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How to Improve Your Opening Statements: GB&W Geoff Wells offers storytelling tips

Injury Lawyers in Los Angeles California

GB&W’s Geoff Wells recently shared advice about how to present effective opening statements at the fourth annual Southern California Trial Lawyers conference hosted by Pepperdine Law School. “The party that has the best story to tell wins the case, said Wells who offered insight about the power of storytelling.

Wells shared examples from a recent trial that involved a child who suffered severe injuries after a car struck her while she tried to cross the street in order to board her school bus. The girl’s family sued Durham School Services for failing to report and prevent mid-street crossings, which is a blatant violation of their own policies and procedures.

Wells explained to the jury how It was a common practice for parents and students to cross the street mid-block directly in front of the Durham bus. All the parents with children at the same bus stop testified at trial that they never used the controlled intersection near the stop because they didn’t appreciate the danger and always crossed in the middle of the block. Parents testified they frequently crossed the street in plain view of Durham bus drivers who never took steps to prevent this behavior.

He also developed a narrative around how the bus drivers were the “eyes and ears for the school district” and that the district relied on drivers to report dangerous conditions at bus stops including unsafe mid-block crossings. The storyline was supported by trial testimony by witnesses for both Durham and the district who testified that an effective progressive discipline process is in place which begins with a verbal warning to parents and a written report and can escalate to students losing bus privileges if the behavior is not corrected. However, for the process to work, the dangerous behavior has to first be reported by drivers. According to testimony, the bus drivers never notified the district of the mid-block crossings.

“You’ll want to find a theme in your opening statements that resonates with the jury,” said Wells. “Storytelling is an art but it’s also a skill that you can always improve,” added Wells.

GB&W’s Geoff Wells Shares Expertise on Suing Public Entities

Injury Lawyers in Los Angeles California

GB&W’s Geoff Wells shared his insight and expertise on suing the government in tort claims against public transportation at a recent seminar in Orange County. On February 28, 2019 Wells led a discussion at an MCLE Seminar for the Orange County Trial Lawyers Association (OCTLA) about the challenges plaintiff lawyers face when suing a public entity. The seminar titled Suing the Government-Cutting through the Red Tape covered how to determine whether it’s a governmental entity or not; who and what you need to include in the government tort claim; time frames and statute of limitations and late claims.

Wells discussed a case he successfully resolved involving a Los Angeles woman who suffered significant orthopedic injuries and a mild traumatic brain injury after a Los Angeles Metro bus sideswiped a dump truck and collided with her car in Hollywood. The 2012 accident sent 35 people to the hospital. The client sued Los Angeles County, the dump truck company and the truck manufacturer for negligence, product liability and emotional distress. The defendants resolved the matter in an out of court settlement.

By offering some specific examples of the steps attorneys need to take to ensure the best outcome for their client, Wells had this advice, When in doubt, you need to bring all the governmental entitles possible into the case that are involved, and let them explain why they should not be involved,” said Wells who warns that timing is critical. “Because if you don’t file your government claim in a timely manner, you can miss the statute of limitations.”Seminar

GB&W’s Geoff Wells Lending Support to Female Candidates

Injury Lawyers in Los Angeles California

September 5, 2018

Fund Her political action committee in southern californiaSouthern California, along with much of the nation, is seeing a surge of female candidates on the ballot this upcoming election. GB&W’s Geoff Wells and his wife Janet, recently co-hosted a well-attended event with Manhattan Beach Mayor, Amy Howorth in support of a funding organization focused on helping female candidates get into office.

Fund Her, the newly-launched political action committee is dedicated to promoting gender equality at the state capital, where only one in four California legislators are women. Many voters may not realize California’s state legislature has fewer female members today than a decade ago. In this “year of the woman”, political action committees such as Fund Her are working tirelessly to not only restore those lost seats, but achieve gender parity by 2028. 

“Getting involved with this group is a great opportunity to lend support to women who want to have a stronger voice in our political process,” said Geoff Wells. “There are a lot of very impressive female candidates running for office this year,” added Wells.  

This “pink wave” extends beyond California. A new survey conducted by The Washington Post found more female nominees are running for Congress and for governor than ever before in U.S. history. The data suggests that voters see women as either equally qualified as men or better able to handle the demands of political office involving a wide variety of issues, including law enforcement and foreign affairs. On gender issues, such as reproductive rights, sexual harassment and women’s rights, female candidates had a substantial advantage over male candidates.

In terms of the percentage of women in national legislatures, the U.S. ranks 102 out of 188 in global rankings behind countries like Rwanda, Saudi Arabia, Iraq, Sudan and Pakistan. The U.S House of Representatives has just under 20 percent of women in its seats while only 22 percent of women make up The Senate.

