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Another Tyson & Mendes Victory: Washington Jury Verdicts $7,850 in Admitted Liability Case

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Seattle Partner Levi Bendele and Associate Colin Hutchinson-Flaming defeated a pair of Super Lawyer plaintiff attorneys in King County Superior Court in a six-day, admitted liability, rear-end accident jury trial.  The defense trial team employed the Tyson & Mendes defense methods to obtain a verdict of $7,850 when plaintiff’s attorneys asked the jury for $275,000.  Months before trial, plaintiff walked out of mediation after reducing her final demand to defendant’s policy limits of $100,000.

 

In an interesting twist on arguing damages, plaintiff’s attorneys said plaintiff was not seeking any damages for pain and suffering, but only wanted to ensure the bills from her double fusion surgery were paid.  Plaintiff’s attorneys asked the jury to award $275,000 for medical specials and did not ask for a non-economic damages award.

 

Rear End Accident & Two Cervical Fusion Surgeries

 

Defendant was driving a large pickup truck with oversized tires and a lift kit weighing approximately 8,500 pounds when he rear-ended the plaintiff in a small sedan.  Fifteen months later, plaintiff underwent a cervical fusion surgery for a large herniated disc at C5-6.  Two weeks later, due to a known potential complication from the first surgery, plaintiff underwent a second cervical fusion surgery at C6-7.  Plaintiff’s medical bills for these procedures totaled $275,000.

 

Plaintiff also suffered from pre-existing anxiety, agoraphobia, and posttraumatic stress disorder.  For strategic purposes, plaintiff’s attorneys did not to seek recovery for exacerbation of plaintiff psychiatric conditions despite the fact plaintiff testified at deposition the accident made her psychiatric disorders much worse. We suspect plaintiff’s attorney negotiated the medical lien down significantly, which made this novel strategy of waiving general damages a viable option.

 

In Washington, plaintiffs are allowed to recover medical specials in an amount proven to be reasonable and necessary. Plaintiff’s attorneys utilized a “hired gun” orthopedist to testify regarding the reasonableness and necessity of the bills for plaintiff’s double cervical fusion surgery.  The “hired gun” also discussed the long-term consequences of a double fusion in the cervical spine.

 

Tyson & Mendes Defense Methods

 

The Tyson & Mendes trial team used proven defense methods to keep down damages in this admitted liability trial: use defense themes and give a number!

 

Defense Themes

 

The defense team used the defense themes of responsibility, reasonableness, and common sense at trial.  First, the defense accepted responsibility for this rear end accident and admitted liability at trial.

 

Second, the defense argued plaintiff’s injuries were not reasonably related to the accident.  The defense used experts to educate the jury about cervical anatomy and argued the medical records did not comport with plaintiff’s theory of the case.  We believe the best experts are those who teach and show, rather than those who talk down to jurors from a position of authority.  Additionally, the trial team successfully cross-examined plaintiff’s “hired gun” orthopedist with deposition testimony taken before he had an opportunity to refine his testimony for trial.

 

Third, the Tyson & Mendes trial team urged the jury to use their common sense when reaching their verdict.  The defense presented argument and evidence the rear end accident was very minor in comparison to plaintiff’s other post-accident events, including a fall down stairs.

 

Ultimately, these themes resonated with the jury and allowed them to return a reasonable verdict for the defense.

 

Give a Number

 

As Tyson & Mendes does in every trial, the defense trial team gave a number early and often.  The defense asked the jury to award $8,000 or less in opening statement and throughout the course of trial.  The jury’s final award of $7,850 – less than the defense asked for – was a solid rebuke of plaintiff’s claims!

 

If you have any questions about this or any other Tyson & Mendes trial victory, please feel free to contact partner Levi Bendele at lbendele@tysonmendes.com.