News & Events

Over the past 30 years, Maranga | Morgenstern and its attorneys have garnered numerous accolades and awards from the media and professional industry organizations. Here you will find the latest news and information regarding the firm and its associates.

May22

TWENTY (20) DAY JURY TRIAL RESULTS IN DEFENSE VERDICT

Twenty (20) day jury trial results in DEFENSE VERDICT for two construction companies.  DUI driver loses control of his car striking construction equipment parked off the shoulder of the road killing two passengers and injuring a third.  DEFENSE VERDICT for the two construction equipments. $8.5M total verdict for the plaintiffs.

THE CASE

CASE NAME:    

Ronald Hatcher, Kathleen Hatcher, Teresa Hoff and Kayla Bean v. Bouchard

Communications, Inc., Mark Smith dba Smitty’s Construction Services and Collin

Powell

COURT AND CASE NUMBER:    

Ventura Superior Court / 56-2015-00472035-CU-PO-VTA

DATE OF VERDICT OR JUDGMENT:    

Friday, May 17, 2019

TYPE OF ACTION:

Auto v. Auto, Wrongful Death

JUDGE OR ARBITRATOR(S):

Hon. Matthew Guasco

PLAINTIFFS:

Ronald Hatcher and Kathleen Hatcher as parents of adult decedent, Michael Hatcher.

Teresa Hoff as parent of adult decedent, Aimee Hoff.

Kayla Bean, age 21 at time of accident.  

DEFENDANTS:

Bouchard Communications, Inc. – contractor performing work in the public right of way.

Mark Smith dba Smitty’s Construction Services – sub-contractor hired by Bouchard Communications, Inc. to perform one aspect of the job in the public right of way.

Collin Powell, driver of the vehicle that struck the construction equipment killing Michael Hatcher and Aimee Hoff and injuring Kayla Bean.

TYPE OF RESULT:

Jury Verdict

THE RESULT

Defense verdict as to the “construction defendants,” Bouchard Communications, Inc. and Mark Smith dba Smitty’s Construction Services.

Plaintiffs’ verdict as against defendant Collin Powell.

GROSS VERDICT OR AWARD:

$8,500,000.00

ECONOMIC DAMAGES:

Plaintiff Kayla Bean:  Past:    $500,000.00

NON-ECONOMIC DAMAGES:

Plaintiffs Ronald Hatcher and Kathleen Hatcher:  $2,000,000.00

Plaintiff Teresa Hoff:  $5,000,000.00

Plaintiff Kayla Bean:  $1,500,000.00

TRIAL OR ARBITRATION TIME:    

20 days.

JURY DELIBERATION TIME:

1.5 days.

JURY POLLS: 12-0

THE ATTORNEYS

Attorney for Plaintiffs Ronald Hatcher and Kathleen Hatcher:

Scott Spell, Esq., LAW OFFICES OF SCOTT E. SPELL, APC, Los Angeles, CA

Michelle Iarusso, Esq., IARUSSO & DAGHER, Pasadena, CA

Attorney for Plaintiff  Teresa Hoff:

John S. Levitt, Esq., SOLTMAN, LEVITT, FLAHERTY & WATTLES LLP, Thousand Oaks, CA

Attorneys for Plaintiff Kayla Bean:

Thomas M. Dempsey, Esq., LAW OFFICES OF THOMAS M. DEMPSEY, Beverly Hills, CA

Paymon A. Khatibi, Esq. , KHATIBI LAW, APLC, Los Angeles, CA

Attorney for the Defendant Bouchard Communications, Inc.:

Ninos Saroukhanioff, MARANGA*MORGENSTERN, Woodland Hills, CA

Attorneys for Defendant Mark Smith dba Smitty’s Construction Service

Matthew Haffner & Mary Haffner, HAFFNER LAW GROUP, Ventura, CA

Attorneys for Defendant Collin Powell

Thomas W. Shaver, Esq. and Tod Castronovo, Esq., SHAVER KORFF & CASTRONOVO, Encino, CA

THE EXPERTS

Plaintiffs Expert(s):

