As part of a new, ongoing series, I will be pointing out interesting verdicts and settlements reported for personal injury claims in California. Here is a jury verdict out of San Bernardino, CA that was of interest:
Facts: Vera Johnson was a visitor in a R.V. resort. As she was traversing between several of the recreational vehicles at night, she caught her foot on a concrete slab that caused her to trip and fall and strike her head on the ground.
Injuries: Ms. Johnson sustained sustained head trauma resulting in a subdural hematoma requiring a craniotomy and causing cognitive impairment.
Legal Contentions of the “Plaintiff” (person claiming personal injury): The plaintiff contended that the park and their management were negligent in failing to provide adequate lighting in the area of the fall and by failing to repair a crack in the concrete slab, which caused her to trip and fall. They argued that a reasonable property owner would have provided more illumination in an area known to have foot traffic at night. The further argued that the broken concrete slab was a dangerous condition for which the R.V. park knew or should have known.
Legal Contentions of the “Defendant” (entity being sued): The R.V. park first of all denied that the plaintiff fell at all or that this was the cause of her head injury. They also argued that plaintiff cut through a row of recreational vehicles with flip flops on and without a flashlight, thereby endangering herself (in legal parlance “comparative fault” or “comparative negligence”). They also disputed the extent of her medical injuries including the level of brain damage and resulting impairment.
Result of the Jury Trial: The case went to a jury and the trial lasted approximately 6 weeks. The jury awarded the plaintiff $3,708,689, which consisted of $193,000 to the plaintiff’s husband for “loss of consortium” and $3,515,689 to the plaintiff for both compensatory (damages meant to compensate the victim for both present and future medical and other expenses) and “pain and suffering” or “general” damages.
It is interesting to note that the plaintiff made a settlement demand of $2,250,000 (over 1.25 million less than the ultimate award) and that the defendant only offered $225,000 (about 6 percent of the ultimate jury verdict amount). While premises liability claims like this one are difficult, it would appear that there as a gross miscalculation as the potential legal exposure presented by the claim in this particular case (in my opinion). Head trauma cases, in general, tend to have more significant value that other types of injury claims just simply due to the fact that brain injury can cause permanent, lifetime physical and mental residual problems.
NOTE: The above summary of the facts was based upon the reporting by the Los Angeles Daily Journal, “Verdicts and Settlements”, August 22, 2014.