Civil Jury Verdicts

gavelIndeed it has been some time since I penned the popular Civil Jury Verdicts column. Same old story: Very few attorneys are reporting their jury verdicts to me. I will say, trials are getting out in our Contra Costa Superior Courts, so I know there are cases to report. I also know local lawyers who are going to trial in other venues, including Federal Court. And, I am aware of significant settlements here in Contra Costa Superior Courts, as well as in other venues. I will mention all of those cases in our Civil Jury Verdicts column. You just have to report those cases to me. Sounds like a broken record doesn’t it?

Now let’s get down to some case reporting.

Moore vs. Wiebe, Case No. S-1500-CV-282514 LHB was tried in Kern County Superior Court, before the Honorable Lorna Brumfield. Plaintiff was represented by Solomon Green of RG Lawyers, LLP of Encino, California. Our own Bob Slattery along with Denise Billups-Stone of the McNamara firm represented the Defendant.

The Plaintiff, a 49-year-old medically-disabled welder, sued the Defendant, a neurosurgeon M.D., for complications he developed after a laminectomy, facetectomy and a tethered cord release. The surgery took place at Bakersfield Memorial Hospital.

Prior to the trial, the Plaintiff offered to settle for $250,000. Defendant offered to resolve the case by a CCP 998 offer of a dismissal in exchange for a waiver of costs. Doesn’t exactly sound like a meeting of the minds.

After a two week trial, the jury found for the Defendant doctor, in a unanimous verdict. The ouch part for Plaintiff in such med mal cases is there are generally significant expert costs and Plaintiff may very well be on the hook for those.

Thanks to Bob Slattery for reporting the case. He regularly reports cases to me, but looks like he has now transitioned into a mediator (See my next edition of Bar Soap), so I may not see any more Bob Slattery cases. Remember that “Mediation privilege? ” It means he cannot report the mediation cases to me.

An interesting note on medical malpractice cases: My research has reflected over the years medical malpractice cases have the lowest percentage of an outcome in favor of Plaintiffs of any type of personal injury matter.

In June of 2014 I wrote about Arnold vs. Padrah. Contra Costa Superior Court Case No. MSC12-02895.  The Honorable Steve Austin presided. Clyde Long just reported an appellate decision in that same matter.

Recall at the time of my report there was a verdict, but the bifurcated trial on the issue of punitive damages had not yet taken place, and Judge Austin had not yet ruled on the Plaintiff’s quiet title claim of prescriptive easement. Clyde promised to let me know the final result. It took 29 months from start of the trial to the appellate decision.

The jury subsequently awarded $20,000 of punitive damages on top of the $68,000 damages award. Judge Austin granted a prescriptive easement in favor of Plaintiff, and awarded costs of $112,000. The total judgment was $200,000. The judgment was appealed by Defendant. The Court of Appeal recently affirmed the judgment in its entirety.

Thanks Clyde for that follow up.

Scott Jenny is another local attorney who regularly reports cases to me. Great Oaks Water Company vs. Ramendra and Charu Bahunuga, Santa Clara County Superior Court Case No. 115CV276571, was tried before the Honorable Mark H. Pierce. Scott Jenny of Martinez represented property owners Bahuguna. Bradley Matteoni and Gerry Houlihan represented Great Oaks.

In this eminent domain action, Great Oaks was taking some 16,000 square feet of property from the property owners’ 10-acre home site. The property taken would be improved with a 90,000 gallon water tank. The trial involved the value of the property taken and severance damages.

The Great Oaks appraiser valued the property rights at $90,000. The property owners’ appraiser valued the property rights at $456,000. Dr. Bahuguna himself valued the property rights at $790,000. Great Oaks final settlement offer was $125,000. The Bahugunas’ final demand was $750,000. The jury returned a verdict of $353,000.

You just have to wonder who comes up with such disparate appraisals? An interesting aside is that the representative for Great Oaks advised the property owners it would not pay the verdict, but rather it would build the tank elsewhere. In an eminent domain action, that is called “Abandonment.” An abandonment requires the condemning agency to pay all attorney’s fees and costs.

Garcia vs.  Abeygoonesekera, an Alameda County Superior Court Case was tried before the Honorable Delbert Gee. Plaintiff was represented by Arkady Itkin of San Francisco. Defendant was represented by Maria Caruana of Walnut Creek.

Plaintiff claimed he slipped and fell as a result of water leaking onto the floor at an apartment complex owned by Defendant. Plaintiff alleged he suffered a broken ankle. Defendant claimed he was not on notice of any leaks, and in any case the water claimed by Plaintiff to have come from the laundry room, could not have happened as the laundry facilities were non-operational, the pipes had been capped and the washing machines had been removed months before. Plaintiff claimed past medicals of approximately $40,000.

By way of CCP 998, Defendant offered $15,000. No information on any pre-trial demand by Plaintiff.

In what can only be described as a bit of surprise, the Jury returned a gross verdict of $279,431.58. They awarded $39,431.58 in economics and $240,000 in non-economics. Once again, no telling what a jury might do.

Finally this is an interesting case out of El Dorado County involving a work assignment by the Sheriff for one of his deputies. You might have read about the case in the newspaper.  We had a similar issue in Contra Costa County some years ago involving a county agency and the discretion of a department head to make assignments.

At any rate, the El Dorado case was entitled Fitzgerald vs. County of El Dorado et al. It was tried in the United States District Court Eastern District of California. One of my law school classmates, the Honorable Morrison England, presided. Jill Telfer of Sacramento represented Plaintiff. C. Christine Maloney of Oakland represented El Dorado County. Carl Fessenden of Sacramento represented the Sheriff.

Plaintiff, a Deputy Sheriff worked as a detective for 17 years, when he was assigned by the Sheriff to patrol duties. Plaintiff claimed he was too old at 56 to work patrol and was forced to quit. The Sheriff who took office in 2011 contended he exercised his management rights to make assignments. It appeared there was little turnover in specialty assignments, and thus little opportunity for other deputies to enhance their skills.

Plaintiff claimed loss of past earnings of approximately $200,000 and loss of future earnings of approximately $650,000. Plaintiff also claimed depression and PTSD.

The jury in an 8-0 verdict found for the defense.

In speaking with many local police officers about the case, the consensus seems to be that allowing someone to stay in detectives for 17 years without a break is not a good management decision.

That’s all folks. Please get those verdicts and settlements coming my way.

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