In a recent bench trial, Diana Lytel and Barry Snyder successfully defended a contractor in a ladder fall case. Plaintiff, a public agency employee, fell from a 12 foot fiberglass step-ladder owned by defendants. Plaintiff claimed the subcontractor’s employee climbed up the wrong side of the ladder causing it to tip and fall with her on top. Plaintiff sustained serious injuries to her back including an L2 compression fracture. She eventually had lumbar fusion and vertebral augmentation.
Defendants settled with plaintiff prior to trial and the only remaining issue was the lien of the workers compensation carrier for plaintiff’s employer. The total lien was $313,000 at the time of trial. Barry and Diana tried the case in San Bernardino County on the issues of negligence, causation and damages. Causation and damages were not large issues as the workers compensation carrier could not overcome the first hurdle of negligence. What came out in trial was that plaintiff had been treating with her physicians for excessive dizziness in the days leading up to the accident. In fact, 4 hours before the accident that very morning, she had seen her doctor telling them her dizziness was unbearable. At the time the ladder toppled over, she was standing on the very top step, with the top between her shins and knees.
The judge believed very little of the compensation carrier’s case and stated in its decision that the major problem with the case was the original plaintiff’s denial of her dizziness. The Court believed very little of what plaintiff said and stated she was “clearly lying.” In fact, the Court found that plaintiff was negligent for even showing up for work on the day of the incident much less climbing to the top of a 12 foot ladder. The Court believed that plaintiff was more likely looking for someone to blame for the fall. The Court went on to state that the compensation carrier’s reconstruction expert was one of the worst expert witnesses it had ever seen. The court agreed with Mr. Snyder that the expert seemed to be “making it up as he went along.”
Going into trial, the compensation carrier’s demand was $275,000 but they sought the entire $313,000 lien at trial. However, after a short recess following closing arguments, the Judge ruled in favor of defendants. Following the ruling, defendants filed a Memorandum of Costs for $37,000 which is currently pending.