We represented a young San Antonio man, with another law firm in San Antonio, whom was injured when he was at a friend's and a hot tub fell on him. He injured his knee and shoulder and had surgery. The hot tub delivery company were held responsible.
Justin Hill: Welcome to Hill Law Firm Cases, a podcast discussing real-world cases handled by Justin Hill and the Hill Law Firm. For confidentiality reasons, names and amounts of any settlements have been removed. However, the facts are real. These are the cases we handle on a day-to-day basis.
Justin Hill: Truly, one of my favorite things about being a lawyer is the ability to work with other good lawyers, learn from other lawyers, whether that's an old gray hair, it's a new lawyer. Our world, in the legal profession, people talk about the practice of law. I think that's an important point because we're all trying our best to learn and we should learn every day. We call it "The practice" because there's no perfection. You cannot be the world's best mason without trying a lot, you can't be the world's best plumber without trying a lot.
All of these trades and professions you learn all the time and one of those professions where people should learn all the time is the legal profession. I have the opportunity on occasion to work with young lawyers, older lawyers. Right now, I've got Sean Luchnick with me here, who's a younger lawyer compared to myself, not young in terms of knowing what he's doing but he got the opportunity to intern/work with me when he had just gotten licensed. We got to work a case together. I have him on here today. I want to talk about that case. [unintelligible 00:01:36] thank you for being here.
Sean Luchnick: Justin, thank you for having me.
Justin: One thing about [unintelligible 00:01:41] is I always have to teach him, so you got to talk close to the mic. We're going to talk about a case. We don't use names. We don't use numbers. Neither of us wants to get in trouble with a bar. It's important I think for our listeners to understand the personal injury law, personal injury lawsuits are not confined to what you see on television, they're not confined to what you see in the news and they're not confined to what the insurance companies and defense lawyers want you to think about us.
[unintelligible 00:02:09] and I had the great honor of working a few cases together. One of the cases we work together involved one of his friends who he's known a long time, who was at a home, when a large piece of equipment, a hot tub was being delivered. The delivery people basically enlisted him to help out with the delivery. Is that fair to say?
Sean Luchnick: That's exactly right.
Justin: Okay. He's just a guy hanging out at the house, people show up to deliver a hot tub. As I work to the case with your help, the allegation was they were very ill-equipped to deliver a giant hot tub. What would you say about that?
Sean Luchnick: Yes, so pretty much it's happening. My friend, he is at a other friend's house. The house they're at, it's my friend's house, and my friend is at my other friend's house. A hot tub is being delivered to my friend who owns the house. The company gets there. When they get there, it's two people who work for the company delivering the hot tub. They're starting to put this hot tub onto a dolly and they're pointing around the side of the house, let's say so here's the house. The hot tubs on the dolly coming around the side.
Justin: Sorry about this way. It's heading north and it's about to take a 90-degree turn to the east, fair?
Sean Luchnick: To the east. Yes. Which would be where the patio is where it's going to ultimately get installed.
Justin: Okay, they're delivering a hot tub to a patio in the backyard but they come to the front yard, they unload the thing, they're heading north, they're going to take a 90-degree turn to the east. What happened?
Sean Luchnick: What happens is, before we get to that because it's pretty relevant to the case, my friend, I going to try not to say his name, I hope I don't slip up. My friend kind of says, "Is that thing strapped down? Is it properly equipped?" If you could imagine a hot tub, you'd think you'd lay it flat, like think of a sandwich, like on a plate. You wouldn't lay it up this way. It's like this on the dolly and he says, "You're not going to strap that down? It doesn't seem that safe."
My friend, just to give a little backstory, he's a contractor as well. He knows these things. He's a handyman, he can look at something and understand that's probably not the right way to do it. Not that came to the facts of the case, his knowledge level, but anyways. They tell him, "No, the weight of it gets the job done. There's nothing to worry about. It's not going to fall, don't worry." Then they're having a little trouble getting on the grass going around the side before this right turn we're talking about to the east. They enlist my friend and ask him and my other friend who owns the property say, "Hey, can you kind of help us out?"
Justin:[unintelligible 00:04:45] stand there where it slants in case something happens, is my recollection.
Sean Luchnick: Yes. The friend who ultimately gets injured, he's where they make this turn to the east. Let's say here's the Hot tub again, visual diagram.
