Litigation

Jury Verdict Round-Up: April Top Personal Injury Suits

  

During April, the attorney editors on the LexisNexis Jury Verdict team covered several notable personal injury verdicts from across the country. Every month, we try to make a list of the top five cases that captured our attention.   This month, however, we covered so many really interesting cases, we decided to list out the top five, then add two more bonus cases.  Our list includes substantial plaintiff’s verdicts as well as impressive results in favor of the defendants. If you are interested in submitting one of your own notable verdicts, we’d be happy to include a report in our database. You can just send us an email at this address: juryverdictsubmissions@lexisnexis.com.

Our choices are listed out below.

1)      Alabama Jury Awards Paralyzed Truck Driver $ 18.8 Million After Rollover Caused By Negligent Repairs And Defective Seatbelt 

Colin T. Lacy v. Freightliner, LLC; Daimler Trucks North America; Indiana Mills & Manufacturing, Inc.; Empire Truck Sales, LLC; Shane Foster; Toby Pridgen; and FCC Environmental, LLC; 2015 Jury Verdicts LEXIS 1853

On July 14, 2011, plaintiff Colin T. Lacy was operating a 2004 Freightliner Model 16M truck on Interstate 10 in Walton County, FL. On that day, he had picked the truck up from having repairs performed on the anti-lock braking system at defendant Empire Truck Sales, LLC. While he was driving in the rain, the truck allegedly went out of control and rolled over. The seatbelt also allegedly failed to function and plaintiff was ejected. He suffered a severe spinal cord injury and was paralyzed.

Plaintiff filed a complaint on Nov. 26, 2012, in the Circuit Court of Mobile County, AL, alleging that the truck, designed and manufactured by defendant Freightliner, LLC, was unreasonably dangerous and defective because of its propensity to roll over. He also claimed that the seatbelt system, designed by defendant Indiana Mills & Manufacturing (IMMI), was defective. Plaintiff further alleged that the repairs were negligently performed by Empire and its employees, defendants Shane Foster and Toby Pridgen. Plaintiff subsequently amended his complaint to add a worker's compensation claim against his employer, defendant FCC Environmental. On Feb. 18, 2013, plaintiff filed a second amended complaint striking Freightliner, LLC, as a defendant and substituting Daimler Trucks North America, LLC.

On March 20, 2015, the jury returned a verdict for plaintiff in the amount of $ 18,797,856, which included $ 1,000,000 for past medical expenses; $ 3,000,000 for future medical expenses; $ 197,856 for past lost wages; $ 1,600,000 for future lost wages; $ 8,000,000 for pain and suffering; and $ 5,000,000 for punitive damages against Empire. Because the accident took place in Florida, Florida's comparative negligence laws applied. The jury found Empire 80% negligent/at fault and IMMI 20% negligent/at fault. Plaintiff had reached a settlement with IMMI and Daimler/Freightliner before trial. Additionally, prior to the jury verdict, the parties reached a high/low agreement under which Empire Truck Sales agreed to pay at least $ 2 million - even if the jury found in favor of the defense - and no more than $ 14 million.

2)      Florida Jury Returns $ 64.5 Million Verdict For Construction Worker Crushed Under Building That Collapsed Due To Negligent Preparation

Robert B. Matthews v. Mosaic Fertilizer, LLC; Semco Construction, Inc.; and Williams Scotsman, Inc; 2015 Jury Verdicts LEXIS 1852

In September of 2009, 25-year-old plaintiff Robert Matthews was working at a construction site when a building collapsed on him, crushing his pelvis, legs, and internal organs. Defendant Semco Construction had been hired by defendant Mosaic Fertilizer, LLC, the property owner, to prepare the site. Mark Rice, Inc., plaintiff's employer, had been hired to install the pre-fabricated building on the site. Plaintiff's injuries required a three-month hospitalization and more than 50 surgeries over the next five years. Plaintiff pursed and settled a worker's compensation claim against his employer.

Plaintiff filed a negligence action against defendants Semco Construction, Mosaic Fertilizer, and Williams Scotsman, Inc., the manufacturer of the building, on April 28, 2010, in the Circuit Court of Hillsborough County, Florida. Plaintiff claimed that defendants had not obtained the proper permits, had not used the proper equipment, and had not properly prepared the site. Plaintiff dismissed Williams Scotsman, Inc. on March 17, 2014. Plaintiff settled his claim against Mosaic Fertilizer and dismissed Mosaic on July 15, 2014. Plaintiff's claims against Semco proceeded to a jury trial before Judge Rex Barbas.

