Editor’s Choice: Jury Awards Edition

Posted April 20, 2012 in Jury Awards by

    • Neighbors win $2.3 million for smelly garbage dump

      A jury awarded several South Carolina residents $2.3 million for having to put up with a  huge landfill in their neighborhood. Most of the award – $1.8 million – was meant to punish the company.

      Attorney Bill Hopkins

      Six residents of Bishopville, S.C. sued waste management company Lee County Landfill, a division of Republic Services, for harm and nuisance caused by the noxious odors emanating from the garbage dump. Republic Services is worth more than $1 billion and owns 200 landfills across the country.

      The landfill at issue takes in more out-of-state waste than any other landfill in South Carolina and neighbors have complained for years about its bad odors. Even drivers passing by have complained about the stench.

      After a two-week trial, the jury said the company was responsible for creating a nuisance that affected the residents’ enjoyment of their property.

      Winning attorneys William Hopkins and Gary Poliakoff, called the verdict “historic and courageous” given the lax restrictions on landfills in South Carolina.

      “We were proud to represent these six…residents who took it upon themselves to stand up to this landfill not only to seek justice, but also to improve the quality of life for all those who live in Lee County, South Carolina,” Hopkins said.

      Learn about environmental law or find an attorney to help answer your legal questions.

    • Driving while texting accident results in $13 million verdict

      A man paralyzed by a driver who was texting while driving has won a $13 million verdict.

      The accident victim, a legal migrant worker from Mexico, was driving on the interstate in Montgomery, Alabama when he was hit by another car from behind. He suffered two shattered vertebrae and spinal cord injuries, leaving him with little feeling and no motor functions below the chest.

      At trial, the victim testified he had been driving about a mile on the road when the driver suddenly hit him. An accident reconstruction expert hired by the plaintiff testified that the driver had drifted onto the shoulder and then overcorrected, crashing into the plaintiff.

      Attorney Keith "Kit" Belt

      The driver, a 21 year-old college student, gave a different version of events at trial. She testified that the plaintiff had just pulled out of a gas station in front of her and into her lane. An expert hired by the defendant testified that the plaintiff was driving very slowly, so probably had just exited the gas station.

      But the plaintiff’s attorney Keith “Kit” Belt introduced cell phone records of the driver showing that there was one incoming and one outgoing text around the time of the accident.  

      After four days of trial, the jury awarded $13 million to compensate the victim.

      “As a result of this terrible crash, our client suffered severe, permanent injuries that will require a lifetime of care and treatment,” Belt said. “We are pleased that the jury found in his favor and awarded funds that will pay for our client’s medical expenses.”

      Belt said that the award “sends a clear message about how Alabama residents feel about texting while driving.”

      The Alabama legislature is weighing a bill that would impose fines and insurance points on any driver texting while operating or driving a vehicle on a public road or highway.

      Learn about personal injury law or contact an attorney to help with your legal issues.

    • Factory worker who lost four fingers wins $8 million

      A man whose hand was crushed in a workplace accident won $8 million after a trial against the company that designed the machine.

      Attorney Mike Phelps

      The plaintiff worked at a factory that made cardboard products. He was using a new compressor roller when his hand got caught in it and crushed his left hand. He had to have four fingers amputated and underwent a dozen surgeries, incurring $255,000 in medical bills and $67,000 in lost wages. His left arm was determined to be 90 percent disabled.

      His attorneys, Ken Nunn and Mike Phelps, sued AJ Engineering Inc. claimed that the new machine was defectively designed. The company offered to settle the lawsuit for $100,000, but the worker decided to take it to a jury.

      After a four-day trial, the jury awarded $7 million to the plaintiff and $1 million to his spouse. But the jury also found that the company was only 70 percent at fault, which will reduce the verdict to $5.6 million.

      “Even a substantial jury award like this cannot erase the pain and suffering [my clients] have endured. But it should bring much-deserved stability and security to their lives,” Nunn said.

      Learn about product liability law or contact a lawyer to help you with your legal questions.

    • Woman paralyzed after misdiagnosed headache wins $3.8 million verdict

      A woman who went to the emergency room but was sent home after being diagnosed with a migraine and later suffered a stroke won a $3.8 million jury verdict.

      Krissy Myatt showed up at the emergency room of Poudre Valley Hospital in Fort Collins, Colo. in December 2006 complaining of the worst headache of her life, dizziness, and feeling disoriented. An ER doctor didn’t run any tests and diagnosed her as having a migraine and sent her home.

      Attorney David Woodruff

      Twelve hours later, Myatt suffered a massive stroke affecting the right side of her body. The 39 year-old says she can’t move her right arm on its own and needs crutches to walk.

      Her lawsuit blamed now-retired Dr. Jeffrey Updegraff for medical malpractice. Her attorney, David Woodruff, argued the doctor should have run tests and recognized a small brain bleed that led to the stroke. The defense argued at trial that the brain bleed began after Myatt left the hospital.

      According to Woodruff, Myatt was willing to settle the case out of court for $700,000, but the doctor’s malpractice insurer refused to offer anything.

      “We expressed willingness to settle the case and not go to trial. They showed up and offered zero, not a single penny. And they insisted we will never offer you any money,” Woodruff said.

      The jury slapped the insurer with $3.8 million in damages – more than five times the amount Myatt would have accepted to settle the case.

      Learn about medical malpractice or contact an attorney to answer questions about your legal issue.

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