detailed how a nurse in the cardiac monitoring unit failed to notice that her patient’s heart had slowed and stopped for more than 45 minutes. The nurse wrote on the patient’s chart that she was not in distress, even though her heart had already stopped. Two weeks later another patient on a monitor died after her failing condition also went unnoticed.

After the deaths, Los Angeles County health officials vowed that nurses and technicians in monitoring units had been retrained and new procedures had been put in place to prevent such events from ever happening again.

Over the next two years, however, five more patients in King/Drew’s monitoring units died in similar circumstances. In some cases, nurses were found not only to have neglected patients as they lay dying, but to have purposely turned down the alarms on the monitors or lied about their actions on patient charts.

A county supervisor said he was confounded by hospital’s inability to correct basic problems. “You can yell, scream, jump up and down, but things don’t seem to change.” The hospital closed in 2007.

Top Rated Personal Injury Lawyer representing accident victims and medical malpractice victims in Los Angeles, Beverly Hills, Long Beach, Pasadena, Orange County and Ventura County. Call 800 486 6814 for a free consultation. Main Office: 1875 Century Park East Suite 1770 Los Angeles, CA 90067

Jury Awards Family Of Trespasser Shot By Homeowner 1.2 Million Dollars In Wrongful Death Trial

A Long Beach man was killed by a homeowner climbed over the wall of Hampton’s home, ran over the roof and jumped down into the front yard. As decedent and his brother entered the homeowner’s  front yard, she shot the decedent who died.  Plaintiffs’ counsel argued that based on the trajectory of the gunshot, determined by the entry and exit wounds, the decedent was not facing the homeowner and posed no threat to her as he ran through her front yard.  The defendant claimed the decedent was running toward her and she felt threatened.

The jury found that the homeowner was negligent, and awarded $1,363,000 in total damages, including $813,000 in wrongful death damages to the decedent’s mother and $550,000 in emotional distress damages to the decedent’s brother. However, the jury also found that the brother was found 15 percent at fault for the shooting in that he and the decedent were trespassing. Thus, his $550,000 award was reduced to $467,500, based on his comparative fault, resulting in a total net recovery of $1,280,500.

Top Rated Personal Injury Lawyer representing families of wrongful death cases, accident victims and medical malpractice victims in Los Angeles, Beverly Hills, Long Beach, Pasadena, Orange County and Ventura County. Call 800 486 6814 for a free consultation.

Alcohol Sold to Minor Leads to $716 Million Jury Award

On Feb. 28, 2008, plaintiff’s decedent Sam Garcia III, 32 was stopped  intending to exit a restaurant in Apollo Beach.

Defendant David Holdsworth was driving 95 mph in a posted 35-mph zone on Apollo Beach Boulevard when he rounded a slight curve in the roadway and lost control of his vehicle; he collided with Garcia’s vehicle . Garcia died minutes later at the scene. Holdsworth, 17, was tested and found to have a blood-alcohol level of .136 an hour after the crash.

According to Garcia’s mother, during the day prior to the collision with her son, Holdsworth had consumed alcohol that was sold to him at Best For Less Food Mart

In December 2009, Holdsworth pleaded guilty to negligent homicide, and is serving a five-year sentence in the Florida state prison system. In a separate suit, the plaintiffs settled with Holdsworth in the underlying matter for an undisclosed amount in November 2009.

At trial, the court granted summary judgment against the defendants, and the case was tried on the issue of damages and the jury awarded $716 Million.  It’s likely an empty victory as the store owners had no assets or insurance.

 

Man Receives Large Jury Verdict After Personal Trainer Drops Weight On His Face

In a recent jury trial a man was awarded  $892,650 in damages after a personal trainer at 24 Hour Fitness dropped a 145 lb Barbell on his face.

The plaintiff sued the trainer and the gym–24 Hour Fitness.  24 Hour Fitness moved for summary judgment on the grounds that the plaintiff, Assaf Blecher, had signed a  liability waiver when he signed the membership agreement. Plaintiff’s counsel opposed the motion by alleging that the actions of the trainer and the club constituted gross negligence, which would be outside the scope of the release, pursuant to a court case called City of Santa Barbara v. Superior Court (2007) 41 Cal.4th 747,758.  The court denied the defense counsel’s motion for summary judgment.

(A summary judgment seeks a ruling that the case should not go to trial and the moving party should prevail)

It was not disputed that on Jan. 26, 2010, plaintiff Assaf Blecher’s trainer David Stevens, an employee of the gym, when the trainer dropped a 145-pound barbell on Blecher’s face.

The argument the plaintiff’s lawyers made was that Stevens’ actions constituted gross negligence in that he failed to follow safety procedures that were the standard in the fitness industry, such as gripping the barbell in the proper manner, undertaking “spotting” responsibilities for weight that was heavier than Blecher could handle at the time.  Counsel also contended that 24 Hour Fitness was grossly negligent in its failure to properly educate its trainers on safety techniques that could have prevented or minimized the risk of injury.

