McNabb v. IBM, Santa Clara County Superior Court
Plaintiff was a 37 year old apprentice technician employed by Fluor Corporation which was contracted by IBM to service its high voltage electrical equipment at a San Jose facility. While in a jobsite meeting that included an IBM engineer and Plaintiff’s Fluor supervisor, Plaintiff was directed to go to a building and scavenge a replacement part from a power station that was “locked off” and marked “out of service” which Plaintiff understood to mean that the entire power station was de-energized. It was not. While the power was off “downstream” from a closed switch, the “upstream” leads to the switch were “hot.” When Plaintiff touched his wrench to a bolt at the switch in the “de-energized” power station 12,400 volts instantaneously exploded through Plaintiff causing catastrophic burns to more than 60% of his body. Plaintiff’s first attorneys advised that a workers compensation claim was the only remedy. Jeff Rickard and a former colleague developed a discovery plan that established that the responsible parties did not include Plaintiff’s employer, that Plaintiff was not adequately trained for the task he was ordered by a non-employer supervisor to do and that Plaintiff was placed at risk because of sub-standard guidance and direction by his superiors.
$10,100,000 – Verdict
Hilson v. Tran, Santa Clara County Superior Court
On November 14, 2007, Rasheed Hilson, 12, ran down a driveway from the Morrill Middle School grounds on Cropley Avenue in San Jose. He was intent on catching a city bus on the opposite side of the street. As is typical of 12 year-olds, and with cars approaching from his left and his right, Rasheed darted into the street without looking and was hit by a car that was traveling at 35 mph. Rasheed’s injuries included traumatic brain damage, hemiplegia (partial paralysis), vision loss and multiple fractures. Some of the injuries are permanent and will require lifetime care. The San Jose Police Department investigated the accident and concluded that the driver was not at fault because the applicable speed limit was 35 MPH since the crash occurred at 4:30 pm and the school had closed at 2:30 pm. The driver, insured by Amica Mutual Insurance, had just $50,000 in coverage for the crash but because Rasheed was blamed for causing the accident, Amica refused to offer the money to settle the claim. The case went to trial. Rasheed, through his attorneys, argued that the applicable speed limit was 25 MPH and that had the driver been driving at that speed or slower the accident was avoidable. What was learned during the discovery phase of the trial preparation was that the police department failed to inquire why six witnesses to the event were 11 and 12 year-olds. Had they asked the police would have learned that an interschool basketball game was underway in the school’s gym and, according to the testimony of the school principal, Morrill Middle School was in full operation at 4:30 pm. The Judge, at trial, ruled that the applicable speed limit was, in fact, 25 MPH. After 15 days of trial a verdict was award in favor of Rasheed. Judgment was entered for more than $10,100,000. Following this phenomenal result Jeff Rickard and a former colleague were both named Santa Clara County Trial Lawyer of the Year in 2008 and were both finalists for the 2008 Street Fighter of the Year Award given out annually by the Consumer Attorneys of California.
Doe v. Defendant Corporation, Doe County, California
Plaintiff was at a public recreation location during evening hours. Plaintiff and others present noticed what they thought were fireworks and then a small fire on a grassy sloped area near the recreation site. Plaintiff rushed into the dark area to extinguish the burning grass to prevent it from spreading. Plaintiff was unaware that the cause of the fire was certain industrial equipment. As Plaintiff ran into the dark Plaintiff came into contact with a power source for the equipment and suffered catastrophic injuries. Comparative negligence was a huge issue. Witnesses testified that they told Plaintiff not to go into the darkened area but that Plaintiff ignored them. What emerged in discovery, however, was evidence that the equipment was not properly maintained and had a long history of related issues. Jeff Rickard and a colleague engaged in a team approach to preparing the case for jury trial. This included retention of electrical, environmental and human factors experts, completing 12-15 fact witness depositions and extensive written discovery. The case was mediated in the face of a summary judgment motion filed by Defendant. With the assistance of a JAMS Judge the case settled at the end of an all-day mediation before the motion for summary judgment was heard.
