Thursday, January 13, 2011

Jeffrey Hill and Gregory Gold: Largest slip and fall verdict ever

Published: December 28, 2010 in the Lawyer USA
Read full article here!

By the time Holly Averyt called solo attorney Jeffrey Hill, every other lawyer had
turned her case down.

Even Gerry Spence saw little merit in a slip-and-fall with no witnesses in icy Greeley,
Colo., known for its conservative bent, against Walmart, a defendant notorious for
digging in and refusing to settle.

But something in Averyt’ s voice, despite its hard edge, told Hill, who practices in
Colorado Springs, that she deserved to be represented and he was the one to do it.

“ I’ ve spent a lot of time representing people who for whatever reason are society’ s
outcasts, and over 15 years of doing that I have learned to distinguish between people
who see themselves as perpetual victims and people who are legitimately aggrieved,”
said Hill.

He then enlisted the help of Gregory Gold, a friend with whom he had successfully
tried a case in 2005 against a 911 operator who didn’ t respond to a call from a woman
who ended up being murdered by her boyfriend.

This time, the two small-firm lawyers turned a case that no one else wanted into a $15
million jury award, the largest slip and fall verdict in history.

From the beginning, Averyt, an obese trucker who worked as an independent
contractor, claimed she slipped on white kitchen grease that flooded a Walmart
parking lot while she helped unload frozen foods.

But her story didn’ t come together until the second day of trial, when documented
evidence of the spill and a Walmart-financed cleanup surfaced for the first time.

Both lawyers said that the jury responded to Walmart’ s deception in denying the
grease spill or that Averyt ever fell.

The attorneys, both 41, started practicing around the same time and met at Gerry
Spence’ s Trial Lawyers College, where Hill became a staff member in 2002.

Hill went to law school when he realized his original plan of becoming a veterinarian
required math and science skills he lacked (despite being the son of a nuclear
scientist). He decided to be a trial lawyer after becoming glued to a Gerry Spence book
one day in a bookstore.

Despite some dark days when he’ s though of throwing in the towel, like after he
lost a case as a public defender and his client got a life sentence, Hill keeps trying
cases because he knows if he didn’ t represent some of his clients, especially in the
conservative community where he practices, most likely no one else will.

Gold, who grew up in a legal family with a father who still practices law, says the win
was more satisfying as a team.

“ It was a fantastic feeling to work with a friend and colleague. Rather than working
quietly alone, we’ d be in the foxhole together at 11 pm wondering what they were
going to throw at us in the morning,” said Gold.

Occasionally, their personality differences surfaced.

During some of those late-night sessions, Gold drew energy and inspiration from
watching Vince Lombardi’ s half-time rallying calls on YouTube, like the one that
opens the movie “ Any Given Sunday” : “ I firmly believe that any man’ s finest hour -
his greatest fulfillment to all he holds dear … is that moment when he has worked his
heart out in a good cause and lies exhausted on the field of battle - victorious.”

The more sober-minded Hill watched the clip and said: “ That’ s nice. Let’ s get back to

- Sylvia Hsieh

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Cindy's Case

Written by Nelson Tyrone, Staff Member and 2000 TLC Grad

Scroll to the bottom to read an article published on this case in the Daily Report.

Thanks to everyone for the kind words and thanks to all the warriors who helped with this case. First of all, to my co-counsel, Mary Alice: Cindy and I couldn’t have done it without you. For anyone who doesn’t know, Mary Alice is a formidable lawyer. When she was done with the Defense’s RSD expert, I actually felt sort of sorry for him. (He just looked so small and confused.) If you’ve got an RSD case, you would be a real fool not to ask Mary Alice to join your team.

We did a lot of TLC work on this case. Katlin flew to Atlanta to spend a day working with Cindy and her husband. Mary Alice and I were joined by Josh Schiffer, Adrienne Hobbs & Chuck Pekor and Lloyd Bell helped us. Josh and Adrienne and Lloyd read depos during the trial. Alan Cleveland offered and was en-route until our witness order changed. Vicki Slater flew to Atlanta and helped me with (one of many) focus groups. Nick Rowley and I traded emails about how to express the horror of RSD. Jude kept my spirits up when I was going broke funding the litigation. Katlin flew back to Atlanta to help us pick a jury. Countless others pitched in with their ideas and support. Thanks to you all. We couldn’t have done it without you.

