Robert W. Johnson & Associates was retained to provide economic testimony quantifying (a) the present cash value of lost wages and benefits, as well as future medical costs to the plaintiff and (b) OEA’s financial wealth, health and ability to pay punitive damages. The $13.7 million verdict is one of the highest in Solano County.
Location: Vallejo, California
Case: Shugart v. OEA
Court: Solano County, California Superior Court, No. L-11697
Plaintiff’s Attorneys: Paul Kranz, Law Offices of Paul Kranz, Berkeley, CA; William Veen and Cynthia Bernet-McGuinn, Law Offices of William L. Veen, San Francisco, CA
Case Synopsis: On December 18, 1995, a week before Christmas, Ms. Patricia Shugart was completing a 10-hour shift employed as an assembler of explosive devices by a company which was a wholly-owned subsidiary of the defendant OEA, the parent corporation of the plaintiff’s employer. While transporting 200 small explosive cartridges, a chain reaction was caused due to static electricity resulting in an explosion, nearly killing Ms. Shugart and injuring eight of her co-workers. The detonation of the explosives caused her to suffer the loss of an eye.
Expert Consultation: Mr. Johnson first testified to plaintiff’s diminished earnings capacity and future medical expenses. The total present value of the plaintiff’s lost wages, benefits and future medical expenses was over $800,000. Secondly, Mr. Johnson was prepared to testify to the financial health, wealth and economic ability of OEA to pay punitive damages. Mr. Johnson reviewed annual and quarterly statements filed by OEA with the SEC.
Result: The jury awarded $3.7 million in compensatory damages. In the punitive damages phase of the case, the jury awarded $10 million.
Attorney Comments: "Mr. Johnson did an extraordinary job in overcoming the defendant’s contention that Ms. Shugart’s future lost earnings could be calculated based on standard work-life statistical tables and the actual average amount of time someone her age would “actually” would work. Instead, Mr. Johnson presented an analysis based on plaintiff’s work ethic derived from the particular work history of this plaintiff. When the defense cross-examined Mr. Johnson about the justification for his approach, Mr. Johnson emphasized the very positive qualities of plaintiff’s attitude towards work as evidenced by her work history.