Read below to learn about Dinsmore & Sandelmann case results for personal injury and business litigation cases in California.
Dinsmore & Sandelmann Case Results in Personal Injury Claims
$2,000,000 – hip fracture caused by fall at gym
Plaintiff suffered a hip fracture when she slipped on a freshly mopped wet floor at Crunch gym. Plaintiff underwent surgery to repair the hip fracture. She later developed post-traumatic avascular necrosis of the hip which will require a hip replacement surgery in the future. An employee of Defendant City Central, the cleaning company hired by the gym, mopped the inside of the women’s locker room with a “damp” mop. Although a wet floor warning sign was placed inside of the locker room, no sign was placed in the long entry hall. As such, Plaintiff was not aware the floor was wet when she made a 90 degree right turn from the entry hall into the locker room. Video of the incident showed the employee mopping the area of the fall 45 seconds prior to the fall. Sending the appropriate demand to preserve video evidence immediately after the incident is critical in these cases. The video also showed Plaintiff running slowly as she entered the locker room. However, Mr. Dinsmore established liability by eliciting testimony from the cleaning company employee that she mopped a wet spot outside the shower area immediately prior to mopping the floor where Plaintiff slipped and fell. The failure to warn in such a situation amounts to negligence. The fact that a mop was used to clean up water which dripped from the shower, where soap and shampoo were provided by the gym, was evidence that such products were likely transferred to the area of the fall, making the floor extremely slippery. This incident could have been avoided by the simple act of erecting a warning sign in the entry hall to the locker room. Defendants also could and should have placed rubber mats on the floor from the entry and past the showers where soapy water had to be cleaned at least 10 times per shift.
The gym claimed it was not liable because it hired the cleaning company to mop the floors and warn of any danger. Mr. Dinsmore established that the gym was liable based on the doctrine of the nondelegable duty to keep premises safe. Land owners and possessors have a nondelegable duty to maintain safe premises: (Koepnick v. Kashiwa Fudosan America, Inc. (2009) 173 Cal.App.4th 32, 36-37; Srithong v. Total Investment Co. (1994) 23 Cal.App.4th 721, 726 [the lessors of a mini-mall were held vicariously liable for a roofing company’s negligence in allowing tar to seep through the ceiling and injure a lessee].) Because a land owner who employs an independent contractor has a nondelegable duty, the land owner is held responsible for the contractor’s negligence in performing tasks which are encompassed within that duty. (Van Arsdale v. Hollinger (1968) 68 Cal.2d 245, 251.) If the law imposes a nondelegable duty on the owner toward third parties, and the owner retains the contractor to fulfill that duty, the owner remains liable if the contractor fails to carry out that duty for any reason. This rule applies even if the owner carefully selects a suitable contractor. (Padilla v. Pomona College (2008) 166 Cal.App.4th 661, 671-672; see Haning, Flavahan, Cheng & Wright, Cal. Prac. Guide: Personal Injury (TRG), Ch. 2 Part II; 6 Witkin, Summary of California Law, Torts § 1253-1255.) As such, the gym and cleaning company were jointly liable for all of Plaintiff’s damages. The case settled shortly before trial for $2,000,000.
$1,220,771 – dangerous cross-walk caused pedestrian’s brain injury
A 14 year old girl who was hit by a car while walking across a dangerous cross-walk. She suffered a significant brain injury. Mr. Dinsmore was able to prove that the Defendant city covered part of the painted cross-walk with asphalt, which created the illusion to the driver that the child was at the beginning of the cross-walk, when in fact she was in the road of travel. This also confused the child, as she believed she was at the entry to cross-walk on the side of the road, when she was actually in the lanes of traffic. The driver settled for a minimum $15,000 insurance policy. Fortunately, recovery from the city and other Defendants provided the young girl with the funds to receive therapy and treatment to help her tremendously in recovering from the cognitive deficits of her injury.
Over $1,000,000 – wrongful death trucking accident
$1,000,000 (of $2,000,000 total) – aggravation of spasmodic torticollis from trucking accident
Plaintiff was driving with her cousin as a passenger on the I-110 (Harbor Freeway) when her tire blew out. She began slowly crossing lanes in an effort to reach the shoulder of the freeway, but was was forced by traffic to stop in a lane of travel. The big rig truck driver was not paying attention and slammed into the rear of Plaintiff’s car at a high rate of speed, causing severe damage to to Plaintiff’s car. Plaintiff suffered an aggravation of her previously manageable spasmodic torticollis, a condition which causes painful neck spasms, and post-concussion syndrome. She required painful Botox injections and other treatment to alleviate her symptoms. Her cousin, represented by another law firm, also suffered serious injuries, including a minor traumatic brain injury.
