Civil Jury Verdicts – February 2015


Yes, I am back with another Civil Jury Verdicts column. No, I did not move out of town. There just have not been sufficient reports for me to prepare a Civil Jury Verdicts column. I now have some reports so here goes.

Brian C. (a minor) v. Contra Costa Health Services involved one of the bigger jury awards in Contra Costa recent history. The Honorable Steven Austin presided. Two Plaintiffs firms took the lead. Michael E. Gatto of Rains Lucia Stern, PC, was co-lead together with Eustace de Saint Phalle of the Veen Firm. Alison M. Karp of the Veen firm assisted the lead lawyers. W. David Walker of Craddick, Candland & Conti represented Defendants.

Factually, the case involved a medical malpractice claim involving alleged negligent management of a twin pregnancy, which resulted in the death of one twin and severe brain injury to the surviving twin. It was alleged Contra Costa County Health Services assigned a family practitioner to handle an extremely rare and high-risk pregnancy. The defendant doctor did not seek co-management with a specialist, nor did the doctor refer the mother out to a specialist. The doctor apparently failed to appreciate the risks associated with the pregnancy, failed to schedule a timely delivery and failed to properly respond to an obstetrical emergency.

After five years of litigation and a two-month trial, Plaintiffs’ counsel presented evidence that the doctor engaged in a pattern of tampering with the medical records and provided arguably false testimony.

The pre-trial demand was $11.75 million. The mother’s claim had settled prior to trial for the MICRA limits of $250,000. At the mandatory settlement conference and after three failed mediations, the carrier offered $2.25 million. There were additional demands and offers during the trial.

The jury determined the surviving twin would live another 74 years, would never be employable and would require extensive future medical care for the rest of his life. The jury returned a verdict of $12,132,780.82 present value.

In an Alameda County Superior Court case entitled Francisco et al v. AC Transit et al, Case No. RG12617444, the jury awarded a woman and her daughter $15,313,703 for injuries incurred while they were passengers in an AC Transit bus.

The Honorable Gail Brewster Bereola presided at trial. Plaintiffs were represented at trial by Brian Panish, Spencer Lucas and Patrick Gunning of the Panish law firm. Plaintiffs were also represented by Ivan Golde. Defendants were represented by Shawn Tolliver and Dana Fox of Lewis Brisbois.

Maria Francisco, her daughter Mia and other family members were riding in an AC Transit bus. The bus went over a speed bump in a school zone at twice the legal speed limit. As a result, Francisco was thrown from her seat and suffered a severe traumatic burst fracture to her L1 vertebra. The driver allegedly verbally berated Francisco after the accident. It was all caught on tape. As a result of the injury, Francisco has undergone three spine surgeries and has been in chronic pain and unable to work since the incident.

The jury awarded Francisco $10 million in past and future pain and suffering, $3.385 million in past and future medicals, $800,266 for future loss of earnings and $127,472 for past family services. Daughter Mia was awarded $1 million for past and future emotional distress relating to her witnessing the incident. The Defendants pre-trial settlement offer was $2.75 million.

Interestingly enough in 2011, the Panish firm obtained a $10.5 million settlement against AC Transit in another bus accident case.

Another Contra Costa Superior Court civil jury verdict involved a case entitled Kelly v. Contra Costa Water District, Case No. C10-01388. The Honorable Laurel Brady presided at trial. Attorney Don Odell of Pleasanton represented Plaintiffs. Craig Judson and Sharon Nagle represented Defendant.

The case involved water leaks at a property in Pittsburg. Plaintiffs alleged the water district was responsible as it had a nearby pipeline. The water district admitted a small leak but was not responsible for damages claimed by Plaintiffs.

Prior to trial, Plaintiffs demanded $3.2 million. Defendant offered $1 million by CCP 998. The jury returned a gross verdict of $414,000 which netted out to $331,200.

The Morrill Firm attorneys never fail to provide trial reports to me. Here are three bench trial reports:

  1. In the Matter of the Raul C. Uvalles, Sr., Revocable Living Trust, Contra Costa Superior Court Case No. P12-01004, Judge Suzanne Fenstermacher presided. Andy Verriere and Joe Morrill represented the trustee. Opposing counsel was Juliette Robertson.

The trial involved the claim by the surviving spouse seeking a determination that a premarital agreement was invalid and therefore the surviving spouse was entitled to at least 50 percent of the trust’s assets. The trustee filed a cross petition seeking that not only was the premarital agreement valid under California law, but the surviving spouse waived her right to inherit. The court determined the premarital agreement was valid and the surviving spouse had waived her right to inherit from the decedent.

In the Matter of the Emmett and Aralee Charlton Trust, Contra Costa Superior Court Case No. P13-01298, Judge John Sugiyama presided. Andy Verriere represented the trustee. Jonathan Le Duex and Lawrence Crocetti represented themselves. The trial involved an objection to accounting petition covering an 11-year period by trustee and petition to remove trustee. Following the trial, the court overruled the objection to the accounting petition, approved the petition and denied the petition to remove the trustee.

In the Matter of the Estate of James S. Brotherton, Contra Costa Superior Court case No. P13-00811, Judge John Sugiyama presided. Andy Verriere represented the personal representative. Diana Brotherton represented herself. The trial involved the objection to accounting petition. Following the trial, the court overruled the objection, and ordered Diana Brotherton to pay the estate $23,765.65 in attorney’s fees and costs.


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