San Diego— Jurors Friday awarded a California nurse more than $1.4 million for the severe shoulder injury she suffered in a 2015 fall at a Ralphs grocery store. Bartholomew v. Ralphs Grocery Co., 2017-00033015.
The award, following a four-day trial limited to damages, includes more than $270,000 in Vicki Bartholomew’s medical expenses and $1.1 million in pain and suffering.
Bartholomew, then 63, was shopping at a Ralphs grocery store in Oceanside, California in September 2015 when she slipped on a wet floor and fell, injuring her shoulder. She underwent a shoulder replacement, but the shoulder became infected, which will now require removal of the hardware, treatment of the infection, and a new replacement.
Bartholomew’s attorney, Fox Law APC’s Dave Fox, requested about $2.37 million during closing arguments last Thursday, while Gibbs & Fuerst LLP’s Russell Fuerst, representing Ralphs, suggested a $547,415 total award was appropriate.
With Kroger subsidiary Ralphs admitting negligence in the case, the four-day trial turned largely on how the injury affected Bartholomew and how high her medical bills would run, with life care planners from both sides providing vastly different estimates.
During Friday’s closings, Fox walked jurors through testimony from Elizabeth Feerick, plaintiff’s life care planning expert, who concluded Bartholomew would need about $283,000 for future medical expenses.
By contrast, Fox said the roughly $69,000 figure offered by defense expert Sarah Jesko was woefully underfunded. Fox noted the $11,000 charge for a biopsy on Bartholomew’s shoulder performed shortly before trial was more than double what Jesko estimated in her life care plan. “That’s an example of the real-life consequence of short-changing Vicki Bartholomew with what she needs,” he said.
But Fuerst took issue with the example, criticizing the $11,000 award as “high” for a procedure he said evidence showed took about 30 minutes.
He contended Jesko’s estimate for future medical expenses was more accurate because it pulled from a variety of sources, including a database of hospitals and their accepted charges. “I believe the analysis that Mary Jesko gave you was sound. I believe it used more data and more resources,” Fuerst said.”It’s understood that hospital bills are often very very high, and they’re paid for different amounts.”
Fuerst acknowledged that Bartholomew’s activities, ranging from her work as a nurse to time spent with her family, had been impacted by her shoulder injury and the multiple surgeries needed to treat it. However, he contended that the injury did not undermine the core of the close relationship she had with her family, and suggested she would ultimately recover following the second shoulder replacement. “Ms. Bartholomew will get better when the surgery is over.” Fuerst, said “There’s a light at the end of the tunnel.”
Fox countered by detailing the impact the shoulder injury had on Bartholomew’s daily life and the toll it would continue to take as she moved forward with treatment for her infection and another shoulder replacement. “This woman is going to have chronic, unrelenting pain, day-to-day,“ Fox said.
The jury’s verdict was unanimous on every line item except future medical expenses, with jurors voting 9-2 to award $250,000 for that portion of the claim.
After the verdict, Fox told CVN he believed detailed evidence of Bartholomew’s pain and how it affected her resonated with the jurors. “It went beyond just a simple shoulder case to more of a chronic pain with a lack of sleep and associated fatigue-type case, which I think a lot of the older jurors we spoke to really empathized with,” Fox said.
While he did not disclose exact figures, Fox told CVN the jury’s award significantly beat the defense’s settlement offer. “I think it’s just another example for plaintiff’s attorneys that it pays, for our clients, to try a case when it’s being undervalued,” Fox said.
CVN has reached out to the defense team and will update this article with any comment.
Email Arlin Crisco at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Vicki Bartholomew is represented by Fox Law APC’s Dave Fox.
Ralphs Grocery is represented by Gibbs & Fuerst’s LLP’s Russell Fuerst.
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