Stevens and 24 Hour Fitness argued that Blecher assumed the risks associated with the activities and also argued that Blecher was at least partially negligent for the accident because he did not hang onto the bar.

Blecher sustained nasal fractures and cheek bone fractures, and was subsequently transported to a hospital, where an emergency plastic surgery was performed.

The jury found Stevens and 24 Hour Fitness negligent, and awarded Blecher $892,650 in damages.  The damages verdict was divided as follows:  $142,650 for medical bills and other economic damages and $750,000 for pain and suffering.

The case was entitled Assaf Blecher v. 24 Hour Fitness USA Inc. and David Stevens, No. BC433630 and was tried in the Central Division of the Los Angeles Superior Court.

Top Rated Personal Injury Lawyer representing accident victims and medical malpractice victims in Los Angeles, Beverly Hills, Long Beach, Pasadena, Orange County and Ventura County. Call 800 486 6814 for a free consultation. Main Office: 1875 Century Park East Suite 1770 Los Angeles, CA 90067

Man Killed By Train Liable For Injuries From Flying Body Parts

Wrongful Death Case Takes Twist As Victim Liable For Personal Injuries Caused By His Flying Body Parts

In an unusual personal injury case arising from a train accident, the estate of man who was dismembered by a train is liable for the injuries to another person who was struck by a part of his body that had been knocked to bits by a speeding train.  The legal issues of this case are so bizare they seem more appropriate to a law school exam question than a court lawsuit. 

In an LA Times story written by Steve Schmader which appeared in the December 29, 2011 edition,  the writer stated that in 2008 Hiroyiki Joho, age 18, was running in the rain trying to catch a Metro train in Chicago.  He was struck by an Amtrak train traveling at more than 70 mile per hour as he was crossing the tracks.  A large portion of his body flew over 100 feet and struck  Gayanne Zokhrabov, 58.  She suffered a broken leg and wrist as well as injuries to her shoulder.  

The trial court in Chicago dismissed the case holding that Joho could not have foreseen that the negligent act of stepping in front of a train and causing his own death by dismemberment would result in an injury to a third party.  The appellate court disagreed.  It ruled that “it was reasonably foreseeable” that the stepping into the path of the high speed train would cause Joho to explode and that parts of his body would then strike passengers on a nearby platform.  Zokhrabov’s lawyer, Leslie Rosen, said that it was a straight forward case–”If you do something as stupid as this guy did, you have to be responsible for what comes of it.”

Wow, harsh Leslie!  But, she may make a good legal point.  In law school one of the first cases you learn concerns a ship that becomes loose and floats down a waterway and strikes and damages a bridge.  The legal issue was whether  it was reasonably foreseeable that negligently tying down the ship could result in damage to a bridge a good distance away.  The court held it was foreseeable and a key principle of negligence law was laid down.  That principle has been upheld in this case although I imagine it’s a hollow victory.  Joho was 18 when he died and likely had nothing in his “estate” to compensate Zokhrabov for her injuries. 

Top Rated Personal Injury Lawyer representing accident victims and medical malpractice victims in Los Angeles, Beverly Hills, Long Beach, Pasadena, Orange County and Ventura County. Call 800 486 6814 for a free consultation. Main Office: 1875 Century Park East Suite 1770 Los Angeles, CA 90067

5 Reasons The Jury Hates Your Lawyer

 Most lawyers,even experienced ones,  are terrible trial lawyers.  Terrible.  With a capital T that rhymes with LOSE.  Here is list of common problems.

1. Using big words–any legal terminology,scientific mumbo-jumbo,or multi-syllabic jargon–is never a good idea.  One can and should use clear,concise language to express even complicated ideas.

2.  Making the same point over and over.  Jurors hate to have their time wasted.  Make your point.  Move on.

3. Talking down to the jury. Collectively the jury is smart.  The attorney’s questions should be clear and direct but not simplistic.

4. Talking without using visual aids.  Take a cue from television news.  The newscasters talk for about 30 seconds and then there is a change in the screen shot or the introduction of a graphic or a video.  If your lawyer stands at podium tediously yammering,you are making enemies of the jury.  Utilize diagrams, photos, and computer compilations so that you convey your message orally and visually.

5. Objections–Lots of Objections. Your lawyer may think constant objections are proof he knows the laws of evidence but the jury views the objections as proof you, the client, want the truth kept from them. This is suicide. Your lawyer must be seen by the jury as the truth teller.  If the jury doesn’t trust him or her, they won’t trust you.  The lawyer should address important evidentiary issues about which he wants to raise objections with the judge, and without the jury present.  This is usually done with motions in limine before the start of trial.

