Plaintiff with alleged BAL of .32 falls down outside stairs at her apartment, owner/manager 60% negligent. San Francisco County.

Summary

Football fan leaving her apartment to see pro playoff game falls down outside front stairway to her apartment.  Hospital enters high BAL in her chart. Plaintiff exceeds her CCP Section 998 offer.

The Case

  • Case Name: Jane Doe v. Galu Realty, LLC & Estate of Dominic T. Galu, Sr.
  • Court and Case Number: San Francisco Superior Court / CGC-13-529064
  • Date of Verdict or Judgment: Tuesday, June 16, 2015
  • Date Action was Filed: Wednesday, February 27, 2013
  • Type of Action: Dangerous Condition Private Property, Premises Liability, Slip and Fall
  • Judge or Arbitrator(s): Hon. Sharon Reardon
  • Plaintiffs:
    Jane Doe, 36, bartender/club manager
  • Defendants:
    Galu Realty, LLC
    Estate of Dominic T. Galu, Sr.
  • Type of Result: Jury Verdict

The Result

  • Gross Verdict or Award: $2,102,161.10
  • Net Verdict or Award: $1,261,296.66
  • Award as to each Defendant:

    Galu Realty, LLC: $1,051,080.55

    Estate of Dominic T. Galu, Sr.: $210,216.11

  • Contributory/Comparative Negligence: 40%
  • Economic Damages:

    Total: $1,085,311.10

    Past Medical Expenses: $501,335.10

    Past Loss of Household Services: $13,692

    Past Lost Earnings: $64,284

    Future Medical Expenses: $425,000

    Future Loss of Household Services; $21,000

    Future Lost Earning Capacity:$60,000

  • Non-Economic Damages:

    $1,016,850

  • Trial or Arbitration Time: 12 days.
  • Jury Deliberation Time: 9 hours.
  • Jury Polls: 9-3

The Attorneys

  • Attorney for the Plaintiff:

    The Veen Firm by Craig M. Peters and David L. Winnett, San Francisco.

    Anderson Law by David C. Anderson and Audrey C. Siegel, San Francisco.

  • Attorney for the Defendant:

    Philip M. Anderson & Associates by Chris Feasel, Truman Phan-Quang and Deanne J. Broglio, Pleasanton.

The Experts

  • Plaintiff’s Medical Expert(s):

    Conor W. O'Neill, M.D., pain management, San Francisco.

    John P. Belzer, M.D., orthopedic surgery, San Francisco.

    John E. Mendelson, M.D., addiction medicine, San Francisco.

    Utku Kandemir, M.D., orthopedic surgery, San Francisco.

    Alan Wu, Ph.D., toxicological chemistry, San Francisco.

  • Defendant's Medical Expert(s):

    Gordon C. Lundy, M.D., orthopedic surgery, San Francisco.

    David A. Smith, M.D., addiction medicine, San Francisco.

  • Plaintiff's Technical Expert(s):

    Dale H. Feitz, P.E., safety engineering, Petaluma.

    Rajeev Kelkar, Ph.D., biomechanics, Mountain View.

    Phillip H. Allman, Ph.D., economics, Oakland.

  • Defendant's Technical Expert(s):

    Elaine R. Serina, Ph.D., biomechanical engineering, Hayward.

    Dean B. Tuft, Ph.D., safety engineer, Pleasant Hill.

    Margo R. Ogus, Ph.D., economics, Palo Alto.

Facts and Background

  • Facts and Background:

    Around 9 a.m. on Jan. 14, 2012, plaintiff fell on the exterior front stairs of a four-unit apartment building in Noe Valley, San Francisco. She was on her way with a companion to an NFL playoff game between the 49ers and Saints.

    Plaintiff had no memory of what happened prior to the fall and could not say what caused the fall, how she fell, why she fell or specifically where she fell. Biomechanical engineers for both sides agreed on the general area of the stairs where the fall initiated as being the vicinity where the wooden stairs transition to brick stairs. They were also able to agree that the fall happened as a result of plaintiff's right leg being planted on one wooden stair and her left leg missing at least one, and likely two, stairs, causing her to come down with her full weight on her straightened left leg on a brick stair resulting in the fracture to her left knee.

    Plaintiff was transported to the hospital for her injuries. The odor of alcohol on plaintiff's breath caused the hospital to do a blood draw at approximately three hours after the fall. The test result entered in plaintiff's medical chart was a .32 blood alcohol level. Plaintiff sued Galu Realty, LLC, the real estate management company for the building, as well as the Estate of Dominic T. Galu, Sr., the deceased owner of the building. She alleged premises liability.

  • Plaintiff's Contentions:

    Plaintiff alleged violations of the minimum safety standards as laid out in the Building Code. Specifically, the straight staircase that leads from the front door of plaintiff's apartment to the sidewalk is comprised of the bottom three stairs made of brick and the remaining staircase made of painted wood.

    The wood stairs have a wooden handrail and the brick stairs have a separate metal handrail, instead of one continuous handrail. The stairs slope slightly down, the treads are 10" instead of 11", the rise and the run of the stairs are not completely uniform, and the lower stairs have the paint worn from the nosing of the treads.

    Plaintiff contended that the non-continuous handrail, coupled with the downward sloping, short treads and irregular rise and run of the stairs, caused the fall. All of these problems exist at the area where the biomechanical engineers agreed the fall initiated. Plaintiff was unable to find any prior complaints, injuries or notice of violations about the staircase at the property where the fall happened. She was also unable to find any prior complaints, injuries or notice of violations for staircases at any of defendants' other properties. Plaintiff denied any use of alcohol on the morning of the fall.

  • Defendant's Contentions:

    That the fall happened from plaintiff's own negligence resulting from her intoxication at over four times the legal limit for driving. Defense also contended that the longtime tenants in the other units, including a family with young children and an older tenant, had never complained or had trouble with the staircase at this property.

    The defense highlighted that plaintiff had managed to move her furniture into the apartment without a problem or complaint. Further, no tenants at any time had ever complained of having difficulty with, or concerns about the stairs, and they had never had reports of people actually falling on the stairs in the 56 years they had owned the property.

Injuries and Other Damages

  • Physical Injuries claimed by Plaintiff:

    Tibial plateau fracture (Schatzer 6); compartment syndrome requiring fasciotomies and external fixation, wound debridement, open reduction and internal fixation; broken front tooth penetrating through her upper lip; broken nose; broken left clavicle; two black eyes; and loss of consciousness.

    Two-and-a-half months in the hospital and physical therapy afterwards resulted in significant time off of work.

    Plaintiff's future medical needs include at least two knee replacements and treatment for her back.

  • Two-and-a-half months in the hospital and physical therapy afterwards resulted in significant time off of work.

Special Damages

  • Special Damages Claimed - Past Medical: $501,335.10
  • Special Damages Claimed - Future Medical: $367,789.47
  • Special Damages Claimed - Past Lost Earnings: $138,415
  • Special Damages Claimed - Future Lost Earnings: $361,539

Demands and Offers

  • Plaintiff §998 Demand: $999,999
  • Defendant §998 Offer: $100,000

Additional Notes

Plaintiff's recovery exceeded the 998 of $999,999 served on defendants almost one year prior to trial.

Per defense counsel: Some of plaintiff's future medical expenses were introduced through testimony by defense expert, Dr. Lundy.

Disclaimer

This is not an official court document. While the publisher believes the information to be accurate, the publisher does not guarantee it and the reader is advised not to rely upon it without consulting the official court documents or the attorneys of record in this matter who are listed above.

© Copyright 2022 by Neubauer & Associates, Inc. All rights reserved. www.juryverdictalert.com