Quality Representation for the Injured
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Over the last 15 years, Attorney Paul W. Ralph has recovered millions of dollars for his injured clients, by way of trial verdicts, arbitration awards and settlement. Below are examples of cases handled by Mr. Ralph:
According to the Traffic Collision Report, the bus driver had been operating the vehicle in a reckless manner prior to the happening of the accident and, even more importantly, after a sudden deflation of the right front tire. A witness to her driving just before the incident recalled seeing the bus traveling approximately 80 miles per hour while in the San Diego area.
From the investigation performed by the California Highway Patrol Multidisciplinary Accident Investigation Team (MAIT), it appears the bus driver drove the bus over an object in the roadway causing a sudden deflation and delamination of the right front tire. Thereafter, a host of additional, nearly fatal mistakes were made by the driver, including but not limited to: making an unsafe turning movement, failing to promptly disengage the cruise control (set at 68 miles per hour), applying full throttle acceleration throughout the accident sequence and failing to apply the brakes at all.
Because of the injuries sustained, the client was airlifted from the accident scene to Loma Linda University Medical Center, where she remained hospitalized for 27 days. After that time, and four surgeries, the patient was transferred to a rehabilitation facility for skilled nursing care and rehabilitation.
After several mediation conferences, all of the 24 cases arising from the Perris Bus Crash were resolved. In spite of the limitations of the available insurance policy, Mr. Ralph’s client recovered the largest settlement, $1,100,000.00.
The day after Christmas, the client (disabled from an earlier motorcycle accident) returned to his hotel from dinner with his family at a mountain resort. Because of his previous accident, the client was entitled to use a red handicap placard (issued for a temporary disability) which was displayed in the window of his vehicle. In spite of his best efforts, no handicap parking space could be found, and the client was forced to park some distance from the hotel where he was staying and in the uncovered parking. The ground was covered with snow and ice at the time.
Shortly after getting out of his car, the client began to walk, along with his young children, toward his hotel but was caused to fall by the slippery, snow/ice covered asphalt. As a result of the fall, he sustained a "distal oblique, displaced and rotated femoral fracture (left leg)" and was taken to the hospital on an emergent basis. An open reduction and internal fixation procedure was performed the following day, December 27th. Because of the extent of the injury and nature of the surgery, the client remained hospitalized until December 30th.
Evidence obtained by the client's family (photographs actually taken the night of the fall) proved the majority of handicap parking spaces were occupied by vehicles that apparently belonged to other guests at the hotel, without the requisite handicap placards. The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) proscribes discrimination in places of public accommodation against persons with disabilities. Businesses which do not provide adequate handicapped parking spaces are subject to potential liability under this Act. The obligation to provide adequate parking not only requires the existence of a sufficient number of handicap parking spaces (relative to the total number available) but also that the business exercise due care in making sure only vehicles with handicap placards use such spaces.
Shortly after the filing of the lawsuit, the defendant hotel agreed to settle the case for $100,000.00.
On the day of the incident at approximately 2:20 a.m., the 14 year-old client and his older brother were outside their apartment and in the parking lot of their building socializing with some friends. At one point, another teenager (17 years old) pulled his vehicle into the lot. Because of some prior animosity, the client stood in front of the vehicle and dared the driver to drive into him. The defendant moved forward slowly until the 14 year-old jumped on the hood and held on. The driver sped up and then suddenly braked, throwing the client to the ground. He got up uninjured and jumped back on the hood, only to be thrown off a second time, striking the back of his head hard on the asphalt and knocking him unconscious. The driver left the scene.
An emergency call to 9-1-1 was placed by the teens, and members of the fire department arrived within approximately 6 minutes. According to the paramedic report, the speed of the defendant's vehicle was estimated to be 20 miles per hour by the witnesses present. In spite of the head injury, the client was awake and somewhat alert when the paramedics arrived, with an initial Glasgow coma scale assessment of 14. However, by the time the victim was en route to the hospital, he began projectile vomiting, and his GCS was in sharp decline. A CT scan of the brain was performed at the hospital, and it demonstrated a subarachnoid hemorrhage (bleeding in the brain) and a number of smaller, frontal lobe contusions. The client was admitted to the Pediatric Intensive Care Unit and was discharged on day 3.
