Cases involving catastrophic injuries occur in a variety of factual and legal scenarios: Alleged road rage by a client’s employee, leaving a young wife and mother of three a quadriplegic; a police officer finds it necessary to use deadly force, and a shot to the head leaves a young man with serious brain injuries; a young woman sustains a profound brain injury when an adverse driver crosses the line, resulting in a head-on collision and a claimed dangerous condition of public property; five people are killed in a passing incident that was allegedly the result of a truck driver’s negligence; a contractor is exposed to a $10 million contractual indemnity claim if a jury finds any degree of negligence; an underage teen is raped by a camp counselor, becomes pregnant, and develops life-threatening preeclampsia before giving birth to the child; a worker is horribly burned when an underground gasoline tank explodes because an employee of the client admits he forgot to tell the worker that gas fumes would be present. The list goes on. The one common thread is that they pose extraordinary risk to the client. We have handled cases involving catastrophic damages since the firm was founded and have developed a proven approach and track record.
Ironically, some catastrophic damages cases are surprisingly easy to resolve. For instance, where liability is reasonably clear, sufficient insurance exists, and the plaintiff is reasonable, settlements often follow. It is the cases where one or more of these factors is missing, however, that prove to be problematic for our clients. The most challenging catastrophic damages cases are those where liability is thin, there is insufficient insurance, the client has significant assets, and/or the plaintiff is unreasonable. Our strategy and goal in such cases is to do everything available to maximize the defensibility of the case so as to increase the risk of trial to plaintiff and plaintiff’s counsel.
For the last decade or so, Doug Sears and Rick Linkert have been asked by clients to assume trial responsibilities in high exposure cases- often shortly before trial. We have achieved a number of successes working alone and with counsel who worked the cases from the inception. A fresh set of eyes, a change of defense theories, and a different approach to expert witnesses has often made a huge difference in the outcome, with many cases settling for far less than was demanded prior to our involvement. We know that we have made an impact when, for example, a day-of-trial settlement demand goes from $3,000,000 to $700,000 in one move by the plaintiff. While not all cases settle, despite the best efforts, our goal is to present our clients with options that were not previously available. If settlement is not possible, we will be fully prepared to try the case– even on short notice.