April 2017, Scott Macdonald with the assistance of Laura Reichenbach received a defense verdict in Long Beach after a jury found that defendants were not negligent.
Defendants were the owner and operator of a hauling business. Defendant was on his way to pick up some plants from a nursery on the 101 freeway in the Woodland Hills area when plaintiff alleged that a mattress flew out of the back of his trailer into the path of plaintiff’s vehicle. Plaintiff swerved nearly 90 degrees to the right to avoid the oncoming mattress. She slammed her car into a k-rail. Her airbags deployed shattering her nose. As a result of the injury, she lost her sense of smell.
Plaintiff presented two independent witnesses to establish that the mattress flew out of defendants’ trailer. However, the witness’ stories were unbelievable. One of the witnesses testified that he had seen the mattress come from the bed of the truck, when he denied the same in deposition. He then testified that he had seen the mattress “hover” over the trailer which was moving at freeway speeds and that it actually reversed directions mid-flight before coming off of the back of the trailer. The jury audibly laughed at a question on cross-examination as to whether this was “Magic Carpet Flying Mattress”. Plaintiff never testified that she had seen the mattress come from defendants’ black trailer and had told the investigating officer that it came from a white dump truck.
Defendant driver/owner testified that the trailer had been emptied. He had no reason to believe that a mattress would be in the trailer. We argued burden of proof, and the jury agreed.
The damages sought were for a severe injury to plaintiff’s nose. She also lost her sense of smell which was conceded by the defense. Plaintiff sought over $6 million from the jury. We had offered $350,000 to resolve the case and had offered to enter into a favorable high/low during trial.Read More
March 2017, Scott Macdonald obtained a defense verdict for our client in San Bernardino after a hotly contested two-month trial.
Defendant was driving home from a church retreat with three passengers. She was in a rural desert area with a two-lane road. Defendant encountered a vehicle which had come across the center line and into her lane. Defendant took evasive action which forced her onto the right shoulder. She then lost control of the vehicle. The vehicle ended up going into the desert. It rolled multiple times. The driver’s side rear-passenger was ejected and sustained serious injuries.
Plaintiff sued our client alleging that she was negligent in operating her vehicle. Plaintiff also sued the vehicle manufacturer and seatbelt manufacturer for an allegedly defective seatbelt. The vehicle manufacturer and seatbelt manufacturer attempted to defend the case, in part, by alleging that our client was at fault for the accident. This included an expensive attempted reconstruction of the accident and an expert witness on driving behavior.
There was a lot at stake for our client. The policy limits were tendered immediately, and plaintiff was not inclined to accept. The damages were significant. Plaintiff had sustained a significant brain injury which left her totally incapacitated and in need of round the clock care.
After two months the jury deliberated and found that our client had done the best she could given the situation that she found herself faced with. They jury returned a unanimous defense verdict.
December 2016, Scott Macdonald and Laura Reichenbach obtained a defense verdict in Orange County in a truck versus pedestrian collision.
Defendants were a mechanic and his employer. Defendant driver was on his way to a designated job location in the early morning hours in his company vehicle. He was on Beach Boulevard in Anaheim which has four lanes in each direction separated by a median. Defendant was northbound on Beach Boulevard. It was dark, and poorly lit. Defendant was driving within the speed limit in the farthest right lane next to the curb. Plaintiff was attempting to cross Beach Boulevard from the east to the west and was not in a crosswalk, though a crosswalk was very close for her use. She was wearing all dark clothing and was utilizing a walker. Plaintiff was well into the curb lane when she became visible to defendant driver. Defendant driver attempted to brake, but he could not avoid the collision.
Through accident reconstruction experts and a human factors expert, defendants were able to demonstrate that there was simply nothing defendant could do to avoid the collision. In fact, plaintiff was in a much better position to avoid the collision than defendant driver. The jury agreed with the defense and found that defendant driver was not negligent.
