IADC member and Gordon Rees Scully Mansukhani Los Angeles partner Asim Desai and associate Chris Weber, along with invaluable assistance from Oakland partner and chair of the firm's appellate practice group Don Willenburg in addressing multiple last second law and motion challenges during trial, successfully defended an industry leading airport and airline systems engineering firm against a multi-million dollar personal injury claim tried during the course of seven weeks to a jury in San Francisco Superior Court. The case was first tried in 2014 over the course of six weeks resulting in a verdict against Gordon & Rees' client, but with only a 10 percent allocation of fault. The plaintiffs moved for a new trial arguing the damages award was not sufficient and that the evidence supported a higher allocation of fault on the firm's client. The trial court agreed with the latter argument and threw out the jury's verdict. That ruling was affirmed on appeal, and the case was remanded to San Franscisco County Superior Court for a second trial.
The plaintiff, a millwright foreman who was working on the reconstruction of the baggage handling system at Terminal 2 at San Francisco International Airport in 2011, alleged that he sustained severe injuries when the system under construction on which he was working suddenly started running without warning. The plaintiff alleged that Gordon & Rees' client caused the conveyor belt to start without properly checking to see if any other trades were working on or in the vicinity of the belts, failed to protect or warn the other trades that the belts would be operating, and failed to program the warning alarm systems to start in advance of the belts starting (so as to warn the trades, such as the plaintiff, to seek safety).
The plaintiff alleged that as a result, he was dragged into a small opening along the belt systems where he suffered catastrophic crush injuries that resulted in chronic severe pain syndromes, opiod addiction, and severe post-traumatic stress disorder. At closing, the plaintiff’s counsel asked the jury for $3.7 million in past and future wage loss, $1.175 in past and future medical expenses, $10 million for the plaintiff’s past and future general damages, and $10 million in loss of consortium damages for the plaintiff’s spouse.
Attorneys Desai and Weber argued that the plaintiff’s injuries were solely caused by the plaintiff’s failure to lock-out the equipment prior to working on it, and that the plaintiff had failed to present clear evidence that Gordon & Rees' client actually energized the equipment the plaintiff was working on. They also argued that the length of the alarms on the equipment was irrelevant based upon the plaintiff’s testimony at trial that he believed the equipment had already been de-energized previously by another worker. Finally, Gordon & Rees' attorneys argued that the injuries claimed were greatly exaggerated and further that the plaintiff failed to mitigate his damages by failing to obtain the treatment recommended by the plaintiff’s experts during the 2014 trial in the four years that had passed since that trial.
After a seven-week trial, the jury deliberated for approximately five days before returning a defense verdict on all of the plaintiffs’ causes of action.