Mr. Dinsmore filed a lawsuit against the truck driver and the trucking company that hired the driver. The truck driver’s insurance policy provided coverage of $1 million for all injuries and damages suffered by both Plaintiff and her cousin. The trucking company had an insurance policy that provided and additional $1 million of coverage.
As is common, the trucking company claimed that is was not liable because the truck driver was an independent contractor. As a general rule, companies are liable for the negligence of their employees, but not independent contractors. However, Mr. Dinsmore cited law which established that the trucking company was liable for the negligence of the truck driver, even if he was only an independent contractor. A highway motor carrier licensed by the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration is liable for the negligence of its independent contractor truckers who cause a traffic accident. (Gamboa v. Conti Trucking, Inc. (1993) 19 Cal.App.4th 663, 665-668.) This rule of liability is derived from the public policy exception which imputes liability to the hirer of an independent contractor when the work delegated to the contractor involves an unreasonable risk of harm to others and can lawfully be performed only under a license or franchise granted by public authority. (Serna v. Petty Leach Trucking, Inc. (2003) 110 Cal.App.4th 1475, 1486.) The owner of the trucking company admitted at his deposition that his company operated pursuant to a federal motor carrier license. As such, the trucking company was liable for all damages caused by the negligence of truck driver.
The truck driver did not have a motor carrier permit and operated under the permit of the trucking company. But even if the truck driver had such a permit, the trucking company would remain liable for the truck driver’s negligence. In Lehman v. Robertson Truck-A-Way (1953) 122 Cal.App.2d 82, the trucking company was a common carrier licensed under the federal Interstate Commerce Act. Its independent contractor injured the plaintiffs in a traffic collision. The court held that the trucking company had a non-delegable duty as a common carrier, and was therefore liable for the negligence of the truck driver. The court reached this conclusion even though the independent contractor driver was also licensed by the Interstate Commerce Commission and the Public Utilities Commission. As Gamboa explains, it is sound public policy to make the primary contractor liable under the non-delegable duty doctrine in the event that the insurance coverage of the subcontractor is inadequate to cover the loss. (Gamboa, supra, 19 Cal.App.4th at p. 668.)
Mr. Dinsmore further established through depositions that the trucking company was liable for its gross negligence in failing to discovery the truck driver’s utter lack of qualifications to operate a commercial tractor trailer. The trucking company not only failed to provide the driver training required by law, but was not even aware that such laws existed. The depositions of the truck driver and owner of the trucking company provided numerous examples of the startling lack of compliance in with respect to driver training and education. It was this lack of training that resulted in the truck driver’s failure to keep a proper look out and maintain space gaps as required by regulations of the U.S. Department of Transportation, Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration.
Mr. Dinsmore retained highly qualified experts, including an expert regarding truck driving safety standards, an accident reconstruction expert regarding how the accident happened, a neurologist and neuropsychologist regarding the aggravation of Plaintiff’s torticollis and post-concussion syndrome, and a life care planner to establish the nature and cost of future medical treatment. Shortly prior to trial, the truck driver and trucking company each paid their total insurance limits, for a combined settlement of $2 million which was divided equally between the cousins.more_accordion title=”$1,000,000 – gunshot victim at medical marijuana dispensary”]Plaintiff sustained a gunshot wound during the robbery of a medical marijuana dispensary. He suffered two herniated discs in his spine and developed Complex Regional Pain Syndrome (“CRPS”), a nerve condition that causes pain and hyperhidrosis (profuse sweating). In May 2013, the people of Los Angeles passed Proposition D (also known as Ordinance No. 182580), which made the majority of medical marijuana dispensaries illegal in Los. A stated purpose of the ordinance was to reduce the “negative impacts and secondary effects” of these dispensaries, including an increase in “murders, robberies, burglaries, assaults, drug trafficking and other violent crimes.” Based on this violation, Mr. Dinsmore invoked the concept of “negligence per se,” which means that a defendant is automatically liable for violation of a statute if certain conditions are met. “The failure of a person to exercise due care is presumed if: (1) He violated a statute, ordinance, or regulation of a public entity; (2) The violation proximately caused death or injury to person or property; (3) The death or injury resulted from an occurrence of the nature which the statute, ordinance, or regulation was designed to prevent; and (4) The person suffering the death or the injury to his person or property was one of the class of persons for whose protection the statute, ordinance, or regulation was adopted.” (Evidence Code, § 669, subd. (a).) When these elements are proven, the Court accepts the legislative judgment about the reasonable standard of care and finds that Defendant has breached that standard of care by breaching the statute or ordinance. (Clinkscales v. Carver (1943) 22 Cal.2d 72, 75–76.)
