Inside Our Recent $6.7 Million Personal Injury Verdict

 

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Inside Our Recent $6.7 Million Personal Injury Verdict

Stan Gipe of the Dolman Law Group recently obtained a $6.7 million personal injury verdict for the estate of Harold Lewis. Harold had recently had his foot amputated after complications from diabetes. After the amputation, he had to go into the Clearwater Care and Rehabilitation Center. While in the Rehabilitation Center, Harold developed a bedsore that became severely infected, leading to his death.

The family had concerns about Harold's care and turned to us for help. Our investigation quickly discovered a pattern of failure by Harold's care providers, validating the family's concerns. While no amount of money can replace a loved one, we helped Harold's family bring a suit against the Rehabilitation Center and obtain fair compensation.

So, how did we do that?

Clearwater Care and Rehabilitation Center allowed the bedsore to go untreated leading to an infection that killed Harold within two months. It was our job to show that the Rehabilitation Center was at fault. That they had many chances to reverse this pressure sore and failed to act. Then, we have to navigate the case through the court system, and ultimately bring the case before a jury to present our case and ask the jury to compensate our clients for their loss.

Harold's family came to us early, allowing us to begin our investigation immediately and ultimately obtain justice. We can't stress enough how important it is for you to consult with a knowledgeable personal injury attorney as quickly as possible if you or someone you care about has been injured or killed as a result of the negligence of another.

Learn more about Harold's case and our process for obtaining justice in this episode of the David vs. Goliath podcast with seasoned civil trial lawyers Matt Dolman and his partner, Stan Gipe. They provide a play-by-play recount of how Stan helped Harold's family win a verdict of $6.7 million in compensation for the loss of their loved one that the Rehabilitation Center failed to properly care for.

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In this episode: 

  • [00:40] Matt Dolman introduces the topic of the day: how we helped a client obtain a $6.7 million personal injury verdict
  • [01:11] Stan Gipe talks about the client's injury, pain, and suffering—and the personal injury lawyer's burden to help the client 
  • [05:52] How a patient and their family suffer when a care facility fails to do its job correctly
  • [06:42] How the Dolman Law Group builds a case  
  • [08:17] Identifying the care providers involved and bringing a suit against them    
  • [08:52] The burden of proof at trial
  • [09:26] How did we arrive at a number to request compensation?
  • [11:28] Consulting with a lawyer early in the process makes a big difference in the compensation you can receive
  • [15:08] Building a case for damages: what lawyers have to do
  • [17:02] The optics matter for your injury case
  • [18:25] Going to trial is like going to the Super Bowl. Preparation matters.
  • [19:56] Strengthening your case and what it takes to win

Transcript

Welcome to another episode of the David Versus Goliath podcast. I'm attorney Matt Dolman, managing partner of the Dolman Law Group, here with my partner in crime, board-certified civil trial lawyer Stan Gipe.

Hey, hello. It's good to be here. Another ep-

I didn't mean to cut off, but I have big news. Stan just got a 6.7 ... God, that's poor English. Just obtained a $6.7 million jury verdict here in Pinellas County. And I want you to take it away from here, Stan. I will not cut you off again. The theme of today's discussion is how'd you get the $6.7 million, where do you come up with that number? And when you're presenting a case to a jury, what is the jury actually considering when they're deliberating in terms of coming up and arriving at a number for a verdict or a settlement? Or when we settle a case, how do we come up with these numbers?

The one thing I want to start with is you say I got the verdict, and really I didn't. It's an estate that got the verdict. It's the estate of Harold Lewis. So when you look at this stuff, that's one of the most rewarding things we do in our practice. Whiplash, these are great cases. You go to trial, you get fair verdicts. The more significant the injury, the more significant the loss to your client, the more meaningful the recovery is when it happens. The more significant you feel righting the wrong, the more responsibility you feel for this client. And this is one of those cases. Harold Lewis was a client of ours, suffered some relatively significant injuries unrelated to the case. He had an amputation of his foot for diabetes. After the amputation, he had to go into a nursing home facility and be cared for.

And these are the type of things these nursing facilities, we all know they don't cater to healthy people. No one is going in there when they're healthy. No one's going in there when everything's fine. The reason they're going in there is because they're sick. They need help and recovery. If Mr. Lewis was able to take care of himself, he would not be at the ALF. He would not be at a nursing home. So we go in there, one of the primary things, and everyone, I doubt anyone listening to this is unfamiliar with what a bedsore is. A bedsore is one of these things that happens when you leave someone sitting in a bed or sitting on any type of, in one location to the point that their skin begins to deteriorate. I mean, these things are easy to avoid. All you've got to do is properly turn and move patients around.