Prior to suit being filed, the case was settled with the driver's automobile insurance carrier for the policy limits, $100,000.00
On December 7, 2007, at approximately 11:30 p.m., an armed robbery occurred at a Chevron station located on Highway 18. The suspect was not apprehended, but from the victim (store clerk) and videotape available he was described with the following characteristics:
- Hispanic male
- 5'2" to 5'3" tall
- Medium build
- Wearing a grey hooded sweatshirt (with a square design), dark pants, tennis shoes and bandana over his face.
- Carrying a sawed off shotgun
According to the victim, there had been a suspicious vehicle (a white, smaller SUV, possibly a Scion) in the parking lot in the minutes before the robbery, and there may have been a second male suspect inside, Caucasian with a goatee. No license plate was seen, and the robbery suspect was not observed by anyone near the vehicle.
That same night the clients (husband and wife) had stopped at the Chevron station at about the time of the robbery to switch drivers and smoke a cigarette. They were on their way home from a relative's house in their white Scion.
The next day, December 8th in the afternoon at about 3:00 p.m., the clients were driving some 45 miles from the scene of the robbery on their way to a friend's house. The police pulled over the clients Scion because a "BOLO" (Be On the Look Out) had come out over the police radio for their vehicle, which included the license number.
In contrast to the physical characteristics of the actual robbery suspect, the client's physical description is as follows:
- White male
- 6'3" tall
- Thin build
- Wearing a grey sweatshirt (15 hours after the alleged robbery)
- No weapon of any kind
As part of the "felony stop" the husband was taken out of his car at gun point, handcuffed and placed in the back of a patrol unit. His wife was treated in a similar fashion, in spite of the fact that neither of them matched the physical description of the robbery suspect. While in the back of a patrol unit away from her husband, the wife became frustrated with the officers present for not answering her questions as to why she had been taken into custody so she kicked out the side window of the unit. Immediately, officers swarmed the cruiser and tasered the female client on the thigh. Both she and her husband were thereafter transported to the police station and held for roughly 4 hours before the mistaken identity was confirmed, and they were released.
A lawsuit was filed for violation of the clients' civil rights under color of State law. The matter proceeded to litigation and court ordered arbitration where the clients prevailed. Thereafter, the case was settled for $32,500.00.
On her way to the parking lot at the rear of her apartment complex, a 76-year-old woman was caused to fall by a change in sidewalk elevation. A particular section of concrete had been lifted upward by tree roots causing about a 2 – 2 ½ variance from one section to the next. The subject accident occurred just outside of the victim’s apartment where she had lived for a number of years. She was living on her own and was quite able to walk long distances with no trouble and was wearing comfortable, rubber-soled Ecco shoes.
As a result of the trip, the elderly woman fell hard onto her left side. A neighbor and one of her daughters came to assist her to her feet. According to witnesses, the defect in the walkway was at least 2-2 ½ inches in height. Photographs of a smaller but similar condition were taken by a friend of the family.
Records from hospital demonstrated the victim had bruising over her left hand and forearm one day after the fall. She complained of wrist and hand pain initially and, shortly thereafter, severe shoulder pain on the left side. She was given a brace for her wrist and prescribed pain/anti-inflammatory medication. X-rays of the wrist and hand were negative, but shoulder x-rays taken on about two months later revealed evidence of a tear through the rotator cuff. The client’s medical expenses totaled less than $3,000.00 at the time of the settlement.
After considerable negotiations but before a lawsuit was filed, the claim was resolved for $35,000.00.
While walking alongside her husband on a rustic walkway upon the defendant’s property, a 60-year-old woman was caused to fall by loose gravel/pebbles on the trail. As she went to the ground, she heard a cracking sound and felt immediate pain in her left ankle and lower leg. Not surprisingly, she was unable to walk on her own and had to be transported via wheelchair from the accident scene.