Furthermore, property owners have a general “duty of reasonable care to protect against known or reasonably foreseeable risks.” (7735 Hollywood Blvd. Venture v. Superior Court (1981) 116 Cal.App.3d 901, 905.) That duty extends to invitees of the owners’ tenants. (Barber v. Chang (2007) 151 Cal.App.4th 1456, 1467.) When “the harm can be prevented by simple means, a lesser degree of foreseeability may be required.” (Sharon P. v. Arman, Ltd. (1999) 21 Cal.4th 1181, 1195.) Where a landlord is aware of a danger posed by his tenant’s use of the property and has the power to do something about it, including evicting the tenant, he has a duty to do so. (Madhani v. Cooper (2003) 106 Cal.App.4th 412, 417-18.) Illegal marijuana dispensaries are per se nuisances under California law (Health & Safety Code, § 11570; Lew v. Superior Court (1993) 20 Cal.App.4th 866, 871-72), and the text of Proposition D suggests that they are inherently dangerous. Based on this analysis, the insurance company for the property owners paid the policy limits of $1,000,000 to settle the case shortly prior to trial.
$1,000,000 – gunshot victim at medical marijuana dispensary
Plaintiff sustained a gunshot wound during the robbery of a medical marijuana dispensary. He suffered two herniated discs in his spine and developed Complex Regional Pain Syndrome (“CRPS”), a nerve condition that causes pain and hyperhidrosis (profuse sweating).
$951,771 – third degree burns caused by dangerously hot water
Mr. Dinsmore and another attorney obtained a jury verdict for a woman who suffered third degree burn injuries from dangerously hot water. Plaintiff had a seizure and fell into the tub as she turned on the hot water. She lost consciousness and suffered horrible burns over most of her torso. By retaining a plumbing expert who tested the water temperature and through investigation and numerous depositions, Mr. Dinsmore was able to prove that the manager of the Defendant apartment complex had set the water heater temperature dangerously high when he fixed the pilot light. The manger thought he could fix the pilot light by turning up the temperature dial on the water heater. This was a gross mistake. The temperature setting has nothing to do with the function of the pilot light. The water at the faucet was 148 degrees, which is 28 degrees higher that the safe temperature for residential households. Water at 148 degrees will cause third degree burns in 2 seconds. The verdict was reduced by 15 percent based upon the jury’s finding that Plaintiff 15 percent comparatively negligent.
$750,000 – disabled child fractured leg when school failed to supervise
A 13 year old boy with cerebral policy and other disabilities suffered a spiral fracture of his femur when he slipped on a wet floor as he entered the classroom. The case settled after a lawsuit was filed against the school district for the negligent failure to supervise the child and for the dangerous condition of public property. A school district bears a legal duty to exercise reasonable care in supervising students in its charge and may be held liable for injuries proximately caused by the failure to exercise such care. This duty of care is heightened in connection with the needs of physically or mentally disabled students. All government entities are liable for the failure to protect against dangerous conditions of public property when its employees either knew or should have known of the condition.
$600,000 – brain injury suffered by 15 year old boy at school filming “Jack-Ass” stunt
Plaintiff was allowed by his teacher to make a “Jack-Ass” themed video for a multi-media class. During one unsupervised session of filming, Plaintiff and a group of students attempted to simultaneously jump over a tennis court net. Plaintiff caught his foot on the net and landed on his head and collarbone, suffering a fractured collar bone and a minor traumatic brain injury. Mr. Dinsmore hired a top neuropsychologist to perform extensive testing and objectively prove that the Plaintiff suffered a brain injury.
The school district violated the law which provides: (1) school authorities have a duty to supervise at all times the conduct of the children on the school grounds; (2) in supervising, school authorities must exercise care which a person of ordinary prudence would exercise under the same circumstances; and (3) either a total lack of supervision or ineffective supervision may constitute a lack of ordinary care on the part of those responsible for student supervision. Depositions and discovery proved that the teacher and school permitted the teenage boys to engage in a number of dangerous stunts that mimicked the popular “Jack-Ass” movies and television series without any supervision, with the predictable result of Plaintiff’s injury.
$550,000 – fractured hip suffered by pedestrian hit in cross-walk
In a hotly disputed liability case, Plaintiff and Defendant each claimed they had a green light as Plaintiff jogged across the intersection in a cross-walk. Plaintiff suffered a displaced fracture of the acetabulum (hip socket) which required internal fixation (insertion of plate and screws). Mr. Dinsmore hired an accident reconstruction expert and through analysis of the traffic signal timing charts and Defendant’s deposition testimony that Defendant must have run a red light.
