Accident Overview

On June 3, 2003, the 47 year old male plaintiff in this matter, a Santa Rosa resident and a store manager at a Home Depot-owned outlet, which at the time was located at 7050 Amador Plaza Road in Dublin, California, was performing a “walk-through” inspection of the tile department before the store opened for the day. During this inspection, the plaintiff noticed a large display board exhibiting Alfagres marble tile that looked crooked. He reached out, intending to straighten the display board; as soon as his right hand came in contact with it, the display board fell straight down, crushing his right hand against another large board mounted on the wall below, two of his fingers were fractured. Plaintiff subsequently developed a severe case of Complex Regional Pain Syndrome (CRPS), which resulted in large medical bills, permanent pain symptoms, and permanent disability.

About the Accident

Unbeknownst to the plaintiff, the wall hanging system for the heavy tile display boards had been modified approximately two years prior to the date of his injury. The changes in the hanging system resulted in the possibility that those responsible for hanging the display boards could hang them in such a way that they appeared to be safely secure, when in fact the slightest touch would cause them to fall. Because some of the boards weighed as much as 90 lbs, this was a significant risk for all of those persons working with, in and around the marble tile display boards.

Representatives of a company called Pro Marketing, Inc. (PMI) had been hired by Home Depot to be solely responsible for management of the marble tile displays in their stores.

Involved insurance companies were Granite State (AIG), State Auto and Liberty Mutual. The plaintiff also had a workers’ compensation claim that was managed by Sedgwick Claims Management.

Case Details

The plaintiff treated initially at Kaiser before physicians diagnosed the onset of CRPS, which arose out of the finger fractures. Thereafter, he received treatment and was evaluated by numerous physicians and specialists, including those at Stanford Hospital.

Plaintiff contacted GJEL Accident Attorneys to answer the following questions:

  • Who is responsible for the faulty display board?
  • How will I pay for ongoing treatment?
  • Can I be compensated for past and future wage loss?
  • What can I do to financially support my family after suffering a permanent disability?

Our client was overwhelmed by the difficulty of the crisis facing him and his family, but once GJEL Accident Attorneys had been retained to represent him, they worked quickly too with their investigators to talk to witnesses, preserve evidence and research the involved companies to obtain information that would assist with the plaintiff’s case. GJEL also helped the plaintiff find a separate attorney for his workers’ compensation claim.

Once the lawsuit was filed, attorney Jim Larsen took over the handling of the case and over the next two years, traveled to locations including Atlanta, Georgia, and Miami, Florida, in order to take testimony under oath from employees and managers of Alfagres, PMI, and Home Depot. GJEL Accident Attorneys also worked to obtain large volumes of company records, including e-mails, from the involved companies in order to determine exactly what had caused the plaintiff’s injuries.

Attorney Larsen was ultimately able to determine that prior to the changes to the wall hanging system for the display boards, there had been no reported incidents involving falling boards. Afterward, and prior to the time of the plaintiff’s injury, there had been numerous reports of incidents involving falling boards, all of which had the new wall hanging system.

Mr. Larsen also retained numerous expert consultants to evaluate the plaintiff and help in understanding the full extent of his injuries, disability, future treatment needs and their costs, as well as to calculate the loss of income, both in the past and future, due to the plaintiff’s permanent disability from any type of employment.

In addition to these efforts, GJEL built a full-scale model of the involved marble display board and its fastening system and conducted video recorded tests demonstrating the dangerous design of the revised wall hanging system.

After several years of litigation, the case settled days before trial. A total of 3.55 million dollars was paid by the responsible parties; a portion of this was paid to the workers’ compensation insurance company that had paid for the bulk of the plaintiff’s medical treatment to date.

Andy Gillin received his Bachelor’s Degree from the University of California at Berkeley and his law degree from the University of Chicago. He is the managing partner of GJEL Accident Attorneys and has written and lectured in the field of plaintiffs’ personal injury law for numerous organizations. Andy is a highly recognized wrongful death lawyer in California.