At first blush, the trail appeared to consist of only hard-packed soil, but on closer inspection it could be seen that the walkway was actually asphalt with a thin covering of dirt, gravel and pebbles. Those pebbles on a sloped, asphalt walkway constituted a dangerous condition, much like marbles on a hard floor (although less apparent).
As a result of the fall, the client sustained an oblique fracture of the proximal shaft of the fibula (just about 3-4 inches below the knee) and intra-articular fractures of the medial and anterior malleolus (ankle joint). She was immediately taken to UCI Medical Center in Orange where she received emergency room treatment, and the above diagnoses were made. The victim eventually underwent a complex surgery consisting of an open reduction and internal fixation of both the ankle fractures. She remained hospitalized for several days thereafter. For the next 4 months, the client continued to experience pain, remained casted and had limited use of her left leg. Approximately four months after the fall, the patient underwent a second operation to remove the syndesmosis screw in the ankle. Following her second surgery, the client underwent a substantial course of physical therapy but continued to have pain and discomfort in the left leg and ankle. Her medical expenses totaled just under $50,000.00.
In spite of the comparative negligence alleged and the “natural condition” causing the fall, the claim ultimately settled for $160,000.00.
The female client was employed as a sales representative by a small Orange County company. While she was supposed to be considered a salaried, exempt (from overtime) employee, the reality was that she did not meet the legal definition under California law. She was made to work through lunches and scheduled breaks, in addition to working considerable overtime, without commensurate pay. Finally, when the company decided the employee was making too much money (she was owed considerable commissions), they terminated her employ on the pre-text that she had been tardy and/or absent too often.
In reality, the client had missed some time from work because of medical issues for which she had corresponding medical record support. Nonetheless, the company terminated her employ and the held her last paycheck for ransom, until she agreed to sign a “General Release and Settlement Agreement”, another violation of the California labor Code. She declined.
A complaint was filed with the court and discovery commenced. After written discovery was completed and the client’s deposition was taken, the case settled for the sum of $60,000.00.
A 17-year-old client was allegedly speeding on a multi-lane roadway in north Orange County when a left-turning driver violated his right of way. The left-turning driver was actually facing a flashing yellow turn arrow when she decided to proceed. The result was a violent collision that sent the young man’s car careening into another vehicle that had yet to enter the intersection. As a result of the “t-bone” collision, the force of the impact was so severe that both cars were completely demolished and proved to be a total loss.
At the scene of the accident, the 17-year-old driver had to be extricated from his vehicle by emergency personnel. According to the Traffic Collision Report, he complained of pain to his back, left shoulder, left collar bone and right knee. He sustained a number of cuts and abrasions as well and was taken by EMS ambulance to UCI Medical Center for treatment.
While at UCI, the client underwent a number of diagnostic tests, including a chest film that revealed a right apical pneumothorax. A pneumothorax is an accumulation of air or gas in the pleural cavity, occurring as a result of disease or injury, resulting in a partial or complete collapse of the lung. Because of the nature and extent of the client’s injuries, he was kept at UCI Medical Center until the next day at which time he was discharged on pain mediation and instructed to follow up with his personal physician.
The partially collapsed lung resolved itself within a short time and this young man was back to school and playing soccer within just two weeks. The case settled for the defendant driver’s insurance policy limits of $50,000.00.
In the early morning hours, a 35 year-old truck driver was operating a tractor-trailer combination owned by his employer. While in the number 3 lane and as he approached the off-ramp for County Line Road, the truck driver's vehicle struck the rear of another “big rig”, parked primarily along the shoulder but probably extending into the travel lane of the roadway.
In the evening before the accident, the driver of the parked truck had apparently experienced electrical problems with his tractor-trailer, making it ultimately inoperable. As a consequence, he parked his vehicle along the shoulder of Interstate 10 near County Line Road, but failed to place any reflectors or other warnings to the rear. He appeared to have every opportunity to warn other drivers of the presence of his disabled rig since reflector triangles were stored behind the seat of his tractor. At a minimum, the evidence in the case suggested that the driver of the disabled truck could have either properly placed the reflectors, driven his big rig off the highway at the nearest exit or parked completely out of the travel lanes.
