L-R Humberto Izquierdo and Charles Spiller, Canton Ga. ()
A man who was injured falling from a ladder has reached a $4.25 million workers’ compensation settlement more than five years after the accident.
Lorenzo Cortez, now 44, was painting a house in Cumming when he fell and injured his spinal cord and face. According to the settlement agreement, the fall left him quadriplegic and spurred diabetes and psychological problems.
Cortez’s lawyer, Cumming solo Humberto Izquierdo Jr., said Cortez spent about a month at the Shepherd Center for treatment of his spinal injury, and workers’ comp paid for an accessible house and interim care.
“I thought this case was never going to settle, because he required constant 24-hour care,” said Izquierdo, who represented Cortez with originating attorney Charles Spillers, also of Cumming.
They were surprised, he said, when Travelers—the workers’ compensation insurance carrier for Cortez’s employer, Toliman Painting Group—contacted them.
“All of a sudden, Travelers said, ‘We need to try to resolve this case,’” Izquierdo said. “Even when we were in mediation, I never thought they’d come close” to what Cortez needed.
During a February mediation before Alexander Lecca of Castan & Lecca, Izquierdo said Travelers’ first offer was $2 million.
“That’s when I thought, ‘We might have a shot here,’” he said.
The highest the insurer would go at mediation was $4 million, he said, “then they came back a week later and said they were prepared to offer $4.25 million.”
Under the terms of the settlement, Cortez was awarded a lump sum of more than $500,000 and will receive annual payments of $250,000 for the next 15 years, guaranteed to him or his beneficiaries.
His attorneys were awarded $700,000 for their efforts.
“Due to the severity of injury and need to make sure he was taken care of for life, we reduced our fee from the regular 25 percent [of the settlement],” Izquierdo said.
The settlement was approved by the State Board of Workers’ Compensation in March, but Izquierdo said that—because Cortez’s benefits under the program ceased on the day it was approved—he and Spillers reduced their fee again to help assist his medical and attendant care transition over the ensuing few months.
Travelers’ attorney, Savell & Williams partner Susan Speer, did not respond to requests for comment.
Izquierdo credited Speer with helping to steer the complex settlement to completion.
“She was an excellent defense attorney; very reasonable and responsive,” he said. “We all worked our tails off to make this happen.”
Izquierdo said he was particularly gratified that the system worked to provide a lifetime of care to an undocumented immigrant who speaks little English.
“It’s a privilege to be fighting for undocumented immigrants in these difficult immigration times,” he said, “making sure they get the full recovery and full respect they deserve.”