San Jose, CA (PRWEB) May 29, 2009
The San Jose law firm of Corsiglia, McMahon and Allard announced today that San Jose arbitrator and retired Judge John Flaherty has awarded Scotts Valley Unified School District employee Shaun Egbert a gross award of more than $2 million for severe injuries sustained while on a school field trip in May of 2007 (Shaun Egbert vs. Nor Cal ReLiEF, JAMS #1110011923).
For 18 months the school district's excess coverage property and liability program, the Northern California Regional Liability Excess Fund (Nor Cal ReLiEF), refused to offer or pay any money for Egbert's injuries, wage loss or suffering despite the fact the school district was paying into the fund to cover accidents like Egbert's. Egbert, a behavioral specialist for mentally challenged children, was a passenger in a car driven by a school volunteer for a school field trip. Their vehicle was hit head on at a high rate of speed by another vehicle that crossed the center line.
Egbert was airlifted and hospitalized at Stanford Medical Center for an extended period of time for treatment of a shattered wrist, severed tendons in her ankle, broken upper leg and a frozen shoulder, also known as adhesive capsulitis. After two surgeries were performed to put together her wrist and ankle, as well as grueling rehabilitation therapy, Egbert was finally released to return to work just about a year after the accident. She was left with significant residual pain and limitations in her daily activities, which her treating doctors determined would be life long in nature.
The driver of the at-fault vehicle did not carry adequate insurance to take care of Egbert's medical bills, wage loss and suffering. Attorney Bob Allard, of the law firm Corsiglia, McMahon & Allard, then turned to the school district to pay for her massive injuries and medical bills learning in the process that they had been contributing to a "Super Pool" fund to pay for injuries and accidents like Egbert's.
By forming a "Super Pool", Nor Cal ReLiEF self-insures member districts. The Fund was created as an alternative to insurance so, instead of paying premiums, it simply pooled monies from what is now over 380 school districts and used these monies to satisfy claims.
Despite a clear case of liability, horrific injuries and hundreds of thousands of dollars in medical bills and lost wages, the Fund never offered a penny in settlement and resorted to fighting Egbert every step of the way. The Fund even disputed its own Memorandum of Coverage (MOC) forcing Egbert to hire attorney and Insurance coverage expert Ronald J. Cook, Willoughby, Stewart and Bening, to represent her in conjunction with an arbitration to interpret the meaning of the MOC. Cook and Egbert prevailed in February of 2009 when an arbitrator ruled that the coverage afforded by the MOC was much more expansive in most respects and that the Fund was indeed responsible for paying this claim (http://www.ejvcommunications.com/clients/egbert.pdf).
The Fund then claimed Egbert was not entitled to compensatory damages, forcing arbitration. This hearing was held before retired Santa Clara County Superior Court judge John Flaherty of Judicial Arbitration and Mediation Services ("JAMS") in San Jose. After two full days of hearings, Judge Flaherty issued an award providing that Egbert was entitled to a gross award of $2,056,000.00 which, after certain offsets, was reduced to $1,817,933.90.
Judge Flaherty rejected the Hanif, Nishihama, Katiushinksy and Greer argument used by the Fund's attorney that only past medical expenses paid or incurred could be recovered as opposed to the reasonable value of the services provided to Egbert. Judge Flaherty reaffirmed the collateral source doctrine and stated that the Hanif, Nishihama, Katiushinksy and Greer cases were wrongly decided and would not be followed. Flaherty added that special and general damages would be decided on the amount billed not the amount paid.
"The decision was just, as it took into account my client's extensive injuries and suffering, and for that we are most appreciative to Judge Flaherty for listening to all of the evidence and doing the right thing," said attorney Bob Allard. "It is unfortunate that Egbert had to go through all of this litigation, on top of what she had already been though, because of the unreasonable positions advanced by the managers of this Fund, which was designed for the very purpose of helping out public school employees who are injured while working."
The landmark decision is believed to be the first successfully litigated claim of its kind and a victory for public school teachers and employees who have been seriously injured while on the job. Corsiglia, McMahon & Allard law firm is online at http://www.cmalaw.net.