On March 27, 2015, the jury returned a verdict for plaintiff in the amount of $ 64,500,000. The jury found that Semco Construction was 15% liable, Mosaic 75% liable, and Mark Rice, Inc., 10% liable. The verdict amount was prior to reduction forthe other parties' comparative negligence. Semco's portion of the verdict equates to approximately $ 10 million, plus legal fees.

3)      California State Jury Enters $ 28,215,278 Verdict In Medical Malpractice Suit Against Hospital Filed By Patient Who Underwent Leg Amputation, Partial Pelvic Removal After Doctors Failed To Diagnose Malignant Pelvic Osteosarcoma 

Anna Rahm v. Southern California Permanente Medical Group; 2015 Jury Verdicts LEXIS 1854

In August 2008, then-sixteen year old Anna Rahm became experiencing back pain. Rahm's pain steadily grew worse and she began experiencing radiating pain down her left leg in January 2009. In February 2009, Rahm went to a chiropractor, but treatments were unsuccessful and the chiropractor recommended Rahm go to Southern California Permanente Medical Group to seek an MRI. In March 2009, Rahm and her mother first went to Permanente and saw Rahm's primary care physician and a physical medicine specialist. At that time, Rahm had begun to show a number of other symptoms, including severe nighttime pain, neurologic deficit, major motor weakness, clumsy gait or falling, and fever. Rahm's doctors prescribed physical therapy, muscle relaxants, steroids, and ibuprofen but refused to order an MRI.

Over the next three months, Rahm and her mother repeatedly requested an MRI be performed. Their requests were denied and not recorded in Rahm's medical files. On June 16, 2009, Rahm's primary care physician finally agreed to order an MRI, which was performed on July 2, 2009. The MRI revealed a large, aggressive malignant tumor on Rahm's pelvis known as a pelvic osteosarcoma. The osteosarcoma had extensively spread, and Rahm underwent surgery to amputate her right leg, remove half of her pelvis, and fuse her spine. Rahm believed if the MRI had been performed when initially requested in March 2009, her cancer would have been diagnosed much sooner and she would not have lost her leg.

On July 15, 2010, Rahm filed suit against Permanente in the California Superior Court for Los Angeles County. Initially Rahm filed a breach of contract and insurance bad faith claim, arguing Kaiser Foundation Health Plan should be held liable for failing to give her a timely MRI to diagnose the cancer. Kaiser filed a petition to compel arbitration and a motion to strike punitive damages, which were denied. Kaiser also filed a motion for summary judgment, arguing it could not be held liable in bad faith as a matter of law since theclaim was based on the conduct of Permanente's treating doctors who delayed the MRI and were not employees of Kaiser. On Sept. 11, 2012, Judge James R. Dunn granted the motion for summary judgment.

On Sept. 19, 2012, Rahm filed a motion for leave to amend the complaint to add a medical negligence claim against Permanente only. Permanente opposed the motion, but Dunn granted the motion, allowing Rahm to pursue a medical malpractice suit against Permanente. Permanente fought the decision, filing petitions for writ with the California Court of Appeals and California Supreme Court, both of which were denied. However, in order to proceed with her claim, Rahm was required to pay $ 52,720 for Permanente's costs as a result of the recent amended complaint pursuant to CCP 473(a)(2).

Trial began on Feb. 15, 2015, and was held before Judge Marc R. Marmaro. On March 25, 2015, the jury unanimously concluded Permanente breached the standard of care, and ten out of twelve jurors found in favor of Anna on causation and found Permanente 100% liable for the injuries. The jury awarded damages totaling $ 28,215.278, consisting of $ 20,884,935 for medical expenses, $ 5,491,025 for loss of earnings, $177,153 for past noneconomic loss, and $ 1,662,165 for future noneconomic loss.

4)      Georgia State Jury Awards $ 150 Million To Parents Of Child Who Died In Jeep Fire, Finding Chrysler Acted With Reckless Disregard For Safety 

James Bryan Walden, Individually and on Behalf of His Deceased Son, Remington Cole Walden; and Lindsay Walden, Individually and on Behalf of Her Deceased Son, Remington Cole Walden, v. Chrysler Group, L.L.C. and Bryan L. Harrell; 2015 Jury Verdicts LEXIS 1903

On March 6, 2012, Remington (Remi) Cole Walden, a four-year-old boy, died of burns sustained in a motor vehicle collision that occurred in Bainbridge, GA. Remi was a passenger in a 1999 Jeep Grand Cherokee that was being driven by his aunt. The Jeep was rear-ended by a Dodge Dakota truck that was driven by Bryan L. Harrell. Although neither driver was hurt in the collision, Remi (who was restrained in a booster seat) suffered a broken femur. The situation turned dire after the collision, however, because the rear-mounted gas tank on the Jeep had ruptured, which allowed gasoline to escape and ignite. The Jeep was engulfed in flames and Remi could not be rescued. Numerous witnesses saw him struggle and heard him scream for help. His autopsy later showed that his remains had been charred over 100% of his body surface.

