Monday, December 26, 2011

Starbucks Pays Big!

TLC Class of 2011 Graduate John Gomez, just sued Starbucks & won! Fellow classmates recall John working on this case throughout their work at the Thunderhead Ranch. Read below for all the details on this case:

Cup of woe: $7.5 million award to man who fell at Starbucks
By Joseph M.D. Young,

A San Diego jury awarded a man and his wife nearly $7.5 million Friday in their civil suit against Starbucks after the man fell inside a North County business in 2008.

The case, which was filed in 2009, centered on Anthony Zaccaglin, who reportedly sustained a concussion after falling inside a Starbucks located on Melrose in Vista. Zaccaglin slipped and hit his head on a cash register as he was walking from the cashier to the pickup counter, according to Zaccaglin's attorneys, who added that witnesses at the scene said a manager had just mopped the area where Zaccaglin slipped and also said that that employee later apologized for not "dry mopping."

Zaccaglin alleged that he suffered complications stemming from the fall and was unable to return to work as a chiropractor.

Starbucks initially offered a $100,000 settlement to Zaccaglin; he declined to accept that proposal, however, said Zaccaglin's attorney John Gomez.

After two and a half weeks in court, a jury returned a verdict against Starbucks on Friday, awarding $6,456,230.50 to Zaccaglin. His wife was awarded $1 million for loss of consortium, or the loss of her husband’s love, companionship, comfort and care

The total amount could grow to as much as $8.5 million, including added costs, Gomez said.

Starbucks spokesman Jim Oslo said the company was disappointed with the size of verdict:
Providing a safe environment for our customers is always a top priority for us at Starbucks. We are sorry that Mr. Zaccaglin was injured at our Vista, Calif., store. However, we are disappointed with the size of the verdict as we made every effort to reach a mutually agreeable and reasonable settlement with Mr. Zaccaglin. We are reviewing the decision to determine what, if any, steps we may take in response.
"For a national chain, Starbuck's safety policies were shockingly inadequate and inconsistently applied," Gomez said. "The family hopes that today's verdict will cause Starbucks to take safety as seriously as it does sales."If Starbucks appeals, it could take up to two more years for the case to be settled, according to Gomez.

Gomez added that he and Zaccaglin were hoping to work it out with Starbucks to avoid an appeal.

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Largest Medical Malpractice Verdict in Wyoming History

TLC Graduate Tom Metier, obtained a $9 million verdict for plaintiffs Louis and Rebecca Prager against Campbell County Memorial Hospital and Brian Cullison, M.D. for medical negligence. Metier was acting as trial counsel for Casper attorneys Todd Ingram and Scott Olheiser of Ingram Olheiser, P.C. Ingram and Olheiser successfully litigated the case prior to trial. The verdict is believed to be the highest medical malpractice verdict on record in Wyoming. According to officials and news archives, the previous record was $1.5 million.

The verdict in favor of Louis and Rebecca Prager was rendered late last Thursday, October 27th, 2011, in Federal District Court in Cheyenne. The jury found that Cullison, a Board Certified Emergency Physician employed by the regional hospital, breached the standard of medical care by failing to diagnose Louis Prager's broken neck, causing Prager permanent left shoulder paralysis, debilitating pain and depriving Prager of the ability to work. The jury also found the negligence of Cullison and the hospital harmed the Prager's marital relationship, resulting in loss of consortium damages to Rebecca Prager.

Tom's great work on this case has produced large media buzz though out this region. Here is a summary of the case from Wyoming Public Media: November 7, 2011, 8:52AM

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Elk Grove woman wins $7.6M in UC Davis malpractice suit

TLC's Grads, Brooks Cutter and Eric Ratinoff  won a verdict on behalf of a 22 year old woman who was paralyzed from her chest down after the U.C. Davis Medical Center failed to identify a mass on her spine that appeared in her MRI films. $7.6 million is believed to be one of the largest medical malpractice verdicts in Sacramento County history.
Here is a article summarizing the case in the Sacramento Business Journal:

Elk Grove woman wins $7.6M in UC Davis malpractice suit
Sacramento Business Journal by Kathy Robertson, Senior Staff Writer
Date: Monday, October 31, 2011, 2:53pm PDT - Last Modified: Tuesday, November 1, 2011, 8:23am PDT

A young Elk Grove woman won a $7.6 million from the UC Regents in a jury verdict Friday after a UC Davis radiologist missed an abnormality on her spine that later grew and caused her to become paralyzed from the waist down.

The verdict, won by Sacramento attorneys Brooks Cutter and Eric Ratinoff, is believed to be one of the largest medical malpractice judgments in Sacramento County history.

