In a county where it’s said that civil plaintiff cases go to die, the trial team of Nicholas Rowley, Courtney Rowley, and Theresa Bowen of Carpenter, Zuckerman & Rowley tried a case deemed unwinnable by other lawyers. They obtained a record $10 million verdict.
The three attorneys worked as a team using the methods in Trial by Human and Rules of the Road to win a case where the police named their client as at fault. This case, like many others, hinged on a detailed investigation and a trial team that understood how to overcome difficult odds.
Their client was a 15-year-old boy riding his bicycle at night on a busy commercial street without a helmet. He was in an accident with a driver for AT&T. The police report listed the boy as completely at fault, claiming he had darted out and run a stop sign. Paramedic and emergency room records showed no loss of consciousness, a normal Glasgow Coma Scale score, and no abnormal neurological symptoms other than a headache.
The client was an eggshell plaintiff. He had a severe learning disability before the crash. He had been born two months premature and the defense blamed any problems on pre-existing issues and a “pathogenic dysfunctional family.” Given his already fragile cognitive abilities, the changes caused by the brain injury ruined his life. He had deficits caused by a small amount of damage to his prefrontal cortex (shown on high resolution MRI), as well as memory problems.
AT&T offered $100,001. No other formal offer was ever made.
The trial team established liability using the Rules of the Road™ method. The driver said it was dark, that he had the right of way, and that the kid ran the stop sign. Defense experts said the concussion was minor and resolved. The defense neuropsychology expert called the client a malingerer. However, Rowley’s team discovered that the AT&T driver was on his cell phone. And that he had lied to the police about it. When caught, AT&T said, “He was on Bluetooth.”
The trial team used the methods discussed in Trial by Human and Connecting with the Jury. They spent a lot of time with the client and his family to help them learn the human story, revealing that the client was devastated by the injury — that he had changed significantly. His special education needs had doubled, and despite extra help he still had to drop out of high school. He went from being active and social to losing all of his friends, gaining sixty pounds, being unable to sleep, living with constant headaches, confusion, and personality problems to the point where he regressed in his behavior and had a short term memory of less than 1 percent of the population. He was twenty at the time of trial. His family explained him as frozen in time, the mind of a teenager trapped inside the body of a young man.
The defense asked the jury to give a verdict of $50,000.
The jury returned a verdict for past noneconomic damages of $550,000, future noneconomic damages of $8,050,000, and future economic damages of $1,400,000, for a total verdict of $10 million. The plaintiff’s statutory offer to compromise was for a fraction of the amount. As a result, the plaintiff gets awarded costs and prejudgment interest.
The team described the case as a long and very tough fight, and not just against AT&T. On top of difficult facts, and what was expected to be a conservative jury pool, the team faced a very angry court and courtroom staff. The clerk disliked the case so much that after the verdict he told the defense lawyer that the plaintiff should have received nothing. Thankfully, the jury understood the plaintiff’s loss. This confirms how powerful it is to use Rules of the Road in difficult liability cases, and how Nick’s methods help you to understand and convey your client’s losses in a way that even unreceptive jurors accept.
Our congratulations to this trial team and the jury for doing the right thing by helping a family that truly needed it. We wish you the same success in your upcoming cases.
Rules of the Road by Rick Friedman and Patrick Malone