$23M Awarded Against Contractor who Swindled Disabled Homeowner

Attorneys for the trust of a late Santa Monica, CA, disabled man secured a $23 million verdict in a lawsuit against an unscrupulous contractor who swindled a disabled man out of his home. Contractor Noam Bouzaglou maliciously manipulated Timothy McGinty and conspired with a lawyer to sign over the deed to his home to pay for unneeded repairs.

In 2009, the city of Santa Monica informed McGinty that he needed to repair some issues with his garage.  His older sister Kathleen, who was autistic, had lived in the house all her life and was supported by her brother.

McGinty signed a contract to have Bouzaglou make the unnecessary repairs.  Bouzaglou convinced McGinty to secure a $400,000 loan against the property to pay for the remodeling costs, the proceeds of which were placed in the trust account of attorney Andrew Stern.  During construction, McGinty was hospitalized for a mental condition.  When he went back home, Bouzaglou told McGinty that he needed even more money to pay for the project.  Bouzaglou offered to get financing for McGinty if he would quitclaim the property over to him.  Joining the fraud, attorney Stern drew up a contract containing false, unsecured promises that Bouzaglou would pay McGinty a portion of any profits from the sale of the property.

When the home was in escrow to be sold, McGinty died.  His cousin, Jeanne Haworth, became the successor trustee.  When she discovered that the deed to the family home showed Bouzaglou as the owner, she contacted attorney Joseph Girard, who immediately stopped the sale and filed a lawsuit against Bouzaglou.

The verdict was affirmed by the Judge Stephen Czuleger, on April 28, 2014, concluding an eight day trial, and the judge ordered the contract rescinded and the deed canceled, returning the home to Haworth, the special needs trustee for Kathleen. The jury and judge also agreed that the attorney, Andrew J. Stern, was professionally negligent and engaged in fraudulent conduct.The case is Haworth v. Bouzaglou, Case no. BC495095. Attorney Stern represented the defendant.


Settlement Roundup: Wrongful Death Lawsuit against Former Coach Settled for $900K

Wrongful Death Lawsuit against NJ High School, Former Coach Settled for $900K

A settlement for $900,000 has been reached with the estate of a New Jersey teen who killed himself by jumping in front of a train just before he was to testify about alleged sexual misconduct by his former high school baseball coach.  The 18-year-old’s estate settled with “Coach Bart” Bartholomew McInerney, St. Rose High School in Belmar, NJ, and The Diocese of Trenton.

The coach is awaiting retrial on charges of child endangerment in Middlesex County, NJ after a 2010 conviction on 10 counts of child endangerment in Monmouth County, NJ was overturned.  McInerney is accused of encouraging his players to masturbate, send texts to him with details, and in some cases, videotape it.


Pennsylvania Resort Owner Reaches Partial Settlement in Wrongful Death Lawsuit for $200K

A Fayette County, PA judge has approved a partial settlement of $200,000 between the parents of a teen killed in a drunk-driving accident and the founder of a resort in Farmington.  Zack Nelson died five days after a car he was riding in crashed into a tree on the resort.  The teenage driver of the car had a blood alcohol content of 0.136 percent.

Resort founder Joseph Hardy and his daughter Paige were named in the lawsuit.  According to the lawsuit, Hardy knew his daughter hosted underage drinking parties, but didn’t do anything about them.


Undisclosed Settlement Reached in Wrongful Death of Virginia Woman Who Choked to Death in Jail

A settlement was reached this week in the wrongful death lawsuit of a Virginia woman who choked to death on her plastic jail ID bracelet.  Jacquelynn Schwartz, 31, was found dead in her cell in the Virginia Beach Correctional Facility where she was being held on contempt charges after having a blood alcohol level of 0.21 during a court appearance for a driving offense.

The late woman’s husband, David LaClair, filed the lawsuit against Conmed, a privately-owned medical company used by the jail.  Three of Conmed’s nurses were also named in the lawsuit for failing to take Schwartz’s vital signs or reviewing her intake forms which might have alerted them to Schwartz’s condition.  An autopsy revealed Schwartz was likely suffering from “alcohol withdrawal with seizures and delirium,” and ruled Schwartz’s death accidental.