Settlement secured for Plaintiffs, a married couple, who suffered, collectively, a severe head injury with facial fractures and the loss of an eye, and severe orthopedic fractures in a head-on collision at the “Cats intersection” on Highway 17 just south of Los Gatos, California. When a southbound Jeep Cherokee slowed to a near-stop in the fast lane to make an illegal u-turn a Housing Authority police officer driving 15 mph hour over the speed limit while using a cell phone rear-ended the Jeep and punched it forward. Because the Jeep’s front tires were already turned to the left the punch shoved it across two lanes of northbound traffic and directly into the path of Plaintiffs’ car. There was no way for Plaintiffs to avoid a horrific collision. Very thorough trial preparation included written discovery, numerous depositions of fact and expert witnesses and, importantly, focus group presentations by Jeff Rickard and a former colleague. The focus groups were presented with the basic facts of the case and, when it was argued that the Jeep was “cocked” but it was the Housing Authority police car that actually “pulled the trigger,” the Housing Authority was found 90% at fault. What was learned from the focus groups was used in pre-trial settlement negotiations with the Defendants and resulted in a settlement that Plaintiffs approved.
$4,500,000 – Settlement during trial
Liu v. Doe Insurance Company, Santa Clara County Superior Court
In 2006, George Liu, a 24-year-old San Jose State senior, was operating a Kawasaki ZX6 racing motorcycle in the fast lane on Calvert Drive in San Jose. A few car lengths ahead and out of George’s view, a Honda CRX in the slow lane made an abrupt and illegal u-turn across the fast lane forcing a van ahead of George’s motorcycle to slam on its brakes to avoid a collision. The van stopped in time and never hit the CRX but when George quickly applied his brakes his motorcycle pitched upward onto its front wheel causing George to be tossed over the handlebars into the van and then onto the pavement. George instantly became an L-1 paraplegic. Before suit was filed a policy limits settlement demand was sent to the insurance company for the Honda driver. That company refused to settle for the available policy limits ($30,000) and, instead, argued that George should have been paying better attention. Very thorough pre-trial discovery included numerous depositions in CA and the Defendant driver’s deposition in NV, extensive written discovery and several expert depositions and, significantly, an powerful and moving “Day in the Life” DVD presentation that would convey to a jury a bit of what George’s life was life as a paraplegic. The case settled for $4,500,000 on the third day of the jury trial and just hours after the Trial Judge ruled that the jury would be allowed to watch the “Day in the Life” DVD the next day in trial. The terms of the settlement include provisions prohibiting identification of the defense insurance company and the attorney it retained to try the case. Jeff Rickard tried the case with a former colleague.
Feldman v. Boy Scouts of America, et al., Santa Clara County Superior Court
Plaintiff, Linden Feldman, was seriously injured at a Boy Scouts Jamboree when an incorrectly connected zip line harness failed and he plunged 23’ to the ground. The zip line had been erected for the public to ride. Volunteers were used to help riders put on harnesses and then to launch them from the zip line tower once the trolley tether was properly connected to either a chest or back load-bearing loop on the harness. However, volunteers were used who had received no training in how to properly connect a zip line rider’s harness to the trolley tether. The harnesses were equipped with two load-bearing loops and a small utility loop that was not designed to carry body weight. The volunteer who hooked up Linden negligently connected the carabineer to the utility loop. When Linden launched the loop tore open and he plunged to the ground below. The volunteer testified that nobody told him how to connect a rider to the harness. The entire accident sequence happened to be photographed by a spectator who knew Linden. The photographs became powerful exhibits. Jeff Rickard and a colleague developed and implemented a very comprehensive discovery strategy that included extensive written discovery and numerous fact and expert depositions on the issues of scouting policies, safety training of volunteers, assumption of risk, cognitive function, psychiatric issues, traumatic brain injury proof, life care needs and economic loss. A settlement was reached shortly before trial.
