Recent Settlements & Verdicts
by Brain Injury Law of Seattle
Brain Injury Law of Seattle obtains a $4,000,000 verdict in a case other TBI lawyers said would never get a verdict over $1,000,000.
Our client Malvika Bhatia had retained another law firm to help her for her brain injury she received as a result of being run over by a bus. While this law firm did a fine job with injury claims, Malvika wanted a firm that specialized in brain injury cases. She started diligently searching all firms in the Seattle area that handled brain injury cases. Before getting to BILS, she had interviewed 5 other attorneys who do brain injury work in the Seattle area. Three of the five she met with and discussed her case with told her that she made too much money in her job at Microsoft to recover much, and that a dance video that she made after being run over by a bus would also cause the value of her case to plummet, as it suggested she was not that hurt. For this reason, all three other law firms told her they would recommend that she settle her case for less than $1,000,000. She knew that the value of what was taken from her by the bus company that ran her over and caused a brain injury was worth more than that.
Then she came to BILS. We listened to her and immediately recognized the power of her story, how she had been affected in her job, her private life, and the extent to which the taking of her healthy brain from her had affected her. We knew the value of her case was far higher than what she had been told by others and believed in her story.
It all started on February 9, 2017, when she was walking to catch the Microsoft bus in downtown Seattle to get to work in Redmond. As she walked up to the intersection of 2nd and Cedar, she noticed a school bus owned by First Student Inc. pulling up to the crosswalk and stop while she stood stopped as well. When the bus stopped, she started crossing the street, and the bus driver accelerated into her, and she was dragged under the bus and dragged for 30 feet as it turned right onto 2nd Ave. A video from inside the bus registered her terrorized screams, but the bus driver did not even know he had hit her-his dispatch radio and the music inside the bus he was playing distracted him. Other pedestrians finally flagged the bus driver down and he stopped.
She was taken to Harborview hospital where she was diagnosed with a host of orthopedic injuries from being run over by the bus, including a fractured spine and shoulder injuries, as well as a brain injury with post traumatic headaches, and PTSD from the terrifying ordeal.
Prior to this injury, Malvika was working at Microsoft as an engineer, and had been selected into a program for future leaders at Microsoft, a program reserved for the top 1-2% of employees. Because of her intelligence and drive, she had been promoted every year at a pace that was faster than virtually every other new college hire. Her career track was on a very promising trajectory that would have taken her into leadership positions at Microsoft providing very strong compensation and stock options. She was also in peak physical shape and competed in pole dancing exercises locally. She did physical maneuvers akin to those seen by cirque du solei performers in Las Vegas. Dancing was her love, and she was determined to get back to that despite all her injuries with the bus. Two days out of the hospital, she wrote a Facebook post talking about how she was going to be back in no time and was confident she would heal from all this quickly. This post would later be used by the defense against her trying to deny the extent of her eventual injuries.
Despite her optimism, her physical injuries and her brain injury made it especially tough for her to meet her projected path of recovery. She was not able to work much and was finally referred by her brain injury rehab doctor to an intensive brain injury rehab program. 5 months after the incident, she finally was able to start back to work. At the same time, she was working very hard on her physical injuries because all she wanted to do was to get back to dancing. By November of 2017 she had worked incredibly hard to prove to herself she could still dance and entered a pole fitness competition. The videotape shows her trying hard to perform at her prior level of excellence, but it was obvious she had lost some of her abilities. At the end of her performance, those in the audience who knew about her attempt to make it back from her injuries all stood and gave her an emotional round of applause.
Unfortunately, the bus company felt this just proved that she was totally fine if she could dance like this, overlooking the competitor spirit that pushed her to get back to dancing. After proving this to herself, she knew her physical injuries would not permit her to keep doing this, so she never competed again.
At work she also had a hard time keeping up with her prior pace, and it was not long before her supervisor at Microsoft was pushing her to get back to her former self after being off work for 5 months. She did just that and pushed herself to get back to her old self that could multitask, work 12-14 hours a day, remember everything she did, and be on point in high level meetings. But with a brain injury, this took a toll on her. When she pushed herself to do more, her post traumatic headaches and migraines got worse, and she was forced to take another 9 months off work to rehab from the headaches. By the time she got back to work again, her prior position had been given away, and she had to find another position without the upward growth she had before. She continued to have ongoing fatigue and concentration problems, and would come home from work worn out and needing to sleep for 2 hours to do anything in the evening. She had a broad circle of friends who were equally driven and smart like her who saw the stark change in her cognitive abilities before and after being run over. A prior supervisor also testified for her from Microsoft, who described her as one of the best prospects within the division they both worked in for future leadership. After the brain injury, he described her as not up to her prior intellectual capabilities, fatiguing quickly and to being able to stare at screens for long. Because of this, she was taken out of the future leader program, losing her ability to advance to leadership positions.
