NTL member Juan Dominguez wins record verdict in CA car crash case

juan dominguezTrial lawyers for The Dominguez Firm won a record-breaking verdict in Riverside (California) Superior Court when the jury awarded their client $11,779,154.77 in damages for an auto v. auto injury case.

In early July 2015, Mr. Oscar Esparza returned home to introduce his girlfriend, Cristal and her two children to his parents, knowing that he planned to propose to her soon after. On July 8, 2015, as the happy couple and her children began their drive back to Colorado in his Mitsubishi Eclipse, they came to a sudden stop caused by a third vehicle on northbound Interstate 15 near the 91 merge. Unfortunately, a flat-box truck owned and operated by Win Distribution, Inc. plowed into the back of Mr. Esparza’s car.

The force of the impact was severe to the back of the Eclipse and damaged Mr. Esparza’s seat back. Mr. Esparza took the brunt of the impact, suffering cervical spine injury as well as a mild-complicated traumatic brain injury that put him in the hospital for six days. The defense alleged that the third vehicle and Mr. Esparza were at fault for the accident and injuries.

The general damages portion of the verdict was reduced by 20% for alleged negligence by third vehicle involved in the accident. Still, the result for Mr. Oscar Esparza will much exceed $10 Million dollars and could exceed $12 million dollars after post trial motions for interests, costs and penalties. The verdict is considered to be the highest traumatic brain injury verdict award in Riverside Superior Court in 2018.

“This was a hard-fought case in which defendant tried to introduce irrelevant matters into evidence and tried to blame our client and others for the fact they rear-ended him,” said lead trial attorney Olivier Taillieu of The Dominguez Firm. “At the end of the day, our team and I were able to keep the trial court and jury focused on the relevant, pertinent issues and we were able to get our clients justice, especially Mr. Esparza, who is most deserving.”

The nationally recognized attorney Juan Dominguez of The Dominguez Firm, said, “This was a hard-fought case for two and a half years, including a five-week trial that included testimony from numerous leading experts. Gladly, justice prevailed.”

The Dominguez Firm is a powerhouse injury law firm serving Greater Los Angeles since 1987, with over $500,000,000 recovered for the injured. The Dominguez Firm is staffed with award-winning attorneys and is one of the most recognized and successful law firms in Southern California. Recent 8-dollar-figures personal injury results include: $29 Million Jury Verdict, $12.5 Million settlement, $11.7 Million Jury Verdict, and $10 Million settlement.

NTL member Brian McCormack gets $3.5M for rape victim

Brian McCormackNational Trial Lawyers member Brian McCormack of Callahan & Blaine has secured a $3.5 million verdict on behalf of a California woman who was raped after her assailant got a key to her hotel room from the front desk.

On April 19, 2014, the plaintiff, a 28-year-old clerk at BevMo!, went to visit her boyfriend, who was staying at a Holiday Inn hotel in Frazier Park. While she was asleep in her boyfriend’s hotel room, Jonathan Padilla, a co-worker of the boyfriend who was also staying at the hotel, impersonated the boyfriend to obtain a key from the front desk clerk, Lori Anne Scharon. Padilla then used the key to enter the boyfriend’s room while the visiting girlfriend was asleep. The girlfriend awoke as Padilla raped her, and Padilla fled back to his own room. Police later arrested Padilla at the hotel. Padilla pleaded guilty to rape and was sentenced to six years in prison. The 28-year-old girlfriend sued Padilla; Sharon; and the believed operators of the Holiday Inn hotel, Holiday Inn Express Frazier Park, Holiday Hospitality Franchising Inc., Holiday Hospitality Franchising LLC, Hospitality Inc., Intercontinental Hotels Group Resources Inc., and MRSS Hospitality Inc. Several franchisors obtained summary judgment on the case against them, and Padilla, who was appearing in pro per, was dismissed from the case during trial. Thus, the matter continued against Scharon and her employer, MRSS Hospitality Inc. Plaintiff’s counsel contended that the hotel’s staff provided Padilla with the key to the plaintiff’s boyfriend’s hotel room without obtaining proper identification. The plaintiff’s liability expert opined that Scharon’s provision of the room key to Padilla was a violation of the standard of care and of hotel policy. Counsel for Scharon and MRSS Hospitality claimed that Padilla’s criminal conduct was not foreseeable and that the plaintiff and her boyfriend did not engage the secondary locks available to them in the room.

The plaintiff was raped, but she did not seek medical treatment on the night of the incident. She was later diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder and subsequently underwent psychiatric treatment and cognitive behavioral therapy. The plaintiff claimed that she will suffer the effects of the incident for the rest of her life and that she can no longer feel comfortable sleeping at or visiting hotels. She also claimed she became fearful and introverted as a result of the incident. The plaintiff’s father testified that his daughter’s personality had entirely changed since the incident. The plaintiff’s psychiatric expert opined that the plaintiff suffers from PTSD and that she will suffer PTSD and emotional distress for the rest of her life, as she was “triggered” by men who looked like Padilla, by hotels, and by sleeping. There were no special damages requested at trial. The defense’s psychiatric expert concurred that the plaintiff suffers from PTSD, but opined that the plaintiff should recover with a full course of cognitive behavioral therapy. Defense counsel contended that the plaintiff did not comply with the psychiatrist’s recommendations regarding medication and that she did not complete therapy. Counsel further argued that the plaintiff’s alleged damages were excessive.