Top Rated Personal Injury Lawyer representing accident victims and medical malpractice victims in Los Angeles, Beverly Hills, Long Beach, Pasadena, Orange County and Ventura County. Call 800 486 6814 for a free consultation. Main Office: 1875 Century Park East Suite 1770 Los Angeles, CA 90067

Conrad Murray ordered to pay $100 Million in restitution and serve 4 years in prison

Conrad Murray ordered to pay $100 Million in restitution and serve 4 years in prison

Conrad Murray, the doctor convicted of involuntary manslaughter in the death of Michael Jackson, was sentenced to four years imprisonment, the maximum punishment the judge could deliver. 

“Some may feel that this was a medical malpractice case. It wasn’t. And this jury found that Conrad Murray, with criminal negligence, caused the death of Michael Jackson,” Judge Michael Pastor said before revealing the sentence. “The fact is, Michael Jackson died because of the actions of, and the failures to perform legal duties on the part of, Conrad Murray.”

In addition to the jail time the Court ordered Murray to pay an astonishing $100 Million in resitution–an amount Murray will never be able to pay. The doctor will inevitably have his medical license universally revoked, ensuring that he never treats another patient again and also crippling his financial means.

Beverly Hills Business Attorney Galen Gentry can help you with your wrongful death lawsuit. With 21 years of experience and the highest rating for legal skills and ethical conduct from avvo.com and martindale.com Galen can work with you to receive compensation for the loss of a loved one due to the fault of another. Call 800 486 6814 for a free, no obligation consultation. Serving clients in Southern California including Los Angeles, Beverly Hills, Santa Monica, Hollywood, The San Fernando Valley, Ventura County, Orange County and Long Beach

Bear kills 11 year old boy during camping trip

Government Failed To Warn Campers Even After Receiving Reports of Aggressive Bear In Area

The family of  a boy killed by a  bear has been awarded $1.95M for wrongful death against the U.S. Forest Service.  On June 17, 2007, the boy Samuel Ives, 11, was camping with his mother, brother and stepfather at a remote camping site in American Fork Canyon in the Uinta National Forest.

Prior to the arrival of Samuel’s family, a man and his friends were camping at the dispersed camping area, approximately 1.2 miles above the Timpooneke Campground. (A dispersed camping area is outside of a designated campground and has no water or bathroom facilities.) Although it was a dispersed area, it had a fire pit, log bench, a flat area for tents and room for a car to pull off the road.

Early in the morning of June 17, the man was attacked by a bear while he was sleeping in his tent. He yelled to his friends in other tents to get a gun and they were able to scare the bear away with pistol shots and by throwing rocks at it. The man subsequently reported the bear attack to Utah County Dispatch at 9:25 am. The dispatcher who took the call told the man that she would notify the Forest Service and told him to also call highway patrol, which he did. As a result, the Utah Division of Wildlife Resources was notified about the incident.

The Division of Wildlife Resources has a three-level classification system for bears that constitute a threat to the public. At approximately 10 am, it classified the bear that made the attack as Level III, which requires bears that have displayed aggressive behavior toward humans and show no fear be destroyed because of their risk to public safety.

The Division of Wildlife Resources searched for the bear until approximately 5 pm that day with the intention of returning the next morning. However, that evening, after the search ended for the day, Samuel’s family arrived at the same campsite as the bear attack. They had originally planned to camp at Timpooneke Campground, but they didn’t have the $13 fee and asked if they could camp up the road. They were told it was okay.

After the family went to bed at around 9 pm. Samuel slept in the smaller compartment of the tent and his brother, mother and stepfather stayed in the larger section. That night, a black bear pulled Samuel from the family tent and killed him. His body was found approximately 400 yards away from the campsite.

Samuel’s biological parents, Kevin Francis and Rebecca Ives, acting individually and as the natural parents of Samuel, sued the United States of America under the Federal Torts Claims Act. They alleged that their son’s death was caused by the negligence of the employees of the United States Forest Service since it was responsible for managing Timpooneke Road 056 and the campsites along that road.

The plaintiffs claimed that the Forest Service employees were aware of the presence of a dangerous bear in the area and were negligent in failing to close the remote camping site. They also claimed that the employees were negligent in failing to warn of the presence of a dangerous bear. The family testified that had there been a warning, they would not have camped at the site of the prior bear attack, or anywhere near it.

Plaintiffs’ counsel contended that earlier in the day, a bear had aggressively opened coolers, found food, slashed through a camper’s tent and struck a camper in the head before being chased off. They also contended that Samuel’s family was not informed of this incident.