According to Defendant’s expert, the only way that the left turn arrow could be green for over 8 seconds, would be if the through light for southbound traffic on Mountain remained green. Defendant testified that the through light for southbound Mountain was red when she first turned onto Mountain two blocks from Foothill and that it was still red when she reached Foothill. Defendant’s expert admitted that if Defendant’s testimony that the through light for southbound traffic was red were accepted, the longest the arrow could have been green was 8 seconds. Defendant testified that she was traveling 20 to 25 mph for the two blocks she was on Mountain before slowing to turn on Foothill. She also testified that the arrow was green when she turned onto Mountain two blocks away from Foothill. At 25 mph, it would have taken Defendant 24 seconds to travel the two blocks on Mountain to the start of the intersection at Foothill. Because the arrow could have been green for at most 8 seconds, Defendant’s testimony that the arrow was green for the entire two blocks was proved impossible. Rather, the light must have cycled to the next phase, which was a permissive overhead green circle for southbound Mountain in conjunction with a walk signal for southbound pedestrians. This means that Defendant would have been permitted to make a left turn, but only after yielding to any pedestrians.
Defendant’s credibility was further damaged by police video of her statement which grossly contradicted her deposition testimony. At her deposition, Defendant vehemently insisted that she never even hit Plaintiff. She claimed that Plaintiff never ran in front of her and that the police report was wrong in attributing such a statement to her. Rather, she testified that she saw Plaintiff “lying on the rocks” in the median strip between the east and west lanes of Foothill and therefore stopped to offer help. The police video shows Defendant stating the Plaintiff “came out in front of me” and “just materialized in front of me.” It required a great deal of time and money to obtain and skillfully present all of the evidence through depositions and expert testimony. This is standard operating procedure for Dinsmore & Sandelmann. We spare no expense or effort in either obtaining the full settlement value of a case or proceeding to trial.
$409,944 – back injury from auto accident
Plaintiff’s car was hit by a limousine that ran a stop sign, resulting in two bulging discs in the lumbar spine which would likely require surgery. The Defendant driver’s insurance company refused to pay the claim and failed to provide a response to the lawsuit which was filed, resulting in a default judgment against the Defendants (driver and limousine company). The Defendants appealed, claiming the default judgment should be set aside because the driver informed the insurance company of the lawsuit and it failed to provide the response. In a published opinion that protects injured parties from such gamesmanship by insurance companies, the court rejected the Defendants’ argument, stating that “a rule requiring only that the insured demonstrate reasonable reliance on its insurer would permit the insurer to willfully or recklessly ignore filing deadlines with impunity, shielding itself behind the blamelessness of its insured while it makes a shambles of orderly procedure.” (Scognamillo v. Herrick (2003) 106 Cal.App.4th at 1139, 1149.)
Unfortunately, it is all too common for insurance companies to pay valid claims, even if it causes great harm both to the injured party and their own insured. After the court of appeal rejected the insurance company’s efforts to dodge responsibility, the insurance company finally compensated Plaintiff.
$400,000 – aggravation of neck injury in hit and run auto accident
Plaintiff’s car was side-swiped in an intersection when Defendant ran a red light. Defendant then fled the scene but was later stopped by the police. Five years before the accident, Plaintiff had a fusion with instrumentation at C4 to C7, which caused minor continuing weakness in the right upper arm. As a result of the accident, Plaintiff suffered a new injury at C7-T1, an area made vulnerable by the prior fusion, and required another surgery. The defense lawyers hired by the insurance company fought this case extremely hard, hiring an expert to testify that all of Plaintiff’s injuries were pre-existing. This another common tactic by insurance companies to avoid paying claims.
In addition to a claim for compensatory damages based on negligence, Mr. Dinsmore asserted a claim for punitive damages based on Defendant’s hit and run and apparent intoxication (he claimed he did not even know he was in an accident). Defendant was convicted of felony failure to stop and render aid (California Vehicle Code §20001(a)) and driving on a suspended license for prior DUI’s. Mr. Dinsmore defeated a motion for summary judgment on the punitive damages claim and Defendant ultimately paid $25,000 of his own money in addition to the $375,000 paid by the insurance company to settle the case. As with all cases we handle, such measures of justice and deterrence of future wrongdoing which endangers the public are a large reason we take these cases.
$350,000 – torn rotator cuff from fall on slippery pool deck in Hawaii
Plaintiff was a guest at the Wailea Marriott Resort on the island of Maui, Hawaii. He slipped on a slick wet spot on the pool deck and and suffered a near full thickness tear of his rotator cuff (supraspinatus tendon). Mr. Dinsmore was admitted pro hac vice to represent Plaintiff in Hawaii state court and continued to represent him when the case was removed by Marriott to federal court.
Mr. Dinsmore retained an expert to test the the coefficient of friction of the pool deck surface. The testing showed a 0.34 coefficient of friction, which is below the generally accepted minimum safety threshold of 0.5. The expert noted that the pool deck was hazardous because the intermittent smooth areas that were slippery when wet caused a defective and functionally hidden hazard. He noted that having large areas that are slip resistant creates a false sense of security. Marriott claimed it was not aware of the dangerously slippery condition of the pool deck and that there had been no other falls; however, depositions of multiple employees revealed that Marriott knew the pool deck was slippery when wet and that there had been other slips and falls. The fact that Marriott regularly placed several signs around the pool warning that the pool deck was slippery when wet also showed Marriott knew of this danger.