John Doe v. Doe Corporation. Santa Clara County Superior Court
Settlement of insurance bad faith case. Plaintiff suffered a serious closed head injury and severe orthopedic injuries. Jeff Rickard and Ryan Hagan teamed up to implement a comprehensive discovery plan that included in-depth written discovery and approximately 12-15 fact and expert depositions regarding corporate policies and practices. The case settled on the eve of trial. A strict confidentiality agreement prevents disclosure of any other details.
Pettit v. Doe Tire Company and Doe Ford Dealership, Clark County District Court, Las Vegas, Nevada
Wrongful death of a college student in a Ford Explorer rollover that was caused by the sudden delamination of a rear tire which lead to loss of control of the SUV. Witnesses said the movements of the car just before the loss of control were all normal and that the driver was driving safely. The student’s mother was a passenger and survived but witnessed her daughter die. Days before the crash, the student’s father had the car inspected and serviced at the dealership so it would be safe for his wife and daughter to make the trip. A tire mechanic noted in the service records that all four tires were “severely out of round and worn” and needed to be replaced. The service advisor, however, failed to advise the family and the SUV was allowed to leave the dealership with the bad tires still on the Explorer. When a tire is determined to be “out of round” it is a clue to any experienced tire technician that there is internal degradation and delamination, i.e., the plys are separating. Operating the tire at highway speed, combined with heat, caused tire failure just days after the dealership inspected the tires. Jeff Rickard teamed up with co-counsel Tab Turner to develop and implement a discovery plan that exposed the Ford Explorer design problems, tire defects and the sub-standard conduct of the dealership in failing to take steps to prevent the Explorer from leaving its shop. A final settlement was reached on the Saturday before trial was set to commence.
Doe Plaintiff v. Doe Insurance Company, Santa Clara County, California
The Plaintiff was a 70 year old elementary school volunteer who suffered a below-knee amputation after she was struck in a crosswalk by a car driven by an inattentive driver. The insurance company for the careless driver refused to settle for its policy limits of $100,000 before suit was filed even though the driver told the investigating San Jose Police Department officer that it was his fault. This insurance bad faith recovery was obtained before trial after the Defendant driver complained to his insurance company that it should have paid the policy limits and in not doing so was exposing him to a judgment in excess of his coverage, all of which could have been avoided. The driver’s insurance company eventually agreed to pay the $100,000 policy plus an additional $2,550,000 above and beyond the policy to settle all claims. Jeff Rickard’s experience as a former insurance defense attorney played a significant role in how this matter was handled and concluded.
Metabolife, a “natural” diet supplement marketed as an energy boost and weight loss product, was produced and sold without FDA approval, inspection or testing. It was manufactured by a former law enforcement member who had previously been convicted of manufacturing illegal drugs. Under the “natural” food laws of the United States he was free to sell this mixture of ephedra, caffeine and other stimulants. Metabolife had a large market share of the “energy boost” and weight loss market for several years. However, reports began to surface that use of the product was being linked to heart attacks, strokes and seizures in many users including very young people with normal weight. One client, a young mother looking for an energy supplement, suffered a severe stroke at the age of 28. Another client, a young African American man in good shape but working long hours and looking for an “energy boost,” suffered a stroke that resulted in sight-impaired and partially paralyzed for life. Lawsuits began to be filed against Metabolife and other makers of ephedra-based products. Jeff Rickard and Ryan Hagan filed, on behalf of a former firm, several lawsuits and then conducted research, investigation and discovery on behalf of each client. Because of the firestorm of lawsuits that were filed Metabolife sought bankruptcy protection. Ultimately the company emerged from bankruptcy to participate in a “global settlement” proceeding. Jeff Rickard participated in several mediation sessions that were conducted around the country over a stretch of several months. The result was a settlement fund of more than $52,000,000 to be used to compensate victims. The Court-appointed mediator, Professor Eric Green from Boston, asked Jeff Rickard to serve on the national advisory committee of 10-12 attorneys that ultimately evaluated all 260+ pending claims against the company and a number of other defendants and drafted a proposed allocation of settlement funds to individual claimants. This total recovery is on behalf of seven of the Metabolife plaintiffs represented by Jeff Rickard. Several other Metabolife claims were settled for various amounts before the “global settlement” of all remaining claims was accomplished.