The plaintiff was awarded $6.4 million to compensate for lost wages and costs associated with the medical and attendant care she will need the rest of her life. The jury awarded $1.2 million in pain and suffering, but California’s medical malpractice law caps these damages at $250,000, so she’ll collect $6.67 million if the verdict stands.

It was unclear Monday afternoon whether the university would appeal.

“The jury did a thorough, careful review of the evidence and came up with an award that will enable this young woman to move forward with her life independently with the resources she needs,” Cutter said. “She’ll be in a wheelchair the rest of her life.”

D’Knawn Hairston was 13 and experiencing back pain and loss of sensation in her lower extremities when she was hospitalized at the UC Davis Medical Center in December 2003, court documents show. She had an MRI of her spine, but the pediatric radiologist and radiology resident who viewed the images stated the spine was normal and unremarkable. In fact, the images show an abnormal mass on the spine, according to court documents.

UC Davis doctors concluded Hairston was suffering from Guillain-Barre Syndrome and treated her for that condition. She continued to have lingering weakness in her lower extremities.

On February 1, 2008, Hairston awoke unable to move her legs, with pain in her lower back. She was hospitalized and an MRI showed a large, bleeding growth on her spine at the same place where the abnormality was detected on the images taken in 2003. It was removed, but Hairston had permanent injury to her spinal cord, rendering her paraplegic, with no sensation or muscle control from her mid-torso downward.

An expert testified on behalf of Hairston that the abnormality along her spine should have been detected and removed in 2003. An expert called by the medical center countered that the mass was ”subtle” and it was within standards of care to miss it.

The jury found Hairston’s injuries were caused by medical negligence.

A spokeswoman said the university and the UC Davis Health System empathize with Hairston and her family, but they could not discuss the details of the case. However, Leslie Sepuka of the president’s office said that an investigation was done into the patient’s care, and that it was “appropriate.”

“This is a regrettable and unfortunate case for everyone involved,” Sepuka said. “As always, the UC Davis Health System is committed to providing high quality patient care and safety.”

Monday, December 19, 2011

Students Win Sexual Harassment Case Against School Board

TLC Faculty members Eddie Schmidt (Nashville,TN) and Ann Johnson (Houston, TX) recently sued the school system for violation of Title IX, which prohibits sexual harassment of students. The plaintiffs claimed that school officials had actual knowledge of the harassment and acted with deliberate indifference by failing to institute an appropriate disciplinary response.

The jury found the school board responsible and awarded $100,000 to each student. 

Here is a summary of the Case:
Verdicts & Settlements: Schools
August 4, 2011
School district fails to respond to students' sexual harassment 

While on their middle-school basketball team, 12-year-old seventh graders Doe and Roe were sexually harassed by four eighth-grade teammates in the school locker room. On one occasion, three of the eighth graders grabbed Doe and held him down, while the fourth removed Doe’s shorts and attempted to sodomize him with a marker. On other occasions, the eighth graders subjected Doe and Roe to “lights out” sessions in which the older boys blocked the door, turned off the lights, and simulated sexual gyrations on the younger boys. Another time, one of the eighth graders attempted to pull down Roe’s shorts. On yet another occasion, the eighth-grade students taunted Roe into doing a sit-up while blindfolded and, and he was trying to sit up, one of the students dropped his pants and placed his naked buttocks in Roe’s face.
Although the coach allegedly became aware of the attempted sodomy incident within days, he failed to immediately report it or discipline the offending students. After learning of the incident, Doe’s mother went to the school principal, who denied knowledge of it. Doe’s mother then received a call from the coach apologizing for the incident. The four students involved were subsequently suspended for 10 days, and Doe’s father and Roe’s mother, together with another parent, met with the superintendent and notified her of additional incidents of student-on-student harassment and bullying that had occurred in the boys’ locker room. Roe’s mother also advised the principal and superintendent that other students were threatening her son to keep quiet about the incidents.
When the threats and intimidation continued, Roe’s mother removed him from the school. About a week later, the school’s disciplinary board voted to terminate the disciplinary action against the four suspended students and reinstate them to the basketball team. The following month, Doe’s mother removed him from the school, fearing for his safety.
Both boys suffered emotional distress and severe humiliation.
Doe’s and Roe’s parents sued the school system for violation of Title IX, which prohibits sexual harassment of students. The plaintiffs claimed that school officials had actual knowledge of the harassment and acted with deliberate indifference by failing to institute an appropriate disciplinary response.
The jury found the school board responsible and awarded $100,000 to each student. The plaintiffs anticipate posttrial motions.
Citation: Mathis v. Wayne Co., No. 1:09-cv-0034 (M.D. Tenn. June 9, 2011).
Plaintiff counsel: AAJ member Edmund J. Schmidt, Nashville, and Ann Johnson, Houston.
Plaintiff expert: Carole de Casal, school administration, Nashville.