Law Firm News & Recent Verdicts
Daniel Carobini Named So. California Super Lawyer for 2018
"Super Lawyers," a national rating service for attorneys, has chosen Daniel Carobini for inclusion in their listing as a Southern California Super Lawyer for 2018. Super Lawyers selects no more than five percent of attorneys from each state for the title of "Super Lawyer," distinguishing them as reaching the top of their field of practice.
Benjamin Engle Obtains Med-Mal Defense Verdict in 100th Jury Trial
After a lengthy trial in a Ventura courtroom, Benjamin J. Engle obtained a defense verdict on behalf of his client, a local physician. The trial, which stretched over portions of three months, was noteworthy not only for its successful outcome, but also in that it marked the 100th jury trial of Mr. Engle's career. The case, a wrongful death claim, involved allegations of negligence and elder/dependent adult abuse against the physician, a nurse and a convalescent hospital resulting in the death of a patient.
Jury Renders a Defense Verdict in Favor of the City of Thousand Oaks After Four Week Trial
Ben Coats and Ben Engle successfully defended the City of Thousand Oaks in a high profile four week jury trial held in Ventura County Superior Court. Plaintiff, Griselda Castro, and her two children were crossing Thousand Oaks Blvd. in a crosswalk, when they were struck by a vehicle driven by Carlos Nino, a resident of Downey, who was unfamiliar with the area. Plaintiff's alleged that Nino was negligent and the City of Thousand Oaks was liable for maintaining a dangerous crosswalk. In 2014, Ben Coats had obtained summary judgment in the case, but plaintiffs' counsel, Grassini Wrinkle & Johnson, appealed the ruling (Castro v City of Thousand Oaks (2015) 239 CA4th 1451) and the case was sent back to the Superior Court for trial.
During the four week long jury trial, plaintiffs' counsel argued that the crosswalk had a history of serious accidents, and the City had ignored complaints and recommendations for safety improvements. The jury agreed with Coats and Engle, finding the accident was caused by the inattention of Mr. Nino and Ms. Castro, not the condition of the crosswalk. Plaintiffs were awarded a total of $1.7m against Mr. Nino, with Ms. Castro being found five percent responsible. Because of the defense verdict, the City will be entitled to recover significant costs from Ms. Castro arising from the four years the case was litigated. See news article here.
Summary Judgment Obtained for Local Radiologist.
A Summary Judgment motion was recently granted in the Santa Barbara Superior Court on behalf of a Santa Barbara Radiologist, sued for negligently and intentionally failing to report report anomalies in a chest x-ray film performed in 2013. The self-represented plaintiff, a law school student, alleged that the radiologist was part of a conspiracy to hide the implantation of electronic devices in his body. The Court would not dismiss the implausible claims, but granted Summary Judgment, agreeing with EC2 that plaintiff would not be able to prevail on his novel theories at trial.
Dan Carobini and Ben Coats Co-Author Article for "Inside Medical Liability" Magazine
The First Quarter 2015 issue of Inside Medical Liability, the flagship publication of the Physician Insurers Association of America and the leading resource for current MPL issues, includes an article authored by Dan Carobini and Ben Coats regarding the perils of "respondeat superior" in a medical employment relationship. The article contains valuable advice for physicians on how to guard against personal liability for negligent acts of physicians in their employ.
Engle Carobini & Coats LLP Selected for Inclusion in Super Lawyers Business Edition
The annual Business Edition of Super Lawyers features the top attorneys in commercial practices from across the country and recognizes them for their skills in business litigation and transactional work. Engle Carobini & Coats LLP has been selected for our successful work in medical professional liability litigation. We are proud to have been selected for inclusion on this prestigious list which is limited to no more than the top five percent of practicing attorneys.
Local Physician Assistant Cleared of Negligence by a Ventura Jury
August of 2014 brought another defense verdict for Ben Coats and Melanie Ely while defending a Physician Assistant working for a community health clinic. The plaintiff, now a 19 year old, presented to the clinic four years earlier with testicular pain, which the Physician Assistant diagnosed as an infection. When the pain had not resolved two days later, the boy went to the emergency department where he was diagnosed with a torsion and one testicle was removed. Ben and Melanie successfully proved that the P.A. complied with the standard of care in her examination and the jury agreed after a lengthy deliberation.
Ben Coats and Melanie Ely Successfully Defend a Ventura Emergency Physician Accused of Malpractice.
