description



California Verdicts

Find out about the most important recent California cases, selected by VerdictSearch editors. Coverage includes Alameda, Los Angeles, Orange, San Francisco and San Diego counties.

Subscribe to VerdictSearch for access to all California verdictsPricing Options

Cement wall's dangerous condition resulted in leg injuries: plaintiff

Amount:

$6,273,495

Type:

Verdict-Plaintiff

State:

California

Venue:

San Diego County

Court:

Superior Court of San Diego County, San Diego

Injury Type(s):

leg-fracture (fracture, femur); leg-fracture (fracture, tibia); leg-scar and/or disfigurement, leg; knee-meniscus, tear; other-plate; other-physical therapy; other-pins/rods/screws; other-compartment syndrome; other-chronic pain syndrome; other-fasciotomy/fasciectomy; other-decreased range of motion; neurological-nerve damage/neuropathy (nerve damage, femoral nerve); arterial/vascular-artery, severed/tear; surgeries/treatment-skin graft; surgeries/treatment-external fixation; surgeries/treatment-internal fixation

Case Type:

Premises Liability - Failure to Warn, Dangerous Condition, Negligent Repair and/or Maintenance

Case Name:

Matthew Paulson v. Donald Stanley Berman, individually, and as Co-Trustee of the 2000 Berman Family Trust; Joel Edward Berman; Penny Jean Berman, individually, and as Co-Trustee of the 2000 Berman Family Trust; and Virtuosic Properties, Inc., No. 37-2012-00103140-CU-PO-CTL

Date:

December 11, 2013

Parties

Plaintiff(s):

Matthew Paulson (Male, 20 Years)

Plaintiff Attorney(s):

J. Jude Basile; The Basile Law Firm; San Luis Obispo, CA, for Matthew Paulson ■ Alan L. Pitcaithley; Law Offices of Alan L. Pitcaithley; San Diego, CA, for Matthew Paulson

Plaintiff Expert(s):

Amy Magnusson; M.D.; Physical Medicine; San Diego, CA called by J. Jude Basile, Alan L. Pitcaithley ■ Liz Holakiewicz; R.N.; Life Care Planning; Carlsbad, CA called by J. Jude Basile, Alan L. Pitcaithley ■ John Walsh; Structural; San Diego, CA called by J. Jude Basile, Alan L. Pitcaithley ■ Mike Casey; Inspection; Fallbrook, CA called by J. Jude Basile, Alan L. Pitcaithley ■ Tony Yip; CPA; Economics; San Diego, CA called by J. Jude Basile, Alan L. Pitcaithley ■ Peter Vail; Construction Safety; San Diego, CA called by J. Jude Basile, Alan L. Pitcaithley ■ Richard Snyder; C.P.M.; Property Management; San Diego, CA called by J. Jude Basile, Alan L. Pitcaithley ■ William Tontz; M.D.; Orthopedic Surgery; San Diego, CA called by J. Jude Basile, Alan L. Pitcaithley

Defendant(s):

Penny Jean Berman, 

Joel Edward Berman, 

Donald Stanley Berman, 

Virtuosic Properties, Inc., 

The 2000 Berman Family Trust

Defense Attorney(s):

John D. Marino; Manning & Kass, Ellrod, Ramirez, Trester LLP; San Diego, CA, for Donald Stanley Berman, The 2000 Berman Family Trust ■ Gregory P. Konoske; Konoske Akiyama | Brust LLP; San Diego, CA, for Donald Stanley Berman, The 2000 Berman Family Trust ■ Daniel M. White; Law Offices of White Oliver & Amundson; San Diego, CA, for Joel Edward Berman ■ None reported; for Penny Jean Berman, Virtuosic Properties, Inc.

Defendant Expert(s):

Tim Delise; Construction; Canyon County, CA called by John D. Marino, Gregory P. Konoske, Daniel M. White ■ Robert Griswold; Property Management; San Diego, CA called by John D. Marino, Gregory P. Konoske, Daniel M. White ■ Thomas Vecchione; Plastic Surgery/Reconstructive Surgery; San Diego, CA called by John D. Marino, Gregory P. Konoske, Daniel M. White ■ Heather Xitco; Economics; San Diego, CA called by John D. Marino, Gregory P. Konoske, Daniel M. White ■ Jonathan Schleimer; Neurology; La Jolla, CA called by John D. Marino, Gregory P. Konoske, Daniel M. White

Insurer(s):

