Page 4 of 4

Case Barnett Law Settles Trip and Fall Case for $ 4.3 Million Dollars

Dr. B vs. Homeowner’s Association

Case Barnett Law Corporation

 

Verdict: Defendant found Liable by jury

Settlement: 4.3 Million Dollars

Screen Shot 2016-05-24 at 10.31.03 AM

It’s not often that an attorney settles a trip and fall case for $4.3 million, but in 2016, Case Barnett Law did. Dr. RB lived in a posh Orange County neighborhood paying over $700 a month in monthly homeowner’s association dues. A water meter box was continually broken in front of his home. Dr. RB complained to his homeowner’s association about the broken water meter box on multiple occasions.

After a day at work, Dr. RB returned in the evening and parked his car in the driveway. He exited the car to get his mail. His second step went in to the broken water meter cover causing serious injuries including a traumatic brain injury and severed tendons in his hand.

The defendants repeatedly passed responsibility among each other and pointed the finger back at Dr. RB for not fixing it himself, and for knowing about it, but failing to avoid it. The liability issues were complicated because of the covenants, codes and restrictions (the CC&R’s), the governing documents for the homeowner’s association and the HOA’s attempts to shift responsibility to the homeowners. CC&R’s give HOA’s the ability to make their own laws and distribute responsibilities. A close inspection of these governing documents is essential to suing any homeowner’s association.

Four of the five defendants acknowledged their safety failings before trial. One defendant did not. A jury dropped the hammer on the remaining defendant. At the end of the trial, the combined defendants were forced to pay $4.3 million to the plaintiff. Be safe. Don’t endanger others. If you do, Case Barnett law will force you to face the consequences.

Nursing Home Saves Money at the Expense of its Patients. Ends up Being a $1 Million Dollar Mistake.

Screen Shot 2016-05-24 at 10.03.01 AM

L.F. v. Nursing Home

Case Barnett Law Corporation

Settlement: 1 Million Dollars

A lucrative nursing home in Orange County decided to save money on nursing staff. The nursing homes make more money by hiring fewer nurses than needed to provide appropriate care. Patients are then left in their own feces and urine for hours at a time. These patients frequently develop bedsores and other humiliating and painful injuries because they aren’t helped. Case Barnett Law made this facility pay.
91 year old L.F. ends up in the emergency room septic, with a bed sore, a 102 degree fever and a soiled diaper. She had been essentially forgotten about and left to die. Then, adding insult to injury, the nursing staff “backdated” their notes writing that they had recently bathed her and she had rolled herself in a wheelchair to the cafeteria smiling and laughing.
For two years the nursing facility refused to accept responsibility only offering $30,000, nuisance value to make the lawsuit go away. The family and Case Barnett Law refused to accept this. Like L.F., they are fighters. Case Barnett Law took more than 20 depositions and engaged in vigorous discovery to prove that the nursing home had neglected this beautiful woman. As part of the resolution, the facility must pay $1,000,000 to the family of L.F. and was forced to make changes in order to prevent this from happening to any one else ever again.

What To Do If You Are In A Rainy Day Car Accident

Screen Shot 2016-01-05 at 1.55.28 PM.png

With four El Niño-fueled storms currently bearing down on California we expect to see more accidents on the road. El Niño 2016 will have a profound affect on the climate as well as on driver’s safety while on the wet roads. While there are many steps you can take to avoid a rainy day car accident, not all accidents will be prevented.

Often time accidents can be minor and handled in small claims court.  However, what should you do if you are injured in a car accident?  Case Barnett Law can help you recover the compensation you deserve.

If you have been in an accident that was not your fault, you may be eligible for damages.

If you were injured in a car accident, you can ask the other drivers insurance to pay you a cash settlement. If that driver was not insured, you may request this settlement against your own under-insured motorist coverage on your own insurance, if you have this coverage.

Insurance companies may put pressure on you to rush the process after you have been in an accident.  They may make you feel that you do not have a case and that you will not be awarded any financial compensation for your accident.  There is no rush but you do need to be aware of your state’s Statute of Limitations.  The Statute of Limitations means that you must file a lawsuit or close or settle your case within your state time limits. The time clock starts on the day of the car accident. In California the statute of limitations is 2 years for injury and 3 years for property damage. To learn more about your State’s insurance rules and regulations visit California State Website for Insurance Questions.

After a car accident NEVER sign any documentation with the insurance companies in exchange for cash, until you have finished your medical treatment. By contacting an attorney at Case Barnett Law you will be protected through this process.

