Verdicts and Settlements
David A. Bufalini has handled thousands of automobile accident cases, and has also successfully represented workers seriously injured while in performance of their duties by negligent third parties. Mr. Bufalini is an exceptional trial lawyer, and his litigation results speak for themselves:
Gaffney v. Associated Petroleum Products
Our client suffered a torn rotator cuff and low back soft-tissue injuries when his Ford subcompact was struck and pushed backwards by a gasoline tanker truck owned and operated by Associated Petroleum Products. The client required surgery to repair his torn rotator cuff, and underwent conservative treatment of his low back sprain. Six weeks after his shoulder surgery, the client returned to work as a First Mate/Relief Pilot on the ocean-going tug boat that he had worked on in the years prior to the accident. His doctor had released him to light duty, although in reality light-duty positions do not exist in the working environment of the client's vessel. He suffered a temporary aggravation of his post-operative condition when he struck his right shoulder against the side of an interior ladder tube on the boat. When the client returned home, he underwent formal physical therapy for several months.
Subsequently the plaintiff was deemed to have reached maximum medical improvement of his shoulder injury but unfortunately was left with functional limitations that prevented him from passing his mandatory United States Coast Guard pilots physical. His limitations also prevented him from passing the DOT examination for crane operators, one of the positions he held on the vessel. He faced the possibility of a career loss, and a substantial loss of future earnings. The defense at that point focused on plaintiff's alleged failure to mitigate his damages by attempting to return to work too soon and exposing himself to the risk of re-injuring his shoulder.
Defense examiner Josef Eichinger, M.D., agreed on primary injury causation, but argued that the incident while climbing the ladder on the boat was the cause of the client's continuing disability and his inability to pass the USCG and DOT examinations, thus cutting off the client's wage loss claim at the date of the incident on the boat. Plaintiff's surgeon described the effects of the incident on the boat as a temporary aggravation, and attributed the client's inability to re-certify and re-license to the original injury. The battle line was drawn. The defendant had previously admitted liability for the collision and struck its comparative negligence defense.
An 7-hour mediation conducted by Keith Kubik failed to result in a settlement. Mr. Kubik continued to work with the parties until the parties agreed to settle the case for $750,000.00 three days after the formal mediation had ended.
Lowery v. Mid-West Air Technologies and Werner Ladder Company
Plaintiff was assigned to work at MAT's shipping and receiving warehouse in Lakewood, Washington through the temporary employment agency that he worked for. While picking items to fill an order, the plaintiff was struck and injured when a stack of bundled ladders fell on him. The plaintiff suffered a number of deep facial laceration, a nevre injury to his left arm, and a Lisfranc fracture of the arch of his right foot.
Plaintiff initially filed suit against MAT only. In its Answer, MAT alleged that the ladder manufacturer was responsible for the plaintiff's injuries. The plaintiff amended the complaint and added Werner Ladder Company as a co-defendant. Throughout pre-trial discovery each defendant blamed the other for the incident, and MAT attempted to blame our client for the incident and for his injuries. Werner did not press a comparative fault defense, instead arguing that once its ladders were unloaded at the MAT warehouse they became MAT's responsibility, and cut-off its liability.
Because the plaintiff was the only witness to the incident, the complaint was again amended to add a res ipsa loquitor theory. MAT had failed to investigate the cause, and made no effort to preserve any evidence that would explain why the stacked of bundled ladders fell on the plaintiff. MAT's expert, Mark Lawless, determined that the plaintiff must have done something to cause the ladders to shift on fall on him. His theory was based on Newton's First Law of Physics – bodies at rest stay at rest unless something causes them to move. According to Mr. Lawless, that "something" must have been the plaintiff, even though the expert could not explain what the plaintiff might have done to cause the collapse.
Ignored in the defense expert's "analysis" was the fact that there had been prior incidents of ladders, and other warehoused materials, falling over in the absence of any worker involvement, and at times when the warehouse was closed on weekends. That evidence disproved the defense expert's conclusion that human interaction must have been involved.
Plaintiff ended up having two foot surgeries, and a surgery to repair his left arm nerve injury. He had been released from further care shortly before the Mediation date for his case. The parties conducted a mediation. The case settled for $500,000, with MAT paying $350,000, and Werner paying $150,000.