In 2012, Remi's parents, James Bryan Walden and Lindsay Walden, filed an action against Chrysler Group, L.L.C. (which had manufactured the Jeep) and Bryan L. Harrell in the Georgia Superior Court for Decatur County. Through an amended complaint filed on March 2, 2015, they asserted claims of negligence against Harrell, as well as claims against Chrysler for willful and reckless disregard for safety, failure to warn, and attorney's fees based on Chrysler's alleged bad faith during litigation pursuant to O.C.G.A. Section 13-6-11.

During trial, plaintiffs claimed that since at least the 1960s, Chrysler had actual knowledge that placing a fuel tank in a vehicle's crush zone between the rear bumper and axle makes it vulnerable to catching on fire after a rear-end collision. They also asserted that Chrysler negligently failed to warn the public about the allegedly known defect. Chrysler also allegedly knew that it was "technologically feasible," economically practicable, and fundamentally safer to redesign the fuel tank placement, but chose not to do so. Moreover parties also clashed over the impact of the crash, with counsel for the plaintiffs indicating that the crash was low impact and counsel for Chrysler indicating that the impact was severe.

At the conclusion of a trial presided over by J. Kevin Chason, the jury reached a verdict for the plaintiffs on all of their claims, assessing 99% of the liability to Chrysler and 1% to Harrell. The jury awarded plaintiffs $ 30,000,000.00 for pain and suffering and $ 120,000,000.00 for Remi's life.

5)      Illinois Federal Jury Finds In Favor Of Pharmaceutical Company In Bellwether Product Liability Suit Filed By Parents Of Baby Born With Spina Bifida After Mother Took Anti-Epileptic Medication Depakote Throughout Her Pregnancy 

In Re Depakote: D.W.K., Jr. and parents Mary and Daniel Kaleta v. Abbott Laboratories, Inc; 2015 Jury Verdicts LEXIS 2031

Mary Kaleta suffered uncontrollable severe seizures and took anticonvulsant Depakote, manufactured by Abbott Laboratories, Inc., to control her seizures. Depakote, sold since 1978, contained valproic acid, which was known to cause severe birth defects if taken during the first trimester of pregnancy. Kaleta became pregnant and continued taking Depakote throughout her pregnancy. Kaleta claimed she did not remember discussing the issue with her neurologist, but his notes indicate he discussed all risks and she indicated she would rather take the risks associated with Depakote than the risks a seizure could cause her baby. Abbott asserted it provided all necessary warnings regarding taking the medication while pregnant and possible birth defects, but many individuals claimed Abbott designed its labels to actively minimize the risks of Depakote use and failed to include all pertinent information for pregnant users. Baby D.W.K. was born in 1999 with spina bifida.

On Dec. 15, 2010, Mary and Daniel Kaleta, individually and as parents and on behalf of D.W.K, were one of many plaintiffs named in a class action suit against Abbott in the Circuit Court of St. Clair County, Illinois. Notice of removal to the United States District Court for the Southern District of Illinois was filed on Jan. 19, 2012. The Kaletas asserted claims of strict products liability, negligence, gross negligence, breach of implied warranty, breach of express warranty, misrepresentation by omission, fraud and misrepresentation, intentional infliction of emotional distress, and negligent infliction of emotional distress. The Kaletas argued Depakote was defectively designed, inadequately tested, dangerous to human health and the health of unborn babies, and lacked proper warnings as to the true danger associated with its use. The Kaletas sought damages for disfigurement, pain, suffering, and anguish, loss of enjoyment of life, loss of earnings, profit, and salary, medical expenses, permanent mental and physical impairment, interest, and costs of suit.

Abbott denied all allegations and asserted it provided comprehensive warnings in its paperwork and labels regarding the risks of mothers using Depakote while pregnant. Abbott asserted evidence demonstrated Kaleta weighed the risks and chose to continue to take Depakote, and Abbott was not liable for the outcome of her decision.