After you sign a release to close this case, no matter how serious your injuries in the future, you cannot go back for more treatment, or compensation, even if you made a mistake.

How To Make Sure You Receive Proper Compensation After A Car Accident

  • File a police report.
  • Seek medical attention quickly.
    • Visit the emergency room or your physician as soon as possible after an accident if you are injured.
  • Be aware of any pre-existing injuries that you are claiming became worse as a result of the accident.
    • Ask your physician to take new x-rays or ultrasounds of those injured areas. Comparisons in the pre-accident and post-accident scans can help show that the accident caused additional damage to the area. This will be crucial in court.
  • Avoid emotional statements that you make to other drivers or passengers after the accident.
    • Keep in mind that although your emotions might be intense following a car accident, you should avoid making promises or statements of blame.
  • Take witness testimonies.
  • Take photographs of the accident scene.
  • Gather up any records and documents that validate the number of days and wages you lost due to the accident.
  • Be aware of any personal injury limits written into your car insurance policy.
  • Take notes on anything you can remember about the accident as soon as you are physically able.
  • Document your injuries.
    • Take photographs and get medical attention to provide evidence of the seriousness of your injuries.
  • Contact witnesses.
    • If you collected witness contact information at the time of the accident, contact them as soon as possible to get their observations down on paper.
  • Return to the scene of the accident to search for and take pictures of evidence.
    • You may notice something, such as a dirty traffic sign, that led you to make a driving mistake and get into a car accident.

Damages In Car Accident Personal Injury Cases

Damages refer to the cost of your injuries. These can be a direct financial cost or an emotional and indirect cost.

  • Direct damages.
    • Cost of medical bills.
    • Lost wages.
    • Loss of earning capacity.
    • Property loss.
  • Indirect damages. 
    • Pain and suffering.
    • Emotional distress.
    • Inability to have children as a result of accident-related injuries.
    • Loss of an extremity.
    • Loss of consortium, if the accident caused a strain on your relationship.

If the defendant was especially careless when causing the accident, you may also receive punitive damages, which are meant to punish the defendant, and are imposed by the court.

If you have questions about damages or your personal injury case in general, speak to an attorney at Case Barnett Law.

 

California Distracted Driving Accidents

Traffic crashes are often referred to as “accidents” giving the impression that crashes just happen out of nowhere. But traffic crashes happen because someone was negligent. Someone wasn’t doing what he was supposed to do. Someone was not obeying traffic laws. Whether someone was driving too fast, or distracted because of their mobile device, accidents don’t just happen. According to The National Highway Transportation and Safety Administration (NHTSA), in 2013, 3,154 people were killed in vehicle crashes involving distracted drivers. Five seconds is the average time your eyes are off the road while texting. If a person is traveling 55 mph, that is enough time to cover the length if a football field blindfolded. (2009, VTTI).

1200 X 630

Distracted Driving and Traffic Laws

Legislators in the state of California take traffic safety very seriously, and they are trying to reduce the number of car accidents by enforcing various laws that are supposed to deter drivers from speeding, running a red light, driving under the influence, or using cell phones while driving, which are some of the most common traffic violations in the U.S. Talking on a cell phone while driving is the most common cause of distracted driving, and most states have specific laws banning it. Distracted driving laws in the state of California have existed since 2006, when the first cell phone legislation was introduced.(dmv.com)

Distracted Driving Laws For Teen Drivers

Currently, there is a law in effect that prohibits drivers under the age of 18 from using any type of wireless communications device while driving. This ban is an addition to the provisions that are already in existence, which prohibit teen drivers from using cell phones. (dmv.com)

Cell Phones

The prevalence of mobile devices in life, has created addictions and people can’t just stay off of their phones. It only takes a fraction of a second to change someone else’s life forever. There is no excuse for looking at a text messages or email while driving. “Everyone does it,” is not a defense. For more information on teen distracted driving data, please go to: http://www.distraction.gov/downloads/pdfs/11381-Distracted_Driving_Teens_2013_032415_v1a_tag.pdf

Text Messaging Bans

Sending text messages while driving is a huge distraction, but a lot of people don’t realize that and still do it. It’s a potentially dangerous activity because it requires you to take at least one hand off the steering wheel to type and send a message, and you can lose control of your vehicle pretty quickly that way. That’s why the state of California has banned all drivers from texting, and this ban is considered a primary law. Furthermore, drivers are also prohibited from hands-free text messaging, as well as voice-operated text messaging. The text messaging fine is $20 for a first offense, and $50 for a repeat offense. (dmv.com)