Marriott initially denied the claim and vowed that it would not pay any amount to settle. After Mr. Dinsmore took the depositions of seven Marriott employees in Hawaii by video conference, and and the deposition Mr. Reed’s treating surgeon by video conference, Marriott requested a mediation which was held in Honolulu. After the mediation, Marriott made an offer to allow judgment to be entered in favor of Plaintiff pursuant to Rule 68 of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure – Plaintiff accepted this offer and judgment was entered against Marriott for $350,000. The public record of this judgment will preclude Marriott from denying in the future that its guests have suffered injuries from slip and fall incidents at the pool deck.
$299,999 – back, knee and head injuries in auto accident
Plaintiff was hit head-on and suffered multiple injuries. The case required extensive litigation, retaining several expert witness, and preparing for trial in order to obtain a fair settlement just prior to trial. Depositions of the defense expert witnesses proved that Plaintiff suffered occipital neuralgia, in addition to back and knee injuries. Despite clearly being at fault for falling asleep at the wheel and crossing into Plaintiff’s lane of travel, the Defendant’s insurance company and her lawyers attempted to avoid responsibility by claiming that Plaintiff suffered only minor strains/sprains which lasted only several weeks – in other words, claiming Plaintiff was a liar. Mr. Dinsmore was able to establish through expert witnesses, the medical records and other evidence, that Plaintiff suffered significant injuries to his head, back and knee, which impacted his ability to work and enjoy life as long as three years following the collision.
$250,000 – back injury to roofer who fell from dangerous ladder
Plaintiff was hired to repair the roof at Defendant’s residence when he fell from a ladder and suffered a fractured vertebrae and disc protrusions in his lumbar spine. Defendant owned several safe A-frame ladders which he used in connection with his blinds installation business. Defendant provided Plaintiff with one of his A-frame ladders, which was used by Plaintiff to carry all of the roofing materials to the roof. However, just before Plaintiff was to climb to the roof to dispense hot tar, Defendant switched the A-frame ladder to a straight ladder which was intended for use only as one piece of a larger sectional ladder. This straight ladder did not have any skid guards at the bottom and was therefore very dangerous. Because the straight ladder was not designed for such a use, it slipped out from underneath Plaintiff when he was approximately 8 feet up the ladder. Mr. Dinsmore elicited an admission from Defendant at his deposition that he refused to allow Plaintiff to use his safe A-frame ladder because he did not want to get it dirty. Another case of putting material possessions ahead of the safety of others, something we see far too often. This concession resulted in the settlement of the case shortly before trial.
$229,160 verdict – neck and back injuries in low impact rear end accident
After a 6 day trial, the jury awarded Plaintiff $229,160, which included $180,000 for a future cervical fusion surgery. This was a very difficult case to prove based on the following facts: (1) there was virtually no visible damage to the rear of Plaintiff’s car; (2) three cars were involved, with Defendant hitting a middle car which then hit Plaintiff, and the driver of the middle car was not hurt and also had little visible damage to his car; (3) Plaintiff was involved in three later accidents in which she also injured her back and/or neck; and (4) Plaintiff had a long history of prior back pain and had a lumbar fusion surgery of the low back one year before the accident. Despite these facts, Plaintiff suffered substantial injuries and was entitled to compensation. As is common in cases with little visible damage to the cars, the insurance company for the Defendant only offered $30,000 to settle the case, which was less than Plaintiff’s medical bills of approximately $45,000. The insurance company bets that the jury will ignore the medical evidence in such a case and instead rely only the photographs of the cars to conclude an injury was not possible. Plaintiff made a statutory “offer to compromise” for $150,000, and because the verdict was more than the statutory offer, the court may award Plaintiff her expert costs and prejudgment interest. Dinsmore & Sandelmann advanced expert costs of approximately $50,000 to provide their client the best possible chance to prevail at trial. This included three treating doctors, a retained orthopedic surgeon, an accident reconstruction expert and a vocational rehabilitation expert. Substantial costs were also incurred to take the depositions of the three experts hired by the defense, jury and court reporter fees, filing fees, and an array of other costs. Only through such a commitment of time and money is it possible to hold insurance companies accountable and obtain justice.
$165,000 – knee injury caused by intoxicated driver
Plaintiff suffered a knee injury when Defendant crossed into his lane while intoxicated and caused a head-on collision. Defendant was convicted of driving under the influence. Plaintiff’s knee injuries included: (1) acute injury to the weight-bearing portion of the medial femoral condyle in the form of a micro-fracture or bone bruise; (2) prepatellar bursa superficial to medial retinaculum; and (3) 2 cm cystic lesion at this location. The insurance company claimed that Plaintiff’s suffered only a minor bone bruise and originally offered only $6,300 to settle the case – less than 4% of the ultimate settlement.