In July of 2014, Ben Coats and Melanie Ely earned a defense verdict on behalf of their client, an emergency physician in Ventura who was accused of negligence. Plaintiff, an 87 year old gentleman, came to the emergency department after his gastrostomy tube (feeding tube) came out. The physician replaced the tube, but unbeknownst to him, the tube was positioned under, instead of in the stomach due to a hidden anomaly in the plaintiff's anatomy. The plaintiff returned to the emergency department 90 minutes later complaining of abdominal pain, after attempts were made to feed him through the tube. Surgery was necessary to replace the tube correctly. At trial, plaintiff asked the jury for an award of $1.5m, but after two hours of deliberation, the jury returned a defense verdict.
In April of 2013, Ben Coats Earned an Impressive Victory Against One of Los Angeles’ Premier Plaintiff Attorneys.
Plaintiff was rear-ended on the freeway by the firm’s client, and claimed he suffered two disk herniations requiring physical therapy, pain medication, epidural injections, and eventually a two level cervical diskectomy and fusion. The medical bills exceeded $210,000. Plaintiff made an early demand for the $100,000 policy limit but refused to consider a policy limit offer once the demand expired. At trial, Ben argued that the surgery, although it had been performed, was unnecessary or unrelated to the subject accident. Plaintiff asked for $2,500,000 at trial, but despite admitted liability, the jury awarded only $62,000, less than one third of the claimed medical bills.
Defense Verdict in Home Construction Case
Ben Coats and Jennie Hendrickson obtained a defense verdict in December of 2012 for a client who was sued over the construction and sale of a new home in Bell Canyon. The buyers alleged numerous defects in the construction and improper overcharges in the sales agreement, claiming nearly $600,000 in damages. Ben and Jennie were successful in their defense by establishing that no breach of contract occurred because the alleged overcharges were agreed to by the plaintiffs and timely notice of the defects was not given. The jury agreed with the defense while awarding $50,000 in damages against the self-represented contractor.
Court of Appeal Affirms EC2 Defense Verdict
In a recently published opinion, the California Second District Court of Appeal, Division Six has upheld a verdict in favor of two Ventura surgeons rendered by a jury in May of 2008. The target defendant at trial was represented by Ben Coats of EC2. The physicians, had placed and subsequently removed latex surgical drains in a patient who developed a fluid collection in his pelvis after cancer surgery and post-surgical therapy. The patient continued to experience symptoms and a segment of drain was discovered remaining in his abdomen twenty months later. A Ventura jury decided that the doctors had complied with the medical standard of care while placing and removing the drains, and thus, the doctors were not negligent. On appeal, plaintiff contended that the trial court incorrectly instructed the jury by requiring the decision to be based on expert medical testimony. Plaintiff likened the situation to that of a surgical sponge or instrument left in a patient, wherein expert testimony would not be required for a finding of negligence. The Appellate Court disagreed, holding that the placement and later removal of surgical drains is a subject outside the common knowledge of a layman, and expert evidence is required to establish a deviation from the medical standard of care. (Scott v. Rayhrer 185 Cal.App.4th 1535.)
Defense Verdict Obtained for a Local Cardiac Surgeon
After a two week jury trial, Ben Coats obtained a defense verdict in favor of a local cardiac surgeon in a case involving the alleged wrongful death of an 82 year old Ventura man. The patient underwent cardiac surgery in 2014, and died three days later when nurses were removing a pulmonary artery catheter. The patient's family alleged that the surgeon had accidentally sutured the catheter to the inside of the patient's heart while repairing a defect. Through skillful use of expert testimony, Ben argued that such an event was unprecedented, could not have been anticipated and was not a violation of the standard of care. On an 11-1 vote the jury agreed and rendered a defense verdict in favor of the surgeon.
Employer Prevails in Trial on Course and Scope Issue Regarding an Employee Auto Accident
Ben Coats of EC2 was successful in defending a Southland HVAC contractor sued for personal injuries when an employee of the contractor was involved in an automobile accident after leaving a job site for the day. Plaintiffs argued that the employee used his personal vehicle to occasionally run errands for the contractor or move between job sites, and contended that the contractor received an "incidental benefit" from the employee's vehicle and should be held responsible.
At trial, Ben established that the employee was on his way home and the use of his vehicle for the contractor's business was not sufficient to extend liability to his employer. Thus he was not within the course and scope of his employment at the time, and his employer bore no responsibility for the accident.
