After a Jones Act seaman was injured when his left leg was crushed between a barge and a tow, he sued his employer for lost wages, lost earning capacity, pain and suffering, medical expenses, and disability payments. The seaman signed a dispute resolution agreement when he applied for employment agreeing to arbitrate any such claims. Against vigorous opposition, Ron Fox and Laura Robb argued that the seaman should be bound by his agreement to arbitrate. The Court agreed.
At the beginning of trial, first-chair trial attorney Katie Fowler argued several key motions in limine, which had been drafted with the help of Meggie Gentzen. The court was persuaded by Katie’s arguments and ruled that plaintiff could not rely on the sudden-onset doctrine, and could not use her nurse expert to present any type of causation testimony. The court excluded evidence of plaintiff’s alleged subsequent falls and back surgery. The court also ultimately excluded the majority of plaintiff’s medical bills due to plaintiffs failure to provide expert testimony to support the bills and failure to comply with a discovery order to produce the bills.
The case presented some challenges for the trial team, including the fact that the only alleged witness to the fall, a patient care technician, died before she was afforded an opportunity to testify in the case. Additionally, there were several mentions of a “fall” in the medical records. But the team presented evidence through multiple witnesses to explain those entries, and Katie skillfully cross-examined the plaintiff, getting her to admit she was always helped to get in and out of bed. The team also presented testimony from plaintiffs treating physician that the fall did not cause plaintiff to undergo surgery or suffer additional injuries.
After plaintiffs attorneys asked the jury to award in excess of $750,000, a divided jury (with the majority of the jurors in favor of a defense verdict) compromised with a relatively small award that included nothing for pain and suffering.
The case got even more remarkable after trial when plaintiff’s counsel took the position that the defense was not entitled to information regarding any potential Medicare lien in spite of a Court Order directing plaintiff to provide the information. As a result, Medicare was included on the check to pay the judgment. Katie and Jon successfully argued that the check, with Medicare as a payee, fully satisfied the judgment, and obtained an award of attorneys’ fees in connection with their efforts to secure satisfaction of the judgment and quash plaintiffs attempts to collect on the judgment.