Mr. Dinsmore cited medical studies which show that “bone bruising as a single entity is a harbinger of posttraumatic arthritis.” (International Society of Arthroscopy, Knee Surgery & Orthopedic Sports Medicine, Bone Bruising and Bone Marrow Edema Syndromes: Incidental Radiological Findings or Harbingers of Future Joint Degeneration?, Dorothy M. Niall, FRCS (Orth), Vladimir Bobic, MD, FRCSEd.) Furthermore, the increased stiffness of the healed bone may decrease the potential for the joint to dissipate load by deformation and this may also increase shear-stress at the bone cartilage interface, precipitating cartilage degeneration. (Ibid.) By demonstrating the potential for future complications from arthritis, Mr. Dinsmore was able to obtain full compensation for his client.
Mr. Dinsmore asserted a claim for punitive damages in addition to any compensatory damages. Mr. Dinsmore defeated a motion for summary judgment on the punitive damages claim, showing that the Defendant acted with reckless disregard for the safety of others by driving under the influence and feeling the scene of prior collisions with parked cars.
$162,500 – knee injury caused by big rig truck
Defendant was driving a big rig truck and pulling a 53 foot trailer when he changed into Plaintiff’s lane in an attempt to make a right turn into a driveway. Plaintiff was driving the same direction in the next to lane to the right. Defendant collided with Plaintiff’s car as she tried to avoid the truck cutting in front of her. The insurance company claimed that Plaintiff was at fault, making the groundless claim that she was going too fast and not paying attention. The insurance adjuster admitted to Mr. Dinsmore that blaming Plaintiff “was part of the game in negotiating a settlement.” None of this was a game to Plaintiff, who suffered a torn anterior cruciate ligament. Mr. Dinsmore took the Defendant’s deposition and got him to admit he failed to see Plaintiff before making his lane change and that she may have been temporarily in his blind spot. Defendant was liable for making an unsafe lane change. California Vehicle Code Section 22107 provides that no person shall turn a vehicle from a direct course or move right or left upon a roadway until such movement can be made with reasonable safety. The insurance company claimed that Plaintiff was not seriously injured and originally offered only $23,000 to settle the case – less than 15% of the ultimate settlement.
$134,999 – torn rotator cuff caused by big rig truck; plus over $63,000 for children’s back and neck injuries and expert costs
Defendant was driving an 18 wheel truck with two trailers when he made a sudden U-turn from the center divider on a residential street and collided with car driven by Plaintiff. Plaintiff was driving the speed limit and had no warning or chance to react when Defendant turned directly in front of him at the last second. The insurance company denied liability and even filed a cross-complaint against Plaintiff. Another great example of a “frivolous defense.” Defendant admitted at his deposition that he did not even see Plaintiff’s car before the collision. After the collision, Defendant continued his U-turn, dragging Plaintiff’s vehicle behind his rear cab tires. Defendant had just been assigned a job and was in a rush to complete the trip and get paid. Plaintiff suffered a rotator cuff rotator tear in his left shoulder which required surgery.
Plaintiff’s 14 year old daughter and niece were also in the car and made claims for neck and back pain. Plaintiff’s daughter also suffered from headaches and panic attacks. After long and costly litigation, the insurance company finally offered to settle for: Father $100,000, Daughter: $8,000 and Niece $5,800. The offers to the daughter and niece were less than their medical bills. Plaintiffs made “offers to compromise” pursuant to California Code of Civil Procedure Section 998 as follows: Father $134,999, Daughter: $24,999 and Niece $14,999. If such a statutory offer is not accepted, a Plaintiff may recover certain penalties, including expert witness costs, if the case goes to trial and the verdict exceeds the offer.
The insurance company accepted the statutory offer of the father but not the offers of the daughter or niece. The insurance company and its lawyers believed that if they continued to “low ball” the two young girls, they would take the money instead of paying the approximately $25,000 in costs required to take the case to trial, especially given the limited upside of the recovery at trial. They figured Mr. Dinsmore would not take the case to trial because he already settled the major claim, that of the father, for $134,000. As the defense attorney was quick to point out during settlement negotiations, the only way Plaintiffs could recover anything for their injuries was to hire all of the necessary medical experts and incur substantial trial costs. Mr. Dinsmore called this bluff, hired all of the necessary medical experts, and took the case to trial on behalf of the two girls.
The daughter and niece prevailed at trial and recovered more than their statutory offers to compromise. Therefore, they were awarded expert fees and other costs, in addition to compensatory damages, for a total judgment exceeding $63,000. The insurance company could have settled the claims of these deserving girls for under $35,000 and saved what was likely six figures in defense costs and forcing a jury and judge to sit through a one week trial. This illustrates the sad reality that insurance companies will pay more to defend valid claims than the reasonable settlement value. This is done to discourage Plaintiffs’ attorneys from taking cases to trial so the insurance company can save money on the numerous cases that Plaintiffs settle for far less than they are owed. It is the policy of Dinsmore & Sandelmann to take such cases to trial as a matter of principle and to provide justice for our clients.
