$1.19M Awarded To Elderly Woman Thrown From Defective Wheelchair Lift

Posted by David Siegel on Feb 15, 2019 12:09:50 PM

Rubin closings

CVN screenshot of plaintiff attorney John Denove delivering his closing argument. Click here to see video from the trial.

Santa Monica, CA - A California state court judge has awarded $1.19 million to an elderly woman who suffered serious injuries after being thrown from a motorized wheelchair lift, finding the lift was defective and negligently installed.

Los Angeles County Superior Court Judge Gerald Rosenberg, in a decision released February 4, found defendant Greg Joneson, whose company Love Handles installed the lift in plaintiff Laura Rubin’s home, 67 percent responsible for her injuries and Dockmasters, another wheelchair lift installation company that assisted Joneson, 33 percent responsible. 

The award is offset by by $342,350 in settlements with other defendants in the case, lowering the actual damages Rubin will collect to $612,672, plus costs to be determined. Her attorneys had sought nearly $14.5 million.

Judge Rosenberg released his decision following an 11-day bench trial in October and November of last year. The parties pursued a bench trial after failing to reach an agreement on jury fees.

The full trial was webcast gavel-to-gavel by Courtroom View Network, and is available to subscribers as part of CVN's online video archive. 

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Rubin, who was 68 at the time of the accident in 2014, had a Harmar Sierra IL500 wheelchair lift installed in her home while she recovered from spinal surgery. The bolts holding the lift in place failed, pitching Rubin forward and sending her motorized wheelchair falling on top of her. She claimed the injuries she suffered required major spinal surgeries, lengthy rehab stays, and that she developed painful conditions like bedsores due to diminished mobility.

Rubin accused Joneson of not installing the lift properly, and of lacking the required license and permit to perform wheelchair lift installations. She originally named both Dockmasters and the lift’s manufacturer, Harmar Access LLC as defendants, but only Joneson and Love Handles remained in the case when the trial began.

During the trial Joneson’s attorneys argued his one-man company mostly installed safety bars, and that he sought assistance for this more complicated job from Dockmasters, which did have the necessary license to install wheelchair lifts and marketed themselves as specializing in the devices. He claimed that following the installation, Dockmasters personnel failed to arrange a required outside safety inspection, and instead gave Rubin instructions for how to use the lift.

However Judge Rosenberg determined that Joneson, as the seller and installer of the lift, should have himself obtained the appropriate city permit, and that he made a number of other errors installing the lift, including failing to properly tighten the bolts holding the lift upright.

Attorneys for the parties did not respond to requests for comment.

Rubin was represented by John Rowell, John Denove and Shane Hapuarachy of Cheong Denove Rowell Bennett & Hapuarchy.

Joneson was represented by John Walker II and Jason Kirkpatrick of Waker & Kirkpatrick.

The case is captioned Laura Rubin v. Level World Inc., et al, case number BC570895, in Los Angeles County Superior Court - Santa Monica Division.

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Topics: California