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Movie Theater Choking Fatality of Young Man Ends in Favorable Settlement

A grandfather and his grandson went to a movie theater in Bakersfield, California. It was their favorite activity to do together. The young man ordered popcorn and a hotdog excitedly. They settled in their seats to enjoy their food when suddenly, the boy choked. The grandfather, trained in CPR and airway management, attempted the Heimlich maneuver but was unsuccessful. Two more movie patrons, who were also CPR-certified, tried to help. The grandfather pleaded with the staff to turn the lights. If he could just see the blockage, he could remove it. However, the lights had been broken for months. Tragically, the boy died. Tim Osborn of Osborn Law represented the family against the large theater corporation and attained a favorable settlement, in part by using an animation outlining the staff’s negligence.

Tim took on the lawsuit after an initial attorney deemed the case was too challenging, his solo practice against a team of defense attorneys. He deposed the theater’s staff, but everyone denied responsibility for his client’s death. During discovery, Tim revealed the theater’s official policy instructed employees to not help in emergencies. He also learned there were no protocols to turn on the auditoriums’ lights. Still, the Defense refused to accept that the broken lights prevented the grandfather from saving his grandson.

To support his argument, Tim retained an emergency medicine and airway management expert who testified the grandfather could have saved his grandson using the “finger sweep” technique had he been able to see. Then, Tim called on DK Global to visualize the incident and show how the theater’s negligence caused the boy’s death.

The animation showed the young man and his grandfather enjoying their food inside the theater. As the grandson choked, an illustration of his anatomy showed the obstruction and where it was in his airway. This demonstrated how the grandfather could have easily dislodged the food using his training. As the grandfather and other men pleaded with the manager to turn on the house lights, depositions of the theater’s staff were shown. Staff admitted there was no emergency training or policies in place. Finally, as the critical minutes passed, documents revealed the theater had not maintained its lights for months.

Tim played the animation for the Defense counsel during a deposition of his expert. After seeing the incident unfold, the Defense realized it would be in their best interests to avoid a trial where a jury would award a large verdict. They agreed to resolve the matter in a confidential settlement.

Golden Advocate winner Tim Osborn started his solo practice in 2008 and quickly became one of the most successful personal injury firms in the San Joaquin Valley. Tim is a member of the Multi-Million Dollar Advocates Forum, one of the country's most respected trial lawyers associations, and is “AV Preeminent Rated” by Martindale Hubbell. Additionally, since 2015, Tim has been recognized as a Super Lawyers “Rising Star.”


"When the other side first becomes aware that you've got somebody like DK Global involved... it reinforces the seriousness of our position, whether it's showing anatomy or how an accident happened."
Timothy M. Osborn - Osborn Law
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