Alvin Lowi, III, accident reconstruction

Allison Vredenburgh, PhD, human factors

Brad Avrit, traffic engineering/construction safety

Marvin Petruszka, toxicology

Ellen Shirman, PhD, neuropsychology

Defendant's Expert(s):

Timothy Reust, accident reconstruction

David Royer, traffic engineering and highway design

David Krauss, PhD, human factors

Russell Gish, PhD, accident reconstruction – not called to testify

Vina Spiehler, PhD, toxicology – not called to testify

FACTS AND BACKGROUND

On September 9, 2013, defendant Collin Powell was driving his Infiniti G35 on Potrero Road when he struck construction equipment that was being stored on the side of the road by defendants, Bouchard Communications, Inc. and Mark Smith dba Smitty’s Construction Service killing two of his passenger, Michael Hatcher and Aimee Hoff and injuring a third, Kayla Bean.  Mr. Powell admitted to drinking 9 to10 shots of vodka and traveling at a speed of 65 mph prior to the crash. He was charged criminally with two counts gross vehicular manslaughter and one count of causing bodily injury while under the influence. He pled guilty to these offenses after the accident and was sentenced to prison.

In 2015, Mr. Hatcher’s parents, Ronald Hatcher and Kathleen Hatcher along with Ms. Hoff’s parent, Teresa Hoff and Kayla Bean filed wrongful death and personal injury actions against Bouchard Communications, Inc., and Mark Smith dba Smitty’s Construction Service for improperly parking their construction equipment in the County of Ventura right of way and Collin Powell for motor vehicle negligence.  The complaints sought compensatory damages against defendants. At trial, Mr. Powell’s negligence was decided by the court on a motion for directed verdict after the close of evidence.

PLAINTIFF'S CONTENTIONS:

Plaintiffs argued the “construction defendants” Bouchard Communications, Inc. and Mark Smith dba Smitty’s Construction Service were negligent in parking their construction equipment in the County of Ventura public right of way and for failing to properly and adequately warn the motoring public of the hazard.  Plaintiffs further argued that the negligence of the “construction defendants” was a substantial factor in causing plaintiffs’ harms. As to Mr. Powell, plaintiffs argued that while Mr. Powell was already found negligent by the court his negligence was not a substantial factor in causing plaintiffs’ harms because but for the construction equipment being on the side of the road the plaintiffs’ decedents would have survived and Ms. Bean would not have been injured or her injuries would have been less.  

Counsel for defendant Mr. Powell joined in plaintiffs’ arguments on liability.  

DEFENDANT'S CONTENTIONS:

The “construction defendants” denied any and all negligence for the accident and further argued that any negligence was not a “substantial factor” in causing plaintiffs’ harms.  Rather, it was the sole negligence of Mr. Powell coupled with the comparative fault of plaintiff Ms. Bean and decedent Michael Hatcher that were the cause of this accident.

INJURIES AND OTHER DAMAGES

Plaintiffs Ronald Hatcher and Kathleen Hatcher made a claim for the wrongful death of their adult son, Michael Hatcher.

Plaintiff Teresa Hoff made a claim for the wrongful death of her adult daughter, Aimee Hoff.

Plaintiff Kayla Bean claimed a traumatic brain injury, post-traumatic stress disorder and pain and suffering.  

ADDITIONAL NOTES

Prior to trial, the “construction defendants” made statutory offers to compromise to the wrongful death plaintiffs, Mr. & Mrs. Hatcher and Ms. Hoff which were rejected.  During trial, high/low offers were made to the wrongful death plaintiffs, Mr. & Mrs. Hatcher and Ms. Hoff which were rejected. At trial, Mr. & Mrs. Hatcher asked the jury to return a verdict in the amount of $7,000,000.00 against the construction defendants solely.  Ms. Hoff asked for a verdict in the amount of $10,000,000.00 against the construction defendants. And, Ms. Bean asked for a verdict in the amount of approximately $2,000,000.00.

