$1.075 Million Settlement – Police Use Citizen To Investigate A Crime, Causing Brain Injury
Our client, a pet store employee, discovered that burglars had entered the pet store the night before and had stolen several high-priced puppies and supplies. He called the Fremont Police Department and reported the crime. The investigating police officer told our client to go up onto the roof of the shopping center to locate the burglars’ point of entry into the store.
Following the police officer’s instructions, our client borrowed a 14-foot ladder and climbed up to the overhang where several skylights were located and then climbed up a 6-foot wall to the roof of the shopping center where he discovered the point of entry. The Fremont police officer then climbed the 14-foot ladder to the overhang and saw that she would have to pull herself up the 6-foot wall to reach the roof. She did not want to get her uniform dirty by climbing up the 6-foot wall so she told our client to bring a ladder up to the overhang. Our client began to pull the 14-foot ladder up to the overhang and as he walked backward bringing the ladder up, he fell through a skylight to the pavement below, landing on his head. The police officer watched our client walking backward in the direction of the skylight, but never warned him of the danger.
We contended that the police officer failed to exercise ordinary care when she directed our client to go onto the roof and then told him to bring a ladder up onto the overhang so she could get up to the top roof. There was a fire station nearby and we contended the police officer should have requested the firemen to bring the ladders or equipment to take her up onto the high roof. The police department filed a Summary Judgment Motion claiming they were immune from any liability by law and that our client negligently walked backward causing him to fall through the skylight. We proved that a “special relationship” existed because the police officer made our client an active participant in her investigation. We defeated the Summary Judgment Motion and the case proceeded to trial. Further, we contended that the property managers for the shopping center failed to provide warnings of the presence of skylights and failed to prevent people from going onto the roof.
Our client suffered a traumatic brain injury causing convulsive seizures and a clavicle fracture. He has cognitive defects including difficulty with multitasking and must take anti-seizure medication the rest of his life. The defense counsel challenged the nature and extent of the injuries, claiming he had made a good recovery. At trial in 2010, the case settled for $1,075,000.