Well my client, Mr. Harold Lewis, had a foot amputation. He was diabetic and he was in no position to move himself around. And unfortunately, he went to a facility called Clearwater Care and Rehabilitation Center. Clearwater Care and Rehabilitation Center failed to care for him properly, and as a result of that, he developed a bedsore that got so bad, it went all the way to the bone. Meaning there were exposed bones. If you see the pictures of this that we showed to the jury Matt, I mean, I'm talking like a spot at the top of his coccyx probably the size of a softball in diameter that was basically bloody and open and pussy and infected to the point you could look through there and see the bone. You could see this man's bones through his backside.

And Harold was not a small man. He wasn't someone like, hey, he had a half-inch of skin. This was a significant infection. It got so bad, Matt, that it killed him. On his death certificate, it says died due to an infected pressure sore. That was his cause of death.

So the question then is, how did we show along the way that they failed? Is it just because of the incident, because he died from a pressure, it's open and obvious that they failed to properly care for him, or how do you establish that along the way, they deviated from what can be considered the normal standard of care for Harold Lewis?

Well, this all relies on the medical records. It's the notes. You dig into it because inevitably what you're going to get is a care center that says, "Look, we did everything we could. We did everything right, and this is just the inevitable outcome." Well, it's one thing if we're talking about hypertension and some of these internal diseases that at times will be inevitable. Cancer may be inevitable. There are certain things that may be inevitable that you can't stop. Bedsores are not one of them. Bedsores are infinitely avoidable. So the fact that we've got a bedsore in and of itself, I don't think gives you rise to negligence. Because even if you're doing a good job, you may get some minor bedsores with people. The fact that they let this bedsore get to the point that it was infected, it was down to the bone, that's where it gets really egregious. That's where it really starts to upset people because there's a lot of suffering that's going on there

So in this case, and obviously I didn't have anything to do with this case. Just telling viewers. A lot of this is for their own understanding and edification. Did the family know of the issues going along or was he complaining of the issues and did they bring it to the attention of the facility?

Well, the family did at some point, because what you've got, and not really to dig too deep into it is where this sore occurred was basically at the top of his rectum, right where your coccyx would be. So most of the time when he's in there, it's not an area that his family is seeing, this is an exposed area as if it was on his arm or something like that. So they're knowing he's got some sores and when they see these things, they're like, "Oh my gosh." But the more important thing to that, Matt is there's no such thing as an invisible bedsore. When this thing is developing, everyone at that facility should have known. When they move Harold Lewis, they can see the bedsore. Once they see it start, it goes from stage one to stage two to stage three to stage four. It continues to progress.

How do they not stop this? How do they let this bedsore get to the point that it gets so infected it kills this man? And that's in the medical record, or lack thereof. Because when you look at the medical records, it's going to tell you who was being moved, who did what, what steps were being taken and the stages and speed at which this deteriorates. Not everything's going to be in the medical records, but we had enough to put together exactly what had happened and show that this Clearwater Care and Rehabilitation Center had a number of chances to reverse this. They had a number of chances to stop it. And because it's in the medical records, we know they knew it was going on. They note this bedsore. They note as it gets bigger. They know this is going on, and yet they allow it to happen.

So over a period of almost two months, this bedsore got to the point that killed Mr. Lewis. So what happens? His family comes to us and they don't know what's happened. They haven't seen the medical records yet. They just have a feeling. And that's the way most of these cases start, Matt, as you know. They've got a feeling that something was wrong or someone has indicated something was wrong. So family comes to us. We start digging in. We get to the medical records and we say, "Yeah, they are right." And as we start digging through the medical records, Matt, it wasn't just Clearwater Care and Rehab. It was about four different providers that had along the way not treated Mr. Lewis right and had led to causing some of these problems.

So we didn't just bring suit against the one. We brought suit against everyone. Three of these people settled, and we're left with the last man standing, which was Clearwater Care and Rehab. They did not settle. And as you know, we developed this prior to trial, Matt. Just in the two weeks before trial, Clearwater Care and Rehabilitation made an offer of 75,000 to settle this claim.

All you could do is shake your head at that.

Yeah. Well, that doesn't do anything. We couldn't take that. That didn't work. So obviously-

For a loss of life.

Yeah.

For a loss of loss.

Yeah, loss of life.

That's how much a value Harold Lewis's life as being worth.