One Million Dollar Award and Substantial Contributory Negligence For Case Involving Deceased 16-Year-Old in Long Beach
August 2016, When Macdonald & Cody, LLP was opening its doors, Scott Macdonald and Laura Reichenbach were in trial in Long Beach in a wrongful death case involving a 16-year-old who was crushed to death by a speed boat that hit a jet ski upon which the 16 year old was a passenger. The driver of the jet ski sustained serious injuries. The driver of the jet ski and parents of the deceased 16 year old sued defendant who had serviced the subject jet ski shortly before the accident. The claim was that water had been left in the fuel system thereby causing a loss of power and put the jet ski to be in a position to be struck by a speed boat leaving a no wake zone.
The matter was tried to a jury in Long Beach. Plaintiff asked for a multi-million dollar verdict. While the jury found liability, the jury only put 40% negligence upon our client. The jury awarded $1,000,010 in damages to the parents of the deceased 16-year-old. The driver plaintiff, who had severely fractured his pelvis and had ongoing back complaints was awarded $340,000.
$1,500,000 had been offered before trial. There had been extensive negotiations throughout trial to resolve the case. Post-trial, plaintiff’s faced a significant challenge on appeal due to a motion for Directed Verdict on liability which it was our position was improperly denied. The case settled post-trial for a sum far below the verdict and substantially less than our pre-trial offer.
April 2016, in his second of back-to-back alleged traumatic brain injury cases in Orange County, Scott Macdonald was successful in securing a reasonable demand of $34,000 in the face of a multi-million-dollar demand.
Plaintiff, a young man, was walking in a crosswalk with his brother when our client collided with him. He had a very large contusion to the side of his head. Plaintiff claimed that he had sustained a traumatic brain injury with residual deficit in cognitive function. Utilizing school records we were able to establish that while there was a mild concussion, there was no residual deficit.
Compelling conclusions by the defense
Macdonald argued that care and treatment had not been required since December 2013 because there was no real brain injury. He pointed out that the neuropsychological testing done after the accident demonstrated no appreciable change from the assessments done in high school.
The defense conceded fault for the collision, causation of some injury and the possibility of aggravating a previously existing depressive condition. However, Macdonald contended the plaintiff did not meet his burden of proof for a traumatic brain injury as opposed to head trauma.
The bottom line
First, the plaintiff asked for the $100,000 policy limits, then increased the claim to $950,000. The sum rose to $2.15 million, and shortly before trial the plaintiff demanded $3.25 million. They accompanied the final demand with a threat that they would petition the jury for more than $10 million.
The CM team offered the plaintiff $100,000 before trial by way of a CCP 998 settlement, but no agreement could be reached.
At trial, the plaintiff requested an award of $2,719,722. Macdonald disputed their calculations and said the jury should assign a total between $18,000 and $73,000.
The jury awarded $34,302.63, and the defense will recover costs.
- Defendant hit pedestrian in a crosswalk
- Plaintiff’s demand: $2.7 million
- Jury’s award: $34,000
On March 23, 2016, the jury handed down a favorable verdict in a car accident case defended by Scott Macdonald. Macdonald represented an 86-year-old client who drove the wrong way on a city street, causing a head-on collision.
Estimated closing speed between the vehicles was 34 to 43 miles per hour. The collision was forceful enough that air bags deployed in both cars and the drivers went to the hospital by ambulance. The elderly defendant did not sustain significant injury.
The plaintiff, however, started down the path of treatment for orthopedic complaints and retained Larry Parker as counsel. Eventually the plaintiff underwent cervical fusion surgery and declared the need for a lumbar microdiscectomy.
New attorney, different direction
Then, more than three years after the accident, the plaintiff switched attorneys and the focus of the case. They came forward claiming a traumatic brain injury, in addition to the earlier neck and back complaints.
The plaintiff had variously demanded an award of $1 million and $2.3 million. Before the trial began, Macdonald argued that the case was valued between $0 and $89,000 and offered a $300,000 settlement.
