Skip to comments.Plaintiff Hit With $520,153 in Fees, Costs
Posted on 02/21/2005 11:59:45 AM PST by OXENinFLA
A plaintiff who turned down a "nuisance value" settlement offer from Honda in an air-bag defect case not only lost the jury verdict but has also been ordered to pay the automaker more than $500,000 in attorney fees and costs by a Nevada state court judge.
Parties faced with what they believe are meritless claims sometimes offer a nuisance-value settlement for less than they would spend seeking dismissal or defending the matter. Nevada has an "offer of judgment" statute, under which a party may offer a settlement up to 10 days before trial, with costs accrued to that point.
Clark County District Court Judge Jackie Glass ruled that plaintiff Vincenzo Variale was "grossly unreasonable" in rejecting Honda's settlement offer and awarded the automaker $347,793 in attorney fees and $172,360 in costs, a total of $520,153.
The case involved a July 2000 accident in Las Vegas. Variale was driving a 1992 Acura Vigor, manufactured by American Honda Motor Co., when he collided with another vehicle. Variale claimed the driver's-side air bag released a thick plume of smoke and powder and that he was trapped in the car for 20 minutes after the accident.
In his complaint against Honda, Variale said he developed a form of chemically induced asthma reactive airways dysfunction syndrome, or RADS as a result of breathing in the emissions from the air bag.
Variale also claimed vocal cord dysfunction, sleep apnea and depression, and that he lost his $150,000-per-year job because he was unable to travel for work.
Before trial, Variale who was seeking $2.2 million in damages refused Honda's nuisance-value offer, and the case went ahead without further settlement negotiations.
The plaintiff's expert witnesses included his treating physicians Drs. Lawrence Copeland, Paul Stewart, Aksay Sood and Syed Akbarullah, all from Las Vegas.
Variale also presented testimony from physicians at the National Jewish Medical Center in Denver: Drs. Robert Bethel, Todd Kingdom and Craig Glazer.
Gary Bakken, a warnings expert from Tucson, Ariz.; and Terrence Claurettie, a Las Vegas economist, also testified for the plaintiff.
Honda contended that the air bag released harmless nitrogen gas and talcum powder, and there were no confirmed instances of persons developing RADS from an air bag deployment. The automaker also said many clinical criteria for diagnosing RADS depend on subjective patient complaints and tests that can be influenced by patient effort.
The company called five expert witnesses: Honda engineer Mary Christopherson, on air bag design and safety; Chris Erickson of Autoliv Inc., on air bag effluent chemistry; Neal Langerman, on chemical-hazard warnings; and Las Vegas pulmonologists Drs. Mindy Shapiro and Stuart Brooks.
The jury took less than an hour Dec. 6, 2004, to return a unanimous verdict for the defense.
I wonder what the amount was that he turned down?
Does his lawyer have to pay 40% of the settlement?
If only North Carolina and other states would adhere to a similar statute, these nonsensical lawsuits by "professional plaintiffs" would stop.
He who represents himself.......
I hope there's a lien on his property somewhere to make sure he pays it.
There'd be fewer of these nuisance lawsuits, too.
Very good news.
No problemo.... at his old job, he'll have it paid off in about 4 years.
Yeah, with the jury only taking an hour to decide, it looks like his case was pretty thin.
Owch. I'll bet that day in court will do nothing to help his depression. Someone should keep an eye on him lest he step from a tall chair tethered to a short rope.
Loser pays is the way to go
Works for England, they still have plenty of legit lawsuits. Companies still can't brutally kill people with a product and get away with it - as much as the dems would like you to believe.
I think a lot of the uninformed people who cry for "tort reform" don't realize that there are already protections like this one that are built into the law to discourage unreasonable claims/demands, etc.
Judge Glass is part of a new generation involved with her family, her profession and her community. While in high school, Judge Glass worked as a waitress to buy her school supplies and clothes. She continued as a waitress, working her way through the University of Georgia, graduating with a degree in journalism. Judge Glass moved to Las Vegas in 1978, beginning as a radio news reporter. She quickly moved to television and served as an anchor and crime beat reporter.
As she followed trials she covered as a journalist, she became interested in the field of law. Once again, she worked her way through college, graduating from the University of San Diego School of Law. In a single year - 1984, Judge Glass passed the Nevada Bar exam before graduation, received her Juris Doctorate, was admitted to the Nevada Bar, and married her husband, Steve Wolfson.
The couple recently celebrated their eighteenth wedding anniversary. They have two daughters, Rachel and Rebecca. With her husband, Judge Glass worked to build a successful law practice while helping at her daughter's schools, supporting the Girl Scouts and projects such as Nevada Reading Week.
On the professional side, Judge Glass lectured at the UNLV Boyd School of Law, spoken on law topics at local high schools, and appeared on the KLVX show, "Law and the Layman". She served as an Alternate Domestic Referee, URESA Hearing Master, Paternity Hearing Master, and Alternate Juvenile Referee.