“I’m seeing a lot of enthusiasm and energy surrounding the issue of gender equality in our government, it’s great to help play a role in making history,” said Wells.

Fund Her currently backs 13 female candidates who if elected in November, would significantly impact California politics, delivering eight legislative seat gains for women (increasing female representation from 25 percent to 32 percent) and sending California’s first woman Lieutenant Governor to Sacramento.

Fund Her launched in November 2017 and has seen early success: four of the last five members sworn into the State Legislature are progressive women supported by Fund Her, and ten of their eleven endorsees advanced in the June 5th primary. Building on those successes, the organization is expanding their program to include statewide candidates. The first of these endorsements is Eleni Kounalakis, a former US Ambassador to Hungary who would be California’s first female Lieutenant Governor.

$2,200,000 Settlement for Camerawoman injured by Falling Tree: Coronel vs. Quest Homeowner’s Association

Injury Lawyers in Los Angeles California

Coronel vs. Quest Homeowner’s Association, Et Al

At 4:30 a.m. on February 1, 2016, Plaintiff Marie Coronel and her cameraman were sent by her studio, KGTV Chanel 10 News, to prepare a news report on the aftermath of a severe storm that had passed through San Diego the previous day. Arriving at the Quest Property, Plaintiff found four very large, downed eucalyptus trees.  While preparing for the 5:00 a.m. news report, a fifth eucalyptus tree fell on her, causing severe injuries.

Discovery revealed that the HOA knew the dangers posed by trees on its property.

$8,600,000 Settlement for Trucking Accident: Rodriguez vs. Doe Trucking

Injury Lawyers in Los Angeles California

Rodriguez vs. Doe Trucking Company

On April 17, 2015, Defendant was transporting produce in a tractor trailer combination on the 210 freeway in Sylmar, California, when Defendant’s vehicle lost control and veered to the right, down a grass embankment and down the Paxton St. freeway offramp.  Tragically, the truck struck and killed Jorge Louis Garcia and injured multiple other bystanders.  Mr. Garcia was survived by his wife Brenda Rodriguez, and their four children.

The trucking company did not have adequate insurance to cover the multiple claims against it.  However, utilizing the law requiring that multiple other motor carriers in the chain of distribution had a non-delegable duty to transport the subject load safely, GB&W was able to obtain a full recovery in this tragedy for the Rodriguez family.

The Tragic Effects of Heat Exhaustion on Young Athletes

Injury Lawyers in Los Angeles California

On May 29, 2018, 19-year-old Jordan McNair attended an outdoor football practice at the University of Maryland with his entire future ahead of him. Two weeks later, he died in the hospital. Members of the Maryland football coaching staff are now under investigation for failing to adequately handle the situation, leading to the likely preventable death of this young man.

Reports indicate that many people at the practice noticed McNair showed signs he was having difficulties finishing a sprint set, including “hyperventilating” and “convulsions” on the field. Based on these observations, coaches and staff should have obviously realized the young man needed medical attention and should have called for help.

Instead, evidence shows that they brought him inside the athletic facility to cool him down, but failed to ice him down properly. After an hour, the staff finally called 911 to report a player hyperventilating and having a possible seizure. When McNair reached the hospital—more than an hour later—his body temperature was still at 106 degrees. He passed away two weeks later at a Baltimore medical facility.

The Severe Dangers of Heatstroke

Many people fail to realize the potentially devastating effects of untreated heat illnesses. When someone begins to overheat and does not cool down, they can suffer heat stroke, which occurs when the body temperature reaches about 106 or higher. Heat stroke is a life-threatening condition that can become fatal when someone does not receive medical help.

Another heat-related risk for young athletes is dehydration. Severe dehydration can cause many complications, including:

When athletes must practice or play in the heat and do not receive the medical help they need, catastrophic injuries or wrongful death can result.

Liability of Coaches and Schools

Coaches have a duty to act in a manner that keeps players reasonably safe. This includes not pushing players beyond their limits, recognizing when players need medical help, providing them that help, and offering safe facilities and equipment.

Players face the greatest risk of heat illnesses when wearing heavy pads during hot, outdoor summer and fall football practices. Coaches cannot control the outdoor temperature. They should, however, recognize and make accomodations when heat is a risk.

They should also know when a player needs help. If coaches think a player had a possible seizure on the field or showed signs of heat-related distress, they should call 911 as soon as possible to prevent devastating complications. If coaches negligently fail to abide by their duty to protect their players, and a player suffers unnecessary injuries or wrongfully dies as a result, the school should face full liability for the injuries or wrongful death.