The plaintiff refused and presented a life care plan for $4.1 million, with a total award of just over $6.9 million asked of the jury.
While admitting that perhaps the cervical surgery was related to accident, Macdonald disagreed that the collision was the source of the plaintiffs lumbar issues. And he convincingly argued that the plaintiff did not sustain a traumatic brain injury, as they were claiming. The plaintiffs team presented no past medical specials, only medical fees expected in the future.
The shrunken award
When the deliberations were over, the jury awarded $50,314 for future care, $5,000 in past pain and suffering and $5,000 in future pain and suffering. The award was further reduced by 40% for comparative negligence after Macdonald masterfully argued that plaintiff had done nothing to avoid the accident.Read More
February 2016, In this Long Beach case, Scott Macdonald brilliantly defended a drunk driver who rear-ended a stopped car. The facts were simple. The defendant driver, a doctor, hit a retired couple’s car while they were stopped at a red light. Two hours after the accident, the doctor registered a .20 blood alcohol level on a breathalyzer test at the police station. He pied no contest to the drunk driving charge.
Both plaintiffs went to their family doctor the day after accident. The wife followed up with four physical therapy visits. The husband, already being treated for a repetitive stress injury to his wrist, claimed that the collision exacerbated his problem. He contended that he ultimately required surgery because of it.
The defense team offered a settlement, but the plaintiffs had invested heavily in their case, hiring expert witnesses and more. They chose not to accept the offer.
A $1 million demand
The plaintiffs asked the jury for a total of nearly $1 million. In addition to the claim for injuries, they requested a hefty sum for punitive damages.
With not a single medical bill presented by the plaintiffs, Macdonald argued that the couple did not sustain injuries from the accident, and the jury agreed.
Instead, the couple wanted to be compensated entirely on the grounds of pain and suffering in the golden years of their retirement life.
The case hinged on jury instructions
While admitting the accident involved alcohol, Macdonald instructed the jury that it wasn’t their job to invoke punishment. A civil trial requires that the plaintiffs prove they experienced injuries and related costs, before there can be punitive damages. “You can’t give an award simply to compensate for anger,” he said.
Macdonald received a defense verdict and the plaintiffs received no award.Read More
November 2015, Michael Cody successfully defended a young Los Angeles City engineer who had rear-ended the plaintiff on the freeway at a fairly significant speed. Plaintiff was a 58 year old Thai immigrant who had fled Thailand during the Vietnam war and worked as a courier for a large Hollywood movie studio. Plaintiff claimed to have suffered a torn ACL in his right knee and serious injuries to his cervical and lumbar spine as a result of the accident. 10 months after the accident Plaintiff underwent right knee reconstruction surgery. 18 months after the accident, Plaintiff underwent a 2-level cervical fusion surgery.
The case had been handled by insurance company staff counsel, during which time no depositions were taken and neither party served a demand to exchange expert witnesses. Counsel for plaintiff refused to budge off the demand for the entire $1 million insurance policy. Michael was called upon to take over the case just 5 days before trial. During those 5 days, the insurance company made an offer to settle of $650,000. Counsel for plaintiff countered at $995,000.
At trial, Plaintiff presented lien-based past medical charges of $445,000. Plaintiff also present past loss of earnings of $50,000. Plaintiff’s spine surgeon testified that he would need additional future cervical spine surgery at a future cost of $250,000. Plaintiff’s knee surgeon opined he would eventually need a total knee replacement at a cost of $75,000. Plaintiff also claimed lost future earnings of in excess of $100,000. Plaintiff requested $4.5 million from the jury.
Michael argued that while the knee and neck surgery were reasonable given plaintiff’s symptoms, the need for the surgeries was not related to the accident. The defense radiologist opined that the ACL tear was more than 10 years old and not related to the accident, and that the cervical spine issues were caused by severe pre-existing degenerative conditions. Michael argued that the need for future surgery was not established to a reasonable degree of medical certainty.