The jury began deliberating on Thursday, May 16, 2019 at 12:00 p.m.  The jury returned a verdict on Friday, May 17, 2019 at 3:30 p.m. finding that while the “construction defendants,” were negligent their negligence was not a “substantial factor” in causing plaintiffs’ harms.  Thus, a complete defense verdict was obtained on behalf of the “construction defendants” Bouchard Communications, Inc. and Mark Smith dba Smitty’s Construction Service.

As against defendant Collin Powell, the jury awarded plaintiffs Mr. & Mrs. Hatcher the sum of $2,000,000.00 for the wrongful death of their son, Michael Hatcher.  The jury awarded plaintiffs, Ms. Hoff the sum of $5,000,000.00 for the death of her daughter, Aimee Hoff. And, the jury awarded the sum of $1,500,000.00 to plaintiff Kayla Bean for the past economic damages and past and future non-economic damages.  

Nov16

2 Attorneys Receive Loyola Civil Justice Program Awards

Robert A. Morgenstern Champions of Justice Award

From left: Loyola Law School Fritz B. Burns Dean Michael Waterstone; Greene Broillet & Wheeler LLP senior partner Browne Greene; Cheong Denove Rowell & Bennett founding partner John F. "Jack" Denove; Maranga Morgenstern founding principal Robert A. Morgenstern; Yoka & Smith LLP partner Walter M. Yoka; Loyola's Civil Justice Program Director, John T. Nockleby; and Paul Hastings LLP partner Donna M. Melby.

 

Some 500 attorneys, judges and their guests arrive at the 13th annual Tribute to the Champions of Justice dinner, at Loyola Law School, Los Angeles on Oct. 26 at the Beverly Hills Hotel.

The event honored John F. "Jack" Denove, founding partner of Cheong Denove Rowell & Bennett, and Robert A. Morgenstern, founding principal of Maranga Morgenstern APLC.

The Civil Justice Program awards recognize attorneys who advance civil justice through their work in and out of court,

Denove focuses on medical malpractice, insurance bad faith, police misconduct and product liability. Morgenstern defends catastrophic injury clients as well as wrongful deaths in the commercial trucking industry and handles product liability matters. 

Sep21

LA-ABOTA Select Bob Morgenstern as Vice President in 2018 and President of the Chapter in 2019

Thank you to all of the members who voted in the Chapter Elections for 2018.  A special thank you to all the nominees who ran for chapter leadership positions showing their dedication to the Los Angeles Chapter.
 
I am pleased to announce that Bob Morgenstern will be the Vice President in 2018 and President of the Chapter in 2019.
 
The following members were elected to the Executive Committee for three year terms:  Hon. Joe Hilberman (Ret.); Ricardo Echeverria; Michael Schonbuch.
 
The National Board Representatives elected for three year terms are:  Wally Yoka; Hon. Wendell Mortimer, Jr. (Ret); Michael Schonbuch.
  
Thank you for your continued support of the LA Chapter.  Please make sure check the website often for calendar updates – www.la-abota.org, and I look forward to seeing you at the next Chapter Meeting on September 27th.
 
Regards,
Randy Even
President, LA Chapter of ABOTA
Feb19

Memo: Dodd v. Cruz

Some of you may have had experience with medical finance companies in California such as MedFin Manager and MedFi.

These companies purchase liens from health care providers, at a discount, for medical services provided
to plaintiffs in third-party lawsuits. Those services often include high priced surgeries. Those plaintiffs
then claim they are entitled to the full billed amount, since the medical financing company contends they
expect to be paid the full amount of their lien following settlement or trial.

May13

CASE DISMISSED – PREMISES LIABILITY

Paul Elkort and Dennis Newitt obtained a dismissal of an action by way of summary judgment on behalf of their in a claim for negligence and fraud in the case of Elias v. DOE Storage.

The case involved a dispute over personal property stored at All Aboard's Northridge, California, storage facility by defendant Elias, Sr. The stored property were part of a probate estate to which plaintiff Elias, Jr. claimed he was entitled. Plaintiff sued his father for return of the property and damages, and also named the storage facility as a defendant in claims for negligence and fraud.