The jury apportioned 40 percent liability to Padilla, and 60 percent liability to Scharon and her employer, MRSS Hospitality, via vicarious liability. It also determined that the plaintiff’s damages totaled $3.5 million. After apportionment, a judgment was entered against to Scharon/MRSS Hospitality in the amount of $2.1 million.

The trial lasted ten days, and it took the five man, seven woman jury two days to reach a unanimous verdict. Trial information provided by VerdictSearch.

ACLU Sues Orange County District Attorney and Sheriff over Secret, Illegal Jail Informant Program

The American Civil Liberties Union, the ACLU Foundation of Southern California, and the law firm of Munger, Tolles & Olson LLP today filed a lawsuit against Orange County District Attorney Tony Rackauckas and Orange County Sheriff Sandra Hutchens, whose departments conducted a secret jailhouse informant operation in violation of the U.S. Constitution, California Constitution, and California state laws.

For more than thirty years, the departments have recruited and placed informants in jail cells with defendants, paying and rewarding informants with sentence reductions for extracting incriminating information from the defendants without their lawyers present. Some informants use threats of violence, including threats of murder, to coerce confessions and other information.

“By running this massive, underground jailhouse informant scheme, the district attorney’s office and the sheriff’s department are cheating Orange County out of justice,” said Brendan Hamme, Staff Attorney at the ACLU of Southern California. “They have won countless convictions based on unreliable information — the results of jailhouse informants’ coercion of defendants — that they passed off in court as solid, sound, and legal. Hiding the facts of the coercion from the defense is just one of the many ways they broke the law and endangered justice.”

The scheme has existed at least since the 1980s, and it was first exposed in a criminal case four years ago. Since then, the defendants in at least 18 cases in Orange County have shown that the departments’ jailhouse informants were illegally involved in their cases and won sentence reductions or dismissals. The district attorney’s office and sheriff’s department have consistently denied the existence of the jailhouse operation, sometimes under oath.

“District attorney’s offices and sheriff’s departments have the responsibility to pursue justice and uphold the law. Orange County’s jailhouse informant scam does the opposite, and we’re suing to end it,” said Somil Trivedi, Staff Attorney with the ACLU. “We must hold the departments accountable for more than three decades of secrets and lies that continue to undermine the justice system in Orange County.”

The lawsuit, filed in Orange County Superior Court, details several cases in which illegal jailhouse informants were involved, including that of Luis Vega. Vega was 14 when he was arrested in 2009 for attempted murder. Two jail informants paid by the district attorney’s office and sheriff’s department produced information without coercion that showed Vega was innocent. By law, the departments were required to relay this information to Vega and his attorney, but they did not, due to the risk of exposing the entire illegal program. Vega remained in prison for nearly two years.

A named plaintiff in the lawsuit filed today, People for the Ethical Operation of Prosecutors and Law Enforcement (P.E.O.P.L.E.), is a nonprofit association based in Orange County.

“Both agencies’ misconduct has devastated the Orange County community and led to a complete loss of faith in their ability to deliver justice,” Tina Jackson, a member of P.E.O.P.L.E. who also is a named plaintiff, said. “They claim to represent the people of Orange County, but we are here to say that, as long as they’re breaking the law, they don’t represent us.”

“The scope and duration of Orange County’s illegal informant program is breathtaking,” said Jacob Kreilkamp, a partner with Munger, Tolles & Olson LLP. “The defendants’ efforts to deny its existence — and, when forced to confront reality, to minimize and excuse it — make it clear that this lawsuit is necessary to restore integrity to Orange County’s criminal justice system.”

The ACLU Campaign for Smart Justice — an unprecedented effort to reduce the U.S. jail and prison population by 50% and to combat racial disparities in the criminal justice system — has launched a new multi-year initiative to make sure that prosecutors who break the law are held accountable for fueling mass incarceration and racial disparities in the criminal justice system, through legislative advocacy, voter education, and litigation. Today’s lawsuit joins Singleton v. Cannizzaro, filed in January by the ACLU and co-counsel over misconduct by the Orleans Parish district attorney, such as issuing fake subpoenas to coerce witnesses into submitting to interrogations.

For the complaint filed today and information about P.E.O.P.L.E. v. Rackauckas, go to:https://www.aclu.org/cases/people-v-rackauckas

For a video about the lawsuit: https://youtu.be/mPXEz0WJbRM

For more information: ACLU of Southern California https://www.aclusocal.org/

ACLU Campaign for Smart Justice https://www.aclu.org/issues/mass-incarceration/smart-justice

Munger, Tolles & Olson LLP https://www.mto.com

This press release is available here: https://www.aclu.org/news/aclu-sues-orange-county-district-attorney-and-sheriff-over-secret-illegal-jail-informant