Allstate Insurance Co. (excess) for Donald Berman, individually, and as co-trustee of the 2000 Berman Family Trust; State Farm Insurance Cos. (primary carrier) for Donald Berman, individually, and as co-trustee of the 2000 Berman Family Trust; Farmers Insurance Group of Cos. (primary carrier) for Joel Berman

Facts:

On June 28, 2011, plaintiff Matthew Paulson, 20, a college student, was visiting his friends, all San Diego State University students, at a home they rented near campus. While in the backyard, Paulson claimed one of his friends suggested that a 6.5-foot freestanding, concrete, block wall would be a good wall for "parkour." Paulson then ran and jumped on the wall. However, during his attempt to pull himself up and over the wall, it collapsed onto Paulson, pinning his legs underneath the rubble of the cement. Paulson subsequently sustained multiple traumatic injuries to both legs. Paulson sued the owners of the rental property, Joel Berman; Donald Berman, acting individually and as co-trustee of the 2000 Berman Family Trust; Penny Berman, acting individually and as co-trustee of the 2000 Berman Family Trust; and Virtuosic Properties Inc. Paulson alleged the defendants failed to properly repair the wall or warn of its dangerous condition. Prior to trial, Penny Berman and Virtuosic Properties were voluntarily dismissed from the case. Plaintiff's counsel contended that Paulson was visiting his friends to see their new home, which they had started renting from Joel and Donald Berman a few weeks prior. However, counsel noted the wall only had reinforcing bar up to 20 inches above the ground. Plaintiff's counsel argued that a reasonable inspection of the property would have required a contractor or structural engineer to look closely at the wall and that, using a "rebar detector," an inspection would have discovered the wall was not properly reinforced. Thus, counsel argued that the defendants failed to correct or warn of the wall's condition. Defense counsel contended the wall had stood on the property for nearly 50 years and was built to code at the time. Counsel also contended Joel and Donald Berman did not have to bring the wall up to code, since it posed no threat and did not constitute a dangerous condition. Thus, defense counsel argued that the incident was caused by Paulson's own negligence by horsing around with his friends and attempting to scale the wall. Furthermore, defense counsel contended that there was conflicting evidence as to whether the tenants may have been climbing or "parkouring" the wall in the days and weeks leading up to the collapse.

Injury:

Paulson sustained a fractured right femur, as well as a severed femoral artery that resulted in compartment syndrome. He also suffered a fractured left tibia and a torn meniscus in his right knee. Paulson was subsequently taken by ambulance to an emergency room, where he underwent both internal and external fixation of his fractured femur with plating and rodding on June 28, 2011. He then underwent the procedure again on July 5, 2011. In addition, Paulson underwent a total of three fasciotomies with multiple skin grafts to treat compartment syndrome, as well as a vein transplant from his left to right leg, and insertion of an IVC filter to stop blood clotting. As a result, he remained hospitalized for two months and wheelchair dependent for nearly a year afterward. Paulson then treated with physical therapy. Paulson claimed he suffers from chronic pain, walks with a limp, and has limited range of motion in both legs. He alleged that as a result, he is now very limited in physical activities, such as running and jumping. He also claimed he has permanent scarring/disfigurement of his right leg from the fasciotomies and skin grafts. Paulson further claimed he still requires surgeries to treat his knee injury and to remove the IVC filter. Thus, Paulson sought recovery of approximately $10 million in total damages, including $473,495 in past medical costs, $1.4 million in future medical costs, and an unspecified amount of general damages for his past and future pain and suffering. Defense counsel argued that Paulson made a good recovery from all of his leg injuries. Counsel also contended that plastic surgery in the range of $7,000 would drastically improve the appearance of Paulson's right leg.

Result:

The jury found Paulson 75 percent at fault and Joel and Donald Berman 25 percent at fault. It also found that Paulson's damages totaled $6,273,495. After the comparative liability offset, Paulson would recover $1,568,373.75.

Matthew Paulson: $473,495 Personal Injury: Past Medical Cost; $800,000 Personal Injury: Future Medical Cost; $2,000,000 Personal Injury: Past Pain And Suffering; $3,000,000 Personal Injury: Future Pain And Suffering

Actual Award:

$1,568,373.75

Trial Information:

Judge:

Kevin A. Enright

Demand:

$2.5 million (policy limits), per plaintiff's counsel; $3 million, per defense counsel

Offer:

$500,000

Trial Length:

4  weeks

Trial Deliberations:

2  days

Jury Composition:

9 male/ 3 female

Editor's Comment:

This report is based on information that was provided by plaintiff's and defense counsel.