Congratulations to Trial Guides customer Tom Wuori, of Ringsmuth Wuori, for his recent $13.4 million verdict!
Tom credits lessons learned from Rules of the Road and David Ball on Damages 3, as well as several books by Keith Minik, for helping him reach this ideal outcome for his client. Tom was kind enough to share a few details from the case, in which he represented the plaintiffs.
Phillips v. Dowrick, Case No 18-409-NO
Verdict: $13,426,000.00 (August 5, 2022)
Plaintiff’s team: Tom Wuori, lead trial attorney; Blake Ringsmuth, law partner assisting at trial; Erin Olmstead, paralegal
This was a premises liability case in which the plaintiff needed to prove unreasonably dangerous conditions within a rental unit, about which the defendant had prior knowledge.
The defendant landlord had bought a 1956 house out of foreclosure with no inspections or safety evaluation, and rented it within thirty days. The landlord’s inspection fixes were not verified by the city, which relied only upon his affidavit.
Months after the city notified the defendant of several inspection violations, the plaintiff was in the middle of the garage, preparing for a birthday party for her son. Several kids were outside, and one or more of them lifted the garage door; it went up into the rails, out the back rails, and then down on her head, causing her immediate pain. Eventually, she had to have a C5–6 neck fusion surgery, with complications and life-long difficulties.
“The case began as a long shot,” explained Tom. “At least one lawyer turned the case down initially, as it did not appear as if the solo landlord had any insurance.” Tom and his team became involved more than two years after the event, which made tracking down evidence difficult—and, to make matters more complicated, the scene of the incident was over three hours away.
The plaintiff’s case needed to prove that the landlord knew about, and neglected to fix, the deteriorating "toe plates” (foundational structures for a garage that are required for safe use); that the landlord received violation notices, but only undertook their fixes after the client was injured; and that responsibility for this repair fell solely on the defendant.
Plaintiff’s Case Theme & Strategy
Tom and his team picked a timely theme for the case: A rental dwelling must be safe on Day One. In an age of rising rental prices, with so many houses being bought and flipped, was the jury going to resonate with this theme—or let the landlord walk?
By employing tactics he had learned in multiple Trial Guides books, including Rules of the Road, David Ball on Damages 3, and several books by Keith Minik, Tom got the landlord to agree to his theme: that a landlord must provide safe premises on Day One. Tom effectively showed that the injured party could have been a child, a neighbor, or anyone moving in or out of the unit.
Tom was able to get the defendant to admit wrongdoing by using a hypothetical issue that could have arisen with a different part of the house. “I got [the landlord] to admit that, if my client had been harmed by carbon monoxide poisoning because the furnace was due for replacement, that the poisoning would be on him,” Tom explained. “He thought that because there was no carbon monoxide, he was ok admitting that. However, it fit with my theme—that a rental had to be safe on Day One—and I was able to prove the garage and garage door presented issues for which he was also responsible.”
A Successful Outcome
After a week-long trial, Ingram County jurors returned a verdict of $13,426,000. This verdict took into consideration the various damages they found, and factored in interest, inflation, and both economic and noneconomic damages.
Tom believes that this verdict was made possible by a thorough factual investigation. “Digging is always key,” he said. “Dig… and then dig some more.” To wit: Tom personally interviewed one witness multiple times, driving almost four hours each way, asking for more photos on each visit. “Finally, one day, [the witness] randomly called and told me he found them and produced them,” said Tom. “and they showed the truth.”
To discover how Rules of the Road, David Ball on Damages 3, Don’t Eat the Bruises, and Deeper Cuts can help you win your next case, click the links below and order your copies today!