Here are some of the cases I have worked on:
Defective snow blower case
This was a case involving a snow blower with defective tire rims that would form microscopic cracks and then explode without warning, sending sharp flying rim fragments into people's faces and hands.
Our client was blinded in one eye and had his nose broken by the flying rim fragments, which exploded as he was inflating the tire.
This case looked like it was going to be difficult at first because at the emergency room alcohol was found in my client's system, which is usually not a promising sign for a case. The defendant company did focus on that and blamed the plaintiff, arguing that he must have been drunk and caused the explosion by overinflating the tire.
But during discovery internal company documents were uncovered showing that the defendant had received numerous warranty claims from similar incidents across the country, had run its own tests which showed these rims to be defective, but had not reported these findings to the Consumer Product Safety Commission and continued to sell this snow blower to big box stores all over the country.
Two years later, after having sold more than 100,000 of these units, the defendant company made a report to the CPSC, but omitted any mention of its internal testing showing the rims to be defective and susceptible of exploding at normal tire pressures. Instead they blamed the rim failures to customer overinflation.
They filed a Motion for Summary Judgment, to try to get our case thrown out. Here's the docket sheet, and if you have a Pacer account, you can access the filings and check out the action in this case, which runs from docket entries 66-103.
In order to fight a summary judgment motion, a plaintiff needs to present the evidence in support of his case, to show the judge that there is enough support for the case not to be thrown out of court. So we had to submit the evidence we had to the court. But this evidence was quite incriminating because it tended to show that the defendant had lied to a federal agency (CPSC), hiding what they knew about this product.
The defendant therefore tried to get the court to seal the documents attached as exhibits to our summary judgment papers, so that the public would not see them. But documents filed with summary judgment papers become court documents, which are supposed to be publicly available. The judge therefore denied their Motions to Seal (see Docket entry 83). The defendant then asked for a mediation and the case settled for a confidential sum.
But the real action in this case centered on the defendant's attempts to get the evidence of their wrongdoing sealed from public view. As indicated in the Court's order in Docket Entry 83, the standard for sealing is high.
Here's the defendant's frantic effort to seal:
Here's my response in objection:
So we had to appeal and the Connecticut Supreme Court took it. It is true that without the ladder, we could not pursue a product liability claim, since we could not prove that the ladder was defective.
What we had to do was ask the Court to create a new cause of action for the destruction of evidence itself (called "spoliation of evidence"). Connecticut did not allow lawsuits for spoliation of evidence at the time, so we needed to change the law. It may sound obvious that what Home Depot did was unfair and therefore we should be able to sue, but courts are reluctant to create new causes of action, and when it comes to destruction of evidence, there is a special problem allowing suit, in that we have no way of knowing what the evidence would have shown. How do we know that the ladder wasn't perfectly fine? It's somewhat speculative to say it was defective if you don't have the ladder to prove it. So this is a dilemma for the courts when it comes to spoliation of evidence claims.
At the oral argument, I relied on the idea of the "rebuttable presumption", that we could get around the problem of speculation as to the condition of the ladder by allocating the risk of loss to the party with control over the ladder. This could be done by making a presumption of a defect, shifting the burden on to Home Depot to rebut the presumption of a defect, since they had control over the ladder. This is a method used in other areas of the law to deal with uncertainty and speculation, such as gender and race discrimination on the question of intent.
The high court accepted this argument and reversed the trial court's decision dismissing our case, and established a new cause of action in Connecticut for spoliation of evidence.
Destruction of Evidence Case
In this case, our client was seriously injured falling from a ladder at Home Depot when the ladder collapsed from under him.
Even though they had notice of a lawsuit, Home Depot destroyed the ladder before giving us access to it, so that we were not able to prove it was defective.
After we brought suit, Home Depot asked the court to dismiss our case since now that the ladder was gone, we would not be able to prove it was defective. And the trial court dismissed it as it had to do under then existing law.
Here's a link to a written decision in this case:
Defective truck lift case
In this case our client was unloading a heavy load when the lift on the back of the truck collapsed, causing the load to fall on top of our client. He became a paraplegic as a result.
This was a straight-forward product liability case against the manufacturer of the truck lift, but with very serious damages involved. Losing the use of the lower half of the body and becoming wheel-chair bound for life is as bad as it gets.
The jury awarded a very fair verdict in this case. I think most of this can be attributed to the testimony of the plaintiff's neurosurgeon, who did an amazing job explaining the plaintiff's injury to the jury, and the consequences to his life. The plaintiff's brother also was a powerful and emotional witness in describing the impact of the injury to his brother's life. With witnesses like these, the key for the lawyer is to get out of their way.
Auto accident case
In this car accident, our client was rear-ended by a distracted driver, and because he had his foot on the brake at impact, he sprained his ankle.
A sprained ankle may not sound like much, but our client was a sheet metal worker who spent all day at work on his feet. So while he could and did continue to work, he would come home with a swollen ankle at the end of the day and wore a brace on his ankle at work. We made a video showing the heavy duty machines our client had to run at work.
The defendant driver's insurance company did not make a reasonable offer to settle. Therefore we went to trial. No economic damages were claimed, since there was minimal medical treatment and all bills were covered by the client's health insurance. So only non-economic damages were claimed (i.e., pain and suffering). The jury awarded a sum of money for pain and suffering which the client was happy with. The key to this case was the work video, and having the client stand up and demonstrate in front of the jury the physical motions he had to go through every day at work.
Here's a link to the verdict sheet in this case:
Special Public Defender
I have done work as a special public defender in Connecticut representing habeas clients who were convicted of some heavy charges, including murder and drug crimes.
People who have been convicted have a right to file a habeas corpus petition to challenge their convictions, and if those get denied, they can appeal those denials.
Habeas petitions are rarely granted, but the judges in Connecticut who hear the appeals do seem to take these cases seriously and will listen and consider the arguments.
Here is link to one of these habeas cases: