PANISH SHEA & BOYLE LLP ANNOUNCES COURT’S DENIAL OF MOTION FOR NEW TRIAL IN RECORD $17 MILLION WRONGFUL DEATH VERDICT FOR BLIND MAN KILLED BY A LOS ANGELES METRO TRAIN FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE:
LOS ANGELES (October 26, 2011.) A Los Angeles County Superior Court judge has denied a motion by the Los Angeles County Metropolitan Transportation Authority (LACMTA) to set aside a record wrongful death verdict against the agency in the death of a visually impaired man who was killed by a Metro train and to order a new trial.
On July 29, 2011, following a five-week trial, a Los Angeles County Superior Court jury unanimously awarded Mary Cuthbertson $17 million for the January 28, 2009 wrongful death of her 48 year old son, Cameron. Cameron Cuthbertson, who was visually impaired, mistook the gap between LACMTA Blue Line rail cars for a door, fell between the cars and, after climbing halfway back up onto the train platform, was crushed to death when the train began to move. Protective barriers were in place for all other Metro rail lines, while the Blue Line, which travels through Compton and Watts and is the most heavily traveled, was left without similar safeguards. Mrs. Cuthbertson was represented at trial by Brian Panish and Deborah Chang of Panish Shea & Boyle LLP, and the trial was attended by many people from the visually impaired community because of its importance to the issue of equal access.
Following the verdict, the LACMTA filed a Motion for New Trial on the grounds that the damages awarded to Mary Cuthbertson were excessive and not supported by the evidence and that the trial court made legal errors during trial. In support of its argument that the damages were excessive, the LACMTA cited to the fact that the verdict was the largest award of non-economic damages in a wrongful death case involving an adult child.
On October 26, 2011, Judge Yvette Palazuelos denied the motion, finding that “[a]fter weighing the evidence, the Court is not convinced from the entire record…that the jury clearly should have reached a different decision regarding the amount of damages” and that “sufficient evidence was presented by Plaintiff to support the award.” In ruling, the trial court pointed out that “[t]he facts of this case are unique”, in particular because of “the mutual, dependent relationship of an aging parent and adult child who were both disabled and who assisted each other with their respective disabilities. It is undisputed that the loss of her adult child had (and will likely continue to have) a profound, lasting effect upon Mrs. Cuthbertson.”
Brian Panish stated, “This case was so important for all visually impaired persons who use transit in Los Angeles and throughout the country – and the Court’s decision confirmed what the jury decided after hearing all the evidence: that Cameron Cuthbertson’s death was a tremendous loss to his mother and that their relationship was unique and compelling.”
Cuthbertson v. Los Angeles County Metropolitan Transportation Authority
Case No. BC413070
Superior Court of the State of California, Los Angeles County
The Hon. Yvette Palazuelos, presiding
Panish Shea & Boyle
Brian Panish or Deborah Chang