News from Around the State: Trials and Verdicts
Randall S. Jespersen v. ACUITY, A Mutual Insurance Company, et al.
Case No. 13 CV 5410
Plaintiff was staying at the Mainstay Suites Hotel. He got up during the night, went into the bathroom, and slipped and fell on water. He sustained injuries to his knee and shoulder, both requiring surgery. He incurred medical expenses of $140,000.00.
The water came from pipes leaking in the bathroom of the hotel room directly above. The plaintiff claimed that the plumbing had not been properly maintained, as evidenced by similar leaks that had occurred in the hotel according to the maintenance records. The defense argued that the hotel had no notice of these particular leaking pipes, and the issue of faulty maintenance of pipes required expert testimony.
At the conclusion of the plaintiff’s case, Judge Hansher granted the defendants’ motion for a directed verdict. The court reasoned that the jury could not determine the standard of care applicable to a hotel’s maintenance of its plumbing system without expert testimony. There was no evidence to suggest the hotel had notice that the particular pipes involved were prone to leaking.
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Gorski v. Sanchez, et al.
Case No. 14-CV-3267
This was a low speed rear end accident, and the defense stipulated to liability. The plaintiff claimed a total of $13,375 in medical specials; the defense’s expert stated that the plaintiff sustained a low back strain and a cervical strain that resolved within three months of the accident. Furthermore, the expert testified that she sustained a temporary aggravation of her underlying degenerative lumbar spondylolisthesis, which is a condition where her L4 vertebra had shifted out of alignment over the L5 vertebra. Dr. Robbins believed this underlying degenerative condition was the cause of all her ongoing symptoms. By contrast, plaintiff’s treating physician testified that her low back pain was the result of a permanent, accident-related soft tissue injury to her low back. He conceded that the radiating pain was the result of her underlying degenerative spondylolisthesis.
At mediation, the plaintiff demanded $40,000 as their bottom line; the defense offered $17,000. The verdict was returned as follows: Past Medical Expenses: $4,866; Past Pain and Suffering: $8,500; Future pain, suffering & Disability: $0; Loss of consortium: $500; Total: $13,866
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Manak v. Gillis, et al.
Case No. 16-CV-73
St. Croix County
The lawsuit involved a motor vehicle accident in a roundabout. The defendant’s semi entered both lanes while navigating a roundabout to take the second exit (essentially to go straight out of the roundabout). In the process of doing so, the semi side-swiped plaintiff’s vehicle, which was driving alongside the trailer portion of the semi.
Liability was disputed. Plaintiff alleged that defendant was negligent because he was unaware of the CDL regulation requiring semi drivers to straddle both lanes on approach and as they navigate roundabouts. Defendant admittedly did not straddle the lanes as he approached the entrance to the roundabout. Plaintiff also alleged defendant was negligent for turning on his right turn signal before entering the roundabout and then not taking the first right turn to exit out of the roundabout. At the time of the collision, roundabout specific laws had not yet been enacted, so the Judge prohibited jury instructions on roundabouts. The defense argued that plaintiff was negligent for attempting to pass the semi in the roundabout when he admittedly knew the semi would need to take up both lanes.
As a result of the accident, plaintiff claimed soft tissue injuries to his neck and back. At trial, his lawyer requested an award of past medical expenses of approximately $13,000, future medical expenses of $12,000, property damage of $7,430, pain and suffering of $20,000, and his wife had a loss of consortium claim in an unquantified amount (total requested damages were $52,430, plus the loss of consortium claim). All damages were disputed except for the property damage amount. The defense argued that plaintiff sustained no injury in the accident.
The jury returned a verdict that found defendant negligent, but not causally negligent. The jury found plaintiff causally negligent. They awarded $0 in damages for past medical expenses, future medical expenses, pain and suffering, and loss of consortium, and awarded the $7,430 requested for plaintiff’s property damage. The last demand before trial was for $30,500. The last offer was for $7,500.
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Dworak v. SECURA Ins. Co., et al.
Case No. 16-CV-760
Plaintiff was a farm employee (worker’s comp insurance was not required, hence the civil suit) injured when a round straw bale weighing 500 – 800 pounds fell on him from a flatbed truck. Plaintiff argued that the farm owner/son, Marty Kroll, knocked the bale on him when removing an adjacent bale with a front-end loader; he also claimed that James Kroll, farm owner/father negligently supervised the operation.
Defendants argued that the plaintiff was a truck driver tasked with transporting bales, drove too fast on rough roads, which caused the to become unstable in transport. Upon arrival at Krolls’ farm, the plaintiff did not pay attention to the bale and unfastened a leaning bale, which fell onto him while Marty and James Kroll were near a rear bale at the opposite end of the truck.
Plaintiff sustained a fractured femur in multiple places, requiring rod insertion and subsequent knee arthroscopic surgery. He claimed ongoing knee pain, having had some Euflexxa and steroid injections. Six months post-accident, plaintiff started new fulltime job as a truck driver, removing wastewater from cheese plants. He claimed ongoing knee issues. He also claimed a right shoulder rotator cuff tear, although he made no complaints about this for over four months post-injury (he claimed the shoulder pain was masked by medication and/or leg pain/ issues). No shoulder surgery took place as he did not want to take too much time off of work.
At mediation plaintiff’s last demand was $800,000; defendant’s last offer was $50,000. Plaintiff later issued an Offer of Settlement for $370,000; defendant issued an Offer of Judgment for $90,000.
At trial, the parties stipulated to medical expenses of $132,000. Plaintiff asked a total of $782,000: $150,000 for future medical (injections to the knee, shoulder surgery), $250,000 past pain, suffering and disability, $250,000 future pain, suffering and disability. Jury found Marty Kroll 40% causally negligent, James Kroll 10% causally negligent, and plaintiff 50% causally negligent resulting in no recovery by plaintiff. Damages questions answered: future medical $55,000, past pain, suffering and disability $80,000, future pain, suffering and disability $0.
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