Barcus v. Farmers Insurance Company
Farmers Insurance Company wrongfully denied underinsured coverage to Elle Barcus, under her father's automobile insurance policy with Farmers, which provided for $100,000.00 of underinsured motorist coverage. Elle sued Farmers, claiming bad faith, and violation of the Insurance Fair Claims Act of Washington. Farmers eventually agreed to settle all claims for $575,000, which was $475,000 more than the limit of coverage under the applicable endorsement of her father's insurance policy. Ms. Barcus had offered to settle her claim for the $100,000 policy limit. Farmers refused to pay anything. In the end, that decision cost Farmers Insurance Company an additional $475,000.00.
Parker v. Purdy Sand & Gravel
Ms. Parker was a passenger in an automobile which collided with a detached dump truck trailer that was illegally parked partially on the roadway near Gig Harbor, Washington. The illegally parked trailer was occupying part of the lane of travel for the car the client was in. That fact, in combination with a blinding sun angle that momentarily blinded the driver, led to a devastating crash that left Ms. Parker clinging to life. Months of hospitalization in the intensive care unit saved Mr. Parker's life, but left her physically disabled and emotionally and physically scarred. She received permanent, life-threatening injuries that included a closed head injury, internal injuries and multiple orthopedic injuries. This case was settled at mediation for$2,200,000.00.
Estates and Survivors of Doe 1 and Estate of Does 2 v. Doe Trucking, et al.
A commercial vehicle collision in on Highway 18 north of Auburn, in King County resulted in the deaths of Doe 1 and Doe 2. The accident happened when defendant trucking company's driver crossed the centerline and then veered back into its lane. Doe 1, driving a semi-trractor/trailer combination, with his fiance', Doe 2 as his passenger, steered to avoid a collision, but was unable to do so. The fuel tanks of both trucks explosed. Defendant driver died instantly. Doe 1 surviced the crash, but was trapped in the cab of his truck as it exploed in flames. Good samaritans attempted to rescue Doe 1 and Doe 2. They could hear Doe 1 screaming for help. The would-be rescuers were driven away by the flames and heat and stood by helplessly until the screams finally stopped. Doe 1 left behind a young child. Doe 2 was single, without any children. This case was settled following an all-day mediation for $2,800,000.00 for all claims.
John Doe v. ABC Corporation (Confidential Settlement)
Our client, a physician, leased a brand new automobile manufactured by ABC Corporation. The client was already at the time of this injury a paraplegic who was completely independent in all of his activities of daily living, including his full-time medical practice. While transferring from his manual wheelchair into the driver's seat of his car a component part of the car broke. As a result, the client suffered bilateral rotator cuff tears. Suit was brought against the automobile company under Washington's Product Liability Act. We claimed that the component part that failed was damaged at the factory during installation. We also alleged that adequate warnings were not provided with the vehicle. The defendant vigorously defended the manufacturing defect and failure to provide adequate warning claims, and denied that our client's bilateral rotator cuff tears were caused by the failure of the component part. After three years of intensive discovery, successful resistance to defendant's various pre-trial motions seeking to strike certain claims and certain of our expert witnesses, and a failed mediation, the case settled on October 31, 2016, one week before the trial was scheduled to begin in Federal District Court in Tacoma, for $1,250,000.00.
Sullivan v. Sprague
Our client suffered serious injuries when the defendant ran a stop sign near the Fox Island Bridge and collided with our client's car. Our client incurred medical expenses and suffered significant income loss as a result of the collision. Following our client's recent deposition, the insurer of the at-fault driver offered its liability policy limits of $100,000. The offer was accepted. In addition, our client's own automobile insurance company agreed to waive its right to reimbursement of some of the $10,000 of Personal Injury Protection coverage it paid for our client's income loss and medical expenses. We are now pursuing a claim against our client's Underinsured Motorist Coverage and will seek payment of the entire $250,000.00 of available coverage.
Rahn v. State of Washington
Mr. Rahn was a patient at Western State Hospital when he suffered an assault by a fellow patient with a sharp pencil resulting in permanent vision impairment in his right eye. The attack was without provocation or warning. Mr. Rahn alleged negligence on the part of the hospital for allowing sharp instruments in the facility and furthermore allowing the patients access to these instruments. This case was settled at mediation for $400,000.00.
Jane Doe v. Vehicle Manufacturer
Plaintiff Jane Doe was driving her 1989 vehicle southbound on SR99 in Seattle while wearing a three-point seatbelt. The automobile suddenly went out of control, running onto the curb/shoulder on the left side of the road, continuing along and over the curb and ultimately contacting a support beam. Due to the failure of the seatbelt and door latch mechanism, Jane was ejected from the vehicle, with resultant catastrophic injuries, including (dominant) left arm amputation and multiple body fractures. The case was settled for $750,000.00.