So then we go to trial and there's two aspects of it. One we've gone over pretty well right now, which is we show what happened. We show the failures in the medical care, and it really mostly relates to the deterioration of this pressure sore. But then you go to the other side is, how do you take that and turn it into a verdict? How do you reach a number? What is it that you are actually compensating? How do they get to $6.7 million on the verdict form? I can lead you through where do you get these numbers, because verdicts, aren't just, hey, what's it worth? When you get to a verdict form, there are very specific boxes. It's components of the claim that we have to squeeze the damages into.

This is one of the things that a lot of people don't realize. To kind of digress a little, one of the big things we do as attorneys is right when a case comes through the door, we start thinking about how we're filling those boxes. It's not just, hey, this person's got the injury. How do we document it in such a way that we can fit the number in the box and collect it? So that's part. We've got to get the documentation. We've got to get the experts out there. In this case, Harold Lewis's medical bills related to this incident were 703,000. Offered 75,000, 10% of the medical bills, but he had $703,000 in medical bills. All right. So jury awarded him the 703,000 in medical bills that he had, but in addition to that, he had gone through a lot, and there was an award to be made for what Harold suffered and Harold's losses and the loss to the estate and what he went through. The jury awarded him $3 million for that, or awarded the estate $3 million for that element of damages.

But beyond that, Harold left three children. These were adult children. They weren't young children. They were all in their 20s or 30s, but they were still his children. So Harold left three children. The jury awarded each of these children $1 million for what they had lost when their father died. So three children at one million apiece gets three million. Three million for the estate itself and then 700,000 for the medical bill, 703, gets you to the $6,703,000 that the jury awarded.

Now here's the big issue on these things. If you don't come in early, if you don't consult with an attorney until it's too late, sometimes it's hard to put the damages in these boxes. Sometimes it's hard to get the documentation you need. Matt, I can't tell you, you get this all the time. People come into the office saying, "Hey, I've got an open and shut case."

Yeah. It's almost the same thing as saying I have full insurance coverage. I hear that often too, and it's like, really? Based on who told you that?

Yeah. I've got an open and shut case. I got hit and my injuries are permanent. A doctor told me that.

Oh, so let me see all the objective medical documentation from day one to now, and I want to see an entire chain with no gaps in treatment to show those injuries. Whereas the evidence I need to see that the other party was negligent. Evidence disappears, memories fade. It's so important to get a lawyer involved from the outset.

There are two sides to every story.

Of course.

This is like a race, and we're on one side, we're trying to build the sandcastle. The other side is the insurance company and they're trying to knock it down. We're trying to build, they're knocking it down. And at the end of the day, we've either got a really good sandcastle that we can get a lot of money for, or they've done a good job of knocking it down and we've got nothing and it's not worth anything. This battle starts right away. Even if you're injured in an accident, anything, accident, nursing home, medical malpractice, any of this, the other side is trying to knock down the sandcastle right away. Fortunately, Harold Lewis' family came to us early on, so we were able to get involved right away. We're able to maintain these damages. We were able to document grief.

Well think about this, Matt. We've all been through loss. We've all been through significant loss. When you're talking about, let's say the loss of a father, a loved one, a family member, well, I can talk about this right now. As you know, my mom died at 39. I was really young when this happened. It was super traumatic. I can talk to you about this right now because it's so distant. If you had talked to me right around the time this happened, I would have a much different demeanor. My grief would be evident. You would see expressions of the pain and suffering. You would see tears. You would see these things. This sort of grief, this sort of suffering, it's important to document while it's happening. You can't go back three years later, go back and have a counselor establish the grief you were feeling three years ago. It's not genuine.

Not only is it not genuine, there's no that passage in time, it doesn't do much for the case. If we have to present that to a jury, that timeline becomes questionable.

Time heals all wounds.

Yeah. Also when did that issue truly arise? It can make all sorts of arguments about it's not approximate to the actual incident itself.

Right. He died three years ago and you didn't get counseling until you got an attorney.

Yeah. It looks very attorney-driven. You want to take the smell, the pejorative tone of a lawyer running the case.

Yeah, exactly.

Everything needs to look natural.

As weird as it sounds, it takes a lawyer running the case to make it look natural because the other side is going to throw darts at it. They've got a playbook, a way to devalue these claims and we know what's coming, so we know how to keep these issues in play.

I always say the easiest job is being an insurance defense lawyer. Not knocking them. They have their job to do and some of them are very good at it, but you're throwing mud at a wall.

