Ohio Verdicts

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Van driver and laundromat both liable for injuries: plaintiffs

Amount:

$862,549.50

Type:

Verdict-Plaintiff

State:

Ohio

Venue:

Summit County

Court:

Summit County, Court of Common Pleas

Injury Type(s):

leg-fracture (fracture, tibia), leg (fracture, tibia);
leg-fracture (fracture, fibula), leg (fracture, fibula);
leg-scar and/or disfigurement, leg;
back-fracture (fracture, L2), back (fracture, L2);
back-fracture (fracture, L3), back (fracture, L3);
back-fracture (fracture, L4), back (fracture, L4);
back-fracture (fracture, L2), vertebra (fracture, L2);
back-fracture (fracture, L3), vertebra (fracture, L3);
back-fracture (fracture, L4), vertebra (fracture, L4);
back-fracture (fracture, transverse process), vertebra (fracture, transverse process);
head; head-concussion; neck-fracture (fracture, transverse process), vertebra (fracture, transverse process);
other-hematoma; other-laceration; other-massage therapy; other-physical therapy; other-pins/rods/screws; other-decreased range of motion; foot/heel-heel; foot/heel-Achilles tendon, tear;
surgeries/treatment-debridement; surgeries/treatment-open reduction; surgeries/treatment-internal fixation; mental/psychological-emotional distress

Case Type:

Motor Vehicle – Pedestrian, Negligent Entrustment; Premises Liability – Dangerous Condition, Negligent Repair and/or Maintenance; Emotional Distress – Negligent Infliction of Emotional Distress

Case Name:

Jaime Melendez, Ofalia Melendez, Maria Melendez and Osvaldo Melendez v. Ganga Kharel, Pritam Kharel and Akron Coin Laundry Inc.,
No. CV 2016 04 1842

Date:

July 23, 2018

Parties

Plaintiff(s):

Jaime Melendez (Male, 36 Years), 

Maria Melendez (Female, 9 Years), 

Ofalia Melendez , 

Osvaldo Melendez

Plaintiff Attorney(s):

Mark C. Willis;
Willis & Willis Co., L.P.A.;
Akron,
OH,
for
Jaime Melendez, Maria Melendez, Ofalia Melendez, Osvaldo Melendez ■ Matthew L. Rizzi Jr.;
Willis & Willis Co., L.P.A.;
Akron,
OH,
for
Jaime Melendez, Maria Melendez, Ofalia Melendez, Osvaldo Melendez ■ Heather R. Ninni;
Willis & Willis Co., L.P.A.;
Akron,
OH,
for
Jaime Melendez, Maria Melendez, Ofalia Melendez, Osvaldo Melendez

Plaintiff Expert(s):

Dean Young; Legal Services; Akron,
OH called by:
Mark C. Willis, Matthew L. Rizzi Jr., Heather R. Ninni ■ Gary Pennington; M.D.; Plastic Surgery/Reconstructive Surgery; Akron,
OH called by:
Mark C. Willis, Matthew L. Rizzi Jr., Heather R. Ninni ■ Alvaro DeCola; Immigration; Akron,
OH called by:
Mark C. Willis, Matthew L. Rizzi Jr., Heather R. Ninni ■ Richard Zimmerman; Architecture; Akron,
OH called by:
Mark C. Willis, Matthew L. Rizzi Jr., Heather R. Ninni

Defendant(s):

Ganga Kharel, 

Pritam Kharel, 

Akron Coin Laundry Inc.

Defense Attorney(s):

David C. Engle;
American Family Insurance Group;
Cleveland,
OH,
for
Ganga Kharel, Pritam Kharel ■ Adam E. Carr;
Carr Law Office, LLC;
Hudson,
OH,
for
Akron Coin Laundry Inc.

Insurer(s):

State Farm Insurance Cos. for Akron Coin Laundry
American Family Insurance for Ganga Kharel and Pritam Kharel

Facts:

On July 12, 2015, plaintiff Jaime Melendez, 36, a plasterer, his daughter, plaintiff Maria Melendez, 9, and son, plaintiff Osvaldo Melendez, 6, were sitting outside the Akron Coin Laundry in Akron. The building was originally a convenience store. It was made of concrete block, with large plate glass windows framed by steel and a glass entryway. A minivan driven by Ganga Kharel struck Jaime and Maria Melendez and pushed them through the glass into the store. The impact also broke through the concrete block. This reportedly occurred as Kharel was attempting to park in front of the laundromat and hit the accelerator instead of the brake pedal. Jaime and Maria Melendez claimed multiple physical injuries. Osvaldo Melendez, who was not physically injured, claimed negligent infliction of emotional distress. The Melendezes sued Ganga Kharel, as well as the owner of the minivan, Pritam Kharel. The Melendezes also sued the laundromat, alleging claims of premises liability and negligence. The Melendezes argued that Ganga Kharel, who had a learner’s permit and not a driver’s license, was negligent in the operation of the minivan. The Melendezes asserted that Pritam Kharel knew his sister did not have a driver’s license when he allowed her to borrow the minivan. The Melendezes also alleged that Akron Coin Laundry had notice of a defective condition with the property. In support of this allegation, they argued that another motorist had backed into the building two years earlier and broke the glass without penetrating through the building. The Melendezes’ expert in architecture testified that the accident would have been avoided had the laundromat installed wheel stops and bollards in the parking lot and at the storefronts and also managed the landscaping of the parking lot along the curbs. According to the expert, bollards were used as safety measures at other locations within the parking lot, but none existed at the site of the crash. Akron Coin Laundry maintained that the Kharels were 100 percent liable for the accident. The laundromat maintained that the safety measures proposed by plaintiffs’ expert were unnecessary, impractical and not typical for a business in the Akron area. The Kharels did not stipulate to or contest liability.