$101,561 – hip fracture to bicyclist riding wrong direction on sidewalk
Plaintiff was riding his bicycle on the sidewalk in the opposite direction of the adjacent traffic. The Defendant exited the parking lot across a driveway from a shopping mall when she hit Plaintiff. Defendant looked to her left to check for oncoming traffic, but not to her right, the direction from which Plaintiff approached on his bicycle. This was a case of comparative fault because Plaintiff should have also kept a better look out. But the insurance company refused to accept responsibility Defendant’s share of fault.
At the Defendant’s deposition, Mr. Dinsmore established that she was aware that a hedge to her right partially obstructed the view of pedestrians and bicyclists on the adjacent sidewalk and bicycle lane. Defendant testified that while she normally took precautions to ensure that nobody was riding a bike or walking from her right side, she did not do so on this occasion. Rather, she admitted that she only looked to her left while stopped at the driveway to check for traffic coming from that direction. Without looking to her right, she then proceeded straight and immediately collided with Plaintiff. Defendant initially claimed in interrogatory responses prepared by her lawyers that she was not moving at the time of impact. Defendant’s deposition testimony and statement to the police proved that she was actually moving at impact. Defendant violated California Vehicle Code Section 21804, which provides that a driver about to enter or cross a highway must yield the right-of-way to all approaching traffic that constitutes an immediate hazard and must continue to yield until he or she can proceed with reasonable safety.
Under California law, bicycles may be ridden on the sidewalk unless prohibited by a local ordinance. (California Vehicle Code Section 21650(g).) In any case involving a bicycle ridden on the sidewalk, it is critical to research the city ordinances to determine whether that city has placed any restrictions on riding on the sidewalk. Although a bicycle must be ridden in the same direction as traffic on a roadway, there is no requirement that a bicycle be ridden in the same direction as traffic on a sidewalk (unless a local ordinance so provides). (Spriesbach v. Holland (2013) 215 Cal.App.4th 255.) Mr. Dinsmore used this law and the deposition testimony of the Defendant to finally convince the insurance company to pay the policy limits to settle the case.
As is customary, the insurance company refused to accept any responsibility until immediately before trial. Defendant tendered the $100,000 policy limits by means of an “offer to compromise” pursuant to California Code of Civil Procedure Section 998. Plaintiff accepted the offer, which resulted in the entry of a judgment against the Defendant and interest charges of $1,561 in addition to the $100,000 judgment. The insurance company caused damage to Defendant’s credit and additional costs by delaying settlement and then offering the policy limits through a statutory offer to compromise. This is further evidence that insurance companies are only concerned with saving money, regardless of whether it causes further harm to the injured party or even their own insured.
$100,000 – torn tendon in foot from dangerous condition at apartment complex
Plaintiff suffered a torn tibilias anterior tendon when her left foot was lacerated by a barbed metal grate left at the top of the stairs in a common area of a residential property. Plaintiff impaled her foot on the grate while walking up the exterior stairs to visit family members who rented a house on the property owned by the Defendant. The Defendant hired workers to perform repairs on her property and the workers left the metal grate on the stairs. It was clearly negligent to leave a razor-sharp grate similar in color to the exterior stairs resting flush at the top of the stairs. Plaintiff never saw the grate as she walked up the stairs and her toe caught the barbed edge. The grate then slid up and tore a large jagged hole on the top of her foot.
The insurance company for the Defendant denied liability, claiming Defendant had no knowledge that the metal grate was left on the stairs. This was not a proper basis to deny the claim. The California Supreme Court has long recognized that a property owner is liable for any dangerous condition created by the owner or the owner’s employees, regardless of notice of the condition. (Hatfield v. Levy Bros. (1941) 18 Cal.2d 798, 806.) After substantial litigation and the usual denials and delays, the insurance company finally paid the $100,000 policy limits to settle the case.
$100,000 – neck injury from auto accident
Plaintiff was making a left turn when the Defendant ran a red light and hit Plaintiff’s car. Plaintiff suffered disc protrusions in her cervical spine at levels C-5-6 and C6-7 which required surgery in the form of an anterior cervical discectomy with spinal cord and bilateral neural foraminal decompression and total disc replacement. Unfortunately, the Defendant’s insurance policy limits were only $15,000. In addition to the $15,000 paid on behalf of the Defendant, Plaintiff received an additional $85,000 from her own insurance company, which were the available limits of the underinsured motorist coverage. The medical providers agreed to significantly reduce their bills, which were over $190,000, so that Plaintiff was able to pay all of her bills and still receive a portion of the settlement funds.
