Case details

Valet not to blame for car rolling backward, defense argued





Result type

Not present

back, fusion, herniated disc, lumbar
On July 1, 2012, plaintiff Mark Williams, 57, a jet engine mechanic, was leaving Geoffrey’s Malibu, a restaurant in Malibu, when the valet, Andrew Lidman, returned his vehicle. As Williams attempted to sit down in the driver’s seat, the vehicle rolled backward, causing Williams to fall to the ground. Williams claimed of his back. Williams sued Lidman and the operator of Geoffrey’s Malibu, Peterson Enterprises LLC. Williams alleged that Lidman was negligent in the operation of the vehicle and that Peterson Enterprises was vicariously liable for Lidman’s actions while in the course and scope of his employment. Plaintiff’s counsel contended that Lidman improperly parked the vehicle and/or returned the vehicle on an incline. Counsel also contended that Lidman violated Peterson Enterprises’ own safety policy that had been in effect for more than 15 years, requiring valets to make sure customers were safely in their vehicles with their doors closed. Williams dismissed Lidman before the start of evidence pursuant to a stipulation that Lidman was working as an employee within his scope of employment with Geoffrey’s Malibu. Defense counsel contended that Lidman properly returned the car on flat terrain, in a stopped position, and that the car rolling backward as a result of a vehicle defect or Williams’ own negligence. Prior to trial, plaintiff’s counsel sought to exclude any evidence of any alleged defect in Williams’ classic 1966 Mustang, asserting that defense counsel did not have the car inspected, the defense’s initial expert was not qualified to opine as an expert in Mustangs, and any information about an alleged defect was prejudicial hearsay. The motion was granted. Defense counsel likewise moved to exclude Williams’ liability expert on similar grounds, but that motion was denied. Motion in limine orders were then entered by the court excluding any discussion of the condition of any alleged defects in the vehicle by the respective experts. However, near the end of trial, the owner of the restaurant took the stand and testified that the Mustang had known defects with the brakes and gearshift and that all the jury had to do was “go online to learn about it.” Plaintiff’s counsel moved for a mistrial, arguing that the owner’s testimony was in violation of the court’s order on the subject, was prejudicial and was grounds for a mistrial. At the close of evidence, Judge Margaret Oldendorf denied plaintiff’s counsel’s motion without prejudice to be refiled after the verdict, noting on the record that the conduct was clearly intentional, prejudicial and could not be cured with an instruction. She also noted that the motion could be refiled as a post-trial motion for a new trial and that she would revisit the issue on post-trial motions after the verdict, if not moot., Williams claimed he sustained herniated lumbar discs at the L4-5 and L5-S1 levels. He underwent conservative treatment, but ultimately had a two-level lumbar fusion. Plaintiff’s counsel contended that Williams will need surgery due to adjacent segment disease. Williams was a 30-year veteran jet engine mechanic and a supervisor at the time of the incident. He claimed that he will suffer a loss of future earning capacity as a result of his . Williams sought recovery of $149,000 in past medical costs, $160,000 in future medical costs and $167,885 in future lost earnings. He also sought recovery of damages for his past and future pain and suffering. Plaintiff’s counsel asked the jury to award Williams over $4 million in total damages. Defense counsel contended that Williams intentionally failed to seek treatment at first and that if any injury existed, it would have been soft tissue, which should have resolved within a few months of the incident. As a result, counsel argued that the lumbar fusion surgery Williams had four years after the accident was unnecessary and/or not related to the accident. Defense counsel contended that there was no evidence that Williams had lost any income or would lose income in the future. Defense counsel argued that if Peterson Enterprises was found liable, the jury should only award damages commensurate with a soft tissue injury. Plaintiff’s counsel denied Williams intentionally failed to seek treatment and responded that Williams had an unrelated brain tumor, which required several brain surgeries following the accident. Counsel argued that as a result, the surgeries caused a delay in treatment of Williams’ accident-related .
Superior Court of Los Angeles County, Pasadena, CA

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