X

Thank you for sharing!

Your article was successfully shared with the contacts you provided.
It might be a slam dunk for a personal injury lawyer to persuade a jury to find a day care operator civilly liable after she had received a prison sentence for violently shaking and injuring a 6-month-old baby. It’s another thing entirely for a lawyer to persuade the jury to hold accountable the owner of the property that housed the day care center. For litigator Michael D. Stein, a partner at Los Angeles’ Tisdale & Nicholson, it was no small task. A Southern California jury has slammed two women, a mother and daughter, with a $9.9 million negligence verdict over the day care assault, which left Grant Saucier, now 2, brain-damaged, partially blind and with no prospects of talking or walking. NOVEL THEORY Stein convinced the jury that the owner of the home, Rosa Rivero, the day care operator’s mother, could be held liable under premises liability, a theory more typically used by business invitees who allege that they were harmed by physical defects in a building. At her deposition, homeowner Rosa Rivero acknowledged that she knew that her daughter, Maria Romero, had been investigated for alleged abuse by day care licensing authorities a few weeks before the shaking incident, Stein said. The investigation was inconclusive, he said. The incident put Rosa Rivero on notice that her daughter could harm the children in her care, but the mother did not act, Stein alleged. A landlord has a duty to prevent injury on his or her premises if the harm is reasonably foreseeable, he said. “When Rosa failed to do anything, she breached that duty,” he said. Though Rosa Rivero had said in her deposition that she knew about the investigation of her daughter, at trial she changed her story to say that she was unaware of it, Stein said. “She had no explanation” for the contradictory claims, he said. Though she was not at the day care center at the time of the attack, Rosa Rivero was there that day and frequently helped supervise the children, evidence showed. She counted on the rent her daughter paid for the day care center to pay the mortgage, Stein said. Defense counsel Lotfy Mrich, a sole practitioner in Ontario, Calif., declined to comment, his paralegal said. Saucier v. Romero, No. RCV 045367 (San Bernardino Co., Calif., Super. Ct.). “This strikes me as a hybrid cause of action,” said Jack M. Balkin, who teaches constitutional law and torts at Yale Law School. It’s a combination of premises liability and duty to warn, he said. “It’s certainly an imaginative theory.” The defendants are nearly judgment-proof. Stein said that the day care operator, whom the jury found 75 percent responsible, is still in prison and has no assets. Rosa Rivero, whom the jury found 25 percent liable, had owned the house, which has an approximate $250,000 value, he said. She transferred title to a granddaughter about a week after receiving the summons in the suit, Stein said. Why pursue claims so vigorously with such little hope of recovery? “Our firm doesn’t make this a habit,” Stein said. In this case, however, “it was the right thing to do.” An existing client referred the baby’s parents, Gayle and Jason Saucier, to the firm, which typically handles complex commercial disputes, Stein said. When they heard what had happened, they wanted to handle the case themselves pro bono. And they found experts who also provided services gratis. The baby’s mother plans to lobby California lawmakers to require home-based day care facilities to obtain liability insurance. “Grant’s law is what I want to call it,” Stein said. California law requires home-based day care centers either to carry $300,000 in insurance or to disclose that they are uninsured and to obtain written acknowledgment of that disclosure. In this case, the day care operator falsely claimed to Saucier that the facility was insured. As for ordinary homeowner’s liability coverage, Stein said he intended to try to collect, but the defense refused to provide policy information. Despite the fact that the judgment may not be worth money, “I think the judgment is very meaningful for them,” Stein said of his clients. The verdict will remain over the defendants’ heads the rest of their lives, he said.

This content has been archived. It is available exclusively through our partner LexisNexis®.

To view this content, please continue to Lexis Advance®.

Not a Lexis Advance® Subscriber? Subscribe Now

Why am I seeing this?

LexisNexis® is now the exclusive third party online distributor of the broad collection of current and archived versions of ALM's legal news publications. LexisNexis® customers will be able to access and use ALM's content by subscribing to the LexisNexis® services via Lexis Advance®. This includes content from the National Law Journal®, The American Lawyer®, Law Technology News®, The New York Law Journal® and Corporate Counsel®, as well as ALM's other newspapers, directories, legal treatises, published and unpublished court opinions, and other sources of legal information.

ALM's content plays a significant role in your work and research, and now through this alliance LexisNexis® will bring you access to an even more comprehensive collection of legal content.

For questions call 1-877-256-2472 or contact us at [email protected]

 
 

ALM Legal Publication Newsletters

Sign Up Today and Never Miss Another Story.

As part of your digital membership, you can sign up for an unlimited number of a wide range of complimentary newsletters. Visit your My Account page to make your selections. Get the timely legal news and critical analysis you cannot afford to miss. Tailored just for you. In your inbox. Every day.

Copyright © 2020 ALM Media Properties, LLC. All Rights Reserved.