On Edna Anderson’s 100th birthday, Tarrant County 153rd District Judge Ken Curry signed a $1.1 million final judgment in her favor in a negligence suit against the independent living complex, where she resided, and affiliated parties, says her lawyer Brian Butcher.

Butcher, an associate with Hurst’s Noteboom — The Law Firm, says he persuaded the jury to award Anderson compensatory and punitive damages by saying less, rather than more, about what she deserved during closing argument.

“I didn’t even give them a number,” Butcher recalls. He realized he needed the jury to come back with as big a dollar figure as possible for bringing the case to make financial sense in light of the challenges posed by tort reform, such as damages caps.

In her Dec. 11, 2009, petition in Edna Anderson v. Telesis Parkwood/Retirement I Ltd., et al.,Anderson alleged that she collapsed in the shower in July 2008 and pulled on the cord of her emergency call system; despite that, and despite her absence at the next meal in the independent-living complex’s dining room, no one came to assist or check on her. The defendants had stated such aid would be provided in case of such an emergency, Anderson alleged in her petition. She lay hurt and naked, unable to move for more than 22 hours, she alleged. She eventually crawled to a phone and reached her daughter. As a result of her ordeal, Anderson states in her petition, she was hospitalized and suffered dehydration and a urinary tract infection. She alleged negligence and gross negligence against the defendants, among other claims.

In an answer filed Jan. 11, 2010, the defendants denied the allegations and alleged, among other things, that Anderson’s damages were caused by either pre-existing conditions or independent causes rather than an act or omission on their part.

Tim Ryan, a partner in Schell Cooley in Addison, who represents all the defendants, says, “We respect the jury’s decision, but we respectfully disagree with the grounds upon which they made it.” Ryan adds that, if their motion for new trial is denied, his clients most likely will file an appeal of the final judgment. [See the jury charge and an additional charge.]

On June 25, the jury issued a verdict finding the defendants had committed negligence and gross negligence. The jury awarded Anderson $540,000 in compensatory damages and $1.68 million in exemplary damages.

In the final judgment, Curry applied state law caps to the exemplary damages, reducing those by $1 million. On Oct. 30, the defendants filed a motion for a new trial arguing, among other things, that the evidence was factually insufficient to support the verdict.

Butcher says his client didn’t testify except through a video deposition. She watched in the courtroom during voir dire, but then, Butcher says, he told the prospective jurors that she would stay home for the rest of the trial, due to her age and fragility. The judge, Butcher says, approved of that plan without requiring Anderson to submit a formal motion.

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