Plaintiffs’ counsel presented evidence that after the dispatcher was contacted about the prior bear attack, she reported the incident to United States Forest Service law enforcement officer Carolyn Gosse. Gosse then told the dispatcher that she would let her district know, but that she was not on duty and it would be impossible for her to find someone to watch her children that day. Gosse ultimately failed to contact anyone or take any action in response to the reported bear attack on the morning of June 17. As a result, no other Forest Service employee knew about the incident and no action was taken to warn potential campers. Gosse was subsequently terminated from her job based in part on her conduct in this incident. Employee regulation states she should have returned to duty due to a compelling reason.

Gosse’s supervisor testified that had Gosse told him about the bear attack, he would have warned potential campers about the danger. A Forest Service District Ranger for the area also testified that a warning could easily have been placed on the gate at the head of Timpooneke Road 056 or the area been closed off.

The court ruled that based on testimony, the plaintiffs convincingly demonstrated that the bear that killed Samuel was the same bear that had attacked the other campers earlier in the day.

The United States denied its employees were negligent in the manner alleged by plaintiffs or that any act of omission of its employees caused Samuel’s death.

Defense counsel argued that there were already notifications posted in the area warning of bears in the area. They also contended that there were postings warning campers to store food in cars or high in a tree away from sleeping areas, but that Samuel’s family was negligent for leaving food out. Defense counsel further contended that Samuel’s drank some beer and that government officials testified she smelled of alcohol. However, the court found that the mother’s alcohol consumption was irrelevant.

In addition, defense counsel contended that the United States is immune from suit under the discretionary function exception to the Federal Tort Claim Act.

Traumatic Brain Injury Trial In Chico Yields $30 Million Verdict

Women injured in boat accident awarded $30 Million

Negligent Boaters Likely Cause of TBI Accident But Jury Blames Boat Manufacturer

On June 7, 2011 a  jury in Butte County California awarded $31 million to two women who were swept off a boat and injured by its propeller. The women were riding in a MasterCraft X-45 wakeboarding craft.

There were 12 passengers sitting on the bow (that is the front of the boat) when it was suddenly submerged as the driver, Jerry Montz, went to retrieve a fallen wakeboarder. The force of water carried the women off the boat, and the propeller struck one on the head causing a traumatic brain injury; she lost an eye and has permanent brain damage. The other lady was cut on the elbow and lower back.

The women’s lawyer alleged the boat was defectively designed. They also sued Montz for negligent operation. The jury found MasterCraft 80 percent at fault and Montz 20 percent at fault. Of the award, $30.9 million went to the TBI victim and $530,688 to the other plaintiff.

 This is the kind of case that makes people hate lawyers. (People never seem to remember that a jury of non-lawyers rendered the verdict)    I am a lawyer and I think the result stinks, too.  First, a disclaimer I don’t know all the facts about the case , the name of which is Bell v. MasterCraft Boat Co.

I speculate that the plaintiffs’ argument went something like this—Mastercraft defectively designed the boat because its design allowed twelve people to sit in the bow.  If only Mastercraft had designed the boat to prevent more than “X” amount of people to sit in the bow this tragic accident wouldn’t have happened.  Also, Mastercraft did not do enough product testing prior to marketing the boat.

 The plaintiffs’ lawyer probably argued that the hull design that may have made it easier to swamp. I am confident that the lawyer argued MasterCraft had not performed adequate testing or design of the craft prior to marketing the boat. That’s crap.  And results like this cost all consumers, not just consumers of watercraft, money. 

In cases of catastrophic injury like this one many juries strain to find liability against the wealthiest defendant. 

They learn in the trial the unbelievable expenses that are associated with caring for a young adult who has suffered a serious traumatic brain injury.  She will need around the clock care, therapy, and perhaps further medical procedures. 

Mr. Montz might have been well off enough to own a ski boat and may have had insurance, but caring for a traumatic brain injury in her twenties or teens victim for the term of her natural life—60 to 70 more years—will cost millions.

 The problem is that based on the facts above defective design seems like the least likely cause of this tragedy.  There were too many people on the front of the boat and the driver likely turned too sharply causing the bow to dip.  Who’s fault is it that there were twelve people on the bow?  Mastercraft? I don’t see it.

Years ago an American car maker learned of a potential fire problem with the fuel tanks of a new vehicle during pre-marketing testing.   The company marketed it anyway and when people were immolated in rear end accident, the jury and then the public was rightfully enraged.  Ever since that has been a common argument for the plaintiff’s lawyers to make.

I represent plaintiffs.  I have only disdain for insurance companies who are the usual adversaries auto accident, premises liability and medical malpractice cases.  My personal experience with insurance companies and my experience as a lawyer has been uniformly poor.  Insurance companies do their best to weasel out of their obligations and to pay as little as possible on all claims.

Manufacturers make a profit based on sales.  Subtract the costs of design, testing, marketing, etc. from the income and there you have it.  The boat at issue is relatively large apparently, it seats 18 persons. Mastercraft likely did not breach its obligations to consumers and this case was wrongly decided.

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