During July, the attorney editors on the LexisNexis Jury Verdict team covered several notable personal injury verdicts 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 e-mail at this address: firstname.lastname@example.org. In the meantime, please check out the highlighted cases below.
1) Erin Joynt v. Volusia County, 2014 Jury Verdicts LEXIS 5714
On June 27, 2014, a Florida state jury awarded $2.6 million to a tourist who had been run over by a lifeguard truck on Daytona Beach. The action was brought by plaintiff Erin Joynt, who had been sunbathing on the beach in July 2011. She was struck by a motor vehicle owned by Volusia County and driven by Thomas Moderie, a Volusia County Beach Services lifeguard. Plaintiff alleged that Moderie negligently made a U-turn, turning east towards the water out of the designated traffic lane on the beach, and struck plaintiff on her head and shoulder.
Plaintiff filed a negligence action on April 5, 2012, in the Circuit Court of Volusia County. The action was assigned to Judge Robert K. Rouse. The county admitted liability but disputed the amount of plaintiff's damages, specifically to what extent she suffered permanent injuries and how those injuries affected her ability to continue her occupation as a reading teacher. On June 27, 2014, the jury returned a verdict awarding plaintiff $2.6 million, which included $100,000 in future medical expenses; $500,000 for loss of earning capacity; $500,000 for past pain and suffering; and $1.5 million for future pain and suffering. By Florida law, verdicts against the State Government of more than $200,000 must be legislatively approved.
2) Pengxuan Diao v. Southern California Gas Company, a corporation; Sempra Energy, a corporation; Richard Liu; Joanna Cheung 2014 Jury Verdicts LEXIS 5526
On June 25, 2014, a Los Angeles jury awarded $19.8 million to a man severely burned by an explosion caused by a natural gas line that had been left uncapped by an employee of Southern California Gas Company and Sempra Energy (collectively SCGC). In January of 2011, SCGC employees arrived at a property to service the gas system. They were there in response to a call that the dwelling's heater was not receiving natural gas. During servicing, an employee activated a gas line running to a rental house on the property that had not been connected to anything for over a year. Natural gas began to fill the back house, where Pengxuan Diao was resting. SCGC's employees left without detecting the leak, and a massive gas explosion subsequently occurred when Diao tried to light a cigarette. Diao suffered catastrophic and permanent injuries, including third degree burns and a traumatic brain injury.
On March 21, 2012, Diao filed suit against SCGC in the California Superior Court for Los Angeles County. SCGC admitted negligence but denied the claimed extent of Diao's damages. SCGC also filed a cross-complaint for negligence, indemnity and contribution against the property's owners, Richard Liu and Joanna Cheung, and fellow tenant Yong Sheng Li. SCGC admitted it was partly at fault for the accident, but argued the cross-defendants negligently made modifications to the property's back building, formerly a garage, to allow it to be rented out as a house to Diao. SCGC asserted the modifications, including the failure to cap the gas line, were in violation of codes and regulations, and SCGC was entitled to contribution and indemnification if found in any way liable for the incident. Default was entered as to Li on June 18, 2013.
Trial began on June 2, 2014, and was presided over by Judge Elizabeth R. Feffer. On June 25, 2014, the jury found SCGC was negligent, causing harm to Diao, but Liu and Cheung were not negligent. The jury awarded Diao $19.8 million in damages, consisting of approximately $17 million for past and future pain and suffering, $2 million for past and future medical expenses, and $657,100 for past and future loss of earnings.
3) Carlos Martinez and Rosita de los Santos de Martinez, husband and wife v. Honda Motor Co., Ltd., Bowser Automotive, Inc., Bowser Automotive, Inc. d/b/a Bowser GMC, and Takata Corporation, 2014 Jury Verdicts LEXIS 5572
On July 1, 2014, a Pennsylvania state jury awarded $55 million to a car owner who brought a product liability suit against Honda to recover for paralysis and head injuries he had sustained in a rollover crash.
On Dec. 30, 2011, Carlos Martinez and his wife, Rosita de los Santos de Martinez, filed a product liability action in the Pennsylvania Court of Common Pleas for Philadelphia County. Plaintiffs named the following as defendants: Honda Motor Co., Ltd., Bowser Automotive, Inc., Bowser Automotive, Inc. d/b/a Bowser GMC, and Takata Corporation. Through a complaint filed on April 18, 2012, plaintiffs alleged that Carlos was catastrophically injured on May 8, 2010 when the 1999 Acura Integra he was driving lost control and rolled over. The Integra was manufactured by Honda and then inspected and sold by Bowser. Plaintiffs asserted claims of strict liability and negligence against Honda and Takata, and they asserted claims of negligence against the Bowser defendants. Rosita asserted a claim for loss of consortium.
