Grad 1 student Tom Johnston (Sept ’12) wins BIG justice for his client against city of Los Angeles!

Last week, a jury in Long Beach, CA reached a unanimous verdict against the City of Los Angeles for a dangerous condition of an intersection that killed Tom Guilmette, a 58 year old rocket scientist at Northrop Grumman.  

Grad 1 student Tom Johnston, from the class of Sept ’12, represented his surviving wife Lani and their 8 year old son, Grayson.   Tom was killed because of the blind intersection.   He was riding a motorcyclist through his neighborhood to work when another neighbor pulled out right in front of him.   The two neighbors could not see each other until it was too late.  After Discovering the Story, Tom felt that they were both victims — his client died, and the survivors must now live as a killer.

The City argued that the intersection was perfectly safe and it was the speed of the motorists that caused the crash.  The City also argued that the traffic counts showed it was a 1 in 750,000,000 chance that someone would be hurt at the roadway. 

In fact, Tom was able to show during the trial that the “as- built” plans for the roadway specifically called for a no parking area at the intersection.  However, the City hid these plans from Tom, as well as their own expert.  Tom and his team found them on the last day of trial and cross-examed the City’s expert with the newly  discovered plans.  As Tom relayed, it was not a good day for the City.  

The City made no offer to settle the case, which was in fact a gift to Tom, and to his clients, because it allowed then to take the case to a jury. 

Tom used all of the TLC methods in the preparation and trial of the case.   He used “chair backs” to better understand the loss.  To prepare for the trial, he did five separate mock trials.   Tom used the first person for the decedent in his Opening Statement.  With the guidance and encouragement from Grad 1 faculty leader Joey Low, Tom worked with Lani, the decedent’s widow, to say good-bye to her husband from the witness stand.   

As the trial progressed, I spoke to Joey Low every night.  As we neared final arguments, he made me report back to him with a list of reasons why the case was worth what I thought it was worth.   It was Joey’s idea to have Lani say goodbye from the stand and he constantly reminded Tom not to get “too clever”, but not to act out of fear.    Lani told Tom he “exploded” during the closing argument, and he himself reported that he had never before felt so powerful and effective in the courtroom. 

The jury returned a verdict of $22,482,634.45 and they all hugged Lani in court.

I am very grateful to the methods to help Lani and her son Grayson and to help me become a real trial lawyer.

2017-12-27T11:12:28-07:00 May 8, 2016|TLC Blog|
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