Summary Judgment Granted in Favor of Thousand Oaks Regarding an Alleged Dangerous Crosswalk
Ben Coats and Jennie Hendrickson obtained summary judgment in a case wherein the City of Thousand Oaks was accused of maintaining a dangerous crosswalk which resulted in a mother and four young children being struck by a vehicle that failed to stop. The crosswalk had been the site of a prior auto/pedestrian incident, and numerous crosswalk enforcement operations by the police department due to drivers who fail to stop for crossing pedestrians. Ben and Jennie were able to demonstrate that the issue was not one of a dangerous condition of public property, but rather, a driver and pedestrians who failed to use due care. The subject accident resulted in serious injuries to the mother and young children, and unfortunately, the driver had insufficient insurance to cover the catastrophic results of his carelessness. The city, however, was absolved of responsibility.
Parking Vendor Scam Defeated
EC2’s client, the City of Thousand Oaks, was plaintiff in this 2013 case; they hired a parking lot management vendor to run their parking facility for performances at the civic auditorium. A routine audit by the city uncovered discrepancies in the reported revenue and the expected revenue. Through a more detailed audit, the City concluded that employees of the vendor had been taking and keeping cash parking payments intended for the City, and totaling over $400,000. At trial in December, 2014, the defense argued that the discrepancies in revenue could be attributed to various business and economic factors, not considered by the City or its auditor. Representing the city, Ben Coats established through expert testimony that the city’s losses far exceeded the $400,000 uncovered by the audit. After the dust settled, judgment was entered in favor of the city for just under $1,400,000.
Successful Defense of Ventura Doctor
A Ventura County Judge has granted a Motion for Summary Judgment filed by Ben Coats, ruling that his physician client was not negligent in performing a colonoscopy on a patient. The patient, a colon cancer survivor, alleged that subsequent to the colonoscopy he developed severe and permanent bowel dysfunction. The Court found that the actions of the physician were not the legal cause of his medical complaints, and entered judgment in favor of the physician.
Defense Verdict Obtained in Med-Mal Case
Ben Coats successfully defended an interventional cardiologist accused of malpractice in a Ventura courtroom in February. The plaintiff alleged the physician was negigent in placing stents in her renal branch areteries for treatment of her Fibromuscular Dysplasia, a condition which causes restriction of the blood flow, hypertension, and can lead to kidney damage. With the aid of expert testimony and high technology, Coats was able to persuade the jury that stenting was an acceptable and appropriate treatment for the condition. This was the fourth defense verdict for Coats in the last nine months. The other cases involved two claims of wrongful death and one of severe and permanent brain damage in a 25 year old man.
Successful Defense in Wrongful Death Case against Simi Valley
A Ventura jury unanimously found in favor of the defense led by Benjamin Coats of EC2 in a three week long jury trial in Ventura. The wrongful death suit, brought by the father of an eighteen year old girl who was killed in a traffic accident in 2005, alleged the City of Simi Valley was responsible for maintaining a dangerous condition by placing a number of 3,500 pound concrete blocks next to the shoulder of West Los Angeles Avenue. The twelve jurors agreed that the blocks did not constitute a dangerous condition of public property.
Defense Verdict for City of Simi Valley
Ben Coats and Ben Engle successfully defended the City of Simi Valley in the month long trial of a wrongful death case in the Simi Valley Courthouse. The case arose from a motor vehicle v. bicycle accident on Long Canyon Road in Simi Valley. Plaintiffs' decedent, an avid cyclist, was riding up Long Canyon Road when he was struck from behind by a motorist traveling 50 mph. Plaintiffs, the widow and step-children of the decedent, claimed the accident resulted from a dangerous condition of public property, and that the City admitted awareness of the condition by identifying the area for improvement in its bicycle transportation plan. The jury disagreed and absolved the City of liability while returning a verdict of $675,000 against the driver of the vehicle.
Jury Clears Police Officer in Auto Accident
Ben Coats and Dan Carobini of Engle Carobini & Coats LLP obtained a unanimous verdict in favor of their client, an on duty police officer accused of negligently hitting a pedestrian while on patrol in his police cruiser. The plaintiff had crashed his own vehicle while intoxicated and was fleeing the scene when he ran in front of the police car. He suffered serious injuries including significant brain damage as a result of the accident. His attorneys argued that the officer had sufficient time to stop before striking him and was distracted by his police duties. They requested a jury award of $21.2 million. Mr. Coats and Mr. Carobini convinced the jury that the plaintiff darted out in front of the police vehicle and the officer had no opportunity to avoid the accident. For more on this story click here.
Ben Coats Prevails in Medical Malpractice Trial
A Ventura jury delivered a defense verdict in favor of a surgeon represented by Ben Coats, in a trial where the plaintiff had alleged a foreign object was left inside him for a period of 20 months. The 11-1 finding on negligence was based on the physician's claim that he had complied with the standard of care in treating the plaintiff, and the delay in discovering the object resulted from a radiologist's failure to identify the object on multiple studies.