A verdict that large ONLY happens when there are substantial injuries proven to the jury. This case was no exception. Jim suffered a traumatic brain injury that changed his life. He and Gale were the proud parents of two handicapped boys. One had been born with brain cancer and the other had a genetic defect somewhat akin to Downs Syndrome. Prior to Jim's injury the family led an active, outdoor-oriented lifestyle and the two teen boys attended school, participated in Special Olympics, hunted, hiked, were involved in school as well as community theater and many other activities. After Jim's injury, Gale described that instead of being an active couple caring for two handicapped boys, it was like she was left as single person caring for three handicapped boys.
The lawsuit was a difficult one because Jim was injured when he fell down a stairway at a business office, hit his head and had no memory of what happened. And no one saw him fall. Our investigation disclosed that one of the steps on the stairway had not been properly bolted down. Another tenant had noticed and reported to the landlord that a step was moving. The landlord said he never got the report. Because there were no eyewitnesses and Jim had no memory of what happened, we had to have special engineering and other experts investigate and figure out how Jim fell. These experts looked to the wide variety of clues and concluded that Jim had fallen because of the unbolted step. The jury heard our experts and the landlord's hired experts and agreed that we had been able to prove that the fall was the fault of the dangerous step and the landlord was responsible. The jury awarded Jim and Gale an amount to compensate them for their significant damages.
This case was fought all the way up to the Idaho Supreme Court. That Court agreed that we had proved our case and the jury was right in its awards Jim and Gale. You can read the Idaho Supreme Court opinion (PDF).
Just a couple of years ago, Bonnie came to our office. She had been in a rear-end collision that was the fault of a teenage boy. She was driving an older car for which the insurance claims adjuster paid her $500 as a total loss. Bonnie knew that she was injured – her neck hurt and her fingers on one hand kept going numb and tingly. She knew something was wrong, but didn't know what. A couple of months after the wreck, the adjuster called and explained that the insurer viewed her wreck as a "low impact" collision and that she only could have had a little "soft tissue" damage. He explained that the case was worth almost nothing and made a small offer (a couple of thousand dollars) right around Christmas. Bonnie desperately needed the money, but something didn't seem quite right. We met with Bonnie, for free, to discuss her case.
After hundreds of neck cases, we were concerned that the insurer was not treating this middle-aged, poor woman fairly. Bonnie hired our firm and we went to work on her claim. Nearly two years later, Bonnie cried as she explained how close she came to taking the money that Christmas. As she cried, she held a check for nearly one hundred thousand dollars in her hand because the injuries to her neck were severe. Bonnie was almost fooled by the insurance company.
In another recent case our client, Kate, had been hit from behind by the driver of a truck who claimed that smoke from a farmer's field burning had been the cause of the collision. The truck driver's insurer didn't want to deal with Kate as they felt some fault should go to the farmer or, laughably, to Kate. We were able to resolve that case for a fair settlement for Kate after filing a lawsuit and taking it into the litigation process. That was a much smaller case that we worked to obtain the fair result.
A case Kurt tried to a jury with another lawyer in 1999 resulted in the largest "dram shop" verdict ever in Idaho. In a dram shop case, a person who serves alcohol to another who is already obviously intoxicated can be held responsible for injuries the obvious drunks causes when he crashes a car. In this case the owner/bartender of a bikini bar kept serving a contractor and his wife beer over the course of the afternoon and promising the contractor he would pay some money the owner owed him. After serving the contractor's wife what amounted to something like 15 beers, the owner slipped out the back door. When the contractor and his wife learned the owner left they stormed out of the bar got into their car and started fighting. The drunk wife ran through a stoplight and killed an older couple on their way to see a show. Kurt and his firm represented the 3 grown children. In addition to the multi-million dollar verdict, the bar was shut down because of the suit. For the children who lost their parents so suddenly, that was perhaps the greatest victory of all.
Another interesting case happened in Hailey (Sun Valley area) of Idaho in the middle of winter. A man fell and broke his ankle after slipping on some ice. It is not surprising that there is ice on the ground in winter and a call on this type of case usually results in us explaining to the person, you have to be careful when you are walking in the winter in Idaho's mountains. But, in this case, the man had exited a public building and it hadn't snowed for days. The ground all around was dry. But as he walked to the parking lot where a car had been left for him he fell to ground. Snow from the roof had dripped on the ground creating a black ice hazard. The case ended up being a contest about whether the buildings lights were on and what other witnesses saw. In the end, we established that building owner was liable and our client recovered for his damages.