Justin: If there's a 90-degree turn on the roadway, he'd be where the signs are telling you, "It's going right?"
Sean Luchnick: Yes, he said, and there's a slope that goes downhill right there. He's standing there. They're saying there's nothing to worry about, just stay in there and look, make sure nothing's going on. Nothing's going to happen. They then enlist the other friend of mine who's the owner of the property, he's actually there to guide the dolly which is hilarious. They're going to have him guide the dolly. Well, then the other worker's in the back of the dolly and then the other ones on the opposite side of where my friend is who's watching it on the downward slope. Ultimately, what happens as they're going around before they get to the deck, the hot tub falls down on my buddy-
Justin: While it's attempting to make the right-hand turn, it tips onto you buddy, my client, our client.
Sean Luchnick: Our client, he tries to save his life. He goes like this and actually is able to brace the hot tub.
Justin: This is all audio so when you say goes like this, he looked like a praise and worship. He was pressing up as hard as he could while bracing his legs.
Sean Luchnick: I mean, imagine you're on a downward slope and a hot tub that raised about 4500 pounds is about to fall on you. What do you do? He is, instead of getting squash, he's a very strong guy.
Sean Luchnick: Bracing himself.
Sean Luchnick: Yes, bracing himself. He played D1 college football, was tied in bigger gentlemen. Thank God for him that he was because I don't know what would have happened if he was a smaller individual.
Justin: It still fell on him. He suffered a traumatic injury to a shoulder and a knee, if I recall.
Sean Luchnick: Yes, well, what happened is he was actually able to brace it and then he tore his meniscus and his shoulder in doing so and then ultimately, he ended up collapsing. By the time they were able to lift it off of him, the other three people there. That's the facts of the case.
Justin: Then you and I worked this case together. I got involved late in the game. You and I worked the case together. We did a bunch of great research. We found out that there's actually equipment-made for hot tub deliveries in the industry that would have kept this from happening, that's literally built for this, but they didn't employ that equipment, right?
Sean Luchnick: No, absolutely those equipment-
Justin: They were using some homemade stuff.
Sean Luchnick: They didn't use anything, they didn't use any straps that they should have had.
Justin: They had a dolly and wheels but it was sort of a mix mash of stuff.
Sean Luchnick: No safety precautions, didn't use any equipment for that. Obviously, their company policies not to enlist the homeowner to help them transport the dolly.
Justin: We worked that out in litigation. We got their policies, we got the procedures. I was actually able to depose the corporate representative who turned out to be the owner of the company. We realized, I think in those depositions that maybe they weren't the most sophisticated company, in spite of having seven offices in San Antonio. I mean, it's a bizarre thing that you can have seven offices in San Antonio, you can have a seemingly well built sophisticated Corporation and really have no idea how to safely operate your business.
Sean Luchnick: Yes. Sometimes that's a reoccurring theme, I think in any market. Sometimes you think the barriers to entry in the marketplace are pretty hard. It's hard to start your own business but then we do this thing. We have various things or companies do things negligently or they do things that are maybe not up to a standard. You would think they would operate, you realize there's a lot of businesses out there that really don't do things the right way.
Justin: That's right.
Sean Luchnick: That's an eye-opening, something that I've maybe knew before the practice of law, but definitely learned in my first year.
Justin: It's also for all of the people. I will say I have plenty of friends and family who think what we do is less than noble, ignoble, if you will. A lot of other countries have decided, we're going to allow the government to dictate the way things are done. They're going to require that things are done in a safe manner, that products are made safely, they're manufactured safely, they're designed safely.
In America, we've decided, "Hey, the Seventh Amendment is going to roll all and we're going to say, "Hey, everybody" Juries will decide what is safe and what is not, juries will decide what damages are available for people injured by negligence or dangerous products. That's what we work in. I think people forget is we work within the constitutional framework of the right to trial by jury decides what is safe and what is not. In the case that we're talking about here, the hot tub that fell on the guy. The other side has to look at and say, "Would a jury think that was safe?"
We were able to get the case resolved, which I think was a very fair result and a very good result for our client, your friend. It was able to be resolved because they had to consider this plain, if he's exercising his Seventh Amendment constitutional right to trial by jury. Will the jury think we were being safe? We're going to be back. I'm going to have another conversation with [unintelligible 00:09:53] about some more cases we've worked together but that's going to do it for this episode.