Chin v. Doe Insurance Company, Alameda County Superior Court
This insurance bad faith recovery for serious personal injuries suffered by Plaintiffs Zhai and Pengfu Chin arose from a crash on Interstate 80 near the Carquinez Bridge when the Defendant driver of a Jeep lost control coming onto the highway, spun 180° and caused a head-on collision. The Chin’s Nissan Altima protected the Chin’s well in this high speed collision that easily could have killed either of them. The insurance carrier for the Jeep initially refused to pay its $100,000 policy to settle these claims even though it was obvious before suit was filed that the damages far exceeded the available coverage for the accident caused by its insured. The policy was eventually offered but only after suit was filed. This settlement occurred on the eve of trial and after all trial preparation and two Mandatory Settlement Conferences were completed by Jeff Rickard and a former colleague.
Navarro v. State of California, Department of Transportation, et al., San Mateo County Superior Court
Plaintiff, a 12 year old boy, was struck by a car while he was crossing Highway 1 at night near Moss Beach, CA. He suffered an amputation of a foot and numerous other orthopedic injuries. There was no evidence that the driver was speeding or inattentive. The location of the accident was an intersection with signs and signals for vehicles but no pavement markings, signs or signals to assist pedestrians who wanted to cross the highway. Discovery revealed that the State had installed devices and signs to assist pedestrians at other locations on Highway 1 but had done nothing at the subject intersection where numerous businesses were located and where a traffic study had shown there was a need for pedestrian safety measures. An aerial of the intersection obtained by showed a well-worn footpath through shoulder vegetation at the accident location which tended to show there was a history of pedestrian crossings. Numerous depositions of lay witnesses and expert witnesses were completed but the testimony of one defense witness made a difference in the outcome of the case. Under very careful and methodical questioning by Jeff Rickard, using exhibits selected by a colleague, the State’s highway safety expert was forced to agree and confirm on an aerial photograph that the impact that injured Plaintiff occurred in what would be considered a statutory crosswalk. Establishing liability was extremely difficult and Plaintiff’s own negligence was a huge issue. However, very thorough trial preparation by Jeff Rickard and acolleague lead to a settlement on the eve of trial.
Oladunni v. Brand X Tire Company, San Joaquin Superior Court
Plaintiffs were a mother and her two young daughters. They were passengers in a minivan driving back to Stockton after a trip to Disneyland. A rear tire on the van failed. Discovery revealed that the tire was a used tire purchased by the van driver from a “mom and pop” tire shop. The tire delaminated at highway speed as a result of defective manufacture and defective engineering design. The base rubber skim stock did not contain proper anti-oxidants which caused the tire to prematurely degrade and lead to the tread separating from the liner while the van was being driven northbound on I-5 in California. The tire failure caused the driver to lose control of the van. It left the pavement and entered the median where it rolled several times. The belted mother was in a second row passenger seat and suffered moderate injuries. Her three children, however, were unbelted in the rear and were thrown from the van. Plaintiff’s six year-old son was killed and her two daughters, ages 9 and 12, suffered serious injuries. Because the children were unbelted comparative negligence was a significant issue in the case. Jeff Rickard took the lead on the case and, along with Ryan Hagan, engaged in what became a fierce discovery war over many months that included extensive written discovery, depositions of witnesses in CA and IL and numerous Court hearings. Eventually, as a trial date was finally approaching, a settlement was negotiated that included Court-approved settlement amounts for each of the injured minors. The Defendant tire company required as a condition of settlement that its name not be revealed and that the Court file be sealed.
