Recent Cases

Type Of Case: Medical Malpractice — Malpositioned Pedicle Screw During Back Surgery

Jury Verdict For Our Client: $1,272,000, Plus Interest And Costs


TYPE OF CLAIM:
The plaintiff had herniated disks in his lower back at L4-5 and L5-S1. In an effort to repair the herniated disks, the defendant, an orthopedic surgeon, performed a two-level lumbar spine fusion, which required the placement of two rods using six screws. The plaintiff alleged that the defendant negligently performed the lumbar spine fusion, malpositioned a pedicle screw at the L4 level and failed to acknowledge or diagnose the malpositioned pedicle screw. After the surgery, the plaintiff reported new neurological symptoms indicative of a malpositioned pedicle screw causing root compression. Approximately eight months after the surgery, the plaintiff sought a second opinion from another orthopedic surgeon, who diagnosed the malpositioned screw and promptly removed it.

DEFENDANT'S CONTENTIONS: The defendant claimed that the neurological symptoms the plaintiff suffered after the surgery were pre-existing and were not caused by the malpositioned screw at L4 level. The defendant also claimed that the L4 pedicle screw was not malpositioned and did not contact the plaintiff's nerve roots. The defendant disputed the extent of the plaintiff's damages and alleged that the plaintiff could have continued to work as a stone mason.

INJURIES AND DAMAGES ALLEGED: Severe neurological pain, weakness and loss of function in the plaintiff's left leg subsequent to spine fusion surgery. Wasting of the muscles in the left calf, with attendant chronic foot drop. The pedicle screw was surgically removed by a physician who provided a second opinion. The plaintiff had a spinal cord stimulator implanted at the Mayo Clinic in December 2005. The plaintiff alleged that he has chronic pain and muscle wasting in his left lower leg. The plaintiff had been a member of the U.S. Ski Team for 10 years, primarily competing in downhill races. Following his retirement from the U.S. Ski Team, the plaintiff coached the U.S. Disabled Ski Team for several years. He was working as a stone mason and as a ski coach for Battle Mountain High School in Vail at the time of the surgery. The plaintiff claimed that he was unable to continue ski coaching and that he could not own or operate his masonry business as a result of his injuries.

FINAL DEMAND BEFORE TRIAL: $900,000

FINAL OFFER BEFORE TRIAL: $250,000 statutory offer of settlement

JURY AWARD: After a two-week jury trial, the plaintiff was awarded $1,272,000, plus interest and costs.


Type Of Case: Automobile Accident Resulting In A Claim Against The Driver Who Caused The Accident And A Claim For Underinsured Motorist Benefits

Jury Verdict For Our Client: $426,279.48, including interest and costs

FACTS: On an August afternoon, our client was injured in an auto accident at University Boulevard and Cherry Creek Drive South. Our client was a passenger in a vehicle that was northbound on University Boulevard at a speed of approximately 30 mph. Suddenly, a car traveling south on University Boulevard attempted to make a left turn onto Cherry Creek Drive South. The car our client was riding in "T-boned" the car attempting to make the left turn.

We began our representation of our client within two weeks after the accident occurred. We assisted our client with obtaining payment for all the medical expenses incurred for the injuries she suffered in the accident. Those injuries included a herniated disk in her cervical spine, which eventually required surgery. We also helped our client obtain payment of lost wages while she was unable to work for approximately one year after the accident.

Our firm successfully negotiated a settlement of the claims against the driver who made the sudden left turn for the full amount of the insurance he had available, which was $30,000. Because our client's damages were more than $30,000, we then filed a complaint in Denver District Court against our client's own insurance company, State Farm, for underinsured motorist benefits.

PLAINTIFF'S CONTENTIONS: The complaint we filed on behalf of our client requested damages above the $30,000 she had already received for pain, suffering, lost wages, future medical expenses and compensation for permanent physical impairment as a result of the accident.

DEFENDANT'S CONTENTIONS: State Farm denied that our client's injuries were caused by the accident and strongly contested the extent of the damages. State Farm attempted to prove that our client did not miss any time from work as a result of the accident, claiming that there was no entitlement to any compensation for lost wages or diminished earning capacity. Furthermore, State Farm claimed that the manufacturer of the car that our client was traveling in, Honda, was responsible for our client's injuries due to the alleged failure of the seat belt.

THE RESULT: Prior to trial, State Farm's final offer to settle the case was $40,000. Based on our advice, our client rejected the offer. After a three-day trial, the jury returned a verdict for our client, resulting in total judgment, including costs and interest of $416,279.48.


Type Of Case: Personal Injury - Premises Liability (Burn Incident)

Settlement Amount For Our Client: $900,000

FACTS: In September 2002, the plaintiff, who was 78 years old and retired, traveled from Los Angeles on vacation to Montrose, Colorado. He was traveling with his wife and two adult children to visit the locale where he was born. The family arrived in Montrose and checked into the defendant's 28-room hotel. On the morning of their departure from the hotel, the plaintiff decided to take a quick shower. While in the shower, the plaintiff suffered second- and third-degree burns over 41 percent of his body. Prior to the incident, the plaintiff had been diagnosed with Parkinson's and Alzheimer's. The plaintiff had no memory of the incident. The plaintiff's wife and daughter reported that the shower was running for less than two minutes and that he came out of the shower with his skin very red. There were no screams or cries of pain and the plaintiff, at the time of the incident, made no complaint of any pain or discomfort, but just simply started getting dressed as though nothing had happened.

PLAINTIFF'S CONTENTIONS: The plaintiff contended that the owner of the hotel maintained the hotel in an unsafe and unreasonably dangerous condition, specifically that the temperature of the water heater for the hotel's rooms was set at 130 degrees, which was unreasonably dangerous and sufficient to scald the elderly plaintiff. The plaintiff sought damages for his burns and scarring.

DEFENDANT'S CONTENTIONS: The defendant denied liability and argued that the temperature setting of the water heater at 130 degrees was not a dangerous condition. The defendant claimed that the plaintiff was at fault for improperly turning the shower faucet temperature at or near its hottest setting, and as a result of his Alzheimer's and Parkinson's, was unaware of the hot water and just stood in the hot water for two minutes, causing the burns. The defendant argued that the plaintiff and the plaintiff's family were responsible for the plaintiff's burns and, therefore, the defendant had a complete defense to the plaintiff's claims under Colorado law. The defendant also asserted that the plaintiff's pain and suffering damages were limited by the statutory damage cap in Colorado to $366,250 and that the plaintiff's economic damages were limited to the actual dollars paid by Medicare for the plaintiff's medical expenses in the amount of $283,000.

DAMAGES: The plaintiff suffered second- and third-degree burns over 41 percent of his body and requested compensation for pain, suffering, emotional distress and permanent physical impairment. The defendant argued that under Colorado law, the plaintiff was only able to present and claim actual medical charges paid by Medicare in the amount of $283,000 and that the plaintiff's damages for pain and suffering were limited to $366,250 under Colorado law.

THE RESULT: Settlement in the amount of $900,000