A 3.5 Million Dollar Jury Verdict Trial Story

Transcription:

Brendan Lupetin:
Welcome to the Persuasive Lawyer. I’m Brendan Lupetin.  Today I’m super excited to have with me Pete Pentony. Pete is a partner with the law firm of Williams Ford based out of Virginia. Pete practices in Virginia, West, Virginia, and Maryland. And you can read more about him at WilliamsFordLaw.com.  For more than 20 years, Pete has exclusively represented injured people and families in personal injury, wrongful death and medical malpractice cases. Pete is a graduate of the Dickinson School of Law, where he was the Editor in Chief of the Dickinson Journal of International Law. After law school, Pete returned to his home of West Virginia, where he has been practicing ever since. Pete is an accomplished trial lawyer with expertise in particular in dram shop cases. Pete in fact was part of a trial team that obtained a $2.8 Million jury verdict for a family of a young construction flagman who was struck and killed in a construction zone. That verdict is the largest wrongful death verdict in the history of Jefferson County. Pete has a ton of other impressive accomplishments in particular, a recent, amazing jury verdict in a motor vehicle case that he recently obtained during the pandemic, which is what we’re here to really focus on today. We’re going to talk all about Pete’s experience trying a pandemic jury trial. Pete, thank you so much for letting me interview you here today.

Peter Pentony:
Thanks for having me on Brendan and I’m happy to be here.

Brendan Lupetin:
Pete, would you mind, telling, first off, just a little bit more about yourself and your practice, generally?

Peter Pentony:
Sure. We have a small three lawyer firm in Leesburg, Virginia, which is sort of our home base of operations, although we handle cases, in quite a wide geographic range in West Virginia, and all around Northern Virginia and into the Shenandoah Valley. We do only personal injury work, medical malpractice cases; and in West Virginia, I handled dram shop cases. So unfortunately we can’t do those in Virginia. I started out my career, in a general practice firm where we did plaintiff’s personal injury work, but I also was able to get involved in a lot of different other areas of the law, tried criminal cases, family law cases, a lot of different, civil real estate litigation, will litigation, all which has helped me a lot in my career, understanding the various aspects of personal injury cases. And now, I focus solely on those.

Brendan Lupetin:
Awesome. So as I said, we’re here to talk about this recent, jury trial verdict that caught my attention because I was actually preparing in August to try my own, pandemic jury trial and was curious about anybody else that had tried cases and you know, what their outcomes were because there is so much uncertainty about trying a case during the pandemic, and a friend of mine, Chris Wallace practiced in both Pennsylvania and West Virginia passed along to me your tremendous verdict. And I was really excited to hear about it. It was really motivating to me that look, you know, you can get a great verdict during the pandemic and, was really, a Ray of hope for me. So, thanks for that. And I was wondering if you could give us a little bit of a summary, sort of a thumbnail sketch of what this case was about that you took to trial during the pandemic.

Peter Pentony:
So I represented a guy, it wouldn’t be under selling it to say he was an American Hero. He’d been a Marine Corps fighter pilot in the eighties. Later became a commercial airline pilot for United Airlines. He had done a lot of things after 9-11 to help make the country safer and, was just driving home from bowling with some buddies when he was stopped at a red light, no other traffic around on the highway, suddenly saw lights coming up behind them and got plowed from behind.  The person who hit him was intoxicated. There were beer bottles on the floorboard of the car, which my guy took pictures of. The driver was a not English speaking, Mexican immigrant, who was driving a company truck. Through the course of our investigation, we learned that this was his second DUI episode in the company truck for the same company.

So our case was against both the driver and the employer for negligent entrustment. Our client’s injuries were largely to a cervical spine. As a former fighter pilot, he had some degenerative disc disease that pre-existed the crash. There was no debate about this. But the crash made it a lot worse. It had been largely asymptomatic before the crash and after the crash, he was, he was pretty limited in a lot of things. So, it was kind of a classic trial of the before and after, presentation of non-economic damages, agility was contested at trial. So we’ve got, have that fun with a drunk driver and employer who knew about it. And the damages case was, largely noneconomic damages. We had some wage evidence. We had an economist in a vocational person to talk about that, but we didn’t put the medical bills into evidence. We didn’t put the future medical estimate for the surgery that was recommended into evidence.

Brendan Lupetin:
Was it unanimous, or was it five to six?

Peter Pentony:
Unanimous.

Brendan Lupetin:
Okay, got it. Did you lose any jurors during the course of your trial?

Peter Pentony:
No, we were nervous about it. The judge kept 2 alternates just in case, but we, similar to what you’ve told me that you did in your case, we tried it really fast. I mean, we put on 16 witnesses 4 experts in about 8 hours of trial time. We really trimmed the fat to make sure we were getting the point across. If there is any juror concerned about being there. I didn’t want them to think that they were being held longer than necessary because of anything we did.

Brendan Lupetin:
Now, was that intentional on your part, going into the trial?

Peter Pentony:
Yeah, that was the plan. That was the plan. It’s probably a smart thing to do anyway, most of the time, but we had a particular focus on it because of the pandemic. And the defense didn’t put on a very long case either. It was a 3 day trial, including jury selection with the last day going into about 8:30 in the evening waiting for the verdict.

Brendan Lupetin:
And it was three days, including jury selection?

Peter Pentony:
Yeah, we started on a Tuesday morning and got the end of the verdict at about 8:30 on Thursday evening.