Dinsmore & Sandelmann Case Results In Business Litigation
$4,151,905 – general contractor fraud and construction defects
Mr. Dinsmore obtained this verdict for damages and attorney’s fees after 7 years of litigation and a 10-day trial. The Defendant falsely represented that he was a licensed general contractor to induce Plaintiff to hire him to build a luxury custom home in Beverly Hills. Defendant then grossly overcharged Plaintiff and fabricated invoices in order to embezzle over two million dollars. Defendant also performed shoddy construction that had to be redone by a competent contractor.
Mr. Dinsmore reconstructed the accounting in painstaking detail and proved the Defendant committed fraud. This required numerous motions to compel the Defendant to provide proper discovery responses and commit to each dollar spent on the project. Defendant was then impeached with records subpoenaed from the bank and forensic accounting evidence which showed that claimed project expenses included the purchase of luxury home in Texas, a Porsche, boats and numerous retirement account investments.
Mr. Dinsmore successfully prosecuted another claim in Texas to recover the funds from the sale of the Texas property. Mr. Dinsmore has also filed a claim to establish that the fraud debt cannot be discharged in the bankruptcy filed by the Defendant. The court awarded Plaintiff $850,000 in punitive damages and $926,968 in attorney’s fees and costs, in addition to the compensatory damages, for a total of $4,199,963.
$3,100,000 – shareholder recovery for breach of fiduciary duty and recovery of stock shares
Mr. Dinsmore represented two brothers who invested in a friend’s corporation 25 years ago and never received any return on their investment. Mr. Dinsmore proved that the former friend and his family concealed profits and failed to pay for all of the corporate stock they received, meaning Plaintiffs were entitled to a greater number of shares than were issued. Mr. Dinsmore retained a top forensic accountant to scour the books and records of the corporation and obtained evidence from the Defendant’s divorce records which confirmed that Defendant had promised Plaintiffs a far greater share of the stock. After successfully defeating a motion for summary judgment to dismiss the lawsuit on the grounds that the claims were barred by the statute of limitations and other defenses, the case settled shortly prior to trial.
$2,500,000 – recovery of rights to toll-free telephone number
Plaintiff obtained these revenues by gaining control and operating a toll free telephone number. Defendant entered into a contract to sell the number to Plaintiff and then breached the contract by refusing to transfer the number. After substantial litigation of a breach of contract claim, Mr. Dinsmore utilized the novel mechanism of contempt proceedings to compel the Defendant to sign a “RESPORG” agreement to transfer rights to the number to the Plaintiff. Defendant was instructed by the judge in court to either sign the document or go to jail for contempt. After thinking about it for several minutes, the Defendant finally relented and signed the document, leading to substantial revenues for the Plaintiff.
Over $1,000,000 – misappropriation of trade secrets and fraud
Over $600,000 – breach of contract and fraud
Mr. Sandelmann represented an artist asserting claims for breach of contract, conversion, and fraud against a business manager. After a three week jury trial, Mr. Sandelmann obtained a judgment in excess of $600,000.
Over $600,000 – breach of contract claim by business broker
Over $400,000 – claim against home contractor
Mr. Sandelmann represented a home owner against a contractor that failed to complete the renovations required by a contract. Mr. Sandelmann was able to negotiate a favorable settlement in in excess of $400,000.
$395,000 – real estate investment fraud
Plaintiffs invested in a Limited Liability Company (LLC”) formed by Defendants to develop 16 residential properties. Defendants induced Plaintiffs to invest by falsely representing Defendants contributed 16 lots to the LLC and would build houses on the lots. Defendants did not contribute all 16 lots as promised and did not even own some of the lots. Defendants also falsely represented that the lots were improved and that they had an appraised value that was substantially higher than the actual value. Mr. Dinsmore proved that Defendants made these false representations with the intent to defraud Plaintiffs and judgment was entered for Plaintiffs in the sum of $395,000. Defendants then filed for bankruptcy protection to avoid collection of the judgment. Mr. Dinsmore filed a complaint in the bankruptcy court, requesting that the court order that the debt could not be discharged through bankruptcy. Upon proof that a debt has been incurred through the fraud of the debtor, the bankruptcy court must order that the debt cannot be discharged. The court agreed that Defendants committed fraud and ordered that the debt could not be discharged.
$200,000 – finder’s fee for locating investor
Defendant promised to pay Plaintiff $200,000 if Plaintiff could locate an investor to contribute over $16M towards the purchase of property. No formal written agreement was entered into and the Defendant denied making the promise. Mr. Dinsmore proved at trial that an oral agreement was in fact entered into and that Plaintiff secured the investor as promised. Plaintiff received a verdict in the amount of $200,000.
Over $80,000 – claim against real estate broker
Mr. Sandelmann obtained an award in excess of $80,000 in an arbitration against a broker who failed to provide full disclosures in connection with the purchase of residential real estate.