The litigation lasted nearly 3 years. There were 188 pleadings filed. 5 motions to compel (by me). 4 motions for sanctions (all denied). 34 depositions. 5 focus groups.

We had a fantastic case heading to trial and were left with just a “good” one by the time the Judge was through with us. Put another way, the judge gutted our case in the week before trial – he sanitized all the outrage. Before trial, we had sworn testimony from QT’s claims supervisor that, in response to burning Cindy, QT researched the customer complaints and learned they had burned 20 other people with the same machine under the same circumstances. QT “learned” this in the exact same month they filed their Answer denying responsibility. After Cindy they burned 10 more people. The Judge kept it ALL out and directed a verdict against my Attorney Fee claim. We were left without our strongest evidence of outrage and betrayal (what some would call a “plain” Negligence case).

We were also left with a horribly damaged client. The Defense pointed, over and over, to Cindy’s Rheumatoid Arthritis and to how her condition had been so bad she had been in a wheelchair two years before they burned her. Cindy’s doctors were confused by her injury – they didn’t diagnose RSD for over a year. In the meantime they had sent her to hand surgery (yes, an intervening trauma sufficient to cause RSD on its own). The hand surgeon was scared he might have committed malpractice. To protect himself he testified that the surgery he performed had nothing to do with the burn, but was entirely related to her pre-existing condition of Rheumatoid. Mary Alice and I double-teamed him. She took him at deposition and I took him on at trial.

Even Cindy’s treating doctor, the Anesthesiologist who diagnosed her with RSD refused to agree that her condition was permanent – sometimes he thought it was, and sometimes he thought it wasn’t – and refused to agree with our expert on Cindy’s future medical needs.

Finally, we were in the toughest county in Georgia to get a verdict. Folks in Cobb County returned a verdict last year – the second highest to ours – for 1.2 Million in a wrongful death case for a 52 year old mother. Tough, tough, crowd.

With Cindy’s family and friends behind us, we kept pushing forward. The Defense offered $88k to settle before trial. They then asked for mediation. We told them to pound sand. We spend ½ a day on Voir Dire. Tried the case in 3 ½ days with testimony from 20 witnesses (7 of them doctors).

In closing, we talked about Cindy as our hero – imperfect, but courageous, stoic, and refusing to give in to the pain disorder that started with her hand and had taken her arm below the elbow by the time of trial. We talked about how, after knowing Cindy, we would never be able to complain again without thinking of her. We talked about how her courage had shown us what is possible.

In the end, the jury reached a verdict that was probably a compromise. I understand from speaking with some of them that some folks wanted to give Cindy nothing and some wanted a lot more. Had the judge not gutted us, I think we would have done even more for Cindy.

The jury returned a verdict at 5 p.m. on Friday. The punitive phase was scheduled to begin at 9 a.m. on Monday morning. Over the weekend, QT caved and settled the whole case in a confidential settlement. I can tell you they rolled all the way over.

The verdict will allow Cindy to get the best medical care money can buy. With Mary Alice’s involvement in directing Cindy to a specialist, Cindy will be on a plane in January to Denver to meet with the best RSD doc in the country. Keep Cindy and her family in your prayers. She still has a real fight on her hands.

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Krauth not guilty of murder, judges in Danbury rule

Case tried by Rosemarie Paine, TLC 2000

DANBURY -- After living under a cloud of suspicion for nearly two decades and facing the possibility of a long imprisonment, Donald Krauth walked out of state Superior Court in Danbury on Wednesday a free man.

Krauth, a 50-year-old construction worker who was extradited from his home in Minnesota last year, was facing up to 60 years in prison on a murder charge for the strangulation death of Charles Cromwell in the victim's Bethel home on March 29, 1992.

