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The March 2015 Jury Verdict Round-Up: Top 5 Personal Injury Verdicts

During March, the attorney editors on the LexisNexis Jury Verdict team covered several notable personal injury verdicts and settlements from across the country. This informal list of top five cases captured our attention this past month, so we thought you might like to hear about them. If you are interested in submitting one of your own notable verdicts, we’d love to include a report in our database. You can just send us an email at this address:

1)    James Coterel and Crystal Naylor v. Dorel Juvenile Group, Inc., d/b/a Safety 1st; 2015 Jury Verdicts LEXIS 1410

On Nov. 29, 2010, 23-month-old J.D. climbed out of his crib and opened a door that had a "Safety 1st Clear Grip Door Knob Cover" on it. He walked outside and fell into a pond, where he died. His parents, James Coterel and Crystal Naylor, found him shortly after they woke up around 6:00 a.m.

On Oct. 16, 2013, Coterel and Naylor filed a wrongful death action in the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Missouri against Dorel Juvenile Group, Inc. d/b/a Safety 1st, Dorel U.S.A., Inc., Dorel Design and Development, Inc., and Wal-Mart Stores, Inc. Dorel Design and Wal-Mart were later dropped as defendants. Plaintiffs alleged a claim for product liability against Dorel Juvenile, claiming that the product was unreasonable dangerous in that it was easily defeated by young children, had inadequate safety devices, was likely to allow severe and permanent injuries, lacked a failsafe device, was too easily pulled apart, and had an inadequate locking system. Plaintiffs claimed that as a direct result of the defective and unreasonably dangerous door knob cover, J.C. got out of the house and died as a result. Plaintiffs also alleged a claim for negligence in the design, manufacture, and sale of the door knob cover.

The action proceeded to a jury trial before Judge Stephen R. Bough. On March 10, 2015, the jury returned a verdict in favor of Dorel Juvenile.

2)    Joann Evelyn Schultz v. Akzo Nobel Paints, LLC; 2015 Jury Verdicts LEXIS 1198

From the late 1950s to the late 1980s, Donald Walter Schultz worked as a paint booth or room sprayer and as a maintenance painter at plants located in Kenosha, Wisconsin, Cleveland, Ohio, and Los Angeles, California. Shultz worked for American Motors Corporation, subsequently known as Chrysler Corporation. During Schultz's employment, he was allegedly exposed to benzene-containing products that caused him to develop Acute Myelogenous Leukemia on Nov. 25, 2005 and die on Sept. 23, 2006.

On Oct. 28, 2008, a complaint was filed in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Wisconsin. In a first amended complaint filed on Feb. 10, 2009, Joann Evelyn Schultz, individually and as personal representative of the Estate of Donald Walter Schultz, alleged claims for negligence and strict liability against the alleged manufacturers, marketers, and sellers of benzene-containing products. The complaint was brought against The Glidden Company, Chemtech Industries, Inc., Allied Industrial Group, Inc., Custom-Pak Products, Inc., Dupli-Color Products Company, Durako Paint and Color Corp., F.B. Wright Company, Gage Products Company, Hentzen Coatings, Inc., Hexion Specialty Chemicals, Inc., ICI Paints, ICI Paints North America, Mico, Inc., Plasti-Kote International, Inc., PPG Industries, Inc., Sherwin-Williams Co., Millennium Holdings, LLC, Lyondell Chemical Company, SCM Corporation, and U.S. Packing Corporation.

Defendants filed various answers, affirmative defenses, and cross-claims.

Several defendants were dismissed from the action.

On March 2, 2015, a jury trial presided over by Judge Rudolph T. Randa began. On March 11, 2015, the jury rendered a verdict, finding that none of the paints of the Glidden Company now known as Akzo Nobel Paints LLC were in such defective condition to be unreasonably dangerous and that Akzo was not negligent in manufacturing, supplying, or selling paints.

