California's courts, and the state's attorneys, have been among the nation's most active in returning to trial in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic. In the last few months alone, CVN's ongoing California coverage has featured a wide range of cases, from an auto-defect suit and major opioid litigation to a blockbuster motorcycle crash trial.
Check out some of the key moments from our recent California coverage.
$23.7M awarded to motorcyclist injured in collision with truck
A California state court judge awarded $23.7 million to a motorcyclist who had part of his leg amputated following a collision with a truck operated by heating and air conditioning company Hajoca Corporation. The February award capped the first in-person, personal injury trial in Los Angeles County since the pandemic-related shutdowns began in March 2020.
In closing arguments, Panish Shea & Boyle's Brian Panish, representing plaintiff Steve Rojas, argues the motorcyclist's non-economic damages are massive.
"The past is huge. That's why I'm saying $10 million, but now think about 35.6 years from now [for future damages]. I bet that's longer than you've been a judge."
Meanwhile, in closings, Segal McCambridge Singer & Mahoney's Paul Motz, representing defendant Hajoca Corp., argues the evidence shows Rojas can continue to work and live a productive life.
"If I could sum up [plaintiff's] case in one phrase, it would be 'Well, the plaintiff can't do anything. And forget about working.' And that's not what the evidence is."
Hotel Avoids Damages in Suit Over Child's Near-Drowning, Prompting Settlement
In May, a California state court jury found a Howard Johnson's hotel negligent at trial over the near-drowning of a child in the hotel hot tub, but found that negligence did not contribute to the child's injuries, and declined to award any damages. However, the parties had reached a confidential “high/low” agreement shortly before the verdict was reached, resulting in a settlement after the jury's decision was read into the record.
In openings, Zoe Littlepage, of Athea Trial Lawyers, details how Journey Hudson nearly drowned in the hotel hot tub. Hudson suffered brain damage in the incident, which Littlepage contends was caused by a lack of appropriate safety measures.
However, in arguing that Hudson's mother failed to properly supervise the child while she was in the hot tub, Lewis Brisbois Bisgaard & Smith's Dana Fox, representing the hotel owner, argues evidence will show Hudson was face-down in the water for between 2 and 4 minutes.
"I asked [plaintiff's medical expert]: if someone was to say Journey was under the water for 10-50 seconds, would you disagree? And his response to me was 'Absolutely.'"
$20M+ TBI Trial Underway Against Kia
As a California trial against Kia opened over the rollover crash that left an aspiring pop singer with a traumatic brain injury, Jonathan Michaels, of MLG Attorneys, told jurors Kia intentionally designed its passenger-side seat belt pretensioner not to fire in its 2015 Forte.
“In a laboratory environment, where all the conditions are controlled, the car performs to a five-star standard. In the real-world, where people actually drive? You’re going to see that it’s the second-most deadly car in its class.”
But Kia’s attorney, James Feeney, of Dykema Gossett PLLC, told jurors the seat belt system performed appropriately, and exactly as designed.
“(T)he belt locked…. You don’t need a pretensioner to lock a seatbelt. For years, seat belts have been made with no pretensioners.”
Virtual Bench Trial Opens Against Opioid Manufacturers
A virtual bench trial opened in mid-April against four major pharmaceutical companies over allegations that their marketing of prescription painkillers contributed to the ongoing opioid addiction crisis.
In openings of the ongoing trial, Motley Rice's Fidelma Fitzpatrick, representing Santa Clara, Los Angeles and Orange Counties, as well as the City of Oakland, contended manufacturers' drive the opioid crisis by aggressively marketing drugs they knew were highly addictive.
"This is about making money. And this is about aggressively promoting a drug in such a way that you can make more money."
But Morgan Lewis' Collie James, representing Teva and related companies, countered in openings that opioid marketing was neither false nor misleading, and that messaging included appropriate warnings about the drugs and their side effects.
"The People [of the State of California] make every effort to contort normal marketing practices and objectives into something nefarious in and of itself."
Nick Rowley Keys $9.5M Award in MA Wrongful Death Trial
Nick Rowley, of Trial Lawyers for Justice, and one of California's leading trial attorneys, spearheaded a $9.5 million total award in a Massachusetts, damages-only trial over a 52-year-old woman who was fatally struck by a truck while walking her dog. Jurors ultimately awarded $3 million to each of her two adult children. The award also included $1 million for Zoe Rosenthal's pain and suffering before her death and $2.5 million in pre-judgment interest.
In closings in which Rowley argued the value of Rosenthal's loss to her children, he told jurors what would happen if a hypothetical man offered to take Rosenthal away from her children for even one year in exchange for a million dollars.
"Tiffany would slam the door in that man's face! She'd slam the door in his face and say 'Get out of here!' But the thing is... he keeps knocking."
By contrast, James Manistas of Murphy & Manitsas LLP, described Rosenthal's two adult daughters as independent women who loved their mother but did not seek her advice when making major life decisions.
"As you get older and become an adult, you may rely on yourself more. And you may still let your parents know what is going on in your life, but how much do you rely upon them, versus yourself?"
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