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Favorable Settlement Attained for Choking Fatality in Movie Theater

When the staff of a movie theater failed to respond to an emergency swiftly and decisively, quality time between a grandfather and grandson quickly turned into an unthinkable tragedy.

During what was supposed to be an enjoyable evening in Bakersfield, California, a grandfather and his grandson purchased tickets to a local movie theater and stopped at the concession stand to get a hot dog for the film. As the young boy enjoyed his snack, he began to motion frantically to his grandfather; he was choking on his food. The boy's grandfather - who was trained in CPR and airway management - quickly sprang into action, attempting the Heimlich maneuver to dislodge the obstruction. Two more movie patrons who were also CPR-certified saw the emergency and attempted to help, asking the theater staff to turn on the lights - to no avail. 

The boy lost consciousness and fell to the ground. His grandfather pleaded with the theater's manager to stop the film and illuminate the room so he could spot the blockage and pull the food out. However, due to negligent maintenance, the lights were not working.

Critical minutes passed, and the staff still failed to silence the loud audio that was playing. As a result, the grandfather and the men helping were unable to communicate with each other. The manager eventually located a defibrillator belonging to a security guard, but none of the employees had emergency training - and by the time the manager returned with the device, it was too late. The grandfather was unable to save his grandson.

The boy’s family was devastated, and searched for an attorney who would hold the large movie theater chain accountable. The attorney they found initially dragged the investigation on for two years. Right before the statute of limitations expired, he deemed the case too challenging and opted out. Thankfully, the family then found Tim Osborn of Osborn Law, who rose to the challenge of litigating against the large chain and its army of Defense attorneys.

Through discovery, Tim found that the staff’s official policy advised employees not to help in an emergency, and they had no protocol for turning on the house lights. Tim conducted depositions of the theater’s staff, who evaded any liability for the boy’s death. The Defense attorneys refused to accept that the dysfunctional lighting contributed at all to the incident. To prove their culpability and gross negligence, Tim called on DK Global to create an animation recreating the incident, revealing how the theater’s lack of planning and maintenance prevented the grandfather from saving his beloved grandson’s life.

The animation depicted the urgency of the situation, showing the grandfather attempting to save his grandson’s life, as well as what happened in the boy's airways as he choked. Transcripts of the staff’s deposition were also displayed stating that they had no emergency policies in place, no emergency defibrillators, and no training in handling critical scenarios.

Tim played the anatomical presentation for the Defense during the deposition of his airway management expert. This allowed the opposing party to visualize the reaction a jury may have if the animation was shown in trial. A week later, the Defense asked to mediate the case, and Tim Osborn was able to attain a very favorable settlement for the boy’s surviving family just before trial.

Golden Advocate winner, Tim Osborn, started his one-man practice in 2008 and has quickly grown, becoming one of the most successful personal injury practices in the San Joaquin Valley. Tim is a member of the Multi-Million Dollar Advocates Forum, one of the most respected associations of trial lawyers in the country, and is “AV Preeminent Rated” By Martindale Hubbell. Tim has continuously gone above and beyond for his clients and has been recognized as a Super Lawyers’ “Rising Star” from 2015 to 2019. Tim’s motto is “excellence in obtaining justice for the injured”, and he continuously abides by it while tirelessly advocating for his clients in the face of large entities.


"When the other side first becomes aware that you have somebody like DK Global involved, and they see the quality of the visuals that DK produces - whether they admit it or not, it sends a message."
Tim Osborn - Osborn Law
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