Injury:

The Melendezes were taken by ambulance to a hospital where they were admitted. Maria was diagnosed with bilateral open fractures of her tibia and fibula and a laceration of the left Achilles tendon. She underwent an open reduction with internal fixation in which rods were implanted into her legs. Three days later, she underwent debridement and irrigation of her tibia fractures and an Achilles tendon repair. After five days of hospitalization, she was discharged in a wheelchair and remained bedridden in the ensuing weeks. She eventually became weight-bearing and consulted with her surgeon. She underwent a course of physical therapy over the next few months. No further treatment was rendered. Maria’s expert in plastic surgery opined that Maria had suffered a 10-percent residual loss of motion in her Achilles tendon. According to the expert, Maria suffered extensive scarring due to her surgeries and will require scar-revision surgery, which was estimated at $20,880. Maria testified that she continues to experience discomfort in her Achilles tendon and is bothered by the scarring on her legs. She sought $26,306.50 in future medical costs, as well as damages for past and future pain and suffering. In total, her counsel asked for $750,000. Jaime Melendez was diagnosed with transverse process fractures of the L2, L3 and L4 vertebrae, a concussion and a hematoma. He was immobilized for three days and was then discharged. Jaime came under the care of an orthopedic surgeon and was put on a course of physical therapy, which consisted of exercise and massage. He treated with therapy for eight weeks. No further treatment was rendered. After eight weeks, he was able to return to work without restriction. Jaime’s counsel cited Jaime’s medical records to causally relate his injuries and treatment to the accident. Jaime testified that he continues to experience ongoing back pain, especially at work, and has to work through the pain. He sought $48,163.25 in medical costs, as well as an unspecified amount in wage loss. His attorney asked the jury to award $350,000 to Jaime. Jaime’s wife, Ofalia Melendez, testified that she has had to perform additional household duties as a result of her husband’s injuries. Her attorney asked the jury to award $50,000 to Ofalia. Osvaldo Melendez had sought damages for negligent infliction of emotional distress. However, no evidence was presented on the claim at trial and it was dismissed following a defense motion for a directed verdict. Plaintiffs’ experts in legal services testified that the Melendez family is going through the legal immigration process and that any money awarded to Maria would be held in trust and could not be spent without court approval. The defense maintained that, aside from Maria’s scarring, plaintiffs made a full recovery from their injuries. Both Maria and Jaime had returned to their normal activities of daily living, the defense asserted.

Result:

The jury attributed 45 percent liability to Ganga Kharel, 10 percent liability to Pritam Kharel and 45 percent liability to Akron Coin Laundry. The jury determined that Jaime Melendez was entitled to damages of $275,363.45, Maria Melendez was entitled to damages of $367,186.05 and Ofalia Melendez was entitled to damages of $40,000, for a total of $862,549.50. Osvaldo Melendez’s claim had been dismissed during trial and he was awarded no damages.

Jaime Melendez: $48,163 Personal Injury: Past Medical Cost; $27,200 Personal Injury: Past Lost Earnings Capability; $200,000 Personal Injury: Past Pain And Suffering; Maria Melendez: $26,306 Personal Injury: Past Medical Cost; $70,880 Personal Injury: Future Medical Cost; $200,000 Personal Injury: Past Pain And Suffering; $200,000 Personal Injury: Future Pain And Suffering; $50,000 Personal Injury: loss of consortium for Jaime Melendez and Ofalia Melendez; Ofalia Melendez$40,000 Personal Injury: loss of consortium

Trial Information:

Judge:

Jill Flagg Lanzinger

Demand:

$1,000,000 (total, by all plaintiffs, from all defendants)

Offer:

$25,000 (total, for each plaintiff, from Ganga Kharel and Pritam Kharel)

Trial Length:

5
 days

Jury Composition:

4 male/ 4 female

Editor’s Comment:

This report is based on information that was provided by Akron Coin Laundry’s counsel. Plaintiffs’ counsel and the remaining defendants’ counsel did not respond to the reporter’s phone calls.