Defense Successes!
Sunday, February 18, 2018

Section: Winter 2018

On November 17, 2017, Dennis Woods obtained a defense verdict on behalf of his client, The Home Depot.  The case was tried in the Western District of Washington, Tacoma Division. The Honorable Benjamin Settle presided.   The case involved a Plaintiff customer shopping in the Garden Center at a local Home Depot store.  Plaintiff tripped and fell on an endcap containing palletized merchandise (potting soil).  As a result, Plaintiff fell forward and struck her head on a concrete retaining wall.  Plaintiff alleged the palletized merchandise was hidden, she was distracted by store signage, and that the height of palletized merchandise fell below the standard of care.  Plaintiff alleged the following injuries: loss of taste and smell; displaced left nasal bone fracture; concussion; deviated septum resulting in surgery; anterior cervical fusion; L4-L5 posterior fusion; and right eyelid/tendon surgery.  Medical expenses totaled approximately $300,000 and lost wages were claimed in the amount of $100,000.  Home Depot denied negligence and the nature and extent of plaintiff’s alleged injuries. 

Plaintiff initially demanded $5,000,000 in total damages and rejected the Defendant’s offer of settlement; therefore, the case proceeded to trial. Plaintiff asked the jury to return a verdict of approximately $2,600,000.  After a week-long jury trial, the jury returned a unanimous verdict in favor of the defense.  The jury’s verdict will not be appealed in exchange for Defendant’s waiver of costs. 
Parker Davidson of Bullivant Houser Bailey PC recently secured summary judgment dismissal of a seven-figure product liability claim in federal court. His industrial construction client specified and oversaw the construction of a new cement production line at Ash Grove’s Seattle cement plant between 1989 and 1993. Part of the design documents called for the construction of a series of screw conveyors to move material throughout the plant.

On the date of the incident, Plaintiff was attempting to retrieve a dust sample from a port between the outlet end and inlet end of two operating screw conveyors. Plaintiff mistakenly opened the wrong port and inserted his hand into a turning screw, severing multiple fingers.

Plaintiff alleged that the contractor defectively designed and manufactured the subject port. After extensive discovery, Plaintiff was unable to locate design specifications for the port in the 1989-93 project documents. Curiously, no design documents for the port could be found for any period at all. Nonetheless, Plaintiff attempted to infer the contractor’s involvement and responsibility for the port based on speculative testimony and unrelated project documents. Judge Coughenour agreed with the Defendant that Plaintiff had failed to meet his burden to produce sufficient evidence to survive summary judgment and dismissed all claims with prejudice.
Steven R. Stocker and John M. Randolph, of Bohrnsen Stocker Smith Luciani & Adamson successfully defended an action for medical negligence and failure to obtain informed consent against an Eastern Washington chiropractor in Grant County. The 84-year-old Plaintiff alleged that the doctor fractured her C-1 arch (Atlas Vertebra) with a high-velocity low amplitude distraction manipulation to the Cervical/Thoracic junction. Plaintiff’s only demand was for policy limits and no counteroffer was made by the Defense. Plaintiff’s counsel attempted to try the case utilizing the Reptile Method highlighting violations of various WAC’s, alleged safety rules, and acts of misconduct in an attempt to convince the jury that the applicable standard of medical care always requires the practitioner to use the treatment modality that poses the least risk of substantial harm to the patient and the public. The Defense was successful through motions in limine preventing Plaintiff’s counsel from arguing for deterrence damages to protect the community safety and arguing that a damage sum be awarded for each alleged safety violation or act of misconduct. The Defense was also successful in overcoming a challenge to disqualify Dr. Allen Tencer from testifying on the biomechanical cause of the Plaintiff’s alleged fracture. Medical causation of the C-1 arch fracture by means of the HVLA manipulation performed upon the Plaintiff was the central issue of the trial. The jury rendered a defense verdict finding no negligent conduct on the doctor’s part or that he failed to obtain the patient’s informed consent to perform the manipulation. Special thanks to fellow WDTL member Karen Griffith who shared a well-written brief on the Reptile Method.