Trust the Process with Your Personal Injury Attorney
When litigating a large case, a trial attorney needs to have the courage of his or her convictions on the settlement value of the case. Essentially, a trial attorney, with agreement from the client, has to be ready, willing and able to try a case to avoid folding to the defense if the defense is not valuing the case appropriately.
In a recent slip and fall case against a large retail store chain, Jonathan Burns of JB Law did just that. During the height of Covid where trials were shut down, JB Law conveyed to one of the state’s biggest defense firms their opinion on the value of a case. The defendant in that case was willing to pay good money on the case but was not willing to reach the number conveyed. So JB Law and their client simply waited and prepared for trial.
WATER ON THE FLOOR
The facts in the case were startling. Prior to filing the lawsuit, we knew that our client Jane Doe had slipped and fell in liquid on the floor of the frozen food aisle of the defendant’s supermarket and suffered a catastrophic fracture of the patella (kneecap) that required emergency surgery. However, because defendants in lawsuits do not typically voluntarily produce surveillance video of falls prior to litigation, we did not have any details of what happened to cause the liquid to form that caused Jane’s fall. So, instead of waiting around, we immediately filed suit to gain the advantage of reviewing the surveillance footage.
Along with the Complaint, Mr. Burns served the defendant with discovery requests for information such as documents, video footage, and photographs. In Jane’s case, Mr. Burns immediately requested the surveillance video from the store. But the defendant objected to the request, claiming the surveillance video should not be produced until after Jane was deposed about her slip and fall.
Mr. Burns responded by filing a Motion To Compel Production of the Video and set the motion for a hearing with the judge assigned to the case. After Mr. Burns filed his Motion, the defendant agreed to immediately produce the video without a hearing. It pays to be aggressive in litigation.
IT DOES NOT ADD UP
Upon receipt of the surveillance video, Mr. Burns observed that Jane was walking normally down the aisle when her foot clearly slipped on something which caused her to do a bit of a split, crashing knee first onto the hard floor. Frankly, it was painful to watch. However, because the surveillance system was outdated, it was impossible to see if there was liquid on the floor of the aisle. Following the fall, the video showed that Jane was removed by the paramedics and rushed to the hospital within approximately 10 minutes of falling. It was then that things on the video got interesting.
After Jane was removed with a badly deformed knee fracture, the video showed the defendant’s employee assigned to that aisle, appearing to clean up the liquid which was not consistent with his sworn deposition testimony. His testimony had been that he never saw anything on the floor and that Jane could not have slipped on any liquid because there was not any liquid in the area. That testimony did not coincide with what the video showed.
THE INJURY WAS NOT IMPROVING
Meanwhile, while the litigation progressed, Jane Doe continued to struggle with her debilitating injury. Within a couple of days of her fall, Jane underwent a significant surgery to insert wires and screws into her knee in hopes that the badly fractured patella would heal correctly. While the bones ultimately did mainly come together as hoped, the damage suffered to the rest of the knee would prove to be a lifelong battle for Jane.
Approximately five months after the first surgery, Jane underwent a second surgery to remove scar tissue and improve the range of motion in her knee. Like the first surgery, it helped somewhat but Jane continued to suffer from significant pain and swelling which impacted her daily activities and prevented her from working or doing any physical activity.
Finally, one year later, Jane was forced to undergo a total knee replacement. The surgery helped and she was able to walk more effectively but any hopes of a normal physical life were dashed.
THE “AH-HA” MOMENT
The case changed after Mr. Burns engaged a video expert to enhance the footage. After reviewing the enhanced footage, it appeared that the defendant’s employee not only cleaned up the area of the fall but did so using a towel under his foot. While the defendant later claimed the video did not show a towel under the employee’s foot, it was clear the employee was using his foot to dry up the area of the fall.
After initially reviewing the video, it occurred to Mr. Burns that the defendant likely did not know that their employee may not have been truthful during his deposition because they did not yet have the enhanced footage. So Mr. Burns set up a deposition of the defendant’s employee who is in charge of the company’s surveillance footage.
It was during this deposition where Mr. Burns was able to further lock the defendant into a story that simply did not match the video. The defendant was stuck with the version told by the employee who was in charge of the frozen food aisle. This helped set the settlement value of the case and provided Mr. Burns and his client tremendous leverage heading into trial.
THE COVID FACTOR
Unfortunately, shortly thereafter with the case getting closer to a trial date, the world was shut down by the Coronavirus and all trials were stopped. In a lot of circumstances, especially a big case like this one, defendants don’t feel the pressure to settle until they are facing a trial date. Here, we lost the leverage of our trial date because there were no jury trials going on in the entire state. Regardless, even after a mediation that did not result in a settlement, Mr. Burns and his client refused to budge from their case evaluation.
So, he told the defendant the number of his evaluation and waited. It took months and months but with trials resuming again in early 2021, the defendant began improving its offer by approximately $50,000 every few months. The defendant had not reached the evaluation and Mr. Burns and his client stayed patient. They would not be swayed.
Then, finally in summer 2021 with a trial date only days away, the defendant succumbed to the reality and paid the exact number of Mr. Burns’ evaluation that was relayed to the defendant one year earlier. In a typical situation, without a global pandemic, this back and forth plays out over a month or two prior to trial. But in this case, because trials were halted for almost one year, it took that much longer.
HIRING THE RIGHT PERSONAL INJURY ATTORNEY
While there are countless number of personal injury attorneys in Boca Raton, finding the right one is important. Many firms would have settled much earlier to avoid all the added costs with preparing for trial and moved on to the next case. JB Law is a boutique firm that has the knowledge and experience necessary to get the results our Clients deserve. If you are injured in an accident, don’t hesitate to contact JB to discuss your case.