Jane Doe 1, Jane Doe 2 & John Doe 1 v. Doe Trucking
A 26-year-old young man was crushed to death when he was run over by the tires of a 110-foot-long tractor/trailer combination owned by Doe Trucking Company and operated by one of its employees. The truck and trailer had arrived at the decedent's place of employment to pick up a large concrete beam. Decedent was inspecting the unusual design of the extra-long trailer when suddenly, and without any warning, the truck driver began to move forward. The decedent's foot was trapped under one of the tires on the triailer. His screams and those of his co-workers who were trying to get the attention of the driver went unheard. Decedent was slowly crushed to death under the weight of the trailer. The victim/deceased was survived by a wife (disabled with rheumatoid arthritis), three-year-old daughter and unborn son. This case was settled at mediation for $1,250,000.00.
Williams v. 72nd Bar & Grill
Plaintiff entered the premises of the 72nd Bar & Grill as a business invitee at approximately 10:00 p.m. She was there with a friend to celebrate her birthday. Upon arrival, she observed the defendant Jesus Ramirez sitting at the bar. At approximately 1:45 a.m. on September 30, 2001, while walking through the parking lot towards her car, plaintiff was approached by Mr. Ramirez in his vehicle. She rebuffed his advances and continued walking towards her car. Suddenly, Mr. Ramirez accelerated and ran over the plaintiff, causing extremely severe & life-threatening injuries. Mr. Ramirez immediately left the scene of the accident, but was apprehended a short time later. Ms. Williams made a claim against the Bar and Grill Policy limits $500,000 - Settlement $465,000.
Jane Doe v. John Doe Trucking
Plaintiff, a commercial delivery driver, was struck by a forklift while in a semi-trailer at a loading dock in Chehalis, Washington for a scheduled pick-up. As a result, plaintiff suffered multiple severe fractures and degloving injuries to her leg. This case was settled following a 12 hour mediation with WAMS for $960,000 plus a $560,000 L&I pension, for combined settlement of $1,520,000..
Norris v. El Dorado Restaurant & Lounge
Mr. Norris went to use the men's restroom and he was confronted by a large man in the hallway leading to the restroom. The man suggested that Mr. Norris might be in danger simply for being where he was. Mr. Norris responded that he simply wanted to use the facilities. At that point, the assailant grabbed Mr. Norris by the collar, Mr. Norris responded in self-defense and struck the man, knocking him to the ground. At that point, he was attacked from behind by one or more other men. He was knocked to the ground. He was first kicked in the face, and then his assailants began to kick and stomp him. His cries for help went unheeded for several minutes as the assault continued. Mr. Norris sustained complex hip and femur fractures and is permanently disabled. A Pierce County jury awarded Plaintiff gross damages of $1,216,000.00 in his lawsuit against the lounge where the attack occurred.
O'Brien v. Generation Glass, et al.
A large box truck with glass racks pulled out from a parking lot entrance directly into the path of the plaintiffs on their motorcycle. The box truck driver was attempting to cross two northbound lanes and move into the center turn lane, intending to proceed south. Immediately upon seeing the truck failing to yield the right-of-way, Mr. O'Brien applied his brakes, but it was too late to stop. The motorcycle skidded as Mr. O'Brien tried to steer around the back end of defendants' truck. Unfortunately, the motorcycle and the O'Briens slammed into the driver's side of the truck, between the cab and the glass racks. Both plaintiffs suffered acute injuries. The combined cases settled at mediation for $1,075,000.00.
John Doe & Jane Doe v. Doe Company
Plaintiff was severely injured when his Ford F150 pickup truck was forced into an excavated construction area in a median in Pierce County. The truck slammed into the end of the three foot deep excavation. Suit was brought against those responsible for the construction project that included th excavated median island. Our investigation revealed several key highway construction zone safety violations, as well as the defendants' non-compliance with their own contract specifications and deadlines. Our client sustained a closed-head injury and a herniated lumbar disc that resulted in a lumbar fusion. This case settled at mediation for $1,625,000.00.
Bockmann v. Sellers, et al.
