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FEATURED CASE

ECONOMIST’S TESTIMONY ASSISTS JURY IN $6.4 MILLION AWARD TO DRIVER WHOSE FOOT WAS CRUSHED


Robert W. Johnson & Associates was retained to provide economic testimony quantifying: (a) the present cash value of lost wages and benefits, (b) the present cash value of loss of household services and (c) the present cash value of future medical costs to the plaintiff.

Location: Norwalk, California

Case: James and Carol Eagles v. Albertsonís, Inc., Albertsonís Realty, Inc., and W.T. Billard, Inc., et al.

Court: Superior Court of the State of California for the County of Los Angeles, No. VC034371

Plaintiff’s Attorneys: Cynthia Bernet-McGuinn and Miles B. Cooper of the Law Offices of William L. Veen, San Francisco, California

Case Synopsis: The plaintiff, James L. Eagles, is a 58-year-old life-long resident of Fresno, California. On September 19, 2000, he was working for Kings County Truck Line as a truck driver. Mr. Eagles was making a delivery to defendant Albertsonís, Inc.ís Brea Distribution Center. While speaking to a receiver on the loading dock, a stand-up electric forklift owned by defendant Albertsonís, Inc. and operated by its employee Matthew Slessler struck Mr. Eagles. The 9,200 pound forklift ran over Mr. Eaglesís left foot, crushing the foot and trapping him underneath the forklift for approximately five minutes.

The tissue damage and dry gangrene stopped short of the tarsal area, resulting in a transmetatarsal amputation. This left Mr. Eagles with approximately half of his foot following surgery. As a result of the amputation, his doctor precluded him from returning to his profession as a truck driver. He was found to be unable to depress a clutch, climb steps, or load and unload as a result of the loss of half of his foot.

Defendant Albertsonís, Inc. filed a products liability action against The Raymond Corporation, the company that designed and manufactured the forklift. The action was heard concurrently with Mr. Eaglesís case. The jury determined that the forklift was not defective and that Albertsonís, Inc. was wholly responsible for Mr. Eaglesís damages. Prior to trial, defendant Albertsonís, Inc. offered $400,000 to settle the case in its entirety.

Expert Consultation: In this case, Mr. Johnson first testified to Mr. Eagles’ impaired earnings capacity. The total present value of the plaintiff’s lost wages and fringe benefits yielded over $568,000. Although Mr. Eagles’s past documented annual earnings never exceeded $35,000, his earnings capacity in today’s open market as an experienced truck driver was $55,000.

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Second, he testified to the loss of household services even though Mr. Eagles had mitigating income. The total present value of these services over his life expectancy was more than $200,000. Lastly, Mr. Johnson quantified the present value of the cost of future medical expenses to be approximately $100,000.

Result: On June 5, 2003, the jury rendered a $6,400,000 verdict against the defendant Albertson’s, Inc. No punitive damages were claimed.

Attorney’s Comments: Ms. Bernet-McGuinn had this to say, “Mr. Johnson was instrumental in helping the jury feel comfortable in understanding the economic losses. He used ‘real world’ analogies to help the jury relate to Mr. Eagles’s full loss of earnings capacity. The jury awarded every penny of loss that Mr. Johnson calculated.”