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Covid-19 Court Closures Interrupted Joseph H. Low’s 2019 Winning Streak, But He’s Eager to Pick Up Where He Left Off
Covid-19 Court Closures Interrupted Joseph H. Low’s 2019 Winning Streak, But He’s Eager to Pick Up Where He Left Off

NTL member Joseph Low has accomplished the unexpected many times in his career, but 2019 was exceptional.

While so far spending 2020 handling media interviews, speaking engagements and academic preparations, as well as ongoing cases, this year Low has been nominated and awarded for his work in five separate cases - three civil cases all listed as Top 100 Verdicts for 2019, one criminal case and one appeal.

Low’s creative lawyering typically defies the odds and most people’s predictions to pull off win after unexpected win.

“Joe did a phenomenal job” winning an acquittal, said Robert B. Cummings, of Salt Lake City-based Snow Christensen and Martineau, who worked as co-counsel with Low in October 2019 on a successful Medicaid fraud criminal trial in Utah. “He’s one of the best trial attorneys.”

Low’s plaintiffs in his civil cases included three women and two children harmed by the negligence of three male defendants, who then compounded their wrongdoing by lying about their culpability because they either believed no evidence existed or that Low would never find the evidence to prove their dishonesty. Nevertheless, Low prevailed over the lies, over inaccurate and incomplete law enforcement investigations, over insurance company hubris, and over his plaintiffs’ brain trauma hampering their testimony.

In his record-setting verdict for Kern County, Cuevas v. Rai, the No. 1 motor vehicle and personal injury verdict in California for 2019, the investigators found video of the crash that proved the defendant ran a red light and records showing that he had more than a dozen previous traffic collisions. The jury awarded $70.5 million for the injuries of three plaintiffs, one receiving $5.5 million for post-traumatic stress alone.

Tomasa Cuevas suffered skull and facial fractures and a catastrophic brain injury. Her son Alejandro was seated in the passenger seat and also suffered skull and facial fractures, as well as a brain injury that, according to medical experts, meant he might never be able to run again. Prior to the accident, Alejandro was a decorated high school cross country runner. Cuevas’ daughter Maritza was sitting in the back seat at the time of the crash and witnessed the injuries. Maritza suffered only scratches but later was diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder.

During the 12-day trial in December 2019, Joe and his team from Bakersfield-based Rodriguez & Associates won the astonishing jury verdict for the California Central Valley farmworker and her family. He conducted voir dire; prepared and delivered the opening argument; examined the majority of the witnesses and experts; cross-examined the majority of the defense witnesses and experts; and delivered the closing argument.

Low said having the resources to recover from an injury is “first and foremost” for the Cuevas family, as they will need physical therapy for the rest of their lives.

“The mother was a true matriarch, but now she’s out of the game,” Low said. “It really, really tests a family.”

Rai’s insurance carrier, United Specialty Insurance Company, disputed that the defendant ran the light, believing no evidence existed to prove he was at fault. Cuevas was not questioned after the crash because she was unconscious (she still doesn’t remember the incident). California Highway Patrol canvassed local businesses to find two surveillance videos of the intersection, but neither helped determine who was at fault. Undeterred, the investigators found video from a bus stopped at the intersection that showed Aulakh failed to obey the traffic signal. Low added that the truck’s black box data was erased, justifying another reason for the trial.

“You may not have it in your hand, [but] lawyers who work in the system know you’re obligated to get it,” Low said. “Instead, this company was playing games.”

Cuevas topped California TopVerdict.com and Jury Verdict Alert lists.

Low was also recognized in the Los Angeles Daily Journal’s Top Plaintiffs and Top Verdicts of 2019. The verdict appeared as No. 5 overall and No. 35 on the nationwide Top Verdict.com lists. He is being considered for top lawyer honors to be awarded later this year by plaintiff lawyer associations.

Also on Mr. Low’s busy and winning 2019 roundup:

  • In McPhoy v. Ramirez, Low captivated the jury with his graphic description of how the defendant’s deliberate action dehumanized the plaintiff and scarred her both physically and emotionally. The jury awarded her $11.1 million and agonized that they couldn’t find Ramirez 100% liable.
  • In Bibbie v. A-Quality Transport, Low turned a $120,000 final settlement offer into a $3.3 million verdict – all for pain and suffering. Proving medical expenses is easy compared to the hard work of quantifying pain and suffering. In this case, Low was able to win pain and suffering on 100% liability and 100% on causation. 
  • In Utah v. Stirling, Low not only delivered an opening argument a veteran defense counsel described as “the best I’ve ever heard,” he convinced the defendant’s insurer to cover costs in the seven figures and delivered the first not-guilty verdict in a Medicaid fraud case in Utah’s history.
  • Last fall, in Romero v. Fullerton Surgical Center, Low won a California Court of Appeal reversal of a lower court’s nonsuit. The defendant argued for lack of “medical evidence or testimony that to a reasonable degree of probability anything happened …” The Court of Appeal reversed, agreeing with Low’s assertion of negligence under the doctrine of res ipsa loquitur. “[The plaintiff’s] evidence followed the classic pattern for res ipsa loquitur established by the leading California authority in cases involving medical procedures: an injury to the part of the body not involved in the procedure while the patient is unconscious,” the court held.