May13

FAVORABLE SETTLEMENT – PREMISES LIABILITY

Paul Elkort and Dennis Newitt obtained a favorable settlement on behalf of their client in a premises liability claim in the case of Michael King v. DOE, Inc.

Plaintiff was a patron at defendant's hotel sports bar. While purchasing drinks for he and his party, he was struck in the face with an object, believed to be a shot glass thrown by another patron, sustaining a significant laceration. Video surveillance did not clearly show the sequence of events, nor who threw the glass. Plaintiff brought an action against the hotel for negligence, and also pressed a punitive damages claim.

Apr19

CASE DISMISSED – WRONGFUL TERMINATION/BREACH OF CONTRACT

Ninos Saroukhanioff and Dennis Newitt obtained a dismissal from the court on behalf of their client, DOE Enterprises in Joshua Gabel v. DOE Tires. In his complaint, Plaintiff alleged causes of action for breach of contract, fraud, negligence, intentional tort and various claims for workplace discrimination and sexual harassment.

Mar15

GREAT JURY VERDICT – PEDESTRIAN v. DOE DELIVERY COMPANY

Robert Morgenstern and Ninos Saroukhanioff obtained a very favorable verdict on behalf of their client. In Nick Barassi v. DOE DELIVERY COMPANY Plaintiff claimed that on January 28, 2011 he was struck by a DOE vehicle in the parking lot of the Grace Brethren Church, in Simi Valley, California where he was working as the church gardener. Plaintiff claimed that he was attempting to confront the DOE driver for supposedly driving too fast through the church parking lot and tailgating an elderly church member. He alleged that the driver hit him with his truck as he exited the parking lot.

May01

CASE DISMISSED – AUTOMOBILE ACCIDENT/NEGLIGENCE

Paul Elkort and Dennis Newitt obtained a dismissal of a personal injury claim by way of summary judgment on behalf of their client, a nationwide delivery company, in the case of Barba v. National Delivery Company.

Apr30

California Court of Appeal

On April 30, 2013, the California Court of Appeal, Second Appellate Distrtict, Division Three, issued its opinion in the matter of Corenbaum v. Lampkin, holding, among other things, that "evidence of the full amount billed [for past medical services] is . . . inadmissible for the purpose of proving non-economic damages." The decision is the latest -- and most significant -- to interpret the California Supreme Court's decision in Howell v. Hamilton Meats, (2011) 52 Cal.4th.541.

Unless the Court of Appeal grants a Petition for Rehearing, or the California Supreme Court grants a Petition for Hearing, it therefore appears that evidence of the full amount billed by a medical provider for past medical services will be inadmissible for virtually any purpose in a personal injury trial, at least within the Second Appellate District.

An amicus brief was filed on behalf of the defense by the Association of California Defense Counsel.

Apr30

FAVORABLE RESULT – LANDLORD TENANT DISPUTE

Ninos Saroukhanioff and Dennis Newitt obtained a favorable settlement on behalf of their clients "landlords," in a landlord-tenant dispute in the case of Newco International, Inc. v. DOE Insurance Company.

Apr26

CASE DISMISSED – LANDLORD TENANT DISPUTE

Ninos Saroukhanioff and Neil Joseph obtained a dismissal from the court on behalf of their clients, in the case of Esther Lee aka Kyung Lee, Il Sun Shin, Sam Park v. DOE LANDLORD in their complaint, Plaintiffs alleged breach of contract, common counts and fraud involving a lease agreement for residential property belonging to the defendants.

Mar28

SWEENEY V. REGENTS OF THE UNIVERSITY OF CALIFORNIA

• Kenneth Maranga obtained a defense verdict on behalf of The Regents of the University of California in an alleged brain injury case filed by a USC professor where a violation of the standard of care was admitted, and the matter was tried on the issues of causation and damages only.

Mar28

CARROLL V. DOE UNIVERSITY

A 73-year old female patient with chronic leg and buttock pain for the past year sued an orthopedic surgeon for medical negligence and battery following a lumbar micro-decompression.

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