Palmer v. Schindler Elevator

Date: 28 March, 2003

This case went to trial because the defense stubbornly failed to negotiate in good faith for five years. They never offered a penny, and then finally made an offer shortly before trial. Garo Mardirossian had demanded seven-figures all along, and in the end. to get it settled, reduced their demand to $1,600,000. Finally, right before trial a judge convinced the defense to offer $1,400,000. Pressure was put on each side to effect a final compromise to resolve the case. Garo said he was ready to settle at $1,500,000, his client’s bottom line, but the defense stubbornly refused. A month later, the jury spoke.

Cindra Palmer was a 39-year-old legal secretary who worked for a law firm in the Union Bank Square building. It was the best job she ever had, she was good at it, and she was paid well. A single mom, it was important to her to succeed at the job. She had a boyfriend, enjoyed music, art and outdoors life, and her future bright.

One day in 1995 as she left her office to go to lunch, she entered the elevator on the thirty-first floor. The elevator broke fell 23 floors to the eight floor, then stopped suddenly. Inside the elevator car, alone, Cindra was violently injured. Her leg was broken, her ankle bones to the left leg broke, and she broke her arm. She was knocked out. Eventually she gathered herself on the ground, grabbed at her high heel, used it to press the emergency button and contacted the security guards in the lobby. He summoned elevator maintenance that started to try getting the elevator to the lobby.

Elevator maintenance did not see that an old, deteriorated belt that controlled speed had frayed, and that the elevator was broken. They started it back up, and again the elevator rapidly descended out of control. The mechanic panicked, hit the brakes, and the elevator jerked to a stop at the 3rd floor. Cindra was again knocked out. Eventually LAFD arrived. They helped get the elevator to the lobby. Within an hour, Cindra was out and brought to Good Samaritan Hospital.

She recovered, with time and therapy from various orthopedic injury. Cinder hired a phobia expert to help her conquer her fear of elevators, and gallantly, six months later, she triumphantly returned to work on the 31st floor at her desk as a secretary. Sadly, within a year she was fired. She was not the same ‘ol’ Cindra. She had a traumatic brain injury that was subtle to detect, but was destroying her life. She had double vision, headaches, fatigue, and could not type accurately. She forgot things. Although she looked fin, she was never the same.

Defendants felt this was ‘just a simple orthopedic injury’ case. They never agreed that his was a brain injury case. By hiring a top team of qualifying experts to assess Cindra and follow her care for years, Garo was able to help her, and to prove a brain injury.

Although it might seem that the liability case was easy, it was actually very difficult. Only through the use of a model of the building, subpoenaing the original belts to trial, and creative analysis of the building machinery was Garo able to convince a jury that the defense was wrong about this being a case of a fluke belt break despite adequate maintenance.

Verdict: $7,400,000.00



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