JOSEPH H. LOW IV

Joseph H. Low IV is a personal injury lawyer, representing plaintiffs in high-dollar, high-profile litigation involving severe physical injury, traumatic brain injury, post-traumatic stress disorder and wrongful death or in cases of insurance or corporate abuse. Low specializes as a trial lawyer who will try cases in criminal courts as well, including representing defendants being prosecuted in cases of clear government overreach or members of the military unjustly charged with war crimes.

Low has tried and consulted for hundreds of criminal and civil jury trials, winning settlements that total in the hundreds of millions of dollars. He won at the U.S. Supreme Court in a case that ensured the accused has the right to the lawyer of his or her choice. U.S. v. Gonzales-Lopez, 548 U.S. 140 (2006).

So far this year, Low was named to the Daily Journal’s Top 10 Verdict list in California and the legal newspaper’s Top Plaintiff Lawyers’ list for three of his 2019 winning verdicts that made a number of national Top 100 Verdicts for 2019 lists for the following wins:

  • In December 2019, a $70.5 million jury verdict for a mother and two children who suffered traumatic injuries when a big rig ran a red light and T-boned her SUV. Cuevas et al v. Rai Transport, Inc. et al.
  • An $11 million jury trial verdict in late 2019 for a client injured in a traffic collision at an intersection, resulting in a rollover and severe injuries. Norma McPhoy v. Luis Antonio Mendez Ramirez.
  • A $3.3 million verdict in 2019 against a freight shipping and trucking company’s negligence for a traffic collision that caused significant cervical spine injury to Low’s client. Bibbie v. Postulka.

Low has received several national awards for his excellence in the courtroom, including the American Board of Trial Attorneys and Order of the Barristers. In addition, Low is a recipient of the Lewis F. Powell, Jr. Medallion for Excellence in Trial Advocacy from the American College of Trial Lawyers. He is a member of the prestigious Association of Trial Lawyers of America, American Civil Liberties Union, and the National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers. He is often called upon to speak at law lectures around the country. Low is a member of the National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers, the American Civil Liberties Union, and the American Board of Trial Advocates.

Low is a graduate of Gerry Spence’s Trial Lawyers College at Thunderhead Ranch, Wyo. where he has taught for 22 years.

A former U.S. Marine, Low became known nationally for his mostly pro bono work representing servicemembers, most notably Army Rangers, Navy Seals, and Marines accused of combat crimes. In the history of military war crime trials, Low is credited with being the first to introduce post-traumatic stress disorder and traumatic brain injury as defenses for capital murder.

Low’s career highlights include the following:

  • In Utah v. Stirling (2019), Low not only delivered an opening argument a veteran defense counsel described as “the best I’ve ever heard,” he convinced the defendant’s insurer to cover costs in the seven-figures and delivered the first not-guilty verdict in a Medicaid fraud case in Utah’s history.
  • In Romero v. Fullerton Surgical Center (2019), Low won a California Court of Appeal reversal of a lower court’s nonsuit. The defendant argued lack of “medical evidence or testimony that to a reasonable degree of probability anything happened …” The Court of Appeal reversed, agreeing with Low’s assertion of negligence under the doctrine of res ipsa loquitur. “[The plaintiff’s] evidence followed the classic pattern for res ipsa loquitur established by the leading California authority in cases involving medical procedures: an injury to the part of the body not involved in the procedure while the patient is unconscious,” the court held. 
  • In the 2007 internationally televised trial “The Pendleton 8,” a jury found Low’s client Cpl. Marshall Magincalda not guilty of taking part in the plot to kill an Iraqi citizen. At Magincalda’s court martial hearing, Low successfully advocated that his client be released from prison to be in good physical and mental shape for trial. Low convinced the jury to acquit Magincalda of premeditated murder, for which he would have received a life sentence, and a kidnapping charge.
  • In U.S. v. Nelson, part of the Fallujah murder cases, the government charged Marine Sargeant Jemaine Nelson with a combat murder, including 1st-degree murder, 2nd-degree murder, manslaughter and negligent homicide for his alleged killing of unarmed insurgents in Iraq. Before Low took the case, the government had already recorded five “confessions.” Nelson’s case marked the third time a civilian jury would try a former service member for actions in combat. The first two cases were against the two Marines with Nelson, who were both acquitted by juries who declined to second-guess actions during combat. Despite the acquittals, the government would not agree to dismiss the case against Nelson until Low’s strategic representation won a dismissal.
  • In U.S. v. Sgt Acevedo, combat crimes for murder were dismissed in 2015 after Low’s devastating cross-examination of witnesses at the Article 32 hearing. When the government stripped Acevedo of his silver star, Low got it back.
  • In a 2015 trial of a road design case against CALtrans, after Low deposed the defense’s road design expert, the state settled for $12 million.
  • In Mongtale v. Nadeau, Low achieved a $4.5 million dollar settlement over the $100,000 policy limit for a car accident victim in 2011, using techniques he developed and teaches at the Gerry Spence Trial Institute.
  • In Shelby v. Seariver Maritime Inc., Low recovered $10.2 million in the 2008 benzene poisoning case after deposing the defense’s expert.
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