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Verdicts & Settlements

Latest notable California verdicts and settlements

Wheelchair-bound rider who fell off bus gets $6.4M verdict

A jury awarded $6.4 million to a quadriplegic who sustained brain injuries when his wheelchair rolled off a bus. In 2008, Thomas Avery was picked up by MV Public Transportation, which is part of the city of Roseville's dial-a-ride service. As his wheelchair was being lifted onto the bus, Avery inadvertently put it in reverse. The roll barrier failed and he tumbled to the asphalt below, suffering brain and shoulder injuries. He blamed the bus driver, alleging he failed to inspect the roll barrier and disconnected the safety restraint belt, which would have prevented the wheelchair from moving. Avery also claimed the city of Roseville failed to maintain the roll barrier. The defendants denied the allegations, and MV Public Transportation blamed the manufacturer of the lift system. The jury found the bus company 83 percent and the city 17 percent liable; the maker of the lift system was exonerated. Avery v. MV Public Transportation Inc., Placer County

Family gets $3M settlement for fatal RV fire

The family of a woman who died in an RV fire received a $3 million settlement. In 2009, Daniel and Patsy Alfaro were living at Wooden Shoe RV Park when a fire broke out in their RV. Daniel Alfaro escaped with severe burns, but his wife succumbed to the blaze. The Alfaro family, including the couple's three adult children, blamed the owner of the park, Wood Shoe Visalia LLC, and electrical contractors Dan Freitas Electric Inc. and Morris Levin & Son. They alleged that the fire was caused by defects in the park's electrical system and that Dan Freitas failed to adequately repair the Alfaros' electrical pedestal in 2005. Dan Freitas argued that fire was caused by a cigarette, but it ultimately paid a $2 million settlement. The RV park paid $1 million, while the family settled with Morris Levin for a waiver of costs. Alfaro v. Wooden Shoe Visalia LLC, Tulare County

Port district pays $2.5M to family of slain dancer

The parents of a dancer shot and killed by police received a $2.5 million settlement from the San Diego Unified Port District. In 2008, Steven Paul Hirschfeld was working as a dancer on a party cruise when he went overboard. District police officers Clyde Williams and Wayne Schmidt responded to the call, but Hirschfeld initially refused their help. He eventually pulled himself onto the boat, at which time the officers claim he became confrontational and attacked Schmidt. The officer said he felt Hirschfeld's hands on his gun holster and yelled at Williams to shoot him. Williams then fatally shot Hirschfeld in the back. Hirschfeld's parents disputed the officers' account of the incident and argued that they could have subdued him without the use of deadly force. No charges were filed against the officers. Hirschfeld v. San Diego Unified Port District, Federal Court (San Diego County)

Jury award exceeds $12M in malpractice case involving comatose woman

A jury awarded $12,017,970 to plaintiffs who claimed that a transfer delay caused a woman's slip into a coma. On Sept. 4, 2007, Jessica Ramirez, then 22, was shot in the head with an air pellet gun and taken to Greater El Monte Community Hospital. She was transferred by air ambulance to Huntington Memorial Hospital just after midnight on Sept. 5. She underwent surgery, but a bleeding cortical blood vessel and severe brain swelling had allegedly caused a mid-brain herniation. For the rest of her life, Ramirez will be in a vegetative state, requiring a G-tube for feeding. The plaintiffs claimed that hospital staffers failed to assess the urgency of Ramirez's condition. The hospital asserted that the pellet caused permanent brain damage and serious injury was unavoidable. (A present cash value hearing on MICRA and other issues is scheduled for April 12.) Ramirez v. Abudu, Los Angeles County

Man who claimed migraines from slip on restaurant floor receives $1.5M

A computer technician who claimed severe migraines after slipping during a service call recovered. $1.5 million. In October 2007, Frank Falcon, 26, slipped on a wet floor in the kitchen of the Buckhorn Bar & Grill Restaurant in Walnut Creek and fell backwards, landing on his head and upper back. Falcon, who claimed that his headaches were so painful that he couldn't return to work, alleged that the restaurant manager was aware that the floor contained grease, water and dishwashing liquid, but failed to warn of the potential danger. The defense aruged that the slippery condition was open and obvious, and that Falcon was inattentive. The defense also asserted that Falcon had recovered and could return to work. Falcon v. Buckhorn Grill, Contra Costa County

Children of man who was fatally crushed by tractor recover $100,000

The four surviving children of a man who died while operating a tractor recovered $100,000. On May 20, 2006, Jesus Samaguey, 55, was crushed to death while operating a tractor owned by United Rentals Inc./United Rentals Northwest Inc. Claims included negligent manufacture, design, fabrication, labeling, testing, merchandising, inspection, advertising, promotion, rental and/or sale of the tractor. Plaintiffs' counsel also asserted that the vehicle was unsafe in terms of protection for the driver and that United Rentals knew of the tractor's inherent defects. The lawyers further alleged that United Rentals failed to warn of the tractor's risks when operated on an incline. The defense contended that Samaguey negligently operated the tractor. Sanchez v. United Rentals Inc., Federal Court


