Car rolls as plaintiff attempts to sit in seat, claims valet at fault. Defense. Los Angeles County.

Summary

Both liability and causation are questioned after accident at restaurant valet.

The Case

  • Case Name: Mark Williams v. Geoffrey's Malibu
  • Court and Case Number: Los Angeles Superior Court / BC550003
  • Date of Verdict or Judgment: Tuesday, May 07, 2019
  • Date Action was Filed: Thursday, June 26, 2014
  • Type of Action: Negligence, Highlighted Verdicts
  • Judge or Arbitrator(s): Hon. Margaret Oldendorf
  • Plaintiffs:
    Mark Williams
  • Defendants:
    Geoffrey's Malibu
  • Type of Result: Jury Verdict

The Result

  • Gross Verdict or Award: Defense verdict.
  • Trial or Arbitration Time: 3 weeks.

The Attorneys

  • Attorney for the Plaintiff:

    McElfish Law Firm by Raymond McElfish and Mitchell Berman, West Hollywood.

    Hamed Yazdanpanah, Beverly Hills.

  • Attorney for the Defendant:

    Veatch Carlson, LLP by Robert Mackey and Gregory Selarz, Los Angeles.

The Experts

  • Plaintiff’s Medical Expert(s):

    Fardad Mobin, M.D., neurosurgery, Beverly Hills.

    Adam Weitzman, M.D., pain management, Redondo Beach.

    Edmond Provder, life care planning.

  • Defendant's Medical Expert(s):

    Robert Wilson, M.D., orthopedic surgery.

Facts and Background

  • Facts and Background:

    On July 1, 2012 plaintiff was leaving defendant restaurant after dining with his spouse. The valet returned his vehicle, a classic 1966 Mustang, but as plaintiff attempted to sit down in the car the vehicle rolled backwards, resulting in plaintiff falling to the ground.

    Plaintiff  claimed injury and underwent conservative treatment, which ultimately led to a two-level lumbar fusion.

     

  • Plaintiff's Contentions:

    That defendant's valet was negligent for either improperly parking the vehicle and/or returning the car on an incline;  that defendants violated their own safety policy that had been in effect for over 15 years requiring valets to make sure customers were safely in their cars with their doors closed. That this negligence resulted in injuries and treatment including a two-level lumbar fusion. That plaintiff would need a future surgery and would suffer loss of future earning capacity.

  • Defendant's Contentions:

    That the valet properly returned the car on flat terrain, but that the 1966 car had a defect which caused the emergency brake and/or gear shifter not to work properly.

    As to damages, that any injury would have been soft tissue which should have resolved within a few months of the accident, therefore making the lumbar fusion surgery unnecessary and/or not related. Also, there was no evidence that plaintiff had lost any income or would lose income in the future.

    Please see Additional Notes section below.

Injuries and Other Damages

  • Physical Injuries claimed by Plaintiff:

    Two-level, lumbar fusion with a claimed future surgery.

  • Loss of future earning capacity.

Special Damages

  • Special Damages Claimed - Past Medical: $149,000
  • Special Damages Claimed - Future Medical: $180,000 per defense counsel; $160,000 per plaintiff's counsel.
  • Special Damages Claimed - Future Lost Earnings: $300,000 + per defense counsel; $167,885 per plaintiff's counsel.

Demands and Offers

  • Plaintiff §998 Demand: $1,000,000
  • Defendant §998 Offer: $300,000

Additional Notes

Per defense counsel:

Plaintiff asked for $4,000,000+ from the jury. Defendant asked the jury to return a not liable verdict, but if found liable, to award damages commensurate with a soft tissue injury. The jury found that defendant was not negligent.

Per plaintiff's counsel:

Special Damages Claimed - Future Lost Life Care$433,867.

Plaintiff prior to trial sought to exclude any evidence of any defect in plaintiff’s classic 1966 Mustang because defendants did not inspect the car, their expert was not qualified to opine as an expert in Mustangs and any information about a defect was prejudicial hearsay, which motions were granted. Motion in limine orders were entered by the Court excluding any discussion of the condition of any defects in the Mustang.

Near the end of the trial, defendant Jeffrey Peterson, the owner of the defendant restaurant took the stand and testified voluntarily and without provocation that the Mustang had known defects in the brakes and the gearshift and all the jury had to do was to go online to learn about it, in direct and blatant violation of the Court’s order on the subject. A motion for a mistrial was filed, the Court denied the motion without prejudice to be refiled after the verdict, noting on the record that the violation was clearly intentional, prejudicial and could not be cured with an instruction and that she would revisit the issue on post-trial motions after the verdict if not moot. Post-trial motions have not yet been filed, but plaintiff expects a new trial to be granted.

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.

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