The Kaleta case was chosen to act as a bellwether case and trial was presided over by Judge Nancy J. Rosenstengel. On March 20, 2015, the jury returned a verdict in favor of Abbott. Judgment ordering the Kaletas recover nothing and the action be dismissed on its merits was entered on March 25, 2013.

6)      New Hampshire Federal Court Awards $ 21.5 Million To Patient Who Suffered Massive Stroke Resulting In Locked-In Syndrome In FTCA Action

Jeanice Farley, individually, and on behalf of Michael Farley, an incompetent adult; George Farley; James Farley; and Kimberly-Rae Farley v. United States of America; 2015 Jury Verdicts LEXIS 2278

From Oct. 21, 2010 to Dec. 2, 2010, Manchester Veterans Administration Medical Center in New Hampshire (Manchester VA) provided Michael Farley, then 58 years old, with medical care. Mr. Farley first presented to urgent care with a sudden loss of right sided peripheral vision and a headache in his left temple. He was given a series of tests and learned that he had suffered a stroke. Mr. Farley said that the doctors failed to provide him with an adequate diagnostic evaluation and prescribed him the wrong medication. On Dec. 2, 2010, Mr. Farley was found unconscious at his home. Mr. Farley suffered a second stroke resulting in locked-in syndrome. Mr. Farley was cognitively aware of everything but paralyzed and unable to speak. He only had the limited ability to control his eyes.

On June 7, 2013, Jeanice Farley, Mr. Farley's wife, individually, and on behalf of Mr. Farley, an incompetent adult; and his children, George Farley, James Farley, and Kimberly-Rae Farley, filed a complaint pursuant to the Federal Tort Claims Act against the United States of America in the U.S. District Court for the District of New Hampshire, alleging negligence.

On July 25, 2014, a stipulation of dismissal as to the claims brought by George Farley, James Farley, and Kimberly-Rae Farley was filed.

District Judge Landya McCafferty presided over a bench trial from Oct. 21, 2014 to Oct. 24, 2014. On April 3, 2015, Judge McCafferty issued a memorandum and order, finding that two of Mr. Farley's doctors at the Manchester VA committed medical malpractice and were legally responsible for failing to prevent the second stroke. The court directed the clerk to enter judgment against the United States and in favor of Mrs. Farley on behalf of Mr. Farley in the amount of $ 21,468,710.62 and in favor of Mrs. Farley, individually, in the amount of $ 100,000.00. Judgment was entered on April 6, 2015.

7) Illinois State Jury Awards $10.8 Million To Homeowner Severely Burned When Concrete Sealer Exploded During Application In Product Liability Action Against Manufacturer

Andrzej Plizga and Katarzyna Plizga v. The Euclid Chemical Company d/b/a Increte Systems, Inc.; Increte Systems, Inc., individually; Henry Frerk Sons, Inc.; and Rheem Manufacturing Company; 2014 Jury Verdicts LEXIS 3027

On June 1, 2010, Andrzej Plizga was using a concrete sealer "Crystal Clear VOC," manufactured by Euclid Chemical Company to seal the floors in his basement. Plizga purchased the sealer from Henry Frerk Sons, Inc., a distributor. Vapors from the sealer were apparently ignited by the pilot light in the home's water heater, causing an explosion. Plizga was severely injured, sustaining second and third degree burns over 67% of his body, to his hands, arms, legs, and torso. He was hospitalized for over two months and required several skin grafts and then spent six weeks in rehabilitation. Plizga had worked as a bricklayer before the accident but asserted that he was unable to return to work as a bricklayer due to his injuries.

On Dec. 22, 2010, Plizga and his wife Katarzyna Plizga filed a complaint in the Circuit Court of Cook County, Illinois against Euclid Chemical Company d/b/a Increte Systems, Inc.; Increte Systems, Inc., individually; Henry Frerk Sons, Inc.; and Rheem Manufacturing Company. Plaintiffs asserted claims for strict product liability, arguing that the concrete sealer was defective and unreasonable dangerous and that it was extremely flammable but not properly labeled as such but only labeled as combustible. Katarzyna Plizga also asserted claims for loss of consortium. Euclid denied liability and asserted affirmative defenses including, contributory negligence/comparative fault; assumption of risk; misuse of product; and compliance.

The action proceeded to a jury trial before Judge Lorna Propes. On April 22, 2015, the jury returned a verdict in favor of plaintiffs and against Euclid for $10,875,622.00. 

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