Ciccotti, et al. v. State of California, Department of Parks and Recreation, Merced County Superior Court
Plaintiffs were adult brothers and a son who were at a campground near Los Banos, CA, to do some fishing. Aaron arrived a bit later than his son and a brother. While he was sitting at a picnic table at an improved campsite a large tree suddenly and without warning toppled onto Aaron crushing him into the table. His brother and son escaped serious injury but Aaron suffered a punctured lung, fractured ribs, bruised sternum and injuries to his shoulder, knee and teeth. Discovery in the case revealed that the tree that fell onto Aaron had extensive decay and rot that was visible to an arborist. However, records confirmed that the State of CA had failed to inspect or maintain the tree at any time before it fell on Aaron. It was truly an accident waiting to happen. Aaron, personally referred to Jeff Rickard by his brother, Eric, agreed to settle for $1,450,000 with the balance of the settlement being paid to his brother, Harold, and Aaron’s son, Bradley (subject to Court approval). Jeff Rickard and Ryan Hagan worked together on all aspects of the case.
Cardenas v. Ford, et al, San Diego County Superior Court
Plaintiff was a young husband in the military who was in the process of moving from CA to TX due to a job transfer. He and his wife had shipped most of their belongings to TX and had just a few things packed in their Ford Explorer for the long drive. Not long after leaving San Diego in the evening hours they had a flat tire and had to be towed to a tire shop in Barstow. Because it was late at night the tire couldn’t be repaired until the next day. Plaintiff hired the tire shop to repair or replace the flat tire and inspect all of the tires so they could continue on the trip to TX. The tire shop “professional” who worked on the vehicle failed to notice that the tires on the Explorer showed obvious signs of degradation. A simple test with a run-out gauge would have revealed that the tires were out of round, a clear sign of internal structural failure. However, when the shop was inspected by Plaintiff’s expert it was discovered that there was nobody at the shop who knew how to use a run-out gauge and it appeared that the gauge itself was inoperable! The shop manager allowed Plaintiff to drive off the premises with tires at risk of imminent failure. The negligent tire inspection and repair resulted in a defective rear tire failing just a few hours later. The delamination of the tire at highway speed caused Plaintiff to lose control of the Ford Explorer. It left the roadway surface and rolled near the CA/AZ border and Plaintiff’s young wife was killed at the scene. Jeff Rickard teamed with co-counsel Tab Turner to do all of the pre-trial case preparation which included extensive expert discovery in several States before the case settled on the eve of trial.
Stewart v. Edgmon, Santa Clara County Superior Court
In this wrongful death case the Plaintiff was the father of a 19 year old man killed when another driver ran a stop sign at night on a two-lane road in rural Santa Clara County and crashed into decedent’s vehicle. The police investigation of the accident turned up some marijuana at the scene in the possession of decedent but no evidence that decedent was under the influence of any substance. The insurance claims person handling the matter on behalf of the driver that ran the stop sign apparently decided that the mere presence of marijuana was a sufficient basis upon which to blame the decedent for the crash despite overwhelming physical evidence that her insured had run a stop sign. The carrier’s local claims manager approved of this decision to try to blame decedent and, when given the chance to settle the claim before trial for policy limits of $100,000 before suit was filed, refused to do so. Thorough trial preparation by Jeff Rickard and a colleague confirmed that decedent did nothing to cause the accident. The case settled before trial for a total of $1,300,000, or, 13 times the Defendant driver’s liability coverage.
Perkins v. Pacific Oroville Power, et al, Butte County Superior Court
Plaintiff in this wrongful death action was the surviving wife of a 65 year-old man whose small truck was struck from behind by a fully loaded delivery truck. Decedent, along with several other drivers, had slowed to a stop on the roadway after suddenly encountering a very dense wall of fog and smoke drifting across the highway from smoldering burn piles at Pacific Oroville’s wood chip facility alongside the highway. The driver of the delivery truck testified that he could see the wall of fog ahead of him but, incredibly, chose to drive straight into it without slowing down whatsoever. He immediately struck decedent’s truck and caused a chain reaction accident that involved several vehicles. Jeff Rickard’s thorough and methodical case preparation, including numerous depositions of parties, witnesses and first responders, lead to what is believed to be a record settlement amount for this type of case in Butte County.
Herrera v. American Medical Response, Santa Clara County Superior Court
Plaintiff, a well-respected leader of the Palo Alto Police Department’s SWAT Team, sustained very serious injuries when an ambulance made a sudden and illegal u-turn directly into the path of Plaintiff’s motorcycle on Embarcadero Road. The officer’s motorcycle struck the ambulance broadside. Despite multiple fractures and a frightening closed head injury, this veteran police officer was later able to recover and return to his job. Jeff Rickard was the attorney who prepared this case for trial.
