Editor’s Choice: Jury Awards Edition

Posted October 14, 2011 in Jury Awards by David Baarlaer

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


  • $4.2 million jury award in wrongful death- medical malpractice case. Terri Hiamwas taken to Wheeling Hospital in West Virginia because she was experiencing chest pains. Dr. Stephen Heirendt treated her, and apparently, released her. Eleven days later, Hiam suffered a heart attack and died. She was 43 years old.


    Hiam’s husband filed a wrongful death and medical malpractice lawsuit, claiming that Heirendt and others didn’t perform the proper cardiac screening, which led to Hiam’s death. The jury’s damage award to Hiam’s family included $1.5 million for sorrow and mental, $1.5 million for the family’s loss of her services and care and $872,000 in lost wages and earning capacity.

    The money can’t bring Hiam back, of course, but these and similar cases are about more than money. Hopefully, Heirendt, the hospital and other healthcare professionals learn from the verdict and similar tragedies are avoided in the future.

    Read more about medical malpractice, especially failure to diagnose, and wrongful death lawsuits.

  • Family wins, then loses and tries to win again in wrongful death action. In 2008, sheriff’s deputies in Virginia responded to a call that David Gandywas drunk, suicidal and was carrying a gun. The story is sketchy over what happened next, but deputies say Gandy, who outside in his yard, had a gun and refused to drop it when ordered to do so. Others say Gandy wasn’t holding a gun. When Gandy tried to enter his home, he was tased, with no effect, and then one deputy shot him three times and killed him.


    This past August, in the family’s wrongful death suit against the deputy, a jury found that the deputy wasn’t negligent, but that he did use excessive force. The family was awarded $267K. A judge threw the award out, however, because the jury also found that the deputy had reason to fear for his life when he shot and killed Gandy. Now, the family wants the jury award reinstated or a new trial against the deputy.

    Despite the tough and often thankless jobs they do, law enforcement officers make mistakes. Whether it’s excessive force or breaking into the wrong home, they may be held accountable when they break the rules and someone gets hurtor their property is damaged.


  • Harassed meter-reader can keep $59K jury award. Speaking of mistakes by the police. Christina Jonesis a meter-reader for Commonwealth Edison worker in Illinois. Sometimes, she uses binoculars to read meters she can’t get to because of locked gates or guard dogs. That didn’t go over too well with some people.


    Jones is African-American, and while she was reading meters in a nearly all-white suburban neighborhood, a “concerned citizen” called the police. Despite presenting photo ID and wearing a hat and clothing bearing Edison’s logo, and explaining her use of the binoculars, the officers didn’t believe her story.

    One asked for birthday, and when she asked why she was being harassed, she was arrested for obstructing a police officer. She was acquitted of the criminal charges, and then she filed a lawsuit against the officers and the city they worked for.

    Ultimately, a jury awarded her $59K, and despite the city and officers’ attempts to have the award thrown out, a federal judge just ruled that there was nothing wrong with jury’s verdict. The officers’ conduct and actions were an “embarrassing abuse of police power” – the officers had no valid reason to stop and question Jones (called a “Terry stop, and certainly did not have probable cause to arrest her.

    Read more about arrests and what the police can and can’t do when investigating suspected criminal activities.

  • City wins $224K in a suit filed by a contractor.The City of San Luis Obispo, California, hired Pacific Mechanical Corporation (PMC) in 2003 to build part of the City’s water recycling facility. According to the City, PMC didn’t finish the work on time, so it withheld $1.2 million of the money owed under the contract. PMC filed two lawsuits against city starting in 2008. Three years later, a jury found in favor of the City.


    Don’t let the multi-million dollar price tag mislead you. This is a simple, run-of-the-mill breach of contract lawsuit. The City said it didn’t get what it bargained for, and PMC said the City had no right to withhold payment in full. Whether you’re hiring someone to replace your roof, signing up for cell phone service or making any type of contract, it’s important to know your rights and obligations under the contract. You don’t have to be a City, and millions of dollars don’t have to be at stake, before a contract can be enforced.

  • Denver, ACLU settle 2008 protesters suit. Back in 2008, during the Democratic National Convention in Denver, over 150 people were arrested while the city was overwhelmed with supporters and opponents of then-Presidential candidate Obama. About 90 of them were taken to a temporary holding facility.


    Not long after the arrests, the ACLU filed a lawsuit for eight of the arrestees; over time, 93 of the arrestees became part of the lawsuit. The ACLU claimed that the Denver police violated the arrestees’ constitutional and civil rights by arresting them without any showing that they had violated some law.

    Denver and the ACLU have agreed to settle the lawsuit: Denver will pay $200K to the arrestees and it will make improvements in police training and procedures involving crowd control. The settlement comes on the heels of hundreds of arrests in the “Wall Street protests.”

    Read more about your rights as a demonstrator – and the risks involved – as well as how far the police can go to keep the peace.

    Need more to read? Try these:

    Dave Baarlaer writes for Lawyers.com

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