California Personal Injury Verdicts

This newsletter focuses on decisions recently issued in California personal injury cases. Remember, each case and every jurisdiction is different. You should not expect to recover the same damages, especially since California is typically one of the most litigious states in the country, in which juries award personal injury verdicts in much higher amounts than in many other states.

Also, the vast majority of personal injury lawsuits in California settle before trial, either through arbitration, mediation, or other informal settlement negotiations. Many settlement agreements require that the terms of the settlement (namely, the amount of money paid to the plaintiff) be held confidential, and might even provide that the plaintiff will be penalized monetarily if the confidentiality provision is breached. Thus, many personal injury suits result in settlement payments which are never disclosed to others. However, the following cases do give you a good idea of the types of personal injury lawsuits which commonly occur, and verdicts which are within the normal range for California.

Laube v. Clear Channel Outdoor Inc. (Los Angeles, California): A billboard installer was electrocuted after a metal pole he was using connected with a live power line. He was awarded $1,180,000 for his personal injuries. This is an example of a workplace personal injury; the plaintiff was able to recover for his injuries because someone else's negligence caused them. If only the plaintiff or the plaintiff's employer had been at fault for his injuries, the case would have been covered exclusively by workers compensation law.

Parks v. The Roman Catholic Diocese of Phoenix (Riverside County, California): This case arose from personal injuries caused by a car accident. Six people in a passenger van were injured when the van driver lost control of the vehicle due to excessive speeds. The plaintiffs were awarded $2,376,189 from the van driver's employer. An employer can be held liable for the injuries caused by an employee who was acting in the course and scope of his or her employment. Since the van driver caused the accident by reckless driving, his employer was held responsible for the personal injuries the passengers sustained.

Confidential v. Confidential (Los Angeles, California): The parties in this case are not identified because the injured party was a minor; children are rarely identified by their full names in lawsuits for privacy reasons. This medical malpractice case was filed after a newborn baby suffered permanent damage because the baby's doctor failed to properly diagnosis and treat several serious conditions. Because a reasonable doctor would have noticed and treated these conditions, the baby's doctor was found negligent.

Vaccarezza v. City and County of San Francisco (San Francisco, California): The plaintiff suffered personal injuries as a result of an assault. She was participating in a peaceful demonstration when she sustained an arm fracture. The plaintiff was awarded $835,000 in damages. This is another instance in which an employer was sued for the actions of its employee.

Keep in mind that there are also defense awards at trial. In Lopez v. Tran (Contra Costa County, California) the jury entered a defense verdict in a personal injury case in which the plaintiff claimed that one of her fingers was ultimately amputated because of a cut she received at a nail salon and became infected. The plaintiff could not prove that the defendant's actions had caused this result, and received no damages for her injuries.