A senseless tragedy easily preventable at any number of the stages of the events led to Beau Bockmann's death. Beau Bockmann was a mature 18 year old and pursuing a dream to become a nurse anesthetist when he was caught in the wrong place at the wrong time one night in August, 2007. The defendant, Mr. Sellers, then 17 years of age, made a decision to purchase beer for himself and three buddies through the use of an expired driver's license belonging to someone else. He knew where he could use the fraudulent identification to purchase beer because he had successfully done so many times before. His expectations were met when the store employee briefly glanced at the obviously questionable identification and without any comment or question while staring at the hairless face of a boy who looked all of fifteen or sixteen years of age, rang up the sale and set in motion behaviors that would ultimately cost Beau Bockmann his life. While driving drunk later that evening, Mr. Sellers ran a red light and smashed into Beau's car, killing him instantly. Suit was brought against Mr. Sellers, and First Chevron, the store where he purchased the beer. Totally Settlement with the assistance of JDR, Hon. Charles Burdell (Ret.) $950,000.00.
Hartnell v. Alaska Marine Lines
Paul Hartnell worked for Supervalu as a local delivery driver. On the day he was injured Paul arrived at the Alaska Marine Lines warehouse in south Seattle with a truckload of palletized freight destined for delivery by barge to Alaska. Paul had been delivering goods to the AML warehouse for years, and knew most of the forklift drivers who worked for AML. After backinig his trailer into the dock door he was directed to. one of AML's forklift drivers was assigned the task of off-loading Paul's trailer. At one point Paul thought another forklift driver had mistakenly moved one of his pallets. He followed that forklift to an area near the center of the warehouse and after a brief conversation confirmed that the pallet was not part of his load. As Paul walked back to the dock door where his trailer was he was hit from behind by the forklift that was off-loading is trailer. He was knocked to the ground as the forklift continued backwards until the driver became aware that he had hit Paul. Initially it was thought that Paul's lower leg/foot/ankle injuries were relatively minor. Unfortunately, Paul developed Complex Regional Pain Syndrome, a debilitating and extremely painful nerve condition. The parties were unable to settle the claim and the matter proceeded to trial to the court, sitting without a jury, in early June, 2016. Following a two week trial the court awarded Paul net damages of $436,000, after reducing the gross damage award by 50%, representing the percentage of fault the court assigned to Paul for walking in an area of known forklift traffic and for failing to hear the operational back-up alarm on the forklift that struck him. The verdict exceeded the last offer at pre-trial mediation by more than $200,000.00.
During 2016, the firm settled a manufacturing defect claim against a major manufacturer on behalf of our client. We claimed that the client suffered significant personal injuries when a component part failed while the client was using it. The defendant denied that its product was defective, or that the client was injured due to any defective component.
Suit was filed. Over the course of the case, extensive and oftentimes contentious technical pre-trial discovery was conducted and David traveled extensively for depositions of expert witnesses. The manufacturer engaged experts outside of Washington to support its defenses. David retained an engineer from Seattle to evaluate the components at issue to determine the likely cause of the component failure. He relied on the client’s treating surgeons and rehabilitation specialists to provide proof of the client’s injuries and damages.
David and litigation paralegal Anjuli Messmer each devoted hundreds and hundreds of hours over the course of the case, as the manufacturer contested both liability and damages. Several months before trial, defendant asked the court to dismiss one of David’s liability theories. We were able to successfully defend our position and the court denied the manufacturer’s motion. This was an important legal victory and kept the case moving forward.
Mandatory mediation failed and David and Anjuli began focusing on trial preparation as the trial date approached. Exhibit binders for our 100+ exhibits were prepared, jury selection questions for the judge were prepared, David’s opening statement was prepared, and outlines for the key plaintiff and defense witnesses with corresponding references to the exhibits that would be used with each witness were completed. Anjuli's incredible, always professional work on the case from start to finish was a huge part of the successful outcome that was ultimately achieved. She continuously challenged me to view the case from the defense perspective, challenged our theories, and made me think long and hard about how best to present our case. Her contribution was immeasurable.
Ten days before trial the mediator contacted me to inquire whether or not our client would be interested in re-opening negotiations. The call came as a surprise. We were convinced the case was going to trial. Negotiations, under the guidance of the mediator, began. Calls were exchanged over the weekend. The following Monday, one week before trial was to begin, the parties attended the pre-trial conference with the trial judge. The next day, the case settled for a confidential amount.
The case is a real-world example of our civil justice system at its best. It provided a pathway to closure for our client that leveled the playing field. A solo practitioner in Tacoma, assisted by one of the best paralegals anywhere, challenged high-powered and extremely qualified defense counsel, aggressively representing a major manufacturer with unlimited resources at its disposal to defend the case, and obtained what I consider an excellent result for the client.