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EXCESSIVE FORCE

Man blaming deputies for broken nose awarded $169,128

A man who claimed that sheriff’s deputies at the San Patricio County Jail used excessive force was awarded $169,128 on Aug. 22. Richard Uekert was brought to jail in 2010 for public intoxication. He claimed that Deputies Michael Salazar and David Silva took him to a padded cell where they deliberately threw him to the floor in such a way that his face struck an exposed board instead of the padded portion of the floor. He fractured his nose and two teeth. He claimed that the department failed to properly train the deputies. The jury found that Salazar had used excessive force, but not Silva. The jury didn’t find in favor of the plaintiff on his assault and battery claim.

Uekert v. San Patricio County, No. 2:11-cv-00222

Court: U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Texas

Plaintiff’s Attorney: Christopher J. Gale, Gale, Wilson and Sanchez, San Antonio

Defense Attorney: Phillip A. McKinney, McKinney & Hernandez, Corpus Christi

MEDICAL MALPRACTICE

Facility not liable for alleged stroke, jury finds

On Aug. 2, a jury sided with a rehabilitation facility that was blamed for an alleged stroke. Billy Eades was a patient at Pate Rehabilitation for care following multiple strokes. He claimed Pate staffers put two Fentanyl pain patches on him without removing an old patch, and this caused a stroke. The defense medical expert testified that the failure to remove the old patch was not the cause of Eade’s hypotension and alleged stroke. Defense counsel argued the hypotensive episode was caused by pre-existing medical conditions and did not result in a stroke. Defense counsel argued the evidence and symptoms cited by the plaintiff were actually the result of a stroke he experienced prior to his admission.

Eades v. Pate Rehabilitation Endeavors Inc., No. DC-11-03800

Court: 44th District Court, Dallas County District Court

Plaintiff’s Attorney: Frederick H. Shiver, Russell & Shiver, Dallas

Defense Attorneys: Darrell L. Barger and Brian Rawson, Hartline, Dacus, Dreyer & Kern, Dallas

MOTOR VEHICLE

Jury sides with defense’s suggested award

On July 25, a jury awarded $1,851 to a woman who claimed back, neck and shoulder injuries in a rear-ender. Sheila Garifalos was struck by David Trisna when they were in rush hour traffic. Garifalos sued Trisna for following too closely, failing to control his speed and failing to keep a proper lookout. She claimed sprains and strains. She asked the jury to award about $65,000. Instead, the jury went with the defense’s suggestion: $219 for past medical bills, $632 for lost earning capacity, $500 for pain and suffering, and $500 for physical impairment.

Garifalos v. Trisna, No. 924,602

Court: Harris County Court-at-Law No. 3

Plaintiff’s Attorney: Albert Lee Giddens, Pasadena

Defense Attorney: Jason P. Orgeron, G. Patrick Collins & Associates, Houston

No award for plaintiff in low-speed crash

On Aug. 7, a jury declined to award damages to a driver who claimed lumbar disk injuries in a rear-ender. Greg Singleton claimed 3-to-4-millimeter bulge at L4-5 and a 4-to-5-millimeter protrusion at L5-S1 in a collision with Sonal Patel. His medical bills totaled $19,995. The defense expert, after reviewing damage photos and Patel’s repair bill, said a lumbar injury would not be consistent with or expected from such “low-speed contact.” Also, Singleton and his passenger both told Patel at the scene that they were OK, and no police or ambulance came to the scene.

Singleton v. Patel, No. DC-11-02749-L

Court: 193rd District Court, Dallas County

Plaintiff’s Attorney: Craig W. Thomas, David S. Kohm & Associates, Arlington

Defense Attorney: Timothy J. Adams, Henderson, Smith, Wilson, Graham & Black, Dallas

Defendant in compact car rear-ended plaintiff in pickup

On Aug. 7, a driver was awarded $1,940, which was only a fraction of the $45,000 that he sought. John Clark Sanchez was stopped at a light when he was rear-ended by Raul Antonio Villalta-Suyen. Sanchez claimed neck and back sprains and strains, as well as a slight injury to the right hip and an aggravation of a pre-existing spinal condition. The defense argued that Sanchez exaggerated his lost earnings claim; that he attended fewer than the number of treatments recommended by the physical therapist; and that the impact was minor.

Sanchez v. Villalta-Suyen, No. 369879

Court: Bexar County Court-at-Law No. 5

Plaintiff’s Attorneys: A. J. Hohman Jr., Hohman, Georges & Gehring, San Antonio

Defense Attorney: Don Loving, Meynier, Nohinek, Loving & Matte, San Antonio

Jury awards plaintiff $13,000, only a sliver of amount sought

On Aug. 8, a jury awarded $13,000 to a woman who claimed that a collision aggravated her thyroid condition. Martine Hall sued State Farm Mutual Automobile Insurance Co. to collect underinsured motorist coverage. About a month aftter the accident she was diagnosed with Grave’s disease, a chronic and incurable autoimminue disorder. The plaintiff’s endocrinology expert testified that the stress of the collision aggravated an existing thyroid condition, causing her to develop Grave’s disease. She also claimed back and neck sprains. She sought $190,000, but the jury only made the award to her for past medical expenses and past pain and suffering.

