Doyon v. Lewis – El Dorado County

James Miller headshotIn this case, Jim represented two brothers who owned a home in Garden Valley. The older of the two brothers, Jerry had recently suffered a stroke and was recovering at home. To aid in his recovery, the younger brother, Robert, hired several caregivers, including plaintiff, to assist Jerry in general chores such as cooking, cleaning and running errands. Following the stroke, Jerry suffered from an unsteady gait and reduced motor control.

One day while working in the home, plaintiff Doyon was assisting Jerry to store several boxes in the loft area of the home’s garage. While the property had several ladders to select from, Doyon selected an “A” frame ladder which she originally placed. Doyon then ascended the ladder without incident and began to prep the loft for the incoming boxes. Doyon then asked Jerry to move the ladder down to a different area. After moving and setting the ladder again, Jerry attempted to climb the ladder and was instructed by Doyon to not so do, given she thought Jerry might hurt himself given his condition. Doyon then attempted to climb down, wherein the ladder became unstable and she fell approximately ten feet. As a result of the fall, Doyon sustained serious fractures to her right wrist and right ankle. Plaintiff’s injuries were surgically repaired, she underwent several rounds of physical therapy, and was deemed permanently disabled by her main treating physician. She claimed $51,000 in medical expenses, past wage loss of $73,655, and the inability to work for the remainder of her life.

Prior to trial Jim’s associate, Rob Bennett, was able to secure a dismissal of Robert Lewis after successfully bringing a motion for summary judgment. At trial, plaintiff testified that she had an agreement with Jerry to secure the ladder while she was using it. Plaintiff also called two witnesses to support her theory that the ladder was dangerous and the Lewis’s were aware of its danger. Jerry testified that there was no agreement to hold the ladder. Jim also called an industrial safety engineer as an expert witness who testified that Doyon selected an improper ladder given the array to choose from, failed to secure the ladder prior to her work, and failed to follow several regulations concerning industrial ladder safety. In closing plaintiff argued that the failure to properly secure the ladder by Jerry and hold it during Doyon’s descent was negligent and the cause of her injuries. Plaintiff’s last demand prior to trial was for $300,000. Jim argued Doyon was Jerry’s caregiver and she knew not only was Jerry not capable of helping her, but that in fact it was her duty as caregiver to oversee safety.

The jury returned a verdict for the defense finding Jerry was not liable for Doyon’s injuries.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *