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Rowley & Effres Take a $0 Offer to $9.5M Against School District

When the employees of a California elementary school failed to supervise its children during recess, a six-year-old boy was catastrophically injured. Even though there were as many as eight aids in the schoolyard, they all overlooked their duty to enforce the school’s policy in keeping older children away from the younger students.

Liam, the smallest first grader in his class, was outside playing during recess. A group of fourth-graders entered the first-grade recess area, playing in a way the yard aids knew was prohibited. The largest fourth grader picked Liam up, holding him like a football, and ran with him. Suddenly, the older student tripped and fell, losing control of the hold he had on Liam. He dropped Liam on his head, slamming it across the asphalt. Liam briefly fell unconscious. When he awoke, he burst into tears and was unable to stand on his own. An aid sent him to the health office. The nurses did not call for an ambulance and instructed Liam to go to his class. His teacher realized something was wrong and took Liam back to the office to be picked up by his parents.

Liam’s mother rushed him to a pediatrician who immediately ordered CT scans of his brain. Medical imagery revealed Liam fractured the left side of his skull, resulting in significant brain bleeds. Doctors informed Liam’s parents the injuries would cause cognitive development deficits which would manifest over time.

Seeking justice for their son, Liam’s parents contacted Steven and Justin Effres of Effres & Effres. After hearing Liam’s story, they agreed to represent the boy against the governmental entity. As the case proceeded to trial, they partnered with Nicholas Rowley of Carpenter, Zuckerman & Rowley to assist in jury selection. In the past, juries have been reticent to award large verdicts against school districts, so Nick was also asked to bring light to the magnitude of the damages their negligence caused.

To uncover the extent of the Defense's liability, Justin and Steven deposed the aids and school principal. The deponents attempted to shift the blame onto the older student. However, they could not deny there were policies set that they all neglected.

Another significant obstacle was communicating Liam’s injuries as they manifested over several years. Realizing their case needed further information and testing, Justin, Steven, and Nick requested a two-year continuance. As Liam grew, reports taken from the treating pediatric neuropsychologist and neuroradiologist showed his frontal lobe was damaged, inhibiting his working memory and executive functioning.

After years of planning, testing, and medical evaluations, the attorneys needed to present their gathered information in the most effective way possible. They enlisted the help of DK Global to work with their experts. Together, they developed compelling visuals that comprehensively explained Liam’s complex injuries.

The animation commenced with a depiction of Liam and highlighted his left temporal bone fracture. Then, medical imagery taken shortly after the incident revealed hemorrhaging and hematomas within Liam’s brain. Additionally, scans taken two years later demonstrated abnormalities had developed. Finally, Liam’s traumas to the different lobes of his brain were highlighted, detailing their corresponding functions as well as the life-altering deficits caused by the fall.

As the trial proceeded, the Defense made a handful of offers to settle the case. However, Steven, Justin, and Nick knew they were insufficient to properly compensate their client. After careful deliberation between both parties, Steven, Justin, and Nick agreed to a settlement of $9.5 million to assist in Liam’s recovery and development.

Attorney Steven B. Effres has received extensive recognition for his trial and litigation work. Since 2011, he has been selected to the National Trial Lawyers “Top 100 in the State of California” and has obtained numerous multi-million-dollar results for his clients. 

Justin Effres was recently named Partner at Effres & Effres and is a “Rising Star” trial lawyer in Southern California. He was recently recognized by The National Trial Lawyers as one of the “Top 40 Under 40 Civil Plaintiff Lawyers”, due to his role in securing numerous multi-million-dollar settlements.

Nicholas C. Rowley of Carpenter, Zuckerman, & Rowley LLP is considered one of the most accomplished trial lawyers of his generation, attaining more than $1.5 billion in verdicts and settlements for injury survivors nationwide. In 2018, Nick was the youngest trial lawyer in history to receive CAALA’s “Attorney of the Year” for his extensive courtroom experience.

"DK Global took the images, the CT scans, the MRIs, put it all together so that I could actually illustrate and explain something very high tech and complex to the jurors in a way they could understand and appreciate."
Nick Rowley - Carpenter, Zuckerman & Rowley
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