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FEATURED CASE

JURY AWARDS $10.5 MILLION FOR CONSTRUCTION SUPERINTENDENT WHO SLIPPED INTO UNGUARDED PIT


Robert W. Johnson & Associates was retained to provide economic testimony in quantifying the present cash value of lost earning capacity, lost household services and future medical expenses.

Location: San Francisco, California

Case: Robert Scott v. Richter & Ratner Contracting Corp.

Court: San Francisco County Superior Court, Case No. CGC-04-434970

Judge: The Honorable Katherine Feinstein

Plaintiff’s Attorneys: William L. Veen (lead), Kevin Lancaster (co-lead), Eustace de Saint Phalle and Mary Anne Bendotoff of The Veen Firm, PC, San Francisco, California

Case Synopsis: Plaintiff Robert Scott, 45, a construction superintendent, was working on an interior remodel of an existing retail store and building at 225 Post Street in San Francisco. The general contractor was Richter & Ratner Contracting Corp., who hired several subcontractors, including Scott’s employer, Cannon Constructors and Paramount Elevator.

Scott slipped into the unguarded elevator pit, falling backwards and landing on his back in the concrete pit. Scott sued Richter & Ratner for negligence. Plaintiff's counsel argued that the contract stipulated that Richter & Ratner was required to maintain barricades in front of each opening to the elevator shaft. In addition, plaintiff's counsel claimed that Richter & Ratner had a non-delegable duty to guard the elevator shaft. Richter & Ratner disputed the allegations, contending that Scott was comparatively negligent. Defense counsel also pointed out that Scott had been in a methadone program, and claimed he was simply faking it in order to get painkillers.

Scott sustained permanent, disabling back, neck and knee injuries. His vocational rehabilitation counselor testified that Mr. Scott would never be able to return to work as a construction superintendent, or to return to the physical activities that he loved.

Expert Testimony: Mr. Johnson was retained to testify regarding loss of income, household services and future medical expenses. Mr. Johnson reviewed the vocational rehabilitation report and determined that Mr. Scott’s base earnings were $78,487 in 2004 as a construction project superintendent and by 2007, he would earn over $103,000 per annum plus fringe benefits.

Next, Mr. Johnson calculated that Mr. Scott’s future medical expenses would be just shy of $2 million. Lastly, Mr. Johnson calculated the loss of household services due to Mr. Scott’s injuries.

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Result: The jury found that Richter & Ratner was responsible for Mr. Scott’s injuries and awarded a $10.5 million verdict. This included $282,248 in past economic losses, $3,144,957 in future economic losses and $7,136,657 for past and future non-economic damages.

Attorney’s Comments: According to Plaintiff’s attorney William Veen, “Mr. Johnson is a very convincing expert. He is well prepared, thorough and communicates the dollar values of lost earnings capacity and future medical expenses in a manner that empowers the jury. His explanation of “present cash value” reassures the fact-finders that the money is necessary and not a windfall. His experience and demeanor allow him to speak to, rather than at, jurors. Plain and simple teaching, along with his analogies really enable the jurors to relate very well to him. Over the last 5 years, Mr. Johnson has testified for this firm in four cases in which the juries collectively awarded over $100 million. All of the verdicts far exceeded the defendants’ last offer.”