Explaining the full impact of a traumatic brain injury can be difficult when the effects of that injury aren’t immediately obvious from the jury box. But in a recent trial over the skull fracture a Georgia teenager suffered in a “bubble soccer” game, Brad Thomas’s closing vividly detailed the teen’s lifelong loss, helping seal a seven-figure verdict.
Salvador Reyes was an 18-year-old high school student when he suffered a skull fracture in a “bubble soccer” game, where participants wear inflatable “bubble suits” as they play. Reyes says the collision has cost him his sense of smell, much of his sense of taste, and has affected his mood and decision-making, among other issues.
During closings of the 2019 trial against Game Truck Georgia LLC, the party rental company that oversaw the game, Reyes’s attorney, Fried Rogers Goldberg’s Brad Thomas, acknowledged that the accident didn’t keep Reyes from going about his daily life. But he said the injury cut to the heart of the quality of that life.
“There’s a difference between being functional and having a quality of life,” Thomas told jurors, quoting one of the experts at trial. “That’s what we all strive for is a good quality of life.”
Thomas said the loss of smell and taste were not readily visible, like the loss of vision or hearing would be. But he urged jurors not to minimize the impact of Reyes’s loss just because it wasn’t obvious. “The defense wants you to believe that’s not a serious injury, but when 40% of the senses that God gave you are taken away from you, I would consider that a serious injury.”
Those senses, Thomas argued, were they keys to our memories and to some of life’s daily joys. “The smell and the taste? Those are the windows to our memories,” Thomas said. “They’re the windows to our souls.”
Thomas recounted that his grandfather, who had lived with him and his family, died when Thomas was 8. “I’m 53. If I smell Prince Albert tobacco, it takes me back to my grandfather in Macon, Georgia” Thomas said. “At 22, [Reyes] might not realize the impact of it, but this is a verdict for the rest of his life. He’ll really know it when he gets older.”
Thomas argued the effective loss of Reyes’s taste had a similar effect on his connections to the world. “You think about it, when you want to be friends with somebody, you go eat with them,” Thomas said.
“There was a whole movie made about the sense of smell. That Ratatouille movie?” Thomas told jurors, talking about the 2007 Pixar film about the connection between food and joy. “The guy was just a hard guy, and the minute he smelled the dish that his mother made, his heart softened.”
Beyond those critical connections, Thomas said that the loss Reyes suffered presented the possibility of real danger. “What about when he has kids, and he can’t smell if there’s smoke in the house?” Thomas asked. “What about when he walks in the house and he happens to strike a match and there’s… a gas leak in the house?
“Those are things he’s going to worry about, especially when he starts having his own family.”
Thomas's powerful closing spotlighted the impact of Reyes's less obvious injuries in a way any juror could understand. The jury ultimately handed down a $5 million verdict and found Game Truck 93% responsible for the collision and the award.
Email Arlin Crisco at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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