$625K Settlement Reached for Rhode Island Woman Injured in Wreck

A Rhode Island attorney has reached a $625,000 settlement for his unidentified client after she was injured in a wreck in January 2013.  Her car was struck by another vehicle traveling at an estimated 60 mph that had run through a red light.

The plaintiff, a West Warwick, RI resident, suffered multiple fractures, bruises and lacerations, and was hospitalized for two weeks.  Emergency responders worked for more than an hour using the “Jaws of Life” to extract the woman from her vehicle.  She was then airlifted to the trauma center at Rhode Island Hospital.

Louisiana Appeals Court Adds $2.4M Award to Victim of Underage Drinking Crash

The Louisiana 5th Circuit Court of Appeals has awarded $2.4 million in additional damages to a permanently disabled victim of an automobile accident involving underage drinking.  Three teenagers from the New Orleans suburb of Chalmette were killed, and the man receiving the award is one of two teens who survived the crash on August 21, 2005, just days before Hurricane Katrina.

Ryan Wiltz was 16 when the accident happened on Louisiana Road 16, near the Sun community in St. Tammany’s Parish.  Brian LaFontaine, 17, was driving the vehicle the teens were in when it went out of control and struck a tree.  Investigators said LaFontaine’s blood alcohol level was two-and-a-half times the legal limit for adults in Louisiana.  Charie Billiot and Rachel Gabb, both 16, were killed along with LaFontaine.  Billiot’s sister Chrissie was the only other survivor, and the only passenger wearing a seat belt.  The teens had been tubing on the Bogue Chitto River to celebrate the start of their senior year in high school.

Wiltz was left partially paralyzed and suffered irreversible brain damage.  His parents filed a lawsuit in the 24th Judicial District Court in Gretna, LA against the Meraux Food Store and Winn-Dixie in Chalmette.  A Jefferson Parish jury found the defendants partially responsible for Wiltz’s injuries in August 2011, and awarded $18.5 million to Ryan Wiltz, $15 million of which was designated for future medical expenses.  The amount included $600,000 for his pain and suffering.  But the three-judge appeals court panel last month decided that amount was not enough, and increased it to $3 million.  Judge Hans Liljeberg called the $600,000 award “abusively low.”

The Wiltz’s attorney, Richard Trahant, said he was pleased with the appeals court’s decision, but added that he expects the defendants to appeal the decision to the Louisiana Supreme Court.

The case is Gina and Timothy Wiltz, et al v. Brothers Petroleum, LLC, et al, case number 13-CA-332 C/W 13-CA-333 & 13-CA-334 before the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeal for the State of Louisiana.  The trial was held in the 24th Judicial District Court in Jefferson Parish, case number 630-138 C/W 634-479 C/W 634-752, Division “J.”

Elderly Veteran Negotiated $1.25M Settlement with California Dept. of Veteran’s Affairs

An 80-year-old Korean War veteran reached a $1.25 million settlement with the California Department of Veteran’s Affairs on April 1 after being dropped several times by caregivers and suffering a broken back.  The settlement was reached after filing a Complaint in Los Angeles County Superior Court in which the plaintiff’s attorneys alleged elder abuse, negligence and negligent hiring and supervision.

John Tully was admitted to the Veteran’s Home of California – West Los Angeles on April 29, 2013 after suffering a stroke and two heart attacks, according to court documents.  Plaintiff alleged that his physician issued two orders that Tully should have at least two caregivers help him with transfers from his bed to his wheelchair and from a shower chair to his wheelchair.  However, there were two documented incidents in which Tully was dropped in the facility when only one caregiver was assisting.  Despite that, the facility continued to report to the federal government that Tully was being assisted by two caregivers.

Tully’s attorneys Stephen Garcia and William Artigliere of Garcia, Artigliere & Medby in Long Beach argued that the second of these drops caused a fracture of his T-12 vertebrae including retropulsion into his spinal canal.  This left him in severe pain, and eventually unable to move his legs out of a “frog leg” position in bed.  As a result of remaining immobile in this position, Mr. Tully developed a Stage IV pressure sore on the outside of his foot.  Unfortunately, the risks of surgery on this fracture outweighed the potential benefits to Mr. Tully and the fracture left him without control of his bowels and bladder.

The case is John Tully v. State of California Department of Veteran’s Affairs, Case Number: SC121764, and was venued at the Santa Monica Courthouse before Judge Allan J. Goodman.