$60M Reasons Why You Should Listen

For nearly thirty years, Carpenter & Zuckerman has passionately pursued justice for injury victims. As any experienced personal injury lawyer who represents plaintiffs can tell you, passion can only take you so far. To succeed, lawyers must learn to listen intently and with empathy to find, develop, and communicate the irrefutable truths of a client’s story – truths that will be shared by opposing parties and, ultimately, by a jury.

To effectively communicate the true essence of what our clients have lost in a way that compels the trier of fact to award just compensation, we must listen to bring voice to our clients’ experiences, especially when they are unable to give voice to their story of loss. This job is all the more critical when one has a client who has suffered a severe traumatic brain injury that renders them unable to articulate what they have been through as a result of a tragic incident.  

With the recent conclusion of our case, Doyle vs. Colglazier, we have $60 Million reasons why you should listen.  

$60M Verdict for Client With 17.5 Years to Live

In Doyle vs. Colglazier, Case No. RIC1806905, we secured a $60M jury verdict, including $50M in non-economic damages alone, for our severely injured client, Andrew Doyle, who had a life expectancy of 17.5 years at the time of trial. 

Andrew was just fifteen years old on April 24, 2016, when the vehicle in which he was a passenger collided into a tractor-trailer on the 10 freeway near Beaumont. As a result of the collision, Andrew sustained physical injuries that included a skull fracture and severe traumatic brain injury.

Listening to the Caregivers

From the very beginning, our team had an uphill legal battle. With Andrew unable to speak for himself and no witnesses to testify to his life and vitality before the accident, we visited our client often at the residential facility where he received 24-hour care. We developed trusting relationships with his caregivers and listened to their experiences and insights in their day-to-day work with Andrew. We valued how they cared for Andrew, and they came to know that we, as Andrew’s lawyers, were a genuine part of Andrew’s team. 

From his caregivers and state-appointed guardian, we learned truth about Andrew’s life since the collision. We learned that Andrew’s goals had gone from having the ordinary dreams of a fifteen year old boy to one where it was hoped by his caregivers that he would one day be able to wash his own chest independently. Another goal was that Andrew would one day be able to sit up, on his own, in response to someone calling his name. In order to explain to the jury what Andrew had lost as a result of the collision, Carlos Hernandez incorporated Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs into the direct examination of one of Andrew’s caregivers. This tool allowed us to illustrate Andrew’s daily struggle to achieve for himself even the most basic of physiological needs at the lowest level of the hierarchy – food, shelter, and even breathing. We were able to show how the higher levels of needs that included self-actualization, creativity, social ability, and confidence were unreachable by Andrew. This testimony poignantly illustrated the magnitude of Andrew’s losses, powerfully highlighting his non-economic damages without any testimony from him or from anyone who knew him before the collision.

Giving Voice to Andrew’s Past and Future Losses

Juries often struggle with grasping the concept of compensating for past and future economic and noneconomic losses, especially when future losses involve a reduced life expectancy.  John Carpenter developed a graph for the jury to use as a tool to assist them in evaluating and quantifying Andrew’s past and future noneconomic losses.

Creating the graph in real-time at trial, with years of life on the X-axis and quality of life on the Y-axis, John drew a quality of life curve on the graph that steadily increased from Andrew’s birth to the date of the collision. Then, from the date of the collision through Andrew’s expected post-incident date of death at 41 years old, John drew a sharp drop in Andrew’s quality of life. This severely limited quality of life depiction from the collision to Andrew’s 41 years of age was in sharp contrast to what John illustrated would have been Andrew’s quality of life curve had the collision not occurred.     

Using the graph, John was also able to illustrate for the jury the past and future medical costs associated with simply maintaining Andrew at the severely limited quality of life level through his reduced life expectancy of approximately 17 additional years, a level his medical treaters described as that of a 2-year old child.  We presented evidence, including from Andrew’s caregivers, that the amount required to maintain Andrew at that level totalled $9.9 Million in past and future economic damages. The jury agreed and awarded Andrew this amount.  

John turned the jury’s attention to the part of the quality of life graph above and beyond Andrew’s post-incident 2-year old level.  In real time, John shaded in the part of the quality of life graph through what would have been Andrew’s pre-collision life expectancy of 75 years old, a loss that included a 34 year reduction in Andrew’s life expectancy as a result of the collision.

In the end, the jury awarded Andrew $15,000,000 in past noneconomic damages and $35,000,000 in future noneconomic damages, the latter for Andrew’s approximate 17-year life expectancy from the date of trial. 

John also drew on Jesse Wilson’s “Victim to Victor” strategy, describing Andrew’s personality development while in hospice care for eight years, including his enjoyment of music, his audible responses that communicated Andrew’s likes and dislikes, and his varied reactions with the caregivers who worked with him on a 24-hour basis. This at once communicated Andrew’s relatable innocence and humanity while juxtaposing this with the heartbreaking reality of his 34-year loss of life expectancy. 

Listening and Responding to Our Opponents

We listened and had to respond to defense counsel’s shifting arguments made to the jury. Defense counsel argued that Andrew was so severely injured that he could not experience pain, love, or joy. This meant that we had to show the jury, including through the testimony of his caregivers, that Andrew most certainly could feel these emotions and, as such, should be justly compensated for his pain and suffering, including for the loss of love, affection, and enjoyment of life resulting from the collision.  

Defense counsel then shifted their strategy to one where it was suggested that Andrew, because of the high level of care he was receiving, was already well-provided for and could not possibly benefit from an “unreasonably” large damages award. To bolster this, defense counsel argued that Andrew’s life was already filled with the love and care of his caregivers – a life that had a measure of meaning and fulfillment. In his closing arguments, defense counsel Ron Zurek glaringly omitted any mention of compensation for our client’s 34-year loss of life due to the collision, focusing entirely on a mathematical calculation that inputted various arbitrarily low 6-figure amounts to compensate Andrew for his remaining 17.5 years.

Our ability to convey to the jury the gravity of Andrew’s losses by way of testimony and visuals successfully countered defense counsel’s arguments at trial.  In the end, the jury awarded $60 Million in total damages to Andrew. 

The Jury is Listening — for the Truth

The jury is listening for the truth of the cases presented at trial. Our job is to listen and uncover the truth of our client’s experience. We then tell the truth to the jury with love and, in doing so, we will find justice for our clients.

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