On April 22, 2009, I tried my client’s case to a Harris County jury. Johnny Garza and I picked a jury that morning, and we proceeded to trial that same day. We split up the duties for directing the witnesses, Johnny conducted voir dire (jury selection), and I handled opening statement and closing argument.
The client is a forty-five year old man who will be confined to a wheelchair for the rest of his life due to the negligence and carelessness of his employer. The client was working from an elevated position nearly three years ago doing construction work on a warehouse here in Houston. Although OSHA, the federal agency charged with setting standards for work-place safety, mandated that the employer provide my client with fall protection and safety training, the employer provided nothing to my client. Rather, the employer simply told the client to work on the roof and to dismantle the concrete, the same concrete that the workers were standing on. Even though the employer had an employee fall just days prior to my client’s injury, the employer did not hold any safety meetings, did not provide any of the federally required safety equipment, and did not change any of its procedures. Fortunately for that employee who fell days before my client’s incident, he only fell twenty feet and landed on insulation. That employee was back to work in three days. Unfortunately, for my client, when he fell twenty feet into the warehouse, he fractured his cervical spine.
My client was rendered quadriplegic by his employer’s gross neglect. That means that my client will never walk again, will require diapers and catheters for the rest of his life, and will require constant nursing and medical attention for the remainder of his years. This was a man who used to work hard everyday to provide for his wife and children; now, they will be taking care of him. Needless to say, the incident devastated my client and his family.
At trial, we presented expert testimony from our professional engineer and construction safety expert. Our expert testified as to what the employer should have done to prevent this incident. Indeed, the standard in the industry has always been to provide the employees with fall protection, even prior to the enactment of OSHA. We presented expert testimony with regards to how much medical care the client will need in the future, and testimony explaining the client’s multiple injuries and numerous surgeries. We presented expert testimony regarding the loss of earning capacity suffered by the client in the past, as well as in the future.
After presenting the case in our style, the jury rightfully returned a huge verdict for a our client.& nbsp;The client, who did not speak English, cried when the verdict was read in open court. He simply could not believe that a jury of his peers, whom he could not communicate with, would find in his favor over a local business. As [email protected] often says, “Lady Justice is blindfolded for a reason…because everybody deserves justice.” This simply goes to show that the system was working on that day. While my client will never be able to walk again, play with his children again, or dance with his wife, his faith was renewed in the American legal system. While he can never be made completely whole again, the jury recognized the defendant’s clear neglect and tried to make things right for my client. It truly was a great day at the Harris County Civil Courthouse, and it was a great day for Harris County juries. I was just glad to have been a part of it.