The defendant, who was released from custody less than an hour after a panel of three judges found him not guilty, asserted his innocence when approached in a Superior Court stairwell.

"All I have to say is I have damn good attorneys," he told a reporter. "I didn't do it."

Read more here!


Poetry by: Gary Wenkle Smith, TLC 2000


I have seen dark places
and people
who still dwell
in that world
with misery and suffering.
I have been there.
I shall not return.

There is still an absence of light
around some people.
Their greatest fear
is that they cannot
stand up—
and some times,
we must be in their pain.

The impotence
of not being able
to share the joy
can be crushing—
like the depths of the sea.
It can be so compelling,
and powerful.

It can be difficult.
But it is so simple.
Would that I could,
I would reach into him
and show him that
which he will not see.
But he must first open his eyes.


When the apostles returned
with the finale’
and the voice
of reason
rang out
over the protests
of the few,
the many
were heard.
As the guillotine dropped,
and his life
ebbed away—
gone forever—
there was
no grieving
at the loss.
And were she
to say
she was not true
none would mourn still.
He was the damned.

Telling Helen's Story

How the 2009 Advanced Seminar helped me tell Helen's story
By Greg Eiesland, TLC 2004

Last fall I had the opportunity to tell Helen's story to a South Dakota jury. Helen graduated from college in 1929. Her family thought education was important. So did Helen. She taught school for a number of years and remained particularly active with her alma mater, Dakota Wesleyan University (DWU). After reaching 100 years of age, she became unsteady on her feet and fell. Helen informed her family that she was going to a nursing home because she would need assistance to keep walking. "I don't want to be in a wheelchair."

That autumn a new library was being dedicated on the DWU campus to its most famous alumnus and Helen's former pupil, George McGovern. The dedication speakers in this small college town were President Bill Clinton and Senator Bob Dole. Helen was to be an honored guest and a plaque placed in the library as a tribute to Helen and her family.

On August 14th an overworked and undertrained CNA dropped Helen. She broke her hip and shoulder. Helen died a month later and six weeks before the library dedication.

Kaitlin Larimer helped me pick the jury. A crucial question to the jurors was “does it
make a difference how you die?” Is Helen entitled to live out her life in peaceful
serenity? Or, should she die a lingering death from the forces of bone breaking

One of her devoted sons, recreated a hospital room scene of Helen having to be
repositioned every two hours and the pain that it caused her. The case was tried in a
small South Dakota town against a “mom and pop” nursing home. The defense
emphasized the nature of their local business and urged that with Helen’s severe heart
condition, blindness and being 100 years old, that any award would have to reflect
those realities. The jury decided that “it did matter how you die,” and awarded

At the 2009 graduate seminar at the Ranch, Josh Karton and Jude Basile got me up in
front of the group and told me to make an opening statement on a case that was on my
mind. I chose Helen’s case. Then they said “no, I want you to sing your opening
statement.” So I sang Helen’s opening statement to the group. While I didn’t sing my
opening statement at Helen’s trial, the insights from that exercise helped me portray the
passion of Helen’s life and death.

Dubois makes True West's Top 10 for Second Year

Is anyone surprised?!

Moving up two places, Dubois (home to the Thunderhead Ranch) earned the No. 2 spot on annual list.
By: Christine Smith
Editor, Dubois Frontier

Dubois took two steps up on the ladder of True West Magazine's 2011 Top 10 Western Towns, coming in at the No. 2 spot. The announcement made on Dec. 10 puts Dubois second only to Pendleton, Oregon.

After debuting on the list at No. 4 in its first attempt last year, capturing the No. 2 position is a real honor for the town. ..

The article states, "...the town regularly preserves its local heritage at annual events, ranging from the Swedish Smorgasbord to celebrate the Scandinavian heritage of loggers to Pack Horse Races to the Circle Up Chuckwagon Dinner Show. It's obvious that locals put a lot of sweat into preserving their town."...

"This year the competition was very tight," said True West Editor Bob Boze Bell. "But these towns really stand out. If you're into the history and the heritage of the West, you need to go visit each and every one of these towns."

Congratulations from TLC to Dubois, WY!