3)    Marc C. Jacobs and Deborah Jacobs v. Yellow Cab Affiliation, Inc. and Cornelus C. Ezeagu; 2015 Jury Verdicts LEXIS 1485

On Aug. 31, 2005, Marc Jacobs was a passenger in a taxicab that was owned or operated by Yellow Cab Affiliation, Inc. and was being driven by Cornelus C. Ezeagu. Jacobs, a real estate attorney based in the Chicago area, was returning home from an evening out with a client. While driving on I-294, Ezeagu lost control of the cab, driving it into a grass drainage area adjacent to the interstate ramp, and causing it to vault through the air and slam into a concrete barrier. Jacobs suffered severe permanent brain damage, underwent many surgeries and long-term rehabilitation, and was unable to continue his prior work in the legal profession.

On Sept. 15, 2005, Jacobs and his wife Deborah filed an action against Yellow Cab, Ezeagu, and others, in the Illinois Circuit Court for Cook County. On March 4, 2015, they filed an amended complaint against only Yellow Cab and Ezeagu, asserting claims of negligence, agency, and loss of consortium. Following a trial held by Judge Daniel J. Lynch, the jury reached a verdict in the Jacobs' favor on March 17, 2015. The jury awarded Marc $ 24,987,931.00 in damages and they awarded Deborah $ 4,500,000.00 for her loss of consortium claim. The damage award was reduced 12% due to Marc's contributory negligence, for a total award to Marc of $ 21,989,291.00 and to Deborah of $ 3,960,000.00.

4)    Kathy Bruno, Individually and as Surviving Spouse of Michael Bruno, and as Personal Representative of the Estate of Michael Bruno; Renee Bruno, Individually and as Surviving Daughter of Michael Bruno; Anne Bruno, as Surviving Daughter of Michael Bruno; and Nina Bruno, as Surviving Mother of Michael Bruno; and Desiree Sierra v. Michelin North America, Inc.; Discount Tire Co., Inc.; Landstar System, Inc.; Hyundai Translead, Inc.; and John and Jane Does I-X; 2015 Jury Verdicts LEXIS 1657

On July 19, 2011, Michael Bruno was driving a 2003 Chevrolet Silverado when the right front Michelin brand tire suffered a tread/belt separation. He lost control of the vehicle, and it collided with the rear of a disabled tractor trailer that was parked off to the side of the roadway, with its hazard lights flashing. The tractor trailer driver was employed by Landstar BCO Shepard Family Trucking. In the vehicle with Bruno were his wife, Kathy Bruno, his daughter, Renee Bruno, as well as Desiree Sierra and Madison Pike. The collision was violent, and Michael was killed. Kathy, Renee, and Desiree were seriously injured. Madison was not injured.

On July 17, 2013, Kathy Bruno, Renee Bruno, Anne Bruno (Michael's daughter), Nina Bruno (Michael's mother), and Desiree Sierra filed an action in the Arizona Superior Court for Maricopa County. They named as defendants the following: Michelin North America, Inc.; Discount Tire Co., Inc.; Landstar System, Inc.; Hyundai Translead, Inc.; and John and Jane Does I-X. The initial complaint included claims for wrongful death of Michael, as well as personal injury claims by the passengers, strict liability - product liability, negligence, and punitive damages. The action was assigned to Judge David Udall.

On Jan. 10, 2015, Judge Udall granted the parties' joint motion to dismiss Michelin and Discount Tire (which had installed the tire at issue). On March 4, 2015, he entered an order granting plaintiff's motion to dismiss Hyundai Translead (which had manufactured the trailer on the Landstar truck). In February of 2015, Landstar tendered an offer of judgment in the amount of $ 1,000,000.00. That offer, however, was declined. With the claims against only Landstar remaining, the matter proceeded to a jury trial. The parties disputed a number of issues, including whether the Landstar driver had safely parked the vehicle, whether the trailer on the Landstar truck was defectively designed, whether the Michelin tire was defective, and whether Michael had been negligent by using the cellphone while driving.

On March 13, 2015, the jury reached a verdict in plaintiffs' favor, awarding a total of $ 19,250,000.00 in damages. The award included $ 10,250,000.00 on the wrongful death claims, with the remainder going to the plaintiffs for their own injuries, including $ 2,500,000.00 to Kathy, $ 3,000,000.00 to Renee, and $ 3,500,000.00 million to Desiree.

5)    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, Fla. 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, Ala., 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.

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