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Plaintiff Slips on McDonald’s Wet Floor and Suffers Permanent Spine Injury

McDonald’s is arguably the most recognized brand worldwide, with golden arches meant to draw hungry patrons in for a quick meal or beverage. Unfortunately, for a young man at the Lomita, California location, his quick stop for a drink was served with a side of permanent spinal injuries after he slipped and fell on a grease slick. The young man, Jonathan, was on his way out of McDonald’s when he slid on the slippery surface. Both feet flew up from underneath him, and he landed directly onto his low back.

Exacerbating the situation, Jonathan had undergone two previous lumbar spine surgeries, with his second surgery just 16 months prior to the subject incident. When he fell, Jonathan landed on the exact area of the prior two surgical sites, doing further damage to the already vulnerable and weakened part of his spine. As a result, he faced a future of chronic pain and discomfort that required yet another surgical procedure to implant a spinal cord stimulator.

Attorneys Maureen Hennessey & Brian Kim of Savin Bursk Law agreed to take on the young man’s case, and from the outset they faced challenges. First and foremost, as a slip-and-fall case, the attorneys needed to prove notice and an unsafe condition on McDonald’s premises. That became a huge challenge, as McDonald’s failed to produce any video or witnesses of the incident, claimed that all maintenance documentation from the date of the incident was “misplaced”, and even took the position that Jonathan staged the entire thing. Moreover, the Defense claimed Jonathan walked into the restaurant with significant prior back problems, and that McDonald’s was in no way responsible for any serious, long-lasting injury following the fall.

The Defense hired a neurosurgeon who trivialized Jonathan’s back injury and claimed that any minor injury from the fall would have fully resolved. Jonathan’s lawyers knew they needed help bringing his injuries to life so that the jury would understand that Jonathan had a permanent, lifelong injury. Jonathan’s injured spine was completely undetectable and invisible to jurors looking at him from the outside. They needed to present the most accurate display of what a spinal cord stimulator was – a complex device unfamiliar to most people – and how it worked inside the body.

Maureen contacted a legal animation firm to produce a demonstrative and showed it to their medical expert just days before he was supposed to testify. She received a three-word response from the doctor: “I hate it.” With little more than a weekend to spare before trial, Maureen alternatively turned to litigation visual specialists, DK Global. The company started from scratch on an effective demonstrative. The legal team and their expert were thrilled with the outcome of DK Global’s animations.

The presentation opened with Jonathan face down on a surgical table as he received anesthesia to his lower lumbar region. This was followed by a visual of a vertical incision through which two curved epidural needles were inserted into his spine. Two parallel electrodes were then run through the needles and up the spine almost to the top of Jonathan’s rib cage. The electrodes were attached to the fascia below the skin and anchored. Last, a second cut created a pocket on the right of Jonathan’s spine for an electrical pack that would send signals to the nervous system to manage chronic pain.

The highest amount that the Defense offered to settle was $2,000,000, just before trial. They went forward with trial, where they showed the DK Global animation. After closing arguments, the Defense doubled its offer. The Plaintiff’s team and their client decided to wait for the verdict. The jury ruled in their favor to the tune of $18,794,132.14.

Choto v. Dorothy D., Inc. was the 11th largest personal injury jury verdict in California in 2022. It is the largest verdict against McDonald’s for an orthopedic injury, and one of the largest spinal cord stimulator verdicts in the entire country.

Maureen Hennessey (left) and Brian Kim (right) with their client, Jonathan (center).

Maureen Hennessey is an attorney at Savin Bursk Law in Los Angeles. She has more than a decade of experience fighting for victims of medical malpractice. She is licensed to practice in California, Washington state, and U.S. District Courts. Maureen is a member of the Consumer Attorneys Association of Los Angeles (CAALA) and the Los Angeles County Bar Association.

Attorney Brian Kim of Savin Bursk Law has more than 10 years of experience litigating personal injury lawsuits. He has helped recover over $100 million for clients with life-altering injuries. In 2018, Brian was selected by Los Angeles Magazine as a Rising Star Lawyer under 40.

"What was even more impressive was just how quick the turnaround was, and then the attention to detail, all together at the same time. So it just far surpassed my expectations."
Brian Kim — Savin Bursk Law
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