Elderly Woman Thrown From Motorized Wheelchair Lift Seeks $14.5M In California Trial

Posted by David Siegel on Oct 26, 2018 2:08:08 PM

Rubin openings

CVN screenshot of plaintiff attorney John Denove delivering his opening statement

Santa Monica, CA - An attorney for a woman who claimed to suffer serious injuries due to a fall from a supposedly negligently installed  and defective motorized wheelchair lift asked a California state court judge on Thursday to award her $14.5 million.

Plaintiff Laura Rubin had a wheelchair lift installed in her home while she recovered from spinal surgery, but in January 2014 the lift failed, pitching Rubin forward and sending her motorized wheelchair falling on top of her. Rubin, who was 68 at the time of the accident, accuses defendant Greg Joneson and his company Love Handles of not installing the lift properly, and of lacking the required license and permit to perform wheelchair lift installations.

Joneson’s attorney blamed the botched installation on a company specializing in wheelchair lifts that he contacted for assistance with the job, and argued that the pain Rubin claims she suffers from the accident is actually caused by myriad pre-existing medical conditions.

The trial is taking place without a jury before Los Angeles County Superior Court Judge Gerald Rosenberg, after the parties failed to reach an agreement on the necessary jury fees. The full proceedings are being webcast and recorded gavel-to-gavel by Courtroom View Network.

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Rubin’s attorney, John Denove of Cheong Denove Rowell Bennett & Hapuarachy, described in his opening statement how she had a Harmar Sierra IL500 lift installed in her condominium after a lengthy convalescence in a rehab facility following spinal fusion surgery. Denove claimed she could walk for hundreds of feet with a rolling walker upon discharge and was making steady progress.

Her fall from the lift dealt her a huge setback, Denove argued, detailing how she required two additional major spinal surgeries, endured more lengthy rehab stays, and developed painful conditions like bedsores stemming from her increasingly diminished mobility.

“If you compare what she had there, it was nirvana compared to where she is now,” he said.

Denove claimed the wheelchair lift separated from the wall due to Joneson’s and Dockmasters supposedly shoddy workmanship, in addition to arguing the guardrails on the lift were defectively designed and couldn’t safely support the weight of Rubin’s motorized wheelchair.

“That happened because it was very poor work,” Denove said.

Rubin’s lawsuit 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.

Joneson’s attorney, William Kronenberg of Kronenberg Law, agreed that the Harmar lift was defective while also attempting to place the blame squarely on Dockmasters for the faulty installation.

Kronenberg said Joneson’s 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.

“They communicated to her: perfectly safe to use, which she did,” Kronenberg said.

Regardless of the blame for the accident, Kronenberg said all of the injuries Rubin alleges she suffered were the result of a lifetime of complex medical problems including neck surgeries, knee replacements, Hepatitis-C, and seeking an early discharge against medical advice from her rehab facility before the accident.

“Her body has been compromised by 50 years of recurring problems,” he said.

The trial before Judge Rosenberg is expected to last 10 days, with both sides planning to call numerous expert witnesses to testify about the installation of the lift and Rubin’s alleged injuries.

CVN subscribers can access a gavel-to-gavel webcast and recording of the proceedings, along with numerous other personal injury and product liability trials involving top attorneys from throughout California and the rest of the country.

The case is captioned Laura Rubin v. Level World Inc., dba Dockmasters, et al., case number BC570895 in Los Angeles County Superior Court.

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Topics: California