On Friday, July 20, partner Chuck Custer achieved essentially a defense verdict in a matter where liability was conceded. This was Custer's 25th jury trial to verdict.
The firm’s Canadian trucking client and driver were alleged to have caused the plaintiff to suffer a traumatic brain injury, which in turn caused a seizure disorder. (The plaintiff indeed, had a “seizure” in the courtroom a week into the trial, falling out her chair at counsel table during her husband’s examination.) The accident involved a low speed (18 mph) rear end collision on Highway 99 in September 2013. The plaintiff also alleged she was required to undergo a two level fusion surgery to her lumbar spine and sustained serious cervical spine injuries that resulted in substantial past medical expenses ($200,000) future care amounting to $1.8 million as a result of the accident. In addition to seeking past and future medical costs, the plaintiff claimed $2 million in past and future lost income and/or earning capacity, as well $800,000 lost household services.
Before trial, the plaintiff demanded a settlement in excess of $4,500,000. The defendants’ pre-trial offer was in excess of $1 million. The matter did not resolve and proceeded to a four week jury trial in federal court before Judge William Shubb in the Eastern District of California in Sacramento. During his closing arguments, the plaintiff’s attorney Roger Dreyer of Dreyer Babich Buccola Wood Campora LLP asked the jury to award between $12 to $16 million. Gordon & Rees conceded liability and some initial medical treatment amounting to $15,000. The fight came over whether the alleged brain/head, lumbar spine, and cervical spine injuries were real and caused by the accident.
During jury deliberations, the defendants offered $1,200,000. Fortunately, the plaintiff ignored the offer. A few hours later, the jury returned a verdict for $305,902.55 essentially parroting the numbers suggested by Custer. The jury determined the plaintiff had no loss of income or earning capacity and no loss of household services. The jury also determined the defendants were not a substantial factor in causing the plaintiff’s alleged lumbar spine and cervical spine injuries. A token amount was awarded for future medical expenses for psychological care and non-economic damages. The defendants beat their Rule 68 Offer. The plaintiff also denied various admissions that were proven to be true. The result will likely be a judgment in favor of the defendants.