So you won this case for you client — great! Can you give use the background of the case?
We did, yes! The case was Marsha Jones vs. AMC Theaters. It was a straight forward situation. My client, Marsha, and a friend walked into a movie theater to see a movie. They walked up to the ticket counter, my client bought her ticket, then took one step to the left to allow her friend to purchase hers. Marsha then fell in such a way that her left femur snapped and protruded through the skin. The whole thing was caught on a video surveillance.
From the very beginning, Marsha always said that she slipped on a brochure on the floor. She remembers that sensation of falling but before the wave of pain hit, she looked down and said to herself, “What am I slipping on?” then saw the brochure slide out from her right foot and kind of go flying forward. It’s really hard to see on the surveillance video but you can see something is flying off of her foot. She ended up having $110,000 in medical bills with two surgeries on her leg and she developed a blood clot that was potentially fatal that she also had to be hospitalized for.
She lives alone so she couldn’t go home after the hospital. She had to go to a rehab center so all in all, she was hospitalized or in rehab for about 7 weeks. She lives in a condo and her brother retro-fitted her apartment for a wheelchair ramp, a walk-in shower and some other things to make life livable for her. It was all quite an ordeal. AMC never really gave us a chance to settle it. Their only offer was $10,000. Marsha is retired from the Post Office and they had a medical lien for the expenses that the retirement plan paid for of $110,000 so we never had a choice but to try the case.
Wow, they only offered $10,000 — even when they understood what happened to her? What was their reasoning behind that?
This is standard corporate M.O. These cases are expensive to try and not everyone does. I guess they think they won’t lose — or the injured party will just give up before going thru the whole court proceedings.
Did the jury award what you asked?
At trial, we showed all of the evidence and told Marsha’s story and we asked for $800,000. The jury came back with zero fault on my client, 100% fault on AMC, and a $900,000 verdict.
Was there a turning point in the trial when you believed you would prevail?
Their whole defense was that there was no brochure: “Ladies and gentlemen, you can see from the surveillance video that there is just nothing there. That little spot is just a shadow.” As the video played and my client was laying there on the ground with her femur sticking out of her leg, you could see the store manager standing right next to her, with the EMTs around her, and you saw him bend down and pick something up that was about 3 or 4 inches by about 8 inches and toss it to the side. Then he went over to the assistant manager and started gesturing emphatically. There was no sound, but you could see him pointing back to where he just was and he was obviously upset with the assistant manager. He then walked back over casually, and actually looked around for a second, before bending down and picking up the thing that he had just thrown to the side. Then he walked around behind the ticket counter and threw it away. During cross exam, I asked him very calmly “That was a brochure, wasn’t it?” He said, “It looks like it.” And I asked, “You picked up that brochure and you walked it around the counter and you threw it away, didn’t you?”
“Yes, I did.”
You could have heard a pin drop in the courtroom! The jaws started to come open as I made eye contact with every single one of the jurors to make sure they understood what happened. A couple of them started looking at me and shaking their heads. After that, there wasn’t a lot that defense could do. I mean, this tough liability case became not about what happened — it was about the cover up. It was about them trying to pretend like it didn’t happen, not only to my client, but to them — the jury!
As we learned in Trial Lawyers College, juries are a truth meter. They are looking for who they can believe and who they can rely on. Because they weren’t there when it happened and they don’t know the details of what actually happened, they are skeptical of everybody. And naturally so. All of us are. But during our exams, we were able to show them that there was, in fact, a brochure on the ground that Marsha slipped on, and that AMC knew it all along, and when my client was still there on the ground injured, they tried to cover it up.
What amount of importance do you place on the jury in the success of a trial?
I think jury selection is the most important part of any case, absolutely. In this case, my paralegal stayed with me throughout the whole trial and my law partner came in and out for portions of the trial. Having them there during jury selection, helping me to make sure I listened to every jurors and really respected them and what they told me — that was key to making sure I had a jury who would listen to our side, and who was willing to give justice if the facts merited such.
And how is your client doing now?
She is better. She was crying as the verdict was read and saying thank you to the jury. It was a made-for-movie kind of moment. She is getting around. She is very cautious. When she comes to our office, she uses the wheelchair ramp because she doesn’t want to use the stairs. She walks a little more awkwardly than she did before. She was semi-retired before and she is semi-retired now. She is working part-time at a local auto dealership as a receptionist just to give her something to do. She has had a good recovery over all from her injuries. The break happened just north of her knee. So she does have some pain from scar tissue and stiffness in the knee. She is terrified of falling again so that is something that she’s trying to work through. That’s why she stays away from stairs if at all possible. But this verdict will help her with her medical bills, her rehab, and to be able to get around comfortably given the consequences of this injury.
I am so glad that we had the opportunity to talk, Fred, it’s been an absolute pleasure!
I’m so happy to share my experiences and I’m so grateful for the Trial Lawyers College method. I would have absolutely never won this case without knowing all of the strategies and approaches that are part of the TLC method.
One comment I had from another lawyer after the verdict came out. She said, “You know Fred, it’s not just that you won, it’s that you won with a case I would have turned down. That you got 100% fault and that amount of a verdict on a case that many, if not most, other lawyers would not have taken in the first place.” Because of TLC, I had the confidence to take this case and I knew how to prepare and present the evidence so that I could win it.
About Fred Schultz:
Mr. Schultz, a member of the Indiana State Bar Association, has focused his practice since 1998 on been representing individuals and families who have suffered serious injuries or wrongful death. He graduated from the Trial Lawyers College in 2012.
Mr. Schultz received the Max Goodwin Award from the Indiana Trial Lawyers Association, given each year to an Indiana Trial Lawyer in practice less than ten years who has achieved either a great verdict on behalf of a client, advanced Indiana law in a positive direction for Indiana consumers or provided a great deal of community service. He also received the F. Scott Baldwin Award from the American Association for Justice, given each year to “the most outstanding young trial lawyer in America.” Both awards are great honors and demonstrate Fred’s dedication to his clients and to the legal profession.