Plaintiff suffers TBI after falling down stairs in office building. $12.2M. Los Angeles County.

Summary

Carpet still wet from cleaning is blamed in slip and fall; extent of head injury disputed.

The Case

  • Case Name: Jessica Vu v. 2447 Pacific Coast Highway LLC, et al.
  • Court and Case Number: Los Angeles County Superior Court / BC650966
  • Date of Verdict or Judgment: Thursday, April 21, 2022
  • Date Action was Filed: Friday, February 17, 2017
  • Type of Action: Highlighted Verdicts, Premises Liability, Slip and Fall
  • Judge or Arbitrator(s): Hon. Frederick C. Shaller
  • Plaintiffs:
    Jessica Vu
  • Defendants:
    2447 Pacific Coast Highway, LLC
    Mar Ventures, Inc.
    DFS Flooring, Inc.
  • Type of Result: Jury Verdict

The Result

  • Gross Verdict or Award: $12,211,641
  • Economic Damages:

    Past loss of earnings/earning capacity: $93,147

    Future loss of earnings/earning capacity: $1,700,000

    Future medical expenses: $418,494

     

  • Non-Economic Damages:

    Past noneconomic damages including physical pain and mental suffering: $1,500,000

    Future noneconomic damages including physical pain and mental suffering: $8,500,000

  • Trial or Arbitration Time: 3 weeks

The Attorneys

  • Attorney for the Plaintiff:

    Greene Broillet & Wheeler, LLP by Alan Van Gelder and Aaron Osten, Santa Monica.

  • Attorney for the Defendant:

    Lewis Brisbois Bisgaard & Smith LLP by Esther Holm, Costa Mesa. (For DFS Flooring, Inc.)

    Bradley and Gmelich by Lena Marderosian, Glendale. (For DFS Flooring, Inc.)

    Procter Shyer by Lisa Shyer and Veronica Webb, Camarillo. (For 2447 PCH and Mar Ventures.)

The Experts

  • Plaintiff’s Medical Expert(s):

    Marisa Chang, M.D.; neurology, Santa Monica. (Treater.)

    Len Matheson, Ph.D., neurorehabilitation psychology/vocational rehabilitation. (Treater.)

  • Defendant's Medical Expert(s):

    Ed Amos, M.D.; neurology, Santa Monica.

    David LeChuga, Ph.D.; neuropsychology, Lake Forest.

    Nicolas Rose, M.D., orthopedics.

  • Plaintiff's Technical Expert(s):

    Al Casas, carpet cleaning standard of care.

    Rami Hashish, biomechanics.

    Brad Avrit, accident reconstruction/slip testing.

    Peter Formuzis, economics.

  • Defendant's Technical Expert(s):

    John Brault, biomechanics.

    Nik Kar; engineering and materials testing.

    Alex Carpenter, architecture/general contracting.

    Mack Quan, engineering, slip testing, accident reconstruction.

Facts and Background

  • Facts and Background:

    Plaintiff, 38-year-old Jessica Vu, worked as a counselor for children with autism in an office building in Hermosa Beach. On August 29, 2016, plaintiff was working late studying for her licensing credential exam at the office. That evening, the defendants, a carpet-cleaning crew working for DFS Flooring Inc., hired by the defendant building owners, 2447 PCH LLC, and property managers, Mar Ventures Inc., arrived and cleaned the common area hallways, as previously scheduled. Earlier that day, plaintiff and two of her coworkers had been given written notice regarding the carpet cleaning.

    While exiting the building shortly after 8:00 p.m., plaintiff walked across the alleged wet carpet, which had been cleaned almost two hours earlier, opened the door to the stairwell, and walked across an epoxy landing. The epoxy landing had been recently installed and plaintiff alleged that it did not have adequate grip-and-slip resistance. Plaintiff claimed that she slipped on the epoxy and and fell down a flight of stairs, hitting her head on the concrete steps.

    Plaintiff drove herself home after the fall and went to urgent care the next day, where doctors diagnosed her with a head injury. Within 48 hours, she began to suffer headaches and cognitive issues. Plaintiff claimed that within several weeks, her mental and cognitive abilities declined, forcing her to resign from a career she loved and move back to her hometown in Florida. Six years after her slip and fall, plaintiff claimed she continues to suffer from memory problems, issues with executive function, difficulty multitasking, fatigue, headaches, dizziness, and nausea. She also has emotional problems and anxiety arising from her brain injury.

  • Plaintiff's Contentions:

    That defendants improperly cleaned the carpet and failed to warn plaintiff about the wet carpet. That defendants also improperly installed a new epoxy flooring that had inconsistent grit/anti-slip additive.

    That plaintiff hit her head when she slipped and fell, which caused a traumatic brain injury that led to cognitive problems that impacted her ability to work and has impacted every aspect of her life. Within a month she was unable to do a job she loved and excelled at for years and had to go on leave. That plaintiff’s cognitive injuries developed over time as established by the science, the testing, the diagnosis of doctors, a comparison of pre- and post-injury performance, and were also supported by findings on advanced imaging studies/functional MRI. Damage to executive function, memory, multi-tasking, and emotions are things that are not easily spotted on the surface, but once you got into the details of plaintiff’s life, those damages, that would last for 50 years are significant and required significant compensation.

  • Defendant's Contentions:

    The carpet on which plaintiff walked before entering the stairwell had properly been cleaned and had dried before plaintiff walked on it, as the cleaning crew testified.  Also defendants’ expert testified the he conducted two tests to determine the drying time of an exemplar of the same carpet, which was cleaned with the same low-moisture cleaning method, and he showed a video of his testing which established that the carpet dried within 30 minutes after cleaning. Further, that plaintiff had received warnings about the wet carpet, as evidenced by the testimony of the carpet cleaning crew and that plaintiff's co-workers did not slip on the epoxy. Also, the epoxy was properly gritted and sufficiently slip resistant, as the coefficient of friction testing by both defendant’s and plaintiff’s expert established.  Moreover, plaintiff did not slip on the epoxy landing; instead, she mis-stepped on the top of the concrete steps of the landing, as plaintiff’s two co-workers who witnessed the fall testified.

    If plaintiff suffered a traumatic brain injury, it was mild and had resolved within several months. That plaintiff's problems are the result of poorly treated depression/anxiety, of which she had prior history, since childhood.

    That plaintiff could not be seriously injured since she was able to travel with friends/family outside of the country, go to restaurants, work as a receptionist, and get married. Finally, that the evidence and testimony were inadequate to support damages and the imaging studies relied upon by plaintiff  did not show evidence of a TBI.

Injuries and Other Damages

  • Physical Injuries claimed by Plaintiff:

    Traumatic brain injury.

Special Damages

  • Special Damages Claimed - Past Medical: Not sought
  • Special Damages Claimed - Future Medical: 418,494
  • Special Damages Claimed - Past Lost Earnings: 93,147
  • Special Damages Claimed - Future Lost Earnings: 1,700,000

Demands and Offers

  • Defendant §998 Offer: $200,000 from 2447/Mar Ventures and $125,000 from DFS.

Additional Notes

Cross complaints for indemnity defendants have brought against each other were severed from the main action and will be resolved separately via an agreed-upon post-verdict private arbitration.

Although the jury found Jessica Vu was also negligent, the jury found her negligence was not a substantial factor in causing her damages. As such, there was no reduction for comparative fault.

Insurer: Valley Forge/CNA for DFS Flooring and Nationwide for 2447/Mar Ventures.

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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