Driver paralyzed in crash recovers $31.4M
  A man who became a quadriplegic as a result of a rear-ender recovered $31.4 million. In 2008, Manos Milien, then 60, was struck by Wendy Whitney. He suffered a cervical flexion injury, resulting in a dislocated disc at C4-5. He's paralyzed from the neck down. Milien claimed that he needs to remain at a private facility that specializes in spinal injuries and a less expensive facility would cause a lowered life expectancy. Defense counsel argued that if Milien had been wearing a seat belt, the plaintiff's injuries would have been prevented. The jury found Whitney 95 percent liable and Milien 5 percent liable, which reduced the $33.1 million award. Milien v. Whitney (Florida)

Range tipped over, spilling hot soup on toddler, $97,500 settlement
  A 2-year-old girl who was burned by boiling soup when the range in her apartment tipped over will receive $97,500 - a settlement reached with the property owner. Maira Rayas' mother was cooking soup on the electric range in her unit at defendant Silk Oak Apartments in Fresno. Maira slipped away from her mother, went into the kitchen, opened the oven door and climbed onto it, causing the range to tip. Plaintiff claimed that a month before the accident, Silk Oak had been contacted about the range being loose, but did nothing. Silk Oak contended that the mother failed to properly supervise her daughter. Rayas v. Silk Oak Apartments (Fresno County)

San Diego Jury Awards $369 Million In Explorer Rollover Case

A San Diego, California jury has ordered Ford Motor Co. to pay $369 million to a woman paralyzed in a rollover accident involving a Ford Explorer, the nation's best-selling sport-utility vehicle. On June 3, 2004, the jury ordered the No. 2 automaker to pay $246 million in punitive damages, after awarding more than $122.6 million in compensatory damages. Buell-Wilson v. Ford Motor Co. (San Diego County)

Texas Jury Awards $1 Billion to Family of Fen-phen Victim
  On April 27, 2004, a Texas jury awarded $1 billion to the family of a woman who died after using one of the drugs in the fen-phen diet drug regimen, according to Wyeth, the maker of the drug. The jury granted $113 million in actual damages and $900 million in punitive damages. Coffey v. Wyeth (Jefferson County, Texas)


Circle K supervisor stole employee's winning lottery ticket

A woman whose supervisor stole her winning Super Lotto ticket was awarded just under $8 million by a Pomona jury on Sept. 30, 2003. Arwa Farraj, 24, a new employee at the Circle K in La Verne, purchased a Super Lotto ticket from the supermarket on Dec. 25, 1999. When she found out that the winning $8 million ticket had been purchased at this store, she placed her ticket into the lotto machine. Since she was unfamiliar with how the machine worked, she asked her supervisor, Gurinder Ruby, for assistance. Ruby told Farraj that she had won $88. Farraj later learned that Ruby had taken and cashed in her ticket approximately one month after he assisted her with the machine. Farraj sued Ruby and Circle K Stores Inc., alleging conversion. Circle K argued that the supervisor was acting outside the scope of his employment, but the jury found the defendants jointly and severally liable. Farraj v. Circle K (Los Angeles County)


NYC on hook for $17.5M for diabetic prisoner's seizure

A jury awarded $17.5 million to a man who suffered a diabetic seizure while in police custody following an arrest. The suit's plaintiff, Jose Vargas, a type-1 diabetic, was arrested in September 2006, after being suspected of facilitating the sale of illegal drugs. Vargas claimed that, during some 58 hours in custody, police personnel denied his repeated requests for insulin. Vargas eventually suffered a seizure that caused brain damage, and, as a result, he remains confined to a wheelchair and suffers impairment of his cognitive functions. The defense contended that Vargas indicated that his diabetes was controlled via diet, not insulin, but the jury found that Vargas should have been provided insulin. Vargas v. City of New York (New York)

Power-washed sign short-circuited, causing fire that damaged businesses

A property manager was hit with a $883,962 verdict for fire loss suffered by three businesses. Safco Capital Corp., which managed the Pedley Square complex, used a power washer to clean a sign owned by a hair salon. Two days later, a short circuit in the sign caused a fire which caused damage to the salon and then swept through the complex, destroying a florist and a laundromat. The tenants contended that Safco had been warned that power-washing the sign could short-circuit it. The Riverside County jury found Safco liable. Reno v. Safco Capital Corp. (Riverside County)

$2 mil verdict for lying about AIDS
  Cook County jury has ordered a North Shore mom to pay $2 million because she falsely assured her son's fiancee that her son did not have AIDS. This appears to be the first time a jury has held parents responsible for not disclosing their child's AIDS to the child's sex partner.

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