Civil Jury Verdicts

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Some years ago, I moderated a roundtable discussion entitled “The Vanishing Jury Trial”. Remember we ran the transcript of that discussion in the Contra Costa Lawyer? Peter Hinton, K.C. Ward, Harvey Sohnen and I participated in that roundtable discussion. Lots of reasons we thought contributed to the diminishing numbers of civil jury trials. One that stands out in my brain was the tremendous costs of experts. But I digress.

I thought it might be of interest to go back and look at the jury verdict statistics for a number of years and test that theory to see if the numbers are really down or not. Interestingly, recall the numbers in the early years up through the mid 2000’s did not include civil jury verdicts for the branch courts. We have done that for the past four or five years. So if anything the new numbers should be greater.

  • In 1999 there were 52 civil jury verdicts in Martinez Superior Court. Couldn’t find my breakdown on Plaintiffs v Defendants. Sorry.
  • In 2000 we had 36 civil jury verdicts. 20 for Plaintiffs and 16 for defendants.
  • In 2001 we saw 38 civil jury verdicts. 15 for Plaintiffs and 23 for Defendants.
  • 2002 saw 55 civil jury verdicts. Plaintiffs took 31 and Defendants took 24.
  • 2003 had 52 verdicts with Plaintiffs taking 31 and Defendants 21.
  • 2004 dropped all the way down to 28 verdicts. Plaintiff took 16 verdicts, Defendants 11, and one no decision (One hang).
  • 2005 dropped further to 21 total civil jury verdicts. Plaintiffs took 11 and Defendants took 10 verdicts.
  • 2006 jumped up to 35 verdicts. Plaintiffs took 18 and Defendants 15 and two no decisions.
  • 2007 dropped back to 25 verdicts. Plaintiffs took 14 and Defendants took 8, with 3 no decisions.
  • And finally 2008 was a miniscule 18 civil jury verdicts number. Plaintiffs took only 3 verdicts and Defendants 15.

Matt Guichard

What does it all mean? I am not sure. But clearly the trend is downward.

Very happy to hear from our own Nick Casper and his first chair jury verdict. Cervantes v Sono, Alameda County Superior Court Case No. RG09484889 was tried before the Honorable Ronni MacLaren. Fulvio Picerno and Steven Toschi for the defense. The case involved a motor vehicle collision at the Richmond San Rafael Bridge. Liability was disputed. Prior to trial, Plaintiff made a policy limits demand of $50,000. Defendant’s carrier made no offer. Prior to the trial the parties stipulated that if Defendant was found negligent, the carrier would pay the policy limits. With that, no evidence of damages was introduced at trial. Sounds like an underinsured motorist issue. The jury indeed found Defendant 90 % at fault. I think we will be hearing more about this case.

Field Properties et al v The Gomes Partnership et al was tried before the Honorable Barry Baskin. Clifford Horner and Matt Urdan of Walnut Creek represented Plaintiffs. Ladd Bedford and Arman Javid of Larkspur represented Defendants. The case involved claims for breach of contract, fraud and concealment in the sale of a commercial building in Livermore.
The jury returned a verdict of $2.7 million for Plaintiffs. Punitive damages were awarded.

Tanner et al v Horizon West, Inc., et al, Case No. 06AS04261, was tried before the Honorable Roland L. Candee in Sacramento County Superior Court. Jay P. Renneisen represented of Walnut Creek represented Plaintiffs. Michael LeVangie, Eric Emanuels, and Kim Wells of Sacramento represented Defendants. The case involved allegations of wrongful death and elder abuse. Prior to trial Plaintiffs demanded $650,000. Defendants offered $30,000. The jury returned a verdict of $1,100,000 in compensatory damages, and $28,000,000 (Yes 28 million) in punitive damages.

Thelma Russ et al v Fremont Unified School District, Alameda County Superior Court Case No. HG 05239834, was tried before the Honorable John M. True. Matthew Oliveri of Walnut Creek represented Plaintiffs. James Marzan of Pleasant Hill represented Defendant. In 1977 the Fremont Unified School District established a Vandal Watch Program allowing the District to lease property to persons to place mobile homes for residential use on District property for the purpose of keeping a watchful eye on campus property and to perform periodic inspections. In 2005 Plaintiffs sued the District alleging they were employees of the District and entitled to back pay and overtime pay. After some interesting legal rulings and a Court of Appeal bit of involvement, a jury found for the District in a unanimous verdict.

Ho v Truong, Santa Clara County Superior Court Case No. 109CV135753 was tried before the Honorable Peter Kirwan. Plaintiff was represented by Susana Hamilton and Lisa trepel of San Jose. Defendant was represented by James Slone of Walnut Creek. The case involved claims of personal injury arising out of a motor vehicle accident. Prior to trial the case went to arbitration. The arbitrator awarded $7,888 to Plaintiff. Defendant rejected that award. Defendant then made a CCP 998 offer of $3001. Plaintiff demanded the arbitration award. The jury returned a verdict for defendant, finding Plaintiff failed to fulfill her burden to show Defendant was negligent.

People of the State of California v E. Greg Kent was not a criminal case. It was a civil case in San Joaquin County Superior Court. Case No. 39-2009-00215440 was tried before the Honorable Barbara Kronlund. Scott Jenny of Martinez represented E. Greg Kent. Pete McCloskey represented Beverly Kent, Greg’s wife. The Kents were the property owners in an eminent domain case in which Caltrans took a 32,000 square foot industrial building in Stockton for freeway project. The Caltrans appraiser valued the property at $2,290,000. The Kent’s appraiser valued the property at $3,500,000. After a three week jury trial the jury returned a verdict of $3,300,000. Our tax dollars hard at work.


— Matthew P. Guichard is a principal in Guichard, Teng & Portello, APC. Please send case information to: 1800 Sutter Street, Suite 730, Concord, CA 94520 or contact him at 925.459.8440 or mguichard@gtplawyers.com

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