Using a GPS App

Using a smartphone while driving for navigational purposes is also not allowed. Drivers can’t use a GPS application while holding a smartphone in their hands, which used to be allowed until April 2013. (dmv.com)

Adult Drivers

Drivers aged 18 and above can only use a cell phone with an attached hands-free device. There is a hand-held ban for both adult and teen drivers, which is considered a primary law. (dmv.com)

School Bus Drivers

School bus drivers are prohibited from using cell phones while driving, be it hands-free or hand-held. They have a special responsibility due to the fact that they transport children to school and that’s why they are not allowed to use a cell phone with a hands-free device, which other drivers are allowed to do. (dmv.com)

General Distracted Driving Laws

Some states forbid specific activities while driving. While recent years have seen states address telephones and electronic gadgets, some low-tech distractions have been specifically banned in certain states for a long time. States have specifically prohibited activities including personal grooming (such as shaving or putting on make-up), reading, writing, interacting with pets, and other common in-vehicle distractions. (findlaw.com)

Evidence of Negligence or Recklessness

A traffic ticket is by far the least serious outcome of distracted driving. Distracted driving poses far more serious dangers such as accidents and injuries which can lead to lawsuits. The fact that a driver was distracted greatly increases the likelihood that a driver will be found responsible for damages caused.

For example, if someone has an accident while or shortly after talking on a cell phone, evidence of their phone call could be presented to prove negligence or recklessness. With the issue of negligence deciding many auto injury lawsuits, evidence of distraction could result in potentially large monetary liabilities.

With cell phone records detailing when people use mobile devices and how, evidence relating to phone calls and messages sent or accessed close to the time of an accident become crucial in many auto accident related lawsuits.

Even if there is no specific law against what the driver was doing, evidence of distracted driving can help prove negligence, perhaps leading to civil liability, For example, even in states which have not banned texting while driving, evidence of texting while driving may cause a driver to lose a lawsuit stemming from an accident. (findlaw.com)

Conclusion

Distracted driving has many variations and can happen when tending to a crying child or looking at your phone when you receive a text message. California  has enacted laws banning specific acts such as texting or using a handheld phone while driving.

In addition to traffic tickets, distracted driving can cause accidents, injuries, or even death, and can be used as evidence of a driver’s negligence or recklessness in lawsuits stemming from an auto accident.

If someone is on their cell phone, tablet or otherwise just not paying attention while driving, and crashes in to you, contact Case Barnett Law so we can help you. Let Case Barnett Law deal with the insurance companies and all of those hassles so that you can focus on healing.

For more information on California distracted driving laws visit

Case Barnett Law Featured in the Daily Journal- Personal Injury: Premises Liability Settlement

Screen Shot 2015-12-02 at 11.34.18 AMVERDICTS & SETTLEMENTS

Friday, November 20, 2015

PERSONAL INJURY

PREMISES LIABILITY

Dangerous Condition

SETTLEMENT: $3,800,00.00

COURT/DATE: Riverside Superior/Aug. 10, 2015

JUDGE: Hon. John Vineyard

ATTORNEYS: Plaintiff- Case C. Barnett, Case Barnett Law Corporation, Schumann Rosenberg, Defendant- Daley & Heft LLP

FACTS: Audio/Visual technician Scharf, 58, volunteered to install electrical wiring at his church Calvary Chapel Temecula Valley, in Temecula.  On January 25,2005, Scharf fell off the top of a wall as he was trying to install cable and wiring inside the church.

PLAINTIFFS’ CONTENTIONS: Plaintiffs contended that defendant church and Pastor Nelson were negligent in their operation and management of a construction project at the church. Plaintiff claimed that because of the mismanagement of the project, Scharf was left alone on a Sunday night on a short timeline without adequate tools or supplies to complete the project he was requested to perform.

Plaintiff’s wife allegedly found her husband lying unconscious on the floor with blood and cerebral spinal fluid around his head. The Scharfs sued the church, the officer and director of the church, the owner of the premises, and the general contractor and its owner under various negligence causes of action as well as promissory estoppel and loss of consortium.

DEFENDANTS’ CONTENTIONS: Defendants contended that Scharf was negligent while performing the installation work.