Contact Our California Wrongful Death Attorneys to Discuss a Possible Claim

Negligent coaches place young athletes, who depend on their coach’s judgment for their safety, at particular risk of injury. Taking action against schools or large institutions is no easy task, and you need a highly respected injury firm on your side.

At Greene, Broillet & Wheeler, LLP, we regularly handle tough cases involving catastrophic injuries and wrongful death, and we regularly obtain multimillion dollar settlements and verdicts for our clients—more than any other California law firm. Call today at (310) 576-1200 or contact us online to discuss your disabling injury or tragic loss today.

Athletes Still Face Severe Brain Injury Risks

Injury Lawyers in Los Angeles California

The National Football League (NFL) will pay out more than $500 million to former players due to its negligent handling of brain injuries to players. The NFL agreed to settle the case, which claimed the league put players at the unnecessary and dangerous risk of multiple concussions, leading to long-term cognitive disabilities and conditions.

The devastating and irreversible conditions from which former players suffer include:

This season, the league claimed that it took additional steps to try to prevent any further brain injury claims, though these steps seemed to result in more confusion than player protections.

New Tackling Rules

The NFL instituted a new Use of Helmet rule for the 2018 season, disallowing any players from using a lowered helmet to contact another player. In theory, this rule would prevent players from directly hitting their heads into others during the game, limiting head and brain trauma. In reality, however, players claim that the new rule may prove impossible and even dangerous to follow.

When a player tackles another, helmets will often make contact whether they mean to or not. If players are too afraid of violating the new rule, they may focus on lower body tackles, causing more severe and unnecessary knee and leg injuries. Furthermore, new rules take adjustment periods for both players and officials. Some players responded they would definitely violate the rule at some point, even if unintentionally, which puts those not expecting such helmet tackles at risk of unexpected hits. We will see whether this new rule works to protect players or creates additional risks.

Helmet Technology

The NFL also recently focused on the effectiveness of the league-approved helmets in protecting players from serious brain injuries. A study resulted in the banning of 10 different helmet models, which even star players such as Tom Brady commonly wore. Players who wore the unsafe helmets for years may have the right to bring products liability claims if they suffered brain damage as a result of the insufficient protection.

In addition, some players began wearing helmets with new technology, called the safest helmets when it comes to traumatic brain injury protection. The problem with new helmet technology—or any new product—is that it could take time to realize the risks that still exist. Players may begin wearing these helmets, believing they have adequate protection, when they actually continue to risk severe injuries. This could also lead to coaches leaving players wearing these helmets in a game after blows to the head, as they falsely believe there is no risk of a brain injury. Such a situation can lead to inadequate treatment of brain injuries and an increased risk of subsequent life-threatening brain injuries.

Younger Players Face Risks, Too

While these issues play out with great publicity at the NFL level, college, high-school, and grade-school football players can also sustain concussions. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimate that every year, about 135,000 athletes between five and 18 years old receive emergency room treatment for a sports-related concussion. The CDC, however, estimates that as many as 3.8 million athletes suffer from concussions annually, but don’t get treatment. The number of sports-related concussions among youth ages 14 to 19 tripled between 1997 and 2007. The biggest source of sports-related brain injuries is football.

Discuss Your Disabilities With Our Los Angeles Brain Injury Lawyers

The attorneys at Greene, Broillet & Wheeler, LLP, recognize the risks of severe and disabling brain injuries for athletes of all ages. If your child suffered a life-changing and permanent traumatic brain injury, please call our office at (310) 576-1200 or contact us online to discuss your legal options for free today.

Mauro v. Ford Motor Company Verdict: $73 million

Injury Lawyers in Los Angeles California

A Sacramento jury found Ford Motor Company responsible to the victims of a rollover crash involving a Ford E350 15 passenger van that experienced a tread separation. The jury found that the 15 passenger vans were dangerously defective and susceptible to loss of control from a tread separation. The jury also determined that Ford had information from its tire supplier, Goodyear, about defective tires that had been installed on the vans, but failed to provide information to owners of the 15 Passenger Vans that the defective Goodyear tires needed to be replaced. The jury’s award included $50 million in punitive damages in addition to $23 million in compensatory damages to the victims of the crash. Greene, Broillet & Wheeler partner Christine Spagnoli represented the family of driver Bill Brownell and injured passenger Alex Bessonov.  Sacramento attorney Roger Dreyer, of the Dreyer, Babich, Buccola and Wood firm represented Tony Mauro's widow, Susan Mauro and their children Cody and Michael Mauro.