Judge Glass served as a member of the Las Vegas Housing Authority Board and spent six years as a board member of the Senior Citizens Law Project. Judge Glass was elected District Court Judge, Department 5, in the 2002 election.
Looks like some bad attorney advice here...scumbags have no skin in the game and encourgared the fight to continue...thats what you get by trusting trial attorney types...
I wonder what was the "nuisance-value offer" amount. The article doesn't say and when the link is followed, you are offered the chance to pay $124 to see the full writeup. No thank you.
That was my question. Lawyers usually take these cases on contingency, If they lose do they pay 1/3rd.?
Egads! RADS! Who knew?
Finally a judge with brains. If anyone read the NY Post the other day, here in New York they awarded a heorin addict $3.5 million because while in jail he went through withdrawals and claimed he couldn`t breathe, like all junkies do when they can`t get a fix, so the gaurds put him on oxegen and he claimed that the oxegen gave him brain damage. So the other brain damaged on the jury decided to make the junkie a millionaire. Gee, where do you think that money is going to be spent on?
The guy's lawyer probably said that if the plaintiff settled he would violate the representation agreement and be charged expenses and legal fees by his own lawyer.
I'd support a loser-pays system only up to the amount of money the loser spent pressing his case. Huge financial resources do help you win a case. How unfair is it for someone to lose a case because the other guys had a bigger legal staff, and then be charged with paying for the legal staff?
Why does a guy who makes 150K drive a Honda?
We need more judges like this one. It has been my observation as a reporter, that verdicts by most juries in civil suits are influenced by the judge. The judges vocal inflection and body language when delivering the charge has a great effect on the verdict.
The plaintiff's expert witnesses included his treating physicians Drs. Lawrence Copeland, Paul Stewart, Aksay Sood and Syed Akbarullah, all from Las Vegas. Variale also presented testimony from physicians at the National Jewish Medical Center in Denver: Drs. Robert Bethel, Todd Kingdom and Craig Glazer. Gary Bakken, a warnings expert from Tucson, Ariz.; and Terrence Claurettie, a Las Vegas economist, also testified for the plaintiff.
I have never been on a jury that had to weed through "expert-for-hire" testimony, but I hope jurors are becoming skeptical of them.
I don't have a problem with the plaintiff being forced to pay the defendant's legal expenses if their suit is deemed "grossly unreasonable" or "non-sensical".
But I am somewhat concerned about a blanket loser-pays system. Good cases do lose sometimes. And many other cases are arguably legitimate claims that could reasonably go either way in a court of law. I have a problem with making the loser automatically pay in such instances. I don't think someone should have to put their livelihood on the line if they have a reasonable case to bring.
Perhaps a comprosmise solution would be to leave it up to the jury. Have them make two rulings. One on the merit of the case. And then secondarily (if the plaintiff loses), to rule on whether the case was "grossly unreasonable" or "non-sensical". If so, then the loser pays.
1992 Acura Vigor
Well, somehow these protection haven't stopped me from being notified of my status as a class action plaintiff in a case which I have never heard of, from which I stand to gain only a token benefit, but which promises to net the crusading plaintiff's attorneys a fat multi-million dollar payday. In at least seven different case over the years, I might add.
And BTW, the so-called existing protections to which you refer are all too often left to a judge's discretion, which means that they have virtually no real deterrent effect on whether a bad case is likely to be brought in the first place (as this article demonstrates.)
You know, the moral of that story is if you are ever the victim of a crime, sue the criminal. Chances are they won't even contest it... get the biggest default judgment you can, and hang onto it. You never know when your criminal assailant is going to win a stupid suit like this one and have some money to take. If your purse snatcher or mugger wins a suit like this, at least you have a shot at getting some compensation for their crime against you.
You'd be surprised how many rich people don't splurge on things like new cars...one of the most rapid means of depreciation you can find.
Sorry, but he does have a case. Whether you like it or not, prisoners are supposed to be given adequate medical care. The guards took it upon themselves to "medicate" a prisoner, causing him grave harm. I would agree, however, taht the judgment seems excessive. I'd like to know how it was calculated.
Trial lawyers got short arms and deep pockets
Because he can...
Unfortunatly most judges are not aware of these protections either.
HONDA, We make it SIMPLE!.......
Our 'justice system' works both ways.
A true loser. He should have shot his lawyer. He'd have room and board for life, but at least he wouldn't have to put up with bill collectors. And he would have been a local hero in the jail. "What're you in for?" - "Oh, I shot my lawyer." - Instant respect.
That's a very reasonable solution.
Canada has loser-pays but it is neither blanket nor automatic. When the defence prevails in a lawsuit here, they have to ask for costs after the verdict has been rendered. The amount awarded, if any, is entirely at the judge's discretion.
HEHEHEHE MY thought also.
It didnt kill the SOB so it couldnt have been too grave a harm.