INJURIES: Scharf claimed he fractured his skull, nose, and knee and broke several bones in his shoulder. He was in a coma for approximately three weeks. Plaintiff underwent knee replacement surgery. Plaintiff was later diagnosed with brain injury. The injury allegedly triggered a server mood disorder that was accompanied by psychosis, intense anger and paranoia. Scharf also allegedly showed symptoms of dementia.

RESULT: The jury found Calvary Chapel Temecula Valley and Nelson 49 percent liable and Scharf 51 percent liable.

The parties settled for $3.8 million prior to the damages phase of trial. The breakdown of damages included $2 million for life care and planning and $1.8 million for pain and suffering.

Pain and Suffering: The Dangers of Opposing a Bio-mechanical Expert in a Personal Injury Trial

 

Losing hurts. Every time, losing hurts. We, as plaintiffs’ trial attorneys, do what we do for a number of reasons. Money is obviously one of them. But what people forget about the civil justice system, is the word justice. People, who have been injured because of someone else’s negligence, need justice. True justice would be hitting the rewind button and turning back time to before the incident that caused the injury. To return them to their previous lives. But we can’t do this. So, we are left with imperfect justice. Money Justice. But money justice still speaks volumes to the community, and to the person or people who were injured.

Money justice lets someone who has been hurt know, we understand your suffering, and we appreciate your suffering. It lets them know we value your life and what you have lost and how things will never be the same. Justice is sometimes a tiny pinhole of light in otherwise complete darkness, or a bright, hot burning sun that lights every inch. Either way, justice is what keeps us pushing forward.

Money justice also lets the negligent parties know that the community will not tolerate their actions. The community will not stand for actions that endanger its brothers and sisters.

My jury this week returned a defense verdict. It was devastating. It was devastating because I believe in justice. It was devastating because I love my client and his family. It was devastating because the verdict was wrong. It was devastating because I could have been better, and if I was better, we could have won.

The case comes out of a collision on the 405 freeway at dusk in June of 2012. My client was rear ended and shoved into the car in front of him. My client was 39 years old at the time of the crash and a DMV supervisor. He was and is married to his high school sweetheart.

The jury asked after the trial why we didn’t call a biomechanical expert like the defense had hired and presented to the jury. The truth is that at that level of impact, no fair and competent expert can say whether the forces caused or didn’t cause the injury. But, the defense expert, someone who testifies for the defense 90% of the time, opined that there was a 0% chance this impact caused this injury. It is garbage. He is not a medical doctor. He uses outdated studies, with general results, and tries to apply them to the specific and unique facts of our case.

I need to get better at handling this junk science. I need to get better at handling this garbage. I trusted that a jury would understand the potential for abuse that an expert like this poses. One juror, after the trial, perfectly articulated the problems with this expert. She said to me, anyone who is paid enough money can manipulate numbers to say whatever they want. Exactly. I thought it was enough that my client never had pain before the crash. My client was in constant pain from the time of the crash, until he had spinal fusion surgery 2 years later. He exhausted all of the more conservative treatments. He is honest. He is hardworking. And the jury said they liked him and his family. But they got hung up on the biomechanical expert and on the substantial factor jury instruction. I believe we had the wrong 12 (or at least the wrong 9) people to hear this case.

I will save a separate blog post to discuss the substantial factor instruction but I think my main failings in this case revolved around my voir dire and the selection of jurors. For now, I just pray for my client and his wife and their 18 month old son that they still see the light of justice, even if it is only a pinhole at the moment. We will file a motion for new trial and JNOV. There is still hope. The jury’s decision did not conform to the evidence.

Can I Sue If I Was Hurt Or Injured Volunteering?

Scharf v. Calvary Chapel-Traumatic Brain Injury Settlement Won by Case Barnett Law Corporation

​Verdict: Church Found 49% Responsible

Settlement: 3.8 Million Dollars-

Churches must acknowledge the pastor/congregant dynamic and ensure that the desires of their followers to serve the church, doesn’t overcome safety precautions. CACI 401 discusses the basic standard of care in negligence cases. The last line instructs the jury, “You must decide how a reasonably careful person would have acted in defendant’s situation.” The key part of the instruction is in defendant’s situation.

Screen Shot 2015-11-24 at 3.48.58 PM
January 25, 2005, Dennis Scharf, a low voltage electrician had volunteered to run low voltage electrical for his church as part of a church remodel. On Sunday, Dennis arrived at church to be told by the head pastor that there was still work left to be completed, and the work must be completed that night. Mr. Scharf, feeling the pressure to please his church, his pastor and his God, spent the evening completing the job. Dennis ended up falling from a wall of approximately 12 feet, landing on his head suffering a serious traumatic brain injury. After clawing his way back from he edge of death, Dennis Scharf still suffered from serious cognitive and emotional deficits.