The jury agreed with the defense, and did not find either surgery related to the accident. The jury also did not award any damages for future medical care. The jury returned a verdict of $408,000, less than the past medical expenses alone and far less than the pre-trial offer.Read More
In 2015, Scott Macdonald earned a significant victory in an Orange County car accident case. His defense of the driver, who rear-ended a car driven by a 51-year-old school teacher, limited the award to $502,000 when the plaintiff was seeking $3.5 to $5 million.
The accident caused major damage to the rear of the plaintiff’s car, as well as totaling Macdonald’s client’s vehicle. The teacher had a considerable period of disability following the accident, and claimed she could only work at 60% capacity once she had recovered. Her full-time teacher’s salary was roughly $108,000 per year.
Eventually she had cervical fusion surgery, and maintained that she did not fare well. After the surgery, the plaintiff claimed she was totally disabled and unable to work. She asked the court for nearly $1.9 million in combined medical costs, damages and lost earnings, plus between $1.6 million and $3.2 million in future pain and suffering.
Although it was clear the plaintiff sustained some injury from the collision, Macdonald showed the jury there were additional factors to consider. For example, for years prior to the accident, the teacher’s work history had been spotty because of complications from an earlier back injury.
The plaintiff’s team claimed that a failed neck surgery, which had been necessitated by the accident, was to blame for the teacher’s disability. But the jury didn’t agree.
Although the sizable impact to her car could have produced injury and the need for neck surgery, the plaintiff’s earlier back problems were relevant to the case. Macdonald convinced the jury to compensate the teacher with a reasonable award, taking into account her preexisting condition, rather than the extraordinary amount for which she was asking.
A reduced award
The jury granted the teacher close to $502,000, a fraction of her request. It included roughly $289,000 for past medical expenses, lost earnings, and pain and suffering, and $106,000 to cover future lost earnings and future pain and suffering.Read More
On February 25, 2015, Scott Macdonald secured his second defense verdict of the year, in the Los Angeles Superior Court, Torrance Courthouse. In the low-speed, car versus car accident case, the jury voted 12 – 0 against the plaintiff after just 50 minutes of deliberation.
The plaintiff claimed that as a result of the accident, he required lumbar fusion surgery. Macdonald proved to the jury that although his client admitted fault for the collision, her negligence was not a substantial factor in causing the injuries being claimed.
In the May 2010 accident, the defendant and plaintiff stopped for stop signs at a controlled intersection in Malibu. The defendant attempted a left tum and was temporarily blinded by the sun. She cut the comer too sharply and collided head-on with the plaintiffs vehicle. Neither car sustained much damage, and the defendant admitted fault for the accident.
The plaintiff had a long history of back complaints, including discectomies in 2001 and 2003. However, he denied having any significant back pain from 2004 to the time of the 2010 accident.
Instead, the driver claimed he was an eggshell plaintiff, more susceptible to injury than an average individual would be. He maintained that while the accident was minor, he experienced a significant worsening of his condition. After more than a year of physical therapy and multiple epidural steroid injections, the plaintiff finally had lumbar fusion surgery in 2013.
Building a Solid Case
Through use of medical records and expert witness testimony, Macdonald showed that the plaintiff already had significant back pain: following a 2003 surgery, leading up to 2009 and into 2010. Also, because the plaintiff did not seek treatment for seven weeks following the accident, Macdonald was able to establish that there had been no immediate change in symptoms.
Expert witnesses stated the accident was not forceful enough to cause a structural change to the plaintiffs lumbar spine. Their opinion: the plaintiffs surgery was not a result of the accident, but because of a continuing and worsening degenerative condition.
After the unanimous verdict, jurors commented that the evidence illustrated that the plaintiff had not been injured in the accident, or he would have sought immediate treatment. The jury was convinced the accident did not create the need for surgery.Read More