American Honda Motor Co., Inc. was substituted as a defendant. In June of 2014, the claims against only Honda proceeded to a jury trial over which Judge Shelley Robbins New presided. At issue was the seatbelt design. According to a June 27, 2014, AP news article, counsel for plaintiffs contended Honda knew that injury suffered by Carlos in the rollover was possible based on seat belt testing it conducted in 1992. At the conclusion of the trial, the jury reached a verdict in plaintiffs' favor, awarding them a total of $55,325,714 in damages. Judgment was entered for that amount on July 1, 2014.
4) Bryan Michael Stow, a disabled adult, by and through his conservators Elizabeth Ann Stow and David Edward Stow; T.S. and Ta.S., minors, by and through their Guardian Ad Litem, Jacqueline Kain v. Los Angeles Dodgers LLC; LA Real Estate, LLC; Frank McCourt; Blue Landco LLC, 2014 Jury Verdicts LEXIS 5707
On July 9, 2014, a California state jury awarded $13.9 million to a man who was brutally beaten in a stadium parking lot following the March 31, 2011, Los Angeles Dodgers' opening day game against the Giants. Brian Stow was attacked by two drunken baseball fans and left with irreversible brain damage and physical disabilities. Roughly two months later, Stow’s parents filed against Los Angeles Dodgers LLC, LA Real Estate, LLC, Frank McCourt, and Blue Landco LLC. The complaint, which was filed in Los Angeles Superior Court, set out claims of negligence, premises liability, negligent hiring, retention and supervision, negligent and intentional infliction of emotional distress, assault, battery, false imprisonment, and loss of consortium. Stow argued the defendants failed to have proper security and lighting, failed to stop serving alcohol to the perpetrators after they were obviously intoxicated, and failed to eject the perpetrators after they threw objects during the game and engaged in other conduct that clearly violated the Stadium's code of conduct.
The defendants denied all allegations, argued that they hired sufficient security staff for the premises, and denied that anyone had reported bad behavior by Stow's attackers. The defendants also argued that Stow was intoxicated, had harassed Sanchez and Norwood, and had caused or contributed to the incident.
Trial began on May 27, 2014, and was presided over by Judge Victor E. Chavez. On July 9, 2014, the jury found in favor of Stow. According to a Law360 article, the jury found the Dodgers were 25 percent liable for Stow’s injuries and the two attackers were 75 percent liable. The jury awarded damages totaling $18 million, of which the Dodgers were responsible for approximately $13.9 million due to California's laws regarding medical bills and lost earnings. McCourt was not held liable, and the jury did not find Stow provoked the attack or was otherwise negligent.
5) William Paul Crisp, Jr. and J. Nicole Crisp, individually and as representatives of the Estate Of Lauren Bailey Crisp, and Denise Whitaker, individually and as representative of the Estate Of Denton James Ward, (intervenor) v. The McDonald's Corporation; McDonald's USA, LLC; and McDonald's Restaurants Of Texas, Inc., 2014 Jury Verdicts LEXIS 6500
On July 30, 2014, a Texas state jury awarded $27 million to families of two college students killed in a motor vehicle collision that occurred following a mob beating outside a McDonald’s restaurant.
On Feb. 18, 2012, Denton James Ward, Lauren Bailey Crisp, Tanner Giesen, and Samantha Bean went to the McDonald's restaurant located near their university in College Station Texas. The restaurant was allegedly on notice that the parking lot was dangerous late at night because there had been more than 200 police responses to complaints over the previous three years, including calls made by managers of the restaurant. At the restaurant, Crisp and Bean stayed in the car and went through the drive through, while Ward and Giesen went in to use the bathroom. When Ward and Giesen came out, they were attacked by a mob of people, including Marcus Jemal Jones, and beaten. When Crisp and Bean saw the situation, they got Ward and Giesen into the car and sped towards the hospital. Bean reportedly ran a red light and was struck by another car. Crisp died in the accident. Ward died as well.
The families of Ward and Crisp filed a complaint in the District Court of the 361st Judicial District, Brazos County, Texas against The McDonald's Corporation; McDonald's USA, LLC; and McDonald's Restaurants Of Texas, Inc. (collectively McDonald's). They asserted claims for negligence and premises liability.
The action proceeded to a jury trial before Judge Steve Smith. The jury found that McDonald's, Marcus Jemal Jones, and John Does were the proximate causes of the deaths of Ward and Crisp. The jury apportioned the responsibility for the deaths at 97 percent to McDonald's, 2% to Marcus Jemal Jones, and 1 percent to John Does. The jury awarded $16 million in damages to Ward’s mother and his estate and $11 million to Crisp’s parents and her estate, for a total of $27 million.
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