Finally, Malvika suffered from ongoing PTSD as a result of being run over and dragged by the defendant’s bus. She worked hard to get past the effects of PTSD, but they were always there. BILS took the case, obtained the objective MRI evidence to document brain injuries, and retained some of the leading experts in the field to evaluate her records and condition. They all agreed she had a brain injury and was limited by the brain injury despite the fact she was still working in a cognitively demanding job.
All of this was presented to First Student, and First Student denied liability, suggesting instead that Malvika ran in front of the bus-despite two independent eyewitnesses supporting her story. First Student also denied there was even a brain injury, but if there was, it was minor in nature and would have resolved within weeks. As for the physical injuries, First Student admitted to the fractured spine being related, but said most of her other physical problems were pre-existing and not related to the bus incident. It blamed her PTSD on things other than being run over by a bus. First Student relied on a series of defense experts who regularly worked for First Student in such cases. As a result, their offer to resolve the case at mediation was $25,000. Malvika wanted justice from 12 jurors rather than accepting a pittance offer from First Student. We walked out of the mediation and prepared for trial.
The case went to trial in King County Superior Court, and after a four-week trial, the jury acknowledged what First Student had taken from Malvika and returned a verdict of $4,000,000. First Student seriously miscalculated Malvika’s determination to hold them accountable for their bus driver and the company trying to blame her for her own injuries and gaslighting her on her injuries. For that, they learned that denial for baseless reasons carries with it a stiff penalty.
A shoddy deck rail results in a young lady falling three stories and suffering a brain injury and orthopedic injuries. Case settles with four of the responsible parties for $8.625 million, and one additional party for an additional confidential amount.
Lena C. and her boyfriend were having some friends over to their apartment for dinner and drinks. They rented a small apartment in a building in Seattle overlooking Lake Union. After dinner, they all decided to go to the roof top deck that the building owners had remodeled four years before to attract new tenants to the building. The deck was featured in their marketing materials as a place for tenants to go and socialize, party, barbecue and enjoy the view.
When Lena and her five friends got to the roof top deck, they played beer pong on the ping pong table supplied by the building owner, and all but one was drinking. Around midnight, the group went over near the railing and were socializing. As Lena stood next to a railing, a friend of hers bumped into her and she then bumped into the roof top railing. The railing immediately gave away, and Lena fell three stories onto a rockery below, getting seriously injured orthopedically and also sustained a mild brain injury.
Lena retained another law firm who filed suit against five different parties, including the building owner, the maintenance company, the general contractor who remodeled the deck, the subcontractor, and the railing manufacturer. and later asked BILS to take over the case. BILS immediately started to work the case and investigate how this catastrophic failure occurred. After extensive investigation, it was determined that the railing subcontractor failed to install screws in the railing to secure the connecting hinge where the railing gave way. The railing subcontractor tried to blame the railing manufacturer for failing to tell it how to properly install the rail system. The general contractor who was responsible for the job safety also failed to do any inspection of the rails at the end of the job, and also tried to deflect blame to the subcontractor and even blamed the plaintiff herself for having been drinking that night, as if that had anything to do with the railing failure. Finally, the building owner and the maintenance company both blamed the contractors and claimed they knew nothing about the faulty railing until this happened.
BILS investigated and learned from construction experts, engineers’ property maintenance experts that all parties were at fault. The railing manufacturer’s instructions were faulty, the railing subcontractor’s work was sloppy and done in a hurry, the general contractor chose the cheapest railing system if could find to save money and rushed the subcontractor to finish so that it could get ongoing construction payments from the bank. And despite the building owner and the maintenance company both claiming ignorance about the railing, BILS interviewed dozens of prior tenants and learned that in fact many tenants had noticed the railing being loose and claimed that the maintenance company never fixed anything on time, much less maintained the railing at all.
Meanwhile, Lena had made a very good recovery from her various orthopedic and internal injuries and continued to have orthopedic limitations as well as limitations from her mild brain injury. She was 22 years old when this incident occurred and not able to work a full-time job likely for the rest of her life. Nor was she able to work in the field she went to college for and was one quarter away from receiving her degree for at the time of the fall.