Johansen v. Marelich Mechanical, Santa Clara County Superior Court
Plaintiff Bill Johansen, a 50 year old carpenter, was working as a foreman on a construction project at the City of Santa Clara’s Silicon Valley electrical power project when a remote-controlled crane was left unattended and free-swinging by the crane operator. Jeff Rickard conducted extensive discovery and took numerous depositions to find out what happened. What was learned was that the crane operator left the ball and hook hanging loose on an unlocked boom and walked away from the controls. Wind slowly swung the crane and dangling hook into 115,000-volt lines. Bill was 20 feet from the tower crane’s grounding rod when a blast and a ball of fire exploded at ground level. The blast knocked Bill to the ground. It aggravated previous on-the-job back injuries and left Bill with permanent vertigo that ended his construction career but still allowed him to drive, shop, perform chores at home and return to other employment. The defendants hired investigators to videotape Bill shopping in an attempt to show that he was faking vertigo. The attempt failed as the top ENT doctor at UCSF who specialized in balance disorders confirmed the blast was the cause of Bill’s inner ear dysfunction and residual problems. Jeff Rickard discovered in depositions and records that the crane operator who left the crane unattended had received a written reprimand for inattention the day before Bill’s accident but was allowed to stay on the jobsite. Amazingly, at his deposition the crane operator was still defending his actions and blaming others for what happened. A long mediation at JAMS did not settle the case with the mediator even stating that “They will never pay a million dollars.” It was the continuing work of Jeff Rickard in preparing the case for trial that eventually lead to a settlement of $1,000,000 shortly before a trial would have begun.
Cortinas v. San Juan Unified School District, Sacramento County Superior Court
Wrongful death suit brought by the parents of a 40 year old who was driving his Honda Civic and exiting I-80 at Greenback Lane in Sacramento. While stopped and waiting for traffic on the offramp ahead of him to clear, a school bus operated by a San Juan Unified School District bus driver who was most probably on a cell phone and driving too fast for conditions, crashed into and then rolled up and over the Civic crushing the driver and his wife. Jeff Rickard prepared this case for trial.
Sandoval v. Premier Pools, Inc., Sacramento County Superior Court
Plaintiffs were a 47 year old mother and her 10 year-old son who suffered serious personal injuries when a loaded dump truck’s brakes failed on a steep down grade in El Dorado Hills, CA. The truck, operated by Premier Pools, Inc. of Rancho Cordova, careened through a red light and crashed into the side of the Plaintiffs’ minivan. Both mother and son were knocked unconscious. The son recovered from the accident but the mother was left with a painful and permanent nerve injury in her scalp. Jeff Rickard and a colleague prepared the case for trial.
Taber v. Montgomery Services, Santa Clara County Superior Court
Plaintiff was a 56 year old man who collided with a car when the driver suddenly and without warning made a left turn directly into the path of Plaintiff’s motorcycle. The driver of the car was on the job at the time of the accident and testified she was trying to find a customer’s office. Plaintiff suffered severe orthopedic injuries to his leg and had to have surgery. Unfortunately the surgery was problematic and nine months following the surgery it was discovered that the tibia was not healing as expected. Plaintiff eventually got better and the matter was settled out of court. Jeff Rickard did the discovery and prepared the case for trial.
Raina v. Fry’s Electronics, Santa Clara County Superior Court
Plaintiff was a civil engineer working for a local governmental entity. He was rearended by a driver in a Fry’s Electronics van who was not paying attention. The collision was not particularly violent but Plaintiff was positioned in the car in such a way that his head struck the B pillar or steering wheel. He was diagnosed with a subdural hematoma soon after the accident. The closed head injury resulted in cognitive impairment serious enough that he was unable to return to his employment. Jeff Rickard and a colleague carefully prepared the case for trial. The case settled days before trial was to begin.
