The 2018 Top Verdicts include a major case involving DaVita Healthcare Partners, a high-profile whistleblower case that took place on Bagram Air Force Base and a worker’s compensation case that earned the attorneys a nomination for the Colorado Trial Lawyers Case of the Year Award.
Due to a tie, we list the top 11 cases that made up the 10 largest jury verdicts of 2018. After damages caps, post-trial motions, interest and attorneys’ fees, final judgments often vary from the amount awarded by the jury that is listed here.
The list and case information on 2018’s largest verdicts were provided by Jury Verdict Reporter of Colorado with some additional reporting done by Law Week Colorado.
The following case descriptions only reflect the jury verdict amount and do not reflect post-judgment awards, adjustments such as treble damages or post-trial settlement amounts.
$383,500,000: Menchaca v. DaVita Healthcare Partners, Inc; Saldana v. DaVita Healthcare Partners, Inc.; and Hardin v. DaVita Healthcare Partners, Inc.
Plaintiffs’ Attorneys: Robert Carey, E. Tory Beardsley and Molly Booker of Hagens Berman Sobol Shapiro (Phoenix), and Stuart Paynter of Paynter Law Firm (Washington, D.C.)
Defendant’s Attorneys: Michael Prangle of Hall Prangle & Schoonveld (Chicago), Jacqueline Sharuzi-Brown of Hall Prangle & Schoonveld, and Jonquil Whitehead of Hall Prangle & Schoonveld (Las Vegas)
Judge: R. Brooke Jackson, U.S. District Court for the District of Colorado
Type of Claim: Wrongful death resulting from medical malpractice; negligence and fraud by concealment; violation of the California Consumer Legal Remedies Act
The plaintiffs, the estates of Irma Menchaca, Gary Saldana and Deborah Hardin, claimed that DaVita knowingly withheld information from patients and their primary care physicians in its use of an acid concentrate in its dialysis process. According to the plaintiffs, DaVita knew that its use of the acid concentrate, GranuFlo, could trigger cardiac arrests but did not inform patients or their doctors. Gary Saldana, Irma Menchaca and Deborah Hardin suffered cardiac arrests and died.
The plaintiffs claimed that GranuFlo, warned DaVita of the potential risks, but DaVita didn’t institute proper safety measures to ensure it was safe for all patients before administering the substance.
DaVita claimed that the product was safe and had proper FDA testing backing the company’s decision to administer the medication and denied that any wrongful conduct on its part caused the cardiac arrests or the patients’ deaths. DaVita said that the issues raised regarding its alleged negative clinical side effects have been debunked, and nephrologists use GranuFlo daily for their patients. DaVita also said that the plaintiffs did not claim that the product itself was dangerous and asserted that there was substantial evidence that the GranuFlo product is safe and effective.
The jury ruled in favor of the three plaintiffs with damages totaling $8.5 million in compensatory damages and $375 million in punitive damages. As of the time of Jury Verdict Reporter of Colorado’s reporting in June, post-trial motions were pending, and DaVita said it would appeal the case because the punitive damages awards for each of the three plaintiffs exceeded the limits imposed under the applicable state laws in California and Illinois, as well as those set forth by the U.S. Supreme Court, relative to the size of the compensatory damage awards.
In November, DaVita entered settlement agreements with all parties in the case.
$15,991,200: Warembourg v. Excel Electric
Plaintiff’s Attorneys: Kurt Zaner and Sarah McEahern of Zaner Harden Law
Defendant’s Attorneys: Julie Richards and Jane Lucero of Harris Karstaedt Jamison Powers
Judge: Nancy Salomone, 20th Judicial District
Type of Claim: Premises liability: explosion on job site
On Sept. 9, 2015, Brian Warembourg was injured while installing flooring at a residential development in Berthoud. The developer had contracted Excel Electric, Inc. to install the electrical wiring for the homes that were being constructed.
Warembourg said that he accessed power from Excel’s temporary electrical box, and the box exploded and caused Warembourg serious injuries including electroshock, second-degree burns to his right hand and complex regional pain syndrome.
Warembourg claimed that the electrical box was dangerous and Excel failed to use reasonable care to protect the plaintiff from the danger.
Excel claimed that the plaintiff was negligent and caused his own injuries and that his employer, Schmidt Custom Floors, Inc., failed to properly train him about electrical safety. Excel also alleged that Schmidt’s failure contributed to Warembourg’s injury. Excel also contested the extent of Warembourg’s injuries and damages. Excel kept the electrical box for a period of time and then destroyed it and said the court ruled that there was spoiliation of evidence. The court, sua sponte, imposed a sanction of irrebuttable presumption.
The jury was instructed to find that the electrical box was unreasonably dangerous, and the defendant did not have an opportunity to rebut the claim that the box was unreasonably dangerous.
The jury awarded a total verdict of $15,991,200 in favor of Warembourg with $5,330,400 for non-economic losses, $5,330,400 for economic losses and $5,330,400 for physical impairment or disfigurement.