Editor’s Choice: Jury Awards Edition

Posted October 28, 2011 in Jury Awards by Heather McGowan

Here are some items straight from the courtroom that might interest you:

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  • $18.5 million verdict in family’s lawsuit for son’s murder on prison bus. Philip Parker, Jr. was strangled and slashed with a razor by another inmate while on a prison transport bus. Parker had been convicted of attempted robbery and was serving a 3.5 year sentence. Parker’s estate and parents sued the State of Maryland and corrections officers, claiming negligence.

    After a 2-week trial, the jury returned its verdict in less than 4 hours. The plaintiffs’ case centered on the prison officers’ failures to secure and supervise the 34 inmates on the bus, including Kevin Johns, who killed Parker, using his own restraints to get Parker into a deadly headlock. Johns later committed suicide. The bus was dark when the attack happened, with some officers safely seated in a secure caged area of the bus.

    The breakdown of the jury’s award was $10 million to Parker’s estate for his pain and suffering and another $8.5 million to his parents. Parker’s mother and her lawyer stressed that the case was more about holding the State and its prison system accountable for those in its custody.

    Who will pay on the jury’s verdict? Maryland laws limit the State’s liability to $600,000 in this case ($200,000 per claimant). Generally, government bodies have tort immunity to protect against lawsuits, and permission to sue is given by laws creating an exception. One officer, found grossly negligent by the jury, may be held to answer for the rest of the damages.

  • Not above the law: $3 million jury verdict against drunk state trooper. Ernesto Sta Maria was killed in rear-end crash in Middletown, NJ, caused by a state trooper, Christopher Brozyna, who was off-duty and drunk, with a blood-alcohol level over twice the legal limit. Sta Maria sustained fatal injuries when he was thrown from his SUV.

    Sta Maria’s estate sued Brozyna and 4 taverns. The jury found Brozyna 57 percent liable, and two taverns 43 percent liable. The case is a somber reminder that none of us can control what happens each time we go out on the roads. An accident may find you, and as in this case, it can go beyond the drivers of the vehicles involved. Dram shop laws can mean those who sell and serve alcohol may have to answer for the harm done when someone has had too much to drink.

    As for Brozyna, he agreed to a plea bargain for vehicular homicide and drunk driving, and must serve at least 85 percent of his 5-year prison sentence. The former state trooper also lost his job, is barred from holding a state job in the future, and will have his driver’s license suspended for 5 years once he’s out of prison. Your personal injury lawyer is an important first resource as you start to look for answers on who will answer for and take responsibility for your injuries and losses.

  • Daily drive to work ends with $7.7 million jury verdict for driver and his wife. Jim Stovall, of Demotte, IN, probably wasn’t expecting his usual commute to work as a pipe fitter to end with a life-altering traffic accident. Stovall’s pickup was involved in a chain-reaction crash involving four vehicles, starting with a speeding semi barreling into the rear of Stovall’s truck.

    Stovall lost the ability to work due to brain injuries he sustained in the crash. The jury’s award to Stovall was $ 6,244,983, and $1.5 million to his wife in compensatory damages. The couple’s lawyer, Andrew Crosmer, described the verdict as fair and just, and that the jury was hard-working.

    Your everyday activities can end with a life-altering accident and a personal injury lawsuit. The jury’s award will allow the Stovalls to cope with the aftermath of the accident, and Jim Stovall can continue with medical treatment and therapy.

  • Torn tissue during colonoscopy garners jury award of $2 million. Medical tests are often a necessity, whether to help you stay healthy, or to diagnose or treat an illness. However, you probably don’t expect the serious consequences suffered by Richard McCade, a 62-year-old Pennsylvania man, who lost a 2-foot section of his colon due to tears sustained during a colonoscopy.

    Two doctors were found liable in McCade’s medical malpractice case: First, the doctor who performed the colonoscopy, and second, a doctor who caused further damage when McCade sought help for complications. Over the course of several days, McCade had his initial colonoscopy and ended up with emergency surgery when the tearing wasn’t detected. The defense claimed McCade signed an informed consent and knew tears were a risk of the test. McCade’s lawyer, Roy DeCaro, argued doctors failed to stay within the standard of care. McCade’s colon was overinflated during testing, leading to the damage that cost him a good 40 percent of his colon.

    Medical treatment doesn’t come with a guarantee, but then again, your consent forms don’t remove all responsibility owed by those you entrust with your care. Your medical malpractice lawyer can help you review your records and your legal options.

  • Misplaced trust? Oregon jury awards $2 million to abused foster child. A boy known as “B.D.” in court documents suffered from, and amazingly survived, 2 years of abuse and starvation while in state foster care. The boy’s lawyer, John Devlin, commented that the jury’s award will help B.D. continue to recover from the abuse.

    B.D. was placed in foster care at age 1, and was removed from his foster parents’ home at age 3, weighing less than he did on his milestone first birthday. The boy is now 10, and testified in the case on the living conditions in his foster parents’ trailer, shared with 7 other children. A separate case by B.D.’s older sister settled for $1.5 million. Both children were adopted into the same family following removal from foster care.

    The abuse was unthinkable for children trusted to another’s care: B.D.’s sister reported beatings with wooden spoons, and both children slept either outdoors with no blankets, or in a dog house. The lawsuits alleged that state workers failed to listen to the sister’s reports of abuse, and that repeated child abuse hotline reports were ignored.

    It can be hard to know where to turn or to see who may be liable when there’s wrongful conduct, or responsibilities are ignored. Your personal injury lawyer can help you review your facts and answer the basic question of whether or not you’ve suffered a wrong and how the law can help make it right.

    Want more to read? Check out these news items:

    Heather McGowan co-authors the Lawyers.com blog.

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