Yeah. Matt, I said this before. Since we were in the sandbox doing this for real, it's always been easier to knock down the castle than build it. And that's still where we're at. So you need someone on your side. You need someone who on the front end goes, all right, here's the foundation. In this short time after the cases happened, after the injuries happened, here's the first things we need to do to establish this firm foundation from which we can grow the rest of the damages. And it's not creating damages. We don't create the damages. We don't do that. The damages are there. We help document them. We help substantiate them, help show what someone is going through. And by that we know how to do it.

Things like someone tells you, "Oh man, I really miss my mom." Now for me to describe my grief is one thing. For a grief counselor to come in there and be able to describe the grief, describe what people go through, and then not only that, be able to explain what's to be expected in the future because this isn't done. You're going to note that there will be secondary grief, second layers of grief when Mr. Lewis's children have children and they start thinking, God, I would like to have Harold here for Christmas. Boy, I wish Harold could meet my son, my grandson. There's all these depths and layers to grief that you can't really express if you don't have the proper experts out there.

So that's why getting in initially and getting this stuff documented is important. Getting an injury. If you've got any kind of injury, orthopedic, chiropractic, whatever, most of us, or I don't want to say most of us, most guys, we try to be tough, I'll tough it out. And then it gets to the point that you can't take it anymore and you go get it looked at. Well, that may be the way we do things, but in an auto accident claim, that's bad for your case because-

It's the optics. The insurance company will poke holes in the story. They'll say, "It's been three weeks. It took three weeks for this individual to show up at the doctor's office. Coincidence, they hired Stan and Matt at the same time. It looks like the lawyer told him to go do that. It looks manufactured."

Yeah. Well, and if they-

Or what else could have caused that issue. It was three weeks. Who knows what other intervening factor may have caused this very issue that the claimant's claiming.

And there's going to be a defense doctor that will say, "If this person has sustained this type of injury in the accident, they would've been at the doctor sooner. They would've known it right away."

I see it in every case.

Matt, I can give you an example right now. I've told you, my finger. I ended up with an infection in my finger, like most people, just recently. I'm going, "Ah, this will go away. This will go away. This will go away. This will go away." About two weeks later, I'm like, "Oh crap. I guess it's not going away." Had to go to the doctor. Doctor says, "Well, good thing you came in. A few more days, you might have lost the tip of your finger." But it doesn't mean my finger wasn't infected because I waited two weeks to go do it. This is just the natural way guys put it off. Well, this will heal itself.

If you don't address these things early on, you're not building the firm foundation for the case. You're not getting a $6.7 million verdict because you got holes on the front end. You give them a lot of areas to throw darts at. So to get those verdicts, everything that happens in the courtroom, well that's the game. That's like the Super Bowl, but you don't walk into the Super Bowl and win unless you've done a heck of a lot of practice to get there, unless you've played out the scenarios, unless you built the foundation of the team, unless you started at the beginning of the season, you're not going to make it to the Super Bowl. And that's what all these cases are.

People think when they talk about the trial, the only thing they think about is the Super Bowl. This trial, where I'm in front of the jury, where I'm doing the stuff where you're acting, when in reality, most of the work is before that. The trial's just the final culmination of all these events. You have to build it. You have to maintain it. You have to work on it to make sure the case stays viable and that we're not leaving holes for a defense insurance company to come in and devalue the claim with things that may not be true, but have the optics of being true.

Yeah. You'll spend more time on defense rather than offense. That's the problem.

That's it. I've had clients come in and say, "Well, I can explain that."

You don't want to explain that though. The more time we're spending explaining away these little issues, these shortcomings, these pitfalls of the case, the less time we have to present your case. It's primacy and recency, it's what a jury tends to remember. You remember the first things they hear. They often remember the last things they hear. And it's tough to get that out of the jury's head, their mind, when they've heard that. It's hard to un-ring that bell.

I think it was Professor Eleazer, I'm going back 22 years to Stetson University College of Law, who first told me, this trial advocacy professor, and it stuck in my head ever since. He said, "Look, when you're explaining, you're losing, because you're trying to convince the jury that the evidence means something other than what they think it means, or else you wouldn't have to explain it." If it's self-evident, you don't have to explain. But when you're explaining, you're trying to convince a jury essentially they're wrong, and that's why you have to explain it. So the less stuff you have to explain, the better. It's kind of like this. If there's a bad fact on the case, you don't want your witness, your plaintiff, you don't want him to dance around it and fail to acknowledge it on the stand. Because if they do, we're going to talk about it for 10 minutes. If there's something bad about the case and they just say, "Yep, you're right," all right, defense attorney has to move on. He can't keep harping on it.