Rackle v. State of California, et al., Santa Cruz County Superior Court
Plaintiff was the mother of Chris Rock, a young deaf man who lived in Santa Cruz. Chris was riding his bicycle on Mission Street at Bay Avenue (Highway 1) when he was overtaken and crushed by the rear tires of a fully loaded gravel truck. Chris was, according to witnesses, operating his bike normally and was as close to the curb as he could be when struck from behind. There was no dedicated bike lane at the location. The roadway configuration was such that the area when the accident happened was at a “pinch” point created by very narrow lanes and a bend in the road. Rear tires of big rigs tended to “cheat” to the right as the bend was negotiated. Exhaustive and careful discovery by Jeff Rickard and a colleague revealed that the curb lane was built too narrow and was not in compliance with the State’s own highway construction plans for the location. Using aerials of the intersection, it appeared that when the State painted lane lines it did so incorrectly and as a result the lane where Rock was killed was far too narrow. The intersection also had an accident history that was made known by a police officer who testified that he had investigated another accident that had occurred within 10-15 feet of where Rock was crushed. The trucking company settled early in the litigation. The remaining defendant, the State of California, refused to offer reasonable money until the eve of the trial that Jeff Rickard and a colleague were prepared to start.
Domenichini v. City and County of San Francisco et al, San Francisco County Superior Court
Plaintiff, Robert Domenichini, a cement truck driver, was ordered to deliver cement mix to a roadway construction site in San Francisco. Steel plates had been installed in the sloped roadway that morning to provide a path from the existing concrete surface of the street to the newly excavated dirt road where cement was being poured by Esquivel Grading and Paving, a subcontractor of Trinet Construction. As Mr. Domenichini backed up the steel plates slipped and shifted under his cement truck which allowed the rear tires to drop into a ditch causing the mixer to roll over. Robert was tossed around inside the car during the rollover and struck his head. The defendant contractors claimed the rollover was solely the driver’s fault and that his failure to wear a seatbelt, which is not required on a construction site under California’s vehicle code, was the cause of Robert’s closed head injury. The case settled soon after jury selection. Jeff Rickard took numerous depositions and assisted a former colleague in preparing the case for trial.
John Doe v. Very Famous Casino, Clark County District Court, Las Vegas, Nevada
Plaintiff was a California businessman visiting Las Vegas for a friend’s wedding. While at a casino the evening before the wedding, Plaintiff, his wife and a friend decided to get some food. Plaintiff finished and left his table at the casino food court to go use a nearby public restroom. While walking down a hallway to the restroom he was struck in the head by a metal door that swung into the hallway from a food preparation area. The blow knocked Plaintiff unconscious and he fell to the hallway surface hard enough to cause a skull fracture. Suit was filed against the owner of the casino and alleged that the design of the metal doors that allowed them to swing into the path of guests on the premises was negligent and in violation of building codes. Jeff Rickard took numerous depositions of witnesses, first responders and Defendant’s experts. Under very methodical questioning Jeff was able to force the defense architectural and design experts to concede that the design was not one that he would have done because it posed a risk to pedestrians in the hallway. Plaintiff was left with constant headaches and anosmia (loss of the sense of smell). The case was mediated and settled on the condition that the casino’s name would not be disclosed.
Barker v. County of Santa Clara and Graham Contractors, Santa Clara County Superior Court
Plaintiff was a 50 year old Operating Engineer employed as a tower crane operator who was riding his motorcycle and suffered serious personal injuries when he encountered gravel spilled onto a curving freeway entrance by a county contractor doing roadwork in the area. Plaintiff lost control of his motorcycle, a Yamaha FZ1, went down hard and slid about 50’ into a concrete curb. His loss of consciousness, a sprained thumb and shoulder injury as detailed in a settlement demand to the defendants were ignored. The police officer who came to the scene took some cell phone photographs but decided that it was not a big deal so no accident report was prepared. The officer told the contractor to sweep up the gravel and the contractor immediately did so. The extent of gravel on the roadway became an issue and the officer’s cell phone photographs proved to be the key to establishing liability but the officer had left the local force and moved to Hawaii. Jeff Rickard took numerous depositions including the officer in Hawaii, and after getting the officer to confirm she took the photos and that the gravel spill was substantial and probably the cause of the crash, the case moved toward settlement. Interestingly, the first lawyer plaintiff spoke with had recommended a $35,000 settlement.
