Editor’s Choice: Jury Awards Edition
A woman who almost died after eating a barbecue chicken pizza at Round Table won a jury verdict of $2.5 million.
Calla Felicity, 59, was eating out with her mother when a one-inch chicken bone got lodged in her throat. The toothpick-shaped bone pierced her esophagus and caused an infection that almost killed her. She underwent 11 surgeries during 33 days in the hospital, then spent months on feeding tubes and liquid diets. More surgeries are planned.
She sued Round Table and Foster Farms, one of the West Coast’s largest poultry producers.
During the 11-day trial, her lawyer Chuck Geerhart contended that the companies had 206 customer complaints about bones in Foster Farms Chicken strips between 2005 and 2010. Many of the complaints involved children choking and some involved Round Table pizzas.
The jury found Foster Farms 60 percent to blame and Round Table’s franchisee Pizza Bytes 40 percent at fault. It awarded Felicity $2 million for pain and suffering and $500,000 for past and future medical bills.
Felicity, a doggy day care provider and mother of two, said she can no longer walk two blocks without getting winded and continues to attend speech therapy for her voice which is two octaves higher than before the accident.
“Foster Farms is a huge chicken producer, and it never made any kind of offer to cover her medical expenses. It took the jury to say to this big corporation, ‘You aren’t going to get away with this, you have to use care in the preparation of food.’ This case was more than just about Calla Felicity. It was also about public food safety, and we’re hopeful as a result of this case, Foster Farms, Pizza Bytes and other franchisees will use a little more care in the production of chicken strips and how they make their pizzas,” Geerhart said.
A mother whose baby was born with severe brain damage won $78.5 million after a jury trial presenting evidence the doctor used old ultrasound equipment and thought for over an hour that the baby was dead, delaying an emergency caesarian section.
In August 2008, Victoria Upsey, 36-weeks pregnant, showed up at the hospital with signs of placenta abruption, a condition in which the placenta peels away from the uterine wall. When fetal monitoring proved inconclusive,the obstetrician performed an ultrasound.
According to Upsey’s lawsuit, the ultrasound equipment was outdated and poorly-maintained by the hospital, Pottstown Memorial Medical Center in Pennsylvania. As a result of the lack of sensitivity of the equipment, the obstetrician believed the baby was dead, according to Upsey’s attorney Daniel Weinstock.
“Birth injury cases are always emotional matters, but the facts of this case were particularly shocking because the reason this delivery was delayed was that the obstetrician thought the baby was dead. … He actually told my client her baby had died, then 81 minutes later, the baby had come back to life,” Weinstock said.
During the trial, a hospital risk manager admitted that there was no proof the equipment had been serviced for the last ten years, even though the machine’s manual said yearly maintenance was required. Weinstock also alleged that the ultrasound technician wasn’t on duty because it was a Sunday.
The obstetrician, however, testified he was “100 percent certain” that he performed the ultrasound properly and that the reason there was no fetal heartbeat was because the baby had died. He insisted that the baby then “came back to life” 81 minutes later.
The jury awarded $78.5 million in damages for the future medical care , lost earnings, pain and suffering for the baby and emotional distress for Upsey. Her child, now 3 years old, is quadriplegic and has cerebral palsy.
“While no monetary award can make our clients whole again, we are pleased to have obtained the best possible result for this family,” said G. Scott Vezina, another lawyer for Upsey. “No parent or child should have to endure such an ordeal.”
A woman hit by a Coca Cola delivery driver who was on her cell phone was awarded $21 million by a Texas jury.
Vanice Wilson suffered permanent nerve damage in her back after the accident.
Her lawsuit against Coca Cola alleged that the company knew about the dangers of its drivers using cell phones, but had no policy banning drivers from the practice.
Wilson’s lawyer, Bob Hilliard, argued Coca Cola withheld information including evidence of a cognitive distraction to drivers of 37% while on a cell phone, as well as data on the deaths and injures from cell phone while driving.
The jury found that the company was responsible for its driver injuring Wilson.
Coca Cola released a statement after the verdict was announced that said the company’s cell phone policy, which requires the use of a hands-free device when driving, “is completely consistent with, and in fact, exceeds the requirements of Texas law.”
But Hilliard attached broader significance to the verdict, saying he hopes it “sends a message to corporate America that you can’t have employees on a cell phone and endanger the motoring public. … The jury knew I gave them evidence to change Coca Cola’s policy, and I knew the jury would do justice, and they did.”
A patient who went for a routine blood draw as part of a life insurance exam and left with permanent nerve damage won $5.4 million from a jury.
Medical lab Quest Diagnostics sent a technician to the home of Michael Bowbliss for a blood sample in 2009. When the technician inserted the needle, Bowbliss screamed in pain and felt immediate burning and tingling down his arm and into his hand, according to his lawyer Lloyd N. Bell. The technician continued to probe with the needle, finally drawing blood, despite Bowbliss’ obvious pain, which continued days later.
According to his lawsuit, Bowbliss suffers from complex regional pain syndrome, type II and permanent damage to a major nerve in his right arm the size of a number 2 pencil running down the middle of his forearm into his hand.
At trial, Bell argued that Quest hired the technician without observing her technique or confirming she understood the standard of care. The medical technician testified in her deposition that it was her practice to insert the needle into the arm at a 45 degree angle, a practice that Bell said everyone in the case agreed violated the standard of care. During trial, Quest Diagnostics offered $5,000 to settle the case, according to Bell. The jury came back with an award of $5.4 million, which included $2 million to Bowbliss’ wife, Dee Ann for loss of consortium.
“A young, healthy man who has given blood dozens of times in his life without incident, should not get his median nerve sliced during a routine life insurance exam,” Bell said.
After the verdict, the judge reduced the verdict, taking away $1.6 million that was to pay for two pain treatments that the judge said were too speculative.