After a failed mediation, the railing manufacturer wanted to do the right thing and settled out with plaintiff, leaving the remaining four defendants to fight over who was most responsible. That settlement was confidential in its amount. After several more months of litigation, the remaining defendants at a second mediation finally saw that they were in serious jeopardy, and collectively paid an additional $8,625,000 to Lena for what they had taken from her.
Lena will now not have to worry about how she will live without being able to work full time, and obtain the help she needs to deal with her permanent injuries.
Island County Settlement
Holding Island County accountable for a bad road design causing a terrible tragedy.
Island County, like all counties, is responsible for making sure that its roads are safe for ordinary travel. It utterly failed to do so with one road that had long been a source of collisions and deaths, and ignored the please of local residents who had been pestering the county for years to put in guardrails and deal with the chronic ice conditions on the road resulting from the way the county built the road, permitting water to drain across the road and freeze when it got cold. Despite this, the county did nothing to correct the problem with water seeping across the road, and simply blamed the drivers for being at fault when something happened, taking no responsibility. It would not even spend the $75 to put up an ice warning sign.
Sunrise Blvd is a windy road that has tall fir trees on both sides of it, shading it from the sun. It is a road coming from the south that is initially straight, but when it reached a hill going downwards, it then became very curvy. On cold winter days, black ice would form, causing motorists to slide all over the hilly and curvy section. On the east side of the road, there was a steep drop off of roughly 20 feet with no guard rails. It was a death trap waiting for another victim.
On December 16, 2016, Tanya Canell was on her way to work at 7:30 in the morning. In the back seat were her two young girls that she was going to drop off at day care before going to work. As she approached the curves on Sunrise Blvd, the water that creeped across the road had once again frozen. She was driving the speed limit and hit the black ice that formed on that section of the road. Predictably, her car slid on the black ice and flew off the road, became air born, hit a tree and then caught on fire. Two good Samaritans stopped and ran to the car and were able to pull Tanya out. Tragically, despite heroic efforts by one of the good Samaritans, the two children did not make it out. One of the good Samaritan’s burned his hands trying to save the kids.
BILS was then retained by the father of the two children to represent the estates of the two kids and himself. BILS also represented the good Samaritan for his injuries. The mother was represented by another law firm for her catastrophic injuries. After 18 months of investigation of all of the prior incidents on this road giving rise to injuries, and how the county knew of them but did nothing, the county eventually agreed to resolve the case brought by the father, the estates of the two children and the good Samaritan. A total of $9.5 million was paid to the father and the estates of the two kids, and the good Samaritan also received a settlement as well for his efforts. It also finally built the needed guardrail and changed the surface of the road to mitigate the ice problem. It is sad that it took the lives of two small children and inestimable grief of a mother and father to make this happen.
Verdict of $1.7 million for police officer with mild brain injury and pituitary dysfunction.
Aaron F. was on his way to work when he was rear ended, causing a mild brain injury. He had cognitive difficulties, memory issues, fatigue, and a few months after the crash, a drop in his energy levels combined with becoming overly emotional. When he came to BILS, he had not had a full clinical workup for his brain injury or for any other issues arising from the brain injury. BILS arranged for him to be seen by a top notch treating endocrinologist, who diagnosed low testosterone from damage to the pituitary as a result of the head injury. At the age of 35, his body was no longer able to produce testosterone, which is important for developing muscle mass, having physical energy, maintaining a libido, and many other biological functions. As a result of the testosterone deficiency, he will be required to inject testosterone weekly in order to maintain healthy bodily functions. He will also be stuck with permanent cognitive impairments.
Despite all of this, Aaron continued to try to keep working as a police officer, determined not to let the defendant’s negligence take his job away from him as they had his health, because he loved his job.
The defendants hired a defense neuropsychologist who tried to portray his problems as a psychological one related to the stress of being a police officer, and would only offer $100,000. Fortunately, the jury was able to see right through this ruse after hearing from his wife, his endocrinologist several other witnesses and coworkers testify. Aaron received a verdict of $1,700,000 for what the defense took away from him.
Health insurance executive brain injured when rear ended by a bus, loses job because of it: $1.95 million settlement.
