Two Juries Return Big Verdicts for Plaintiffs

by Julie D. Farr, Esq. for Maine Lawyers Review

In back-to-back trials, Attorney Travis Brennan of Berman & Simmons in Lewiston obtained big jury verdicts for injured plaintiffs. The first trial was in the matter of Brent Bouchard v. Justin Gowen, which was held in York County Superior Court on October 28-29, 2019 and was presided over by Justice John O’Neil. Attorney Brennan was assisted in that trial by Attorney Timothy Kenlan, while defendant was represented by Attorney Stephen Bell of Douglas, Denham, Buccina, Kennedy-Jensen & Bell, LLC.

According to Attorney Brennan, the case involved defendant’s failure to take basic safety precautions to protect visitors and workers from safety hazards on a residential construction site. The construction site was a ranch-style home, on which the shell of the home was complete but no interior rooms had yet been framed. The site was lit with light bulbs hanging from the ceiling, and there was a large hole in the middle of the first floor where defendant intended to build stairs to the basement.

Plaintiff Bouchard was present at the construction site for the first time, intending to pick up scrap wood that had accumulated in the area of the first floor of the house. He fell through the unmarked, uncovered hole, landing on the basement floor approximately 8-10 feet below. He suffered a burst fracture of the spine at the level of L-2, requiring spinal fusion surgery.

Defendant argued at trial that he had warned Bouchard repeatedly before he fell through the hole. Defendant also asserted a comparative fault defense, arguing that the hole was open and obvious. The jury returned a verdict in favor of plaintiff. It awarded $600,000 in compensatory damages for medical expenses, permanent impairment, past and future pain and suffering, loss of enjoyment of life, and emotional distress, but reduced the verdict to $250,000 on account of Bouchard’s comparative fault.

On behalf of Bouchard, Brennan commented, “We are pleased that the jury rejected the Defendant’s story that he repeatedly warned Brent about the hole and that the jury found the Defendant negligent.” Defendant’s attorney, Stephen Bell, declined to comment.

The second trial was held in Aroostook County Superior Court from November 4-7, 2019. with Justice Harold Stewart II presiding, in the matter of Patricia Akerson v. Cary Medical Center. Brennan was assisted in that trial by Attorney Jodi Nofsinger, while defendant was represented by Attorneys Ernest Babcock and Janna Gau of Eaton Peabody, in this medical malpractice action.

According to Brennan, plaintiff Akerson sought emergency medical treatment at Cary Medical Center in 2015, after a piece of wood struck her shin and caused a hematoma to form beneath her skin. A physician’s assistant evaluated the injury and noted that Akerson was on Coumadin, a blood-thinning medication. Akerson claimed that she was discharged after less than two hours, without any instructions for monitoring the hematoma or the use of her medication.

The hematoma ruptured the next day, causing Akerson to return to Cary Medical Center. She subsequently underwent three corrective surgeries; including removal of a blood clot, and a skin graft that left significant scarring. Cary Medical Center argued that its care had been appropriate and that Akerson was comparatively at fault for failing to follow the hospital’s discharge instructions.

The jury found that Cary Medical Center did not meet the standard of care and returned a verdict in favor of Akerson, awarding $1.2 million in compensatory damages. Brennan said, “We are pleased that the jury understood the high stakes at issue in this case and, through their verdict, took decisive action to deliver justice for our client and protect the community from dangerous medicine that threatens the well-being of all Mainers.” On behalf of Cary Medical Center, Attorney Babcock commented that “We are analyzing options for post trial motions and an appeal.”