Notable Results HB

Matt Gelina and Maryse Rodriguez Secure Favorable Outcome in Jury Trial for Small Business Client

Hartline Barger Partner Matt Gelina and Associate Maryse Rodriguez secured a favorable outcome for our small business client in a recent jury trial with exposure well above the client’s insurance limits. We represented a small propane distribution company that services food truck parks in Austin as well as their driver. The case arose from a 2019 motor vehicle accident where our client admitted that he turned left in front of Plaintiff’s oncoming pickup truck.

Plaintiff went through a series of post-accident medical treatment and in February 2020 received a recommendation for a neck surgery. He continued the trial multiple times to undergo the surgery, but never did. He also claimed significant lost income from an inability to run his personal construction business.

Plaintiff’s counsel focused the entire trial on emotion. He missed no opportunity to remind the jury that the plaintiff was a family man, and that family was everything to him, and Plaintiff was a very sympathetic figure. Counsel elected to drop their fleet-safety expert mid-trial and had dropped their cellphone distraction allegations the week before. In addition, counsel non-suited past medicals at the beginning of trial so he could focus the jury’s attention on the significant price tag of the future surgery and the large number claimed for lost income.

Maryse opened the trial for the defendants and was able to examine the defendant driver in such a way that the jury found him to be sympathetic and credible, and this deflected some of the anger the jury was being invited to feel by Plaintiff’s counsel. She also did a fantastic job with in-trial bench briefs, convincing the judge to reverse her stated inclination toward giving Plaintiff a directed verdict on liability and submitting the plaintiff’s contributory negligence on the charge.

During close Plaintiff’s counsel asked the jury to award approximately $2,500,000. Plaintiff also fought for a finding of gross negligence. The jury was persuaded by our arguments against deciding the case on emotion and returned a verdict for less than $200,000 and found 10% liability on the part of the plaintiff.

Matt and Maryse thank our client and their insurance carrier for the confidence they placed in Hartline Barger to take this matter all the way through to verdict despite an opportunity to resolve the case right before trial began.

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