Amy P. was on her way to the airport to catch a flight for a business meeting. She worked as a senior actuary for a major health insurance company. As a result of being hit by the bus, she had a mild brain injury and a neck injury. She was a rising star at the health insurance company, having received the CEO Award for outstanding achievements, and was on the path to become a VP with much greater compensation. However, being hit by a tour bus caused her brain damage that affected her ability to think, concentrate, and made her fatigue out by the afternoon. Simply put, she was not able to do her job, and had to be off work for several months. When she returned to work, her cognitive abilities were still affected, and her job performance suffered.
She then placed in another position by the company in the hopes that she could perform at that job, but again had difficulties keeping up with the cognitive demands of her job, and was ultimately let go from the company and given a severance package. She was later able to find another job with the state, but it paid much less than her private sector job. Another attorney brought the case to BILS to represent her, and the defense promptly asked to mediate. However, the defendant did not take the brain injury seriously, and only offered $100,000 to settle the case because they claimed there was not objective evidence of brain injury. BILS and AMY walked out of the mediation.
After obtaining enhanced imaging of her brain that provided objective evidence of brain damage that was causing her cognitive problems, this was presented to the defense, but the defense tried to claim all of the findings were caused by things other than being hit by a bus. The bus company also tried to blame other phantom vehicles that forced Amy to slow down, which resulted in the bus hitting her, but this defense was soon defeated, and the bus company then had to admit liability. After admitting liability, BILS then focused on getting the bus company to accept responsibility for the brain injury. A new defense attorney was hired for the bus company, and on the even of trial, after losing its motion to exclude the enhanced imaging, the defense finally caved in and accepted Amy’s officer to settle for $1.95 million.
Fall from defective stairway results in brain injury, $1.94 million settlement.
Michael Y. worked as a cabinet maker. He went to a work associate’s cabinet shop to take him to the train station. The shop was in a collective space leased by a man who rented space out to various craftsmen. This man built a staining room on the second floor of the leased premises. The only way up to this staining room was a stairway that the lessee-who held himself out as a master stair builder-built without any hand rails in violation of the city building code. At the top of the stairway he also made the landing narrower than the stairwell, resulting in a one foot gap with no railing to protect a person waling up the steps.
When Michael got to the shop, he was asked to help carry a cabinet up the steps to the staining room by an employee of his friend. He agreed to help, and carried the front end of the cabinet up the stairs backwards in order to hold onto the cabinet. As he got to the top of the steps, he could not see the one foot difference in width between the stairway and the landing, and his left foot stepped into the empty space on the landing, and because there was no railing, he fell 11 feet and landed on his head and shoulder. As a result of the fall, he received a skull fracture and minor brain bleed, along with various orthopedic injuries. Michael was unable to work for nearly a year, and when he did finally get back to work, he was not the man he was before. While he made a remarkable recovery given the seriousness of his injuries, he nevertheless had permanent cognitive problems, memory issues, social cueing issues with his family and many other complications that came from the brain injury. His family was devastated by his changes, but endeavored to adapt to who he as a husband and father had become. He remained a cheerful individual, but those around him saw plenty of changes in the old Michael, and saw a very different Michael after the fall.
Michael retained BILS, and suit was filed against the building owner, the lessee, and the friends cabinet company (his friend invited him to do this since he was helping carry the cabinet up the stairs). After plenty of attempts by the defense to blame things other than the fall for his permanent deficits, the case went to mediation, and ultimately settled for a total amount of $1.94 million. Had the lessee been insured, the case would have settled for much more.
BILS obtains a $1.6 million settlement in a post traumatic epilepsy case.
In 2014, Phoenix. L. was getting off work from his job at as a cook at Quidoba. It was late in the evening, and Phoenix just wanted to go home and go to sleep. He got in his SUV and pulled up and stopped at the main road outside his work before entering the roadway. He didn’t see any oncoming traffic that was close and started to cross the street to turn left when he was suddenly hit by an Everett Police car driving 80 mph along the road without its lights or siren on. The police car slammed into the front left corner of his vehicle and spun him around several times. The force of the impact was so great that Phoenix’s head was slammed through the driver’s window, throwing bits of glass all over the roadway and bending the door frame:
Phoenix was taken to the ER and diagnosed with a brain injury, a broken clavicle and several other orthopedic problems. After the collision, his physical condition slowly improved, as did his brain injury, but neither fully resolved. He continued to have memory and concentration issues, as well as cognitive fatigue issues for the 14 months following the crash.
Then, in the 15th month following the head injury, Phoenix had a full seizure while sleeping. He went to the hospital, and he was referred to a neurologist, who told him his seizure may be related to his prior head injury since there was no family history of epilepsy in his family, and there were no other known causes. She referred him to an epilepsy specialist with Swedish hospital. By then, he had another seizure, and the epilepsy specialist formally diagnosed him with post traumatic epilepsy (PTE). He was placed on anti-seizure medication, and told he needed to take it for the rest of his life.
