Ultimate Client Vindication
On April 18, 2014, a Supreme Court jury in New York’s Orange County returned a unanimous verdict in favor of the firms’ client, a Nurse previously convicted of felony endangerment of a disabled child, at trial of the civil lawsuit alleging negligence against this long time licensed nurse practitioner and her employer. This case arose from a shower-bath at home administered to a ten year old special needs child in November 2011, after which the child was found to have blisters, redness and peeling on her legs and abdomen. The child was transported to the hospital and found to have second and third degree burns over twenty-five percent of her body, which treating physicians attributed to a hot water scald burn injury. The Nurse was investigated by Child Protective Services, signed a written confession and letter of apology to the parents, indicted, and pled guilty several months thereafter. She admitted in writing and in her plea allocution that she recklessly burnt the child by using excessively hot water to bathe her, and served a lengthy prison term as well as losing her nursing license and livelihood.
The family’s attorneys, a well-known local law firm, filed a civil lawsuit in which they obtained an evidentiary ruling that the defendants were precluded from contesting negligence due to the Nurse’s guilty plea. The Trial Court ruled that collateral estoppel applied, and defendants could not present direct evidence to contest these claims but were limited to cross-examining plaintiff’s experts, precluded from calling any witnesses, and barred from introducing any testimony concerning the manner in which the Nurse administered the shower bath, her training and experience, as well as any explanation of the circumstances of her guilty plea.
Several days before jury selection was scheduled, defendants’ representatives retained Andrew Garson and the firm as trial counsel. Plaintiffs’ attorneys had rejected a million dollar settlement offer, insisting on a four million dollar demand with a daily escalation of one hundred thousand dollars for each day defendants failed to settle the case. Three weeks of trial followed, with the Trial Court permitting defendants to contest causation. Despite the seemingly insurmountable evidence, and without the ability to call medical witnesses or introduce any affirmative evidence, Mr. Garson and his defense team successfully convinced jurors that plaintiffs’ four medical witnesses were unworthy of belief, and that this child had experienced a severe allergic reaction to a recently started antibiotic rather than a hot water scald burn injury. The jury returned a unanimous verdict of “no liability” within hours of commencing deliberations.