Case tried by John Naizby, TLC 2000

My client, Rene, was 33 at the time he suffered this injury. He was shooting baskets with a co-worker, Rob, before work. They were on the court for 15 minutes. Rene was jogging after a rebound and slipped on a puddle of water, which Rob described as 6- 8 inches in diameter – the size of a personal pizza. Rene suffered ankle fractures on both sides of his ankle requiring or if surgery with two plates and 21 screws. Nine months later a second surgery removed all hardware but one screw and a third surgery were done to address a painful neuroma that developed at the site of the incision on his ankle. He developed post-traumatic arthritis and is projected to undergo at least one ankle fusion in the future, possibly a second based on his relatively young age, currently 36. He has difficulty ascending stairs and running is in large part prohibited. He has two daughters Brianna, 5 and Bianca, 16 and his partner Michelle, and two dogs. He has difficulty playing with his children and is sensitive to touch on the site of his incision secondary to the neuroma. He also had to give up salsa dancing, which was a passion of his – his brother described at trial that people would get out of his way on the dance floor.

He had $125,000 in past medical bills and testimony of the cost of future surgery to be between 20 to 40 thousand. We brought suit against the gym, they brought suit against the building owner and we plead over. We were very lucky to track down many former employees who were familiar with the leak. This case was referred to me just prior to the suit running. At that time the offer was zero but after several depositions, the offer was $250,000. On the day of jury selection, they offered to pay $450,000.00. My client declined their offer. After trial, the Jury returned a verdict of $125,000.00 for past medical expenses and $275,000.00 for future medical expenses. The jury returned non-economic damages in the amount of $4,000,000.00. The building owner was found 35% at fault and LA. Fitness was found to be 65% at fault. Unfortunately for my client, the 65% portion of the verdict is being contested post-trial.

The Jury understood who Rene was – a hard worker who took a G.E.D. and rose to the level of sales manager at Greenwich Honda. He started off with a difficult road; he was the oldest of three. He and two half-brothers, Roberto and Kevin, all grew up in the projects of the Bronx. We had half the challenges during jury selection because they had two defendants, so we were unable to get the jurors we wanted the most, but were fortunate enough to have six people see Rene for who he was and to see how this injury changed his life.

Rene and I became close friends during the two years we spent getting ready for trial. We shared meals both just the two of us and with his family. I spent several days at the dealership just observing and interacting with his co-workers. I spent time in the Bronx in his old neighborhood. The Rodriguez’s are a great family and I was lucky to have had the privilege to represent them. I will never forget the day before closing, he texted me, ‘win or lose, we are going out after the trial. You did a great job.’ This meant a lot to me as you know, you leave a small piece of yourself in every client’s life, and then after the closing argument, he sent me a text. I had a good chuckle on my way driving home, he said, ‘your first part was good but the second time you spoke was even better than anything I have seen in the movies’.