Defense Wins - Fall 2019
Tuesday, October 1, 2019
Section: Fall 2019

Coreen Wilson, Wieck Wilson, PLLC, has been rather busy this year! 

Trial 1 – Plaintiff asked for $1 million – got $65,000
Type of case: Motor vehicle accident 

Brief facts: Three car rear-end accident.  Plaintiff experienced neck and arm symptoms following the collision, which resolved within 6 weeks.  Three months after resolution, she experienced a recurrence of neck and arm symptoms and had a two-level cervical fusion.  Plaintiff’s treating neurosurgeon, Dr. Jayshree Srinivasan, opined that she was unable to determine whether the surgery was proximately caused by the accident.  Plaintiff’s testifying expert, Dr. Richard Wohns, attributed the surgery to the accident.  Defendant’s testifying expert, Dr. James Blue, did not. 

Carrier: Allstate 
Judge: Rosen 
Plaintiff’s attorney: Anthony Marsh 
How long: 4 days 
Offer: $4,000.00 

Demand and verdict: Prior to trial, Plaintiff demanded the $100,000.00 policy limits from each defendant.  One defendant paid limits; the other did not.  Plaintiff asked the jury for $1 million.  Verdict:  $65,000, apportioned 50/50 to the two defendants (net verdict $32,500 each). 

Anything interesting: Following trial, the jurors said that the majority of them did not believe that the surgery was related to the collision.  Several of them wanted to award Plaintiff $0.  A few of them believed that the surgery was related.  The verdict was the result of taking a weighted average of the votes. 

Trial 2 – Plaintiff asked for $480,000 got $3,000. 

Type of case: Motor vehicle accident 

Brief facts: Minor impact accident involving a plaintiff who had been in a previous car accident.  The judge excluded the vehicle damage photos.  Defendants did not offer biomechanical testimony.  Defendant’s testifying expert was Rick LaMarche, DC.  Plaintiff made a significant wage loss claim. 

Carrier: Allstate 
Judge: Bradshaw 
Plaintiff’s attorney: Dave Mann 
How long: 3 days 
Offer: $30,000 

Demand and verdict: This case was subject to Mandatory Arbitration.  The arbitrator awarded Plaintiff $50,000.00.  Plaintiff filed an Offer of Compromise of $45,000.  At trial, she asked for over $480,000.00.  Verdict: $3,000.00 in special damages, $0 in general damages. 

And anything interesting: Plaintiff filed a motion for a new trial because the jury awarded $0 in general damages.  The court denied Plaintiff’s motion. 

Lori O’Tool, Preg, O'Donnell & Gillett, won summary judgment in a slip in fall 

On July 26, 2019, the Honorable Michael Scott granted summary judgment in favor of Preg, O'Donnell & Gillett's clients after hearing oral argument from POG member Lori O'Tool. The plaintiff allegedly slipped and fell while shopping at a Washington retail property owned and managed by POG’s clients. The plaintiff further claimed that she slipped and fell on water entering the premises through a leak in the roof, which was arguably under the defendants’ control. The Judge found plaintiff failed to present evidence, even after written discovery and depositions had been completed, that POG’s clients had actual or constructive knowledge of the alleged roof leak at any time prior to the incident. 

Accordingly, Ms. O’Tool and her associate, Lauren Titchbourne, moved for summary judgment on the grounds that the plaintiff failed to establish notice—a prerequisite to establishing a landowner’s duty for transitory hazards.  The plaintiff opposed the motion by arguing that the fact of the leak’s existence satisfied her obligation to demonstrate that POG’s clients were on notice of the alleged hazard. Judge Scott agreed with Ms. O’Tool’s position and analysis that plaintiff’s position was not the law in Washington, and ruled from the bench that POG's clients should be dismissed from the premises liability lawsuit. 
Plaintiff asked for $1 million – received nothing

Betsy Smith with Nationwide received a defense verdict. 
After 3 continuances, trial commenced on a trip and fall where plaintiff had $176,000 in medical specials after suffering bilateral fractured elbows and a fractured knee. Plaintiff was represented by J. Michael Koch and Grant Smith.  Plaintiff was unemployed at the time and did not make a wage claim. Plaintiff tripped on a walk-off mat and the store’s video surveillance provided rear and side views of the event. 37 people crossed the mat in the 20 minutes of video, including plaintiff, without incident. Plaintiff actually walked into the store, out to go to the ATM and back into the store before the trip event. Each time she crossed the mat. The walk-off mat was removed from the scene at the time of the incident and was picked up by the mat service sometime later. Thus, the mat was unavailable for inspection.
During the course of the litigation plaintiff’s attorney changed medical and liability experts due to “unavailability” for one reason or another. Each motion was opposed and yet, granted. Plaintiff did not depose defendant nor any of defendant’s employees. Plaintiff unsuccessfully sought sanctions and/or jury instruction on spoliation. Plaintiff’s expert JoEllen Gill testified that she does not usually have mats or videos in these cases and in this case she had the video. She specifically testified that she did not need the mat to form her opinions and felt entirely comfortable defending her opinions without the mat. Nevertheless, plaintiff’s counsel argued for spoliation to the end. Defense expert Susan Evans testified about the store’s safety program and the safety measures in place on the day of the incident. The jury found the defendant’s testimony and the testimony of the cashier the most compelling. The plaintiff asked the jury for $1,035,000.