No, it takes the wind out of their sails.

So a lot of these attacks are how do we deal not only with the strengths of the case, how are we going to build it? How are we going to do this? But also how are we going to deal with the weaknesses of the case? How are we going to deal with the attacks when they come? And if you do all that, you can bring the claim in. You can get these big seven-figure verdicts, 6.7 million we just got. That's what it takes. It's not that court trial when we're getting up there. That's just the end. That's not when it happened. It happened on the way to the courthouse.

Great story, and sage advice.

Yeah. So I mean, you can tell I get hyped up about this stuff because it's one of those things I swim in all the time and it just seems so natural that the truth should sell, but the truth only sells if we make it look true.

100%. I agree with what professor Eleazer said, the more time you're explaining, you're actually losing.

Yep. That's it, in a nutshell.

And I'm always a big fan proponent of an opening statement to discuss the weaknesses of your case. Knock the wind out of the sails of the defense lawyer. You never want them to hear it for the first time, them being the jury, from the defense lawyer, introducing these problems of the case. You want to acknowledge it and say, "Yeah, we know about these problems, but here's why the case is still very strong," rather than you having to respond to it on rebuttal.

No, I mean, it's just like this, this simple, Matt. If your client gets up there and says, "Boy, I had a back injury five years ago. Then I got in this accident and oh hell, now I can't hardly move." Well, that's much to batter than going up there and going, "Man, I got in this accident and I just can't hardly move." Then the defense attorney comes up and says, "But isn't it true that you actually had this back injury five years ago also?" And suddenly we go down that and the jury goes, "Oh."

A got ya moment. Yeah.

Now we know why we're here. So we don't want them to think that the reason we're in the courtroom is because they've caught the plaintiff being dishonest. We want to think that the reason they're in the courtroom is because the defendant's just not paying enough or doing the right thing.

Exactly. So you want to tell the audience how to get ahold of us if they should need us if they've been injured as a result of the negligence exhibited by an individual or a corporation?

Yeah, there's a number of different ways. You can reach me by email at stan.gipe, that's [email protected]. That's easy, 24 hours a day. Can reach you Matt at [email protected]. Our website is a robust source of information. Literally almost any questions you might have regarding any kind of injury insurance claim or the way these things play out, you can go to DolmanLaw.com and pretty much get an answer to that. And then you can always call us. If people want to reach us right now, they can call us. We got a number of different numbers, but I think our probably most memorable number is.

(833) 55-CRASH. And Dolman, just for those out there, it's D like in David, O-L-M-A-N, so DolmanLaw.com. You should be able to find your answer to any question. Many times we've answered that same question 10 times over. Literally we run out of things to blog about. So we're always available to you. It's what Stan and I do for a living. We look at claims, we evaluate them and then we move them aggressively.

Yeah. So if you ever need anything, don't hesitate to call. You're never going to be bothering us. It's never going to be a hassle. And we would rather sort through 10 bad claims and not take any of them than have people not call. You are never wasting our time if you've got a question.

100%. Well, thank you very much, Stan. This has been another great episode of David Versus Goliath podcast. It's always a pleasure.

Always.

Take care now. Have a good day.

Thanks.

💡 Meet Your Hosts 💡

Name Matthew A. Dolman, Esq.

Title: Partner at Dolman Law Group Accident Injury Lawyers, PA

Specialty: Matt is a nationally recognized insurance and personal injury attorney and focuses much of his practice on the litigation of catastrophic injury and wrongful death cases throughout Florida. 

Connect: LinkedIn | Twitter | Instagram 

Name Stanley Gipe, Esq.

Title: Partner and Head of Litigation at Dolman Law Group Accident Injury Lawyers, PA

Specialty: Stan is a Florida Board Certified Civil Trial Lawyer. This distinction connotes expertise in the discipline of trial practice. He has served as lead counsel on over 1,000 Florida personal injury lawsuits.

🔑 Relevant Resources 🔑

The insights and views presented in “David vs. Goliath” are for general information purposes only and should not be taken as legal advice for any individual case or situation. The information presented is not a substitute for consulting with an attorney. Nor does tuning in to this podcast constitute an attorney-client relationship of any kind. Any case result information provided on any portion of this podcast should not be understood as a promise of any particular result in a future case. Dolman Law Group Accident Injury Lawyers: Big firm results, small firm personal attention.