The case was filed, and the City ultimately admitted liability for the crash, but denied that he had PTE or even a brain injury. It had Phoenix examined by a neurologist and an orthopedist who are “hired guns” for the defense. They conceded that Phoenix had a brain injury, but that it should have resolved after only two weeks, while all his orthopedic problems from being hit at 80 mph should have resolved in 6 weeks. Following this, the city proposed mediation. Phoenix and his prior attorney agreed, hoping that the City would do the right thing. It didn’t. It made a top offer of $110,000, claiming that there was not brain injury, and the epilepsy would have occurred without the crash. Phoenix and his attorney walked out, and they then asked BILS to help them prosecute his case.
BILS then obtained advanced imaging which revealed a series of what are known as “white matter intensities” in the left front part of his brain-right where his head went through the window. It also revealed a pattern of low blood flow consistent with what is known as a coup-contre-coup type injury, proving that his head was hit on the left, causing a shock wave within the brain that slammed the right side of his brain against the cranium, resulting in damage on both sides of the brain. Of importance, we were able to show that the areas of the brain that were damaged were the same areas that epilepsy has been shown to originate from. The medical literature is very strong that trauma causes a metabolic process within the brain that tries to seal off the damaged areas, preventing the damage from spreading and causing other brain cells to start over firing, causing seizures. Usually, the brain is able to prevent such overfiring, but in same cases it takes up to 2-5 years for the seizures to occur when the residual underlying metabolic neurochemicals from trauma cause the brain to overfire and cause seizures.
This imaging was given to the city, and it again denied that he had epilepsy. The city looked at his medical records and learned that in addition to anti-seizure medication, Phoenix used marijuana to help with the pain and seizure activity. This was approved by his doctor. The city then blamed his cognitive problems on using marijuana, and suggested that the marijuana was what caused many of his findings on the enhanced MRI.
The City then asked to mediate again, and the parties agreed. However, the city only went up to $780,000 at this point, and once again Phoenix walked out, knowing the value of his case was higher than that.
These theories were shot down when the neuroradiologist who did the advance imaging testified that he had done studies on this vary thing, and that Marijuana has no such effects on the brain as seen on MRI. Secondly, BILS had Phoenix stop using marijuana for 8 weeks, and then had a neuropsychological test done, followed by a drug test showing his system was free of marijuana. His neuropsychological testing showed he still had cognitive issues attributable to his brain injury, thereby knocking out the marijuana defense.
The City’s last-ditch effort at a defense was to retain an epileptologist and neuroradiologist to try and rebut the testimony of plaintiff’s neuroradiologist. The City’s epileptologist basically agreed he had a brain injury, agreed he had epilepsy, and agreed that a brain injury can cause epilepsy, but that in this case, being hit at 80 mph and having one’s head blown through a window is not enough to cause epilepsy, even though everything else matched up. Instead, she said she did not know what caused his epilepsy. BILS was able to depose the epileptologist and show that her opinions were pure speculation.
Right before trials, and before BILS would have had portions of her testimony excluded, the City finally agreed to accept Phoenix’s final settlement demand of $1,600,000 to settle his case, over twice the City’s prior highest offer.
Settlement of $2.25 million for motorcyclist hit by inattentive driver causing broken pelvis and impotence.
R. W. was riding his motorcycle on Mukilteo Blvd, on his way home form work as a radiology technician. An elderly gentleman failed to see him, and pulled out in front of him, causing R.W. To hit the car and fly over it onto the pavement beyond. He sustained a fractured pelvis and other musculoskeletal injuries, including damage to the nerve that allowed for sexual functioning. As a result of this collision, he was rendered impotent. Even at 55 years of age, he was still sexually active but unable to engage in sex.
The defense initially denied that the impotence was related to the collision, but BILS was able to show that a common side effect of pelvic injuries such as his was impotence requiring artificial interventions if a man desired to have sexual relations, which was terribly demeaning. After obtaining statements from the treating urologist, the defense finally realized they were at risk of exposing their insured to excessive liability, and tendered their insured’s policy limits of $2.25 million by the deadline given to it by BILS. While never enough to make R.W. whole for what was taken from him, it gave him the piece of mind to know that if and when a fix is available for him, he can pursue it without having to worry about the finances involved.