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Manufacturers Defect Results in Favorable Settlement for Three-Year-Old TBI Victim

Toys are a sacred part of childhood, from ragged stuffed animals to the allegorical little red wagon. Children and their parents alike put their trust in toy manufacturers and depend on them to bring joy, not pain. So, what happens when a toy company betrays that trust and sells a product destined to endanger a child? That was the case when the faulty handle on one company’s toy cart sent a three-year-old boy named Juan careening down a pedestrian ramp and straight into a cement wall.

On the day of the incident, Juan accompanied his family on a walk, riding in the cart while his older sister pushed him using the toy’s attached handle. Juan’s family reached a steep hillside with a downward-sloping ramp to get down it. The ramp featured two switchbacks and cement retaining walls at the turns. As the family descended the first level, the pin attaching the handle to the cart broke loose. Juan’s sister, also a minor at the time, was powerless to stop the trajectory of her brother’s wheeled toy. The boy careened more than 100 feet down the ramp, accelerating as he approached the first switchback. Unable to steer, the cart slammed at full speed against the retaining wall, catapulting Juan head-first into the concrete.

Juan was rushed to the ER. With limited income, Juan’s family used MediCal for the visit. Doctors identified a skull fracture at the base of his forehead. However, the brain scan Juan received yielded no evidence of injury.

As years passed, Juan grew into what appeared to be a healthy child at first glance. Yet, he suffered from problems with memory and comprehension. His family believed it was from the accident on the cart. Over a decade after the crash, Juan’s family contacted personal injury attorneys Ara Jabagchourian of Ara J Law and Christopher Lavarato, who began working on the boy’s case.

Ara and Christopher came into the case facing some major roadblocks. They were litigating an accident that had happened over a decade ago, meaning many critical pieces of evidence were lost to time. The boy’s family was working class and mainly used cash for their purchases; any receipt indicating whether the toy was new or used was long gone. The Plaintiff had been treated on Medi-Cal, and many of his doctors didn’t have the time to take part in a drawn-out litigation process. Ara and Christopher didn’t let this phase them. They enlisted the help of a number of renowned experts, including a pediatric neurologist, a pediatric physical therapist, and a product liability specialist.

Ara and Christopher’s neurological experts validated that Juan suffered a traumatic brain injury (TBI) when he crashed into the wall. The k of injury the boy sustained, though, was on a neuronal level: a type of damage called axonal shearing, which often doesn’t appear on medical scans. 

As the team identified Juan’s injuries, Ara and Christopher’s liability specialist created an accurate reconstruction of the crash. Ara and Christopher had seen firsthand the efficacy of animation in similar cases. They reached out to DK Global to make two videos depicting the accident and the resulting brain trauma.

The first video started with an animation of the toy buggy and the faulty pin mechanism that caused the handle to detach from the body. Next, the presentation showed photographs of the accident site, then switched to a zoomed-out animation of the ramp, the height and length labeled with dashed white lines. The animation showed the Plaintiff sitting in his buggy at the top of the ramp, the handle detaching, and the buggy flying down the hill before slamming into the cement wall. The video showed the Plaintiff’s head absorbing the full impact of the hit. Next, the exhibit showed a video of the toy cart hitting the cement wall, using barbell weights instead of a rider. The car flew up in the air, breaking instantly, revealing the force that impacted Juan’s skull. Finally, the animation showed the Plaintiff’s injured head and skull fracture, followed by his MRIs.

The second video showed an animation of the Plaintiff’s brain at the moment of the injury. It simulated a coup-contrecoup injury, where Juan’s brain ricocheted against both sides of his skull. Next, a zoomed-in view of Juan’s brain revealed the neurons in his brain. The video defined axons and brain matter and explained their normal functions. It then showed the damage the accident caused to the brain matter, depicting how the axons broke in half as they absorbed the force from the impact. The last shot of the video explained the effects of frontal lobe damage, validating how the crash a decade earlier correlated with Juan’s TBI symptoms.

The Defense tried to drag out the case, claiming that Juan hadn’t suffered long-term damage. Their initial offer was essentially nickels and dimes, and several mediations passed by without an agreement. The case went to trial, where Christopher and Ara played the animations for the jury. The duo could see the whites of jurors’ eyes as they widened in horror at the videos. Right before the jury began deliberating, the Defense started discussing settlement terms. While the little boy in the buggy wasn’t so little anymore, Christopher and Ara negotiated a favorable settlement that brought Juan and his family some long-awaited closure.

Ara Jabagchourian began Ara J Law as an extension of his vast experience as a civil law trial attorney. His clients have received settlements of over $100 million, and he personally consults on every single case that comes through his office. Ara J Law was voted one of the Best Tier 1 Law Firms by U.S. News & World Report for three years straight, and Ara himself has been a mainstay on the Northern California Super Lawyer list for nearly ten years.

Christopher Lavorato, a former partner at Howry Breen & Herman, LLP, is an Assistant Attorney General in Texas working in the general litigation division. Before becoming an Assistant Attorney General, Christopher worked as a personal injury attorney focusing on catastrophic injury, product liability, and wrongful death cases. For over 25 years, Howry Breen & Herman LLP has fought and won the biggest and best possible results through aggressive legal action. Focusing on personal injury, commercial litigation, product liability, construction litigation, and more, the attorneys at Howry Breen are not afraid to take cases to trial if necessary. The firm has offices in Texas, California, and Colorado.

"I think those visuals are paramount to any kind of serious brain injury, and I would deem it to be almost malpractice not to have a visual in such a case."
Ara Jabagchourian - Law Offices of Ara Jabagchourian, P.C.
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