Brister v. Squires, Santa Clara County Superior Court
Plaintiff, Saweko Brister, was crossing a street in her neighborhood during morning hours on a bright and sunny day. Defendant was driving a truck through the area and struck plaintiff. He initially claimed the sun was in his eyes but admitted that he simply didn’t see Ms. Brister at any time before the impact. It appeared that inattention was the cause of the collision. Ms. Brister was knocked to the pavement and suffered injuries to her shoulder and lower back that forced her to give up her business of working as a license daycare provider. Jeff Rickard and a colleague did all of the discovery and trial preparation on this case.
Chow v. Taco Bell, City of Alameda and Sergio Baez, Alameda County Superior Court
Tao Cheung Wong, grandmother of Michelle Chow, age 3, and Thomas Chow, age 6, was holding each child by the hand while starting to cross the drive-thru exit at the Taco Bell on Webster Street. A Taco Bell customer exiting the drive-thru pulled across the sidewalk in an effort to look left for oncoming traffic and struck Michelle with the bumper of his Suburban causing a serious head injury. The negligence claim in the lawsuit was based on the theory that the site placement of the Taco Bell building and drive-thru driveway and the presence of the city’s trees along the sidewalk essentially forced drivers to advance across the sidewalk while looking to the left for oncoming traffic in the curb lane but ignoring pedestrians who may be approaching from the right on the city sidewalk. Taco Bell argued that the grandmother was at fault for failing to control the children and not paying attention to the Suburban moving toward the sidewalk. This very difficult case settled as the trial date approached due in large part to exhaustive and careful trial preparation by Jeff Rickard and a colleague.
Haydock v. Carlsen Porsche, Santa Clara County Superior Court
Plaintiff was rearended by an employee of the car dealership and suffered low back injuries that lead to a lumbar fusion. The case was made difficult by the fact that plaintiff was in a Volvo, one of the sturdiest cars made, and she had a pre-existing history that complicated the medical issues. Methodical and careful case preparation by Jeff Rickard and a colleague made the difference. The case settled on the eve of trial.
Condry v. General Motors Corporation, Missouri Circuit Court Twenty-Second Judicial Circuit, Louis City, Missouri Case Number: 022-00146
Wrongful death of a 19 year old man who, with his best friend, burned to death in the cab of his truck following a relatively minor side impact. The 1987 Chevrolet pick-up truck with gas tanks mounted outside the frame (“saddlebag gas tanks”) beneath the doors. The minor impact jammed the doors and also ruptured the unprotected gas tank. Both young men were trapped as the flames erupted from beneath the cab. Passerby stopped to help but the fire became a raging inferno before anyone could get to the young men. General Motors settled the case after numerous depositions were taken including some of GM employees who testified about numerous similar incidents involving the “saddlebag gas tanks.” Jeff Rickard and co-counsel, Brad Kuhlman, counsel for the family of the other decedent, engaged in a discovery effort that included enormous amounts of written materials and numerous depositions of parties, witnesses, first responders and experts in several States. The matter settled in mediation in Missouri.
Finn v. Idaho Power Company, Idacorp, Inc., Fourth Judicial District, County Of Ada, Boise, Idaho
A Californian visiting a church campground in Idaho suffered severe electrical burns that resulted in amputation of the right forearm after coming into contact with 12,000 volt power line near Idaho City. The power line was hanging as low as 6-7’ from the ground at the time of the incident because a crossarm had collapsed on a utility pole. Jeff Rickard conducted extensive discovery in the case including numerous depositions of parties, witnesses and power company employees. Discovery revealed that the power company had not inspected the utility pole or crossarm for nearly 50 years. The crossarm failed because of dry rot. The case settled shortly before the scheduled trial date.