Setting The Standards

Burch v. C.H.O.C. - The largest personal injury award in the history of California
Burch v. Children’s Hospital of Orange County

Verdict: $51,639,230

Becky Burch suffered brain damage and is confined to a wheelchair after her car was struck by a truck owned by Children’s Hospital of Orange County. The issue was the appropriate level of attendant care Becky needed for the rest of her life. The defense argued for $3,000,000. Eventually, they offered $25,000,000 of their $50,000,000 insurance policy to settle. The offer was rejected. The resulting jury verdict was the largest in the history of California.

Fortman v. Hemco, Inc. - The largest personal injury award in the history of the United States
Fortman v. Hemco

Verdict: $27,522,000

Three-year-old Nichole Fortman suffered paralysis and brain damage when she was ejected from a Jeep equipped with an after-market top incorporating rear-hinged, “suicide” doors. In a precedent shattering trial, the manufacturer of the mold for the top was held accountable for the injury. The Court of Appeal affirmed the largest personal injury award in the history of the United States.

Kim v. City of Los Angeles - The largest personal injury award against the City of Los Angeles.
Kim v. City of Los Angeles

Verdict: $13,000,000

Late in the evening, a driver knocked a street light pole into the curb lane. A resident reported the situation to the Department of Water and Power, who sent a crew to the wrong location and then “wrote off” the incident because they didn’t find the pole. Several hours later, Cindy Kim’s bicycle hit the pole and her resulting head injury caused permanent brain damage. In March of 1995, she received the largest personal injury judgment ever awarded against the City of Los Angeles

Francois v. Tutor-Saliba Corporation - The largest award for a quadriplegic in California.
Francois vs. Tutor-Saliba Corporation

Verdict: $22,500,000

Tutor-Saliba was hired to repair and renovate the Los Angeles Coliseum following the 1994 Northridge earthquake. Mike Francios worked for a fencing company which was hired as a sub-contractor by Tutor-Saliba. Tutor-Saliba was pushing to complete the work before the football season started. Mike’s employer failed to provide him with safe scaffolding or fall-safe protection. As a result, he fell 16 feet and was rendered a quadriplegic. While California law prevented the employer from being sued, new legal doctrines were employed to fasten liability on the general contractor, Tutor-Saliba. Critical witnesses were uncovered and new damage theories were asserted. The result was the largest verdict ever awarded to a quadriplegic in California.

Duerr v. Aeroceanic Corporation - Largest Emotional Distress Award in California
Duerr v. Aeroceanic Corporation

Verdict: $4,200,000

A female died when she was struck and dragged 60 feet by an intoxicated driver. We contended the driver’s steering wheel was defectively designed in that its use could lead to the loss of vehicular control. The jury agreed, awarding plaintiff $4.2 million in damages, which included the largest emotional distress award for bystander liability in California.

Camen v. Illinois Tool Works, Inc. - Largest Settlement of Child Wrongful Death Case in California
Camen v. Illinois Tool Works, Inc.

Toxic fumes from a flooring adhesive fatally injured a young child.

April Enterprises v. KTTV - Largest Punitive Damage Award Affirmed on Appeal
April Enterprises v. KTTV

Verdict: $19,000,000

April Enterprises was the personal corporation of ventriloquist, Paul Winchell, in 1965. Plaintiff contracted with the defendant Metromedia to appear in a television series called the Winchell-Mahoney Club. 288 color shows were produced between 1965 and 1968 in which Winchell performed with his dummies, Jerry Mahoney and Knucklehead Smiff. In 1970, the defendant, who owned the tapes, threatened to erase the tapes of the shows unless plaintiff agreed to re-negotiate a contract to allow the shows to be broadcast over other Metromedia stations. Plaintiff refused to negotiate on those terms. In retaliation, defendant erased the tapes.We sued defendant asserting a breach of the implied covenant of good faith and fair dealing. Although the defendant owned the tapes and had the contractual right to erase them six months after the last broadcast, we argued there was an implied covenant restricting the implementation of the erasure provision to a time when future syndication of the shows would not be feasible. The jury returned a verdict in favor of the plaintiff, awarding $19 million in punitive damages. The verdict was affirmed on appeal.

Holthaus v. Carnation Company - Largest Age Discrimination Award in the History of California
Holthaus v. Carnation Company

The 59-year-old plaintiff had worked for Carnation for 35 years. Instead of a gold watch as an expression of gratitude for 3½ decades of loyal service, they brought in a new manager, forced the plaintiff into early retirement and replaced him with a younger man. The new manager was “tired of seeing Holthaus sitting around, smoking a pipe.” The jury disagreed and found Carnation guilty of age discrimination and determined the plaintiff was entitled to punitive damages because Carnation’s conduct was malicious and despicable.

Bihun v. AT&T - Largest Workplace Harassment Award in California
Bihun v. AT&T

The plaintiff’s new boss started making sexual advances to her, promising her promotions if she would sleep with him. She refused and resisted. The boss retaliated by taking all of her responsibilities away from her and re-assigning her to a small basement office with no desk and no work. The trial ended with the largest sexual harassment verdict at the time. On appeal, we were able to create new law in several areas important to victim protection.

Doke v. Argonaut Insurance Co. - Largest Bad Faith Award Against a Worker’s Compensation Carrier
Doke v. Argonaut Insurance Co.

Mike Doke suffered a serious back injury on the job. His employer’s workers compensation insurer dragged the case out by asserting baseless defenses. It was thought that an injured worker could not bring an insurance bad faith action against his/her employer’s workers compensation insurer. Nevertheless, we convinced the court otherwise and prevailed.

Ryburn v. Taylor Instruments Inc. - Largest Award for the Death of an Elderly Parent
Ryburn v. Taylor Instruments Inc.

Eelderly Mrs. Ryburn was hospitalized and the nurses hooked her up to a pressure infuser to administer intravenous fluids and medication. The infuser had an “S” hook to attach it to the portable stand. When a nurse accidentally bumped the stand, the infuser became dislodged and struck her in the head and she died. All securing mechanisms now have positive closed loops so this will never happen to anyone else again.