After more than eight years of litigation Case Barnett Law took the reigns of this case in 2013. We decided to change the theory of the case to better reflect the true shortcomings of the church and its lead pastor. We argued:

1) The reasonable person standard of CACI 401 means a reasonable pastor needs to acknowledge and account for his influence in the Church.

2) A reasonable pastor needs to ensure that his congregants are not unnecessarily exposing themselves to harm for the betterment of the Church.

3) A volunteer is an employee and should be protected by Cal-Osha standards.

4) A church assumes the responsibility for the safety of a worksite, when they choose not to hire licensed individuals.

The third issue would have meant that any Cal-Osha violations by the Church would have made them strictly liable for any injuries suffered by Dennis Scharf because of those violations. Ultimately, the court found that Dennis Scharf, as a volunteer was not a statutory employee and therefor not entitled to the protections of Cal-Osha. This issue is novel, as there are no cases directly on point. But, theoretically, if you have an individual, performing work that requires a license, and that individual does not have a license, then that individual becomes an employee pursuant to labor code section 2750.5. But, the court found that a volunteer, who is unpaid, does not get those protections (while someone paid, who is unlicensed, would get the protections).

Ultimately, the jury found that the general negligence of the church and pastor under theories 1, 2 and 4. The church had received a quote to get the work done for $35,000. The Church choose to With this decision, the Church assumed responsibility for the safe construction of the Church.

The defense in the case moved to bifurcate liability and damages. At first, we opposed the motion under the general theory that plaintiffs want the liability and damages issue to buttress each other. After further consideration, we withdrew our opposition to the motion, and decided that a jury would be more likely to put a greater liability on the church, if the amount the plaintiff was claiming in recover was not before the jury.

After 2 weeks of trial, a Riverside jury returned a liability verdict against the Church finding Dennis Scharf 51% responsible, and the Church and the Pastor 49% responsible.

The insurance company had rejected multiple offers to settle this case at or below the policy limits of $1million. Facing a potential substantial verdict, the insurance company came to the table willing to negotiate.

Rather than spend several more years in litigation regarding this case, and then trying to collect against the insurance company in a bad faith claim, plaintiffs agreed to settle all claims for $3.8 million. This settlement was nothing short of a miracle given that the case had been thrown out on appeal and the highest defense offer was $200,000.

If you have been injured in an accident contact Case Barnett Law for a free consultation.

Can I Sue For A Slip and Fall In A Public Place?

Dr. Beltran vs. Homeowner’s Association-Traumatic Brain Injury Settlement Won by Case Barnett Law

CorporationSettlement: 2.5 Million Dollars

Screen Shot 2015-11-24 at 4.31.17 PM

It’s not often that an attorney settles a trip and fall case for $2 million, but in 2015, Case Barnett Law did. Dr. RB lived in a posh Orange County neighborhood paying over $700 a month in monthly homeowner’s association dues. A water meter box was continually broken in front of his home. Dr. RB complained to his homeowner’s association about the broken water meter box on multiple occasions.

After a day at work, Dr. RB returned in the evening and parked his car in the driveway. He exited the car to get his mail. His second step went in to the broken water meter cover causing serious injuries including a traumatic brain injury and severed tendons in his hand.

The defendants repeatedly passed responsibility amongst each other and pointed the finger back at Dr. RB for not fixing it himself, and for knowing about it, but failing to avoid it. The liability issues were complicated because of the covenants, codes and restrictions (the CC&R’s), the governing documents for the homeowner’s association and the HOA’s attempts to shift responsibility to the homeowners. CC&R’s give HOA’s the ability to make their own laws and distribute responsibilities. A close inspection of these governing documents is essential to suing any homeowner’s association.

We were able to settle four of five defendants for $2 million before trial, leaving one defendant who refused to accept any responsibility. This defendant, insured by Liberty Mutual, insisted its client had zero fault. A jury of 12 Orange County Citizens disagreed and found the last defendant 32% responsible. The case currently waits for the damages phase to begin. Case Barnett Law will be seeking damages of more than $10 million. Insurance companies never learn.

If you have been injured in an accident contact Case Barnett Law for a free consultation.