Hall v. State Farm Mutual Automobile Insurance Co., No. Dc-10-12969-M

Court: 298th District Court, Dallas County

Plaintiff’s Attorney: John C. Bush, Bush & Bush, The Woodlands

Defense Attorney: Malcolm G. Renwick, Malcolm G. Renwick & Associates, Arlington

Passenger recovers $35,000 for back and neck injuries

On Aug. 21, a jury awarded $35,000 to a man who claimed cervical and lumbar strains in a three-vehicle collision. In 2011, Felip Herrera was a passenger in a pickup truck that slowed for traffic when Anthony Jones allegedly failed to keep a proper lookout and control his speed and collided with the car that then struck Herrera’s truck. Herrera underwent seven weeks of chiropractic treatment. He sought $60,000 for past and future pain and suffering, physical impairment and medical expenses. Defense counsel argued that Herrera had not received any medical treatment for 14 months and therefore did not require future treatment.

Herrera v. Jones, No. 003-02970-2011

Court: Collin County Court-at-Law No. 3

Plaintiff’s Attorneys: Jason K. Burress and D. Scott Snellings, The Burress Snellings Law Firm, McKinney

Defense Attorneys: Adam B. LeCrone and Mark A. Teague, LeCrone Law Firm, Sherman

No one to blame for collision, jury finds

On Aug. 28, a jury found that neither driver was negligent in a collision that left the plaintiff claiming spinal injuries. Ricardo Villanueva Jr. was traveling on the ramp from Interstate 30 to northbound Interstate 35, on the southwest side of downtown Dallas. According to Villanueva, Guillermo B. Hernandez changed lanes abruptly, cut him off and struck Villanueva’s right front quarter panel. Hernandez said he was ahead of Villanueva and that Villanueva simply rear-ended him. Villanueva claimed some small disk bulges.

Villanueva v. Hernandez, No. CC-10-07866-B

Court: Dallas County Court-at-Law No. 2

Plaintiff’s Attorney: Tyler Carleton, Ben Abbott PC, Garland

Defense Attorney: T. Cass Keramidas, Keramidas & Associates, Richardson

Company found liable for hiring driver with record

A passenger who claimed back and neck injuries in a rear-ender recovered $52,325 on Aug. 29. In 2010, Christine Strukel was in a car driven by her husband when they were struck by a pickup truck owned by Blattner Energy and driven by Dennie Braswell, one of its employees. Plaintiffs’ counsel argued that Braswell had a felony drug conviction and four speeding tickets in the three years prior to the incident and that Blattner was negligent to hire him as a driver. Strukel claimed herniations at L4-5 and L5-S1 with lumbar radiculopathy and a cervical strain. Her doctor said she’ll need a two-level laminectomy, a diskectomy and a fusion. Blattner Energy was found 50 percent liable, Strukel 35 percent liable and Braswell 15 percent liable, which reduced the $80,500 award.

Strukel v. Blattner Energy Inc., No. 2010-CI-17744

Court: 131st District Court, Bexar County

Plaintiffs’ Attorneys: William R. Edwards, The Edwards Law Firm, Corpus Christi; J. Thomas Rhodes III, Tom Rhodes Law Firm, San Antonio

Defense Attorneys: A.J. Dimaline IV, Don W. Doyle and Al Soliz Jr., Brock Person Guerra Reyna, San Antonio

Jury issues award to plaintiffs for past medical expenses

On Aug. 30, a jury awarded three plaintiffs $4,721 for their past medical costs. In 2010, Dequann Tarver and Savia L. Johnson were driving with Corey Evans when they were rear-ended. Johnson and Tarver claimed cervical and lumbar strains. They claimed that Corey sustained cervical and lumbar strains and torticollis. Defense counsel argued that the plaintiffs were not injured, claiming the impact took place at too low a speed to cause the claimed injuries. Defense counsel presented photos purporting to show the plaintiffs’ car undamaged after the collision and argued there were no objective injury findings.

Johnson v. Barron, No. 416-04255-2011

Court: 416th District Court, Collin County

Plaintiffs’ Attorney: Tyler Carleton, Ben Abbott PC, Garland

Defense Attorney: Richard Ramirez, Law Offices of Richard Ramirez, Plano

Jury sides with defense in 
left-turn crash

On Sept. 5, a jury found that an oncoming driver making a left turn wasn’t to blame for a collision. Jeffrey Kovar was driving on Rayford Road in Houston during morning rush hour. Lydia Powell was driving a minivan in the opposite direction. She attempted a left turn across the three oncoming lanes into a driveway. There were no traffic controls. Kovar and Powell collided. Kovar sued Powell for failing to yield the right of way. Kovar claimed to be in the left lane, and he said Powell just turned into his left side. He said he did not see her before impact. Powell contended Kovar was in the middle lane, traffic in the two lanes on either side of him stopped to let her cross, and she inched about 6 inches into the middle lane and then stopped.

Kovar v. Powell, No. 2009-52441

Court: 55th District Court, Harris County

Plaintiff’s Attorney: Haroen Calehr, Calehr & Associates, Houston

Defense Attorney: Michael T. Sprague, Sprague & Associates, Houston

Plaintiff awarded $16,049 for alleged lower back injury

On Sept. 19, a jury awarded $16,049 to a woman who claimed a lumbar injury in a rear-ender. Mary Richards was struck by Jaffer Razvi when she was at a stop sign. Razvi did not dispute negligence. Richards claimed lumbar strains. Seven days after the collision, she began chiropractic care, which she continued for three weeks before she was referred to an orthopedic surgeon. The surgeon diagnosed her with an L5-S1 nerve irritation and recommended epidural steroid injections. Defense counsel argued that both cars sustained only cosmetic damage to their bumpers, and this established that the collision took place at between 3 mph and 5 mph, which would have been too low a speed to cause the alleged injuries.

Richards v. Razvi, No. 2010-24584

Court: 281st District Court, Harris County

Plaintiff’s Attorney: Adam P. Criaco, Criaco & Associates, Houston

Defense Attorney: Jason P. Orgeron, G. Patrick Collins & Associates, Houston

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