Plaintiff fractures knee cap during charity run/walk. $1M. Orange County.

Summary

Local store sponsors run/walk event for charity; woman is injured on the route through construction debris.

The Case

  • Case Name: Hollowell v. Road Runner Sports Inc.
  • Court and Case Number: Orange County Superior Court / 30-2016-00838494
  • Date of Verdict or Judgment: Thursday, May 24, 2018
  • Date Action was Filed: Wednesday, March 02, 2016
  • Type of Action: Trip and Fall
  • Judge or Arbitrator(s): Hon. Thomas Delaney
  • Plaintiffs:
    Theresa Hollowell, 63.
  • Defendants:
    Road Runner Sports, Inc.
  • Type of Result: Jury Verdict

The Result

  • Gross Verdict or Award: $1,029,026
  • Net Verdict or Award: $827,574.00
  • Award as to each Defendant:

    City of Costa Mesa settled with plaintiff prior to trial and was not a defendant at trial.

  • Contributory/Comparative Negligence: 5% to plaintiff; 15% to City of Costa Mesa; 80% to Road Runner Sports, Inc.
  • Economic Damages:

    $29,026.00 (stipulated past medical expenses.)

  • Non-Economic Damages:

    Past non-economic: $600,000

    Future non-economic: $400,000

  • Trial or Arbitration Time: 5 days.
  • Jury Deliberation Time: 3 hours.
  • Jury Polls: 11-1 negligence; 12-0 damages; 10-2 comparative.

The Attorneys

  • Attorney for the Plaintiff:

    The Roberts Law Firm by Jeffrey T. Roberts and Michael Jeandron, Newport Beach.

  • Attorney for the Defendant:

    Law Offices of John A. Hauser by Scott Cox, Santa Ana.

The Experts

  • Plaintiff’s Medical Expert(s):

    David Nabi, M.D.

  • Defendant's Medical Expert(s):

    None.

  • Plaintiff's Technical Expert(s):

    Bradley Rutledge, human factors, Laguna Hills.

  • Defendant's Technical Expert(s):

    Jay Elbettar, building codes, Mission Viejo.

Facts and Background

  • Facts and Background:

    Defendant Road Runner Sports conducted a charity 5K run/walk on the sidewalks of Costa Mesa, which began and ended at their store parking lot. The 75-80 participants included children, and people in their 60s, 70s and 80s. Defendant did not obtain a permit from the City prior to conducting the event.

    The route for the race placed the participants on a sidewalk that went through an area under construction, including a construction driveway that had a 3/4-inch ledge running down the middle that was covered in dirt, gravel and other debris. Participants were required to leave the sidewalk and cross the driveway to get to the other side of the sidewalk. Plaintiff, a 60-year-old woman, caught her foot on the ledge as she was walking with her husband and friend.

  • Plaintiff's Contentions:

    Plaintiff contended that defendant store was negligent for choosing a course route that required participants to walk through a construction zone and encounter uneven surfaces without placing any kind of warning cones on the driveway or having a course monitor in the location to warn participants. Plaintiff further contended that defendant was negligent per se for violating a Costa Mesa City ordinance that required a special event permit for athletic events with 50 or more participants that was to take place on City sidewalks and other public rights-of-way.

    City employees testified that a permit application and course route was required three weeks before the event. City engineer testified that, had he reviewed the proposed route through a construction area, he would have required defendant to choose a different route.

    As to defendant's waiver of liability defense, plaintiff contended that there was inadequate proof that plaintiff accepted a waiver, the nature of acceptance was ambiguous, and there was no proof of the contents of the online waiver (see notes at end of report).

  • Defendant's Contentions:

    Defendant contended that the City was responsible for keeping the sidewalks and driveway in a safe condition and that plaintiff's fall was the City's fault for not fixing the driveway or putting up warning signs. Defendant had the right to rely on the City's judgment of leaving the sidewalk and driveway open and available for the public and therefore defendant could assume it was per se safe for their event.

    Defendant further contended that the fall was plaintiff's fault for not seeing the ledge. Defendant further contended that they had called the City about the need for a permit for other similar events and hadn't been required to get one. Defendant further contended that the City ordinance had an exception that didn't require permits if activity was solely conducted on sidewalks. (The exception references that it was intended for picketing.)

    Defendant further contended that plaintiff had signed a waiver of liability.

Injuries and Other Damages

  • Physical Injuries claimed by Plaintiff:

    Plaintiff suffered a fractured knee cap. During four weeks of elevated immobilization plaintiff developed a blood clot in her calf (unbeknownst to her).

    While plaintiff was sleeping, the blood clot dislodged and traveled to her lung where it caused a pulmonary embolism resulting in a week-long hospital stay. The blood clot caused a permanent and irreversible condition called post-thrombotic syndrome (damage to the valves in the deep veins). Plaintiff is now required to wear compression stockings for the rest of her life and must take blood thinners when flying.

     

  • Plaintiff was an extremely active woman who enjoyed wearing dresses and skirts and high heels. Wearing compression stockings severely affects plaintiff's ability and desire to wear these items of clothing. Plaintiff is limited in her walking distances, can not dance with her husband, and has major fear of a recurrence of blood clots as well as bleeding out due to thinned blood when taking blood-thinning medication.

Special Damages

  • Special Damages Claimed - Past Medical: $29,067 (stipulated).
  • Special Damages Claimed - Future Medical: 0
  • Special Damages Claimed - Past Lost Earnings: 0
  • Special Damages Claimed - Future Lost Earnings: 0

Demands and Offers

  • Plaintiff §998 Demand: $500,000 four months before trial.

Additional Notes

Defendant contended that when plaintiff signed up for the 5K event online she accepted the terms and conditions of a waiver of liability. Plaintiff contended that there was inadequate proof that plaintiff accepted a waiver, the nature of acceptance was ambiguous, and there was no proof of the contents of the online waiver. Defendant's affirmative defense of express waiver was tried to the court as a bench trial one month before jury trial on liability and damages. The court granted plaintiff's Motion for Judgment, finding that defendant provided inadequate proof of the existence of an accepted waiver of liability. Defendant designated two medical doctors who provided deposition testimony that was consistent with plaintiff's medical contentions. Defendant did not call either of their medical experts.

Total prejudgment interest exceeds $26,000.00. Plaintiff's costs and expert fees exceed $75,000.

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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