GB&W’s Christine Spagnoli Obtains $25.9 Million Verdict in Deadly Church Van Rollover Trial

Injury Lawyers in Los Angeles California

Personal Injury Attorney, Christine Spagnoli Obtains $25.9 Million VerdictNEW PORT RICHEY, FL — As co-lead trial counsel, Christine Spagnoli obtained a $25.9 million jury verdict against Ford Motor Company and the First Baptist Church of New Port Richey for the wrongful death of a 44-year-old wife and mother of four.

Michalanne Salliotte died on February 21, 2014 when a church van full of people heading to a youth camp in Georgia crashed in North Florida. Two people, including Salliotte, died and eight other people suffered injuries. While heading north on Interstate 75 in Lake City, the tread separated from the left rear tire, causing the 2002 E-350 Ford to rollover, ejecting four people.

Salliotte’s surviving husband, Jeff, and their four children sued Ford for defectively designing its vehicle with an extra row of seats without dual rear tires, making the van unstable and susceptible to loss of control.

GB&W’s Christine Spagnoli Obtains $25.9 Million Verdict in Deadly Church Van Rollover Trial

Michalanne, who was unbelted, was ejected in the rollover. The plaintiffs successfully argued that the seatbelts were defectively designed and were inaccessible because the buckles fell under the bench seats. The attorneys also argued that the First Baptist Church negligently maintained the van and had a responsibility to ensure that the seatbelts were accessible to van occupants.

On March 15, 2018, a Pasco County Florida jury returned the verdict against the defendants, determining that Ford put the E350 Passenger Van on the market with faulty seat belts and a defective rear-wheel bustleback design.

The plaintiffs’ legal team included Frank Melton and Richard Newsome with Newsome Melton Law Firm in Orlando, FL and Christine Spagnoli with the Santa Monica, CA plaintiff’s firm Greene Broillet & Wheeler, LLP.

Injuries and Liabilities When Your School Lacks an Adequate Emergency Action Plan

Injury Lawyers in Los Angeles California

An emergency action plan is your school’s first line of defense when a crisis hits the school. For example, a fire might break out in the building and a school cannot adequately evacuate because no emergency action plan exists. Or a sports contest will injure a child who cannot receive adequate treatment because of an inadequate or altogether missing emergency action plan. Insufficient emergency action plans (EAPs) might open the school up to liability when students are injured.

A Sample Sports Emergency Action Plan

Emergency action plans are vital for student-athletes. In 2013, 4 percent of those who died in sports-related deaths were younger than 17, and more than 425 catastrophic injuries occurred to student-athletes. To develop an adequate EAP for athletics, school personnel should:

  • Develop their EAP in coordination with the local emergency medical services (EMS) and on-site medical personnel
  • Create an EAP specific to the venue and include maps or directions
  • Identify necessary onsite emergency equipment, such as defibrillators, medical kits, and splint kits
  • Include contact information for EMS
  • Address how to transport injured student-athletes from the sporting venue to medical facilities
  • Spell out how to document injuries
  • Identify the personnel responsible for providing medical care and sketch out their chain of command

School personnel should review the EAP at least once a year and update it if necessary. Furthermore, the coaching staff should hold a CPR refresher each year so that they can help in emergencies.

Serious Injuries

A student could sustain almost any injury when trying to flee from the school in an emergency. For example, it is not unusual for them to suffer:

  • Concussions
  • Broken bones
  • Cuts or scrapes
  • Spinal cord injuries
  • Burns

Student-athletes also suffer serious injuries on the playing field, including:

  • Heat stroke
  • Head injuries
  • Asthma
  • Cardiac arrest
  • Anaphylaxis (acute allergic reaction)
  • Hyponatremia (low sodium level in blood)

Many injuries grow life-threatening without prompt medical attention. But even a victim who survives could face months of recovery time that can cause them to miss work or fall behind with their schooling. Particularly serious injuries can also cause emotional harm, such as depression or anxiety.

Holding the School Responsible

When a school lacks an adequate emergency action plan, you might hold it responsible for the injuries you or your child sustained. In particular, you might sue the school for negligence because it did not run the school with adequate care. Although school districts generally enjoy immunity from lawsuits, California law makes an exception for negligence.

Generally, schools owe students a duty to exercise reasonable care and to discharge that duty the school may need a detailed EAP. Failing to develop an EAP—or having an inadequate one—might constitute a breach of the school’s duty, which could expose the school to a lawsuit.

Contact a Los Angeles Premises Liability Attorney Today

Parents entrust schools to take care of their children, and schools should have to compensate you for your injuries when they betray that trust. At Greene Broillet & Wheeler, we have sued school districts for failing to keep everyone safe. Because of the special administrative rules for suing a school district, please call us as soon as possible for a free consultation at (310) 576-1200 or fill out our online contact form.

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