It is important to note that the area where the accident occurred was “double marked” as to the white line establishing the outer edge of the roadway (between lane #3 and the shoulder). For some reason, that line of demarcation had been painted twice. Since both of the lines were still visible at the time of the accident, a driver could be confused about which line was actually the real edge of the travel lane. There was no artificial lighting near the location of the accident, which occurred just prior to sunrise.
When the front of the traveling rig struck the rear corner of the parked trailer, the impact with the fuel tank immediately resulted in a fire, and the victim was burned beyond recognition. The driver was survived by a wife and three children. Between the State of California and the employer for the parked operator, the case settled for a total of $572,000.00.
A woman in her forties is seen by her general practitioner with complaints of abdominal pain, nausea and episodes of diarrhea. Because of the severity of these complaints and their duration, the physician decides to perform, among other tests, a colonoscopy. During that test, performed by the GP (not a board certified gastroenterologist) polyps (pre-cancerous lesions) and stenosis of the colon were found. Instead of removing the polyps and carefully following the patient with periodic scans and/or scope testing, the GP simply treated the patient's symptoms with oral medication for the next seven years.
Unfortunately, this young woman developed colon cancer that ultimately took her life. She left behind a husband and two sons, one of whom has Down Syndrome. Had the defendant doctor done what he should have, the cancer would likely have been detected and prevented from spreading. By the time it was finally diagnosed, the colon cancer was, according to one of the Defendant's own experts, the largest abdominal mass he had ever seen.
In spite of the fact this young woman did not work outside of the home and notwithstanding the limitations of California law (limiting general damages to $250,000.00), the lawsuit settled before trial for approximately $800,000.00.
A nearly 50 year old woman living in the greater Los Angeles area used the bus system (MetroLine) for her daily travel to and from work. After she finished her shift as a hospital receptionist, she walked to the bus stop located just a short distance from her place of employment. As she attempted to board the bus, the bus driver suddenly closed the door, knocking the victim to the ground and pulling her into harms way. The would-be bus passenger ended up being crushed by the rear wheels, resulting in "degloving" of her skin and significant soft tissue loss, as well as broken bones in her legs and ankles.
In spite of witnesses who said the accident did not or could not have happened as described (some claiming the woman ran for the bus, slipped and fell under), the case settled for $1,000,000.00.
Medical Malpractice - Botched Breast Surgery
An attractive woman in her 30s was seen by an OB/GYN (not a board certified, plastic surgeon) holding herself out as a "cosmetic" surgeon. The doctor claimed a record of performing, among other things, "scarless" breast augmentation. Since an earlier surgery had resulted in some scarring around the areola, the young patient was looking to have the scars improved, via a scar revision and breast lift with augmentation.
The Defendant doctor assured her patient she would improve the scarring already present, but botched the procedure when she performed a "donut mastopexy" (where a round area of skin is removed from around the areola to lift and tighten the breast). The excessive tension placed on the areolar complex was enough to spread scarring around areola such that it looked like a closed, draw-string purse.
At trial, the Plaintiff's expert testified even though the Defendant had botched the surgery, the patient's scarring could be markedly improved at a cost of between $5,000.00 and $10,000.00. After hearing all the evidence and closing argument, the Orange County jury returned a verdict in the patient's favor for $160,000.00. The award even exceeded the amount requested from the jury.
A forty year-old woman walked through the parking lot of a medical facility owned by the Defendant, on her way to her son's 1 year-old physical. She had driven into the parking lot, parked her car, and then began carrying her son, her bottle bag, and her purse into the facility. As the client walked toward the main entrance, she tripped over an unpainted speed bump directly outside the front door to the building. There was some evidence the speed bump was indeed, at least, partially painted.
As a result of her fall, the client sustained soft-tissue injuries to her knees and an aggravation of a pre-existing back condition. A low back surgery was performed approximately 10 months after the fall.
The matter went to trial in Orange County on the theory the speed bump (painted or unpainted) presented a tripping hazard, given its location, right in front of the entrance to a health care facility. While the jury deliberated and after they had asked a question about the damages claimed, the defense agreed to pay approximately $100,000.00 to settle the case.