Plaintiff was a 15 year old special education student at a public school when he was assaulted with brass knuckles by another student, who had a long, violent disciplinary record. Co-counsel had originally filed suit claiming that the school system was negligent for permitting the violent student to be in that environment. The case stalled. It was 8 years old when I was asked to help. In the interim, school negligence law evolved so that recovery for failure to remove a violent student looked doubtful. After reviewing the file, I began taking the depositions of Plaintiff’s teachers. During those depositions, it became evident that the teachers had an established protocol for transporting special education students to and from events. Although the students were never supposed to be left alone, that was exactly what happened to Plaintiff. His teachers failed to keep track of him when returning from a Fall Festival on the school’s grounds. They did not realize that he was missing until returning to the classroom. Before they could find him, he was assaulted by the violent student. After years of refusing to acknowledge liability, the new angle on the school system’s negligence pushed it into agreeing to an out of court settlement after several days of trial.
My client was a vibrant 60 year old local businesswoman. She and her best friend went to shop at a retail strip mall two days after a winter snowfall. On her way into the store, she slipped on ice that had not been removed since the snowfall. She broke both bones in her ankle. It required two surgeries and over a year to begin getting back to normal. Her injury still hurt and limited her after the second surgery. Her medical expenses totaled approximately $80,000. I quickly deposed the corporate representative for the out of town owner where it became obvious that after it purchased the building two years before the fall it terminated snow and ice removal and simply relied on calls from tenants complaining about such issues. After hiring an economist to calculate the plaintiff’s lost income, past and future, we settled what the mediator called “just a broken ankle case” for $400,000.
Husband and wife were severely injured when the defendant’s vehicle sideswiped them pushing their truck into an oncoming minivan. Wife had over $100,000 in medical expenses; husband had approximately $20,000. The defendant was seriously underinsured. Husband and wife had $200,000 in uninsured motorist coverage. I was able to maximize the clients’ net recoveries by negotiating aggressively with their health insurer, a non-ERISA plan, to reduce what they owed for medical expenses. Recognizing that ERISA’s harsh subrogation rules do not apply to non-profit entities allowed me to persuade their insurer to take pennies on the dollar and put more money in the clients’ pockets.