$8.36 Million Cook County Jury Verdict for Permanent Brain Damage to Painter Who Fell from Ladder

Nardo Ovando was a 44-year-old painter employed by Painters USA Inc. and was hired for a painting job at the defendant Vita Food Products Inc. The job was located at 2222 W. Lake St. in Chicago.  Ovando was standing on a ladder and reaching overhead while painting a ceiling at the Vita Food facility on June 30, 2011 when one of the legs of the ladder dropped into a floor drain opening that caused him to fall off the ladder.

On falling, Ovando’s head struck the floor resulting in a severe traumatic brain injury that required multiple brain surgeries.

Ovando reportedly has exhibited no measurable brain activity since the occurrence and will require care in a skilled nursing facility for the remainder of his life. His past medical expenses totaled $1,204,762 with his future medical expenses estimated at $7,590,000.

His wife, Karina, also was a plaintiff in this case for her loss of consortium claim.

There were no witnesses to Ovando’s fall. However, a co-worker heard the sounds of the fall and came to his assistance.  The co-worker found the ladder leg stuck within the floor drain.

The defendant, Vita Food Products, argued that the floor drain did not present an unreasonable risk to Ovando or Painters USA. Vita Food had knowledge of the presence of the drain but claimed it was not aware of any risk associated with the drain. Vita Food also maintained that it reasonably expected that Painters USA would discover the drain and protect its workers, including Ovando.

In addition, Vita Food contended that the condition of the drain itself was open and obvious. Further, that Vita Food owed no duty to warn, that proximate cause could not be proven by Ovando and the acts of Ovando were contributorily negligent at more than 50% of the total proximate cause of his injuries.

Vita Food Products’ arguments were not convincing to this jury whose members entered a verdict for $8,360,000 after a reduction of 20% off of $10,450,000 for Ovando’s contributory negligence.

The jury’s verdict in favor of  Nardo Ovando was made up of the following damages:

  • $1,200,000 for past medical expenses;
  • $5 million for future medical expenses;
  • $1.5 million for pain and suffering;
  • $2 million for disability; and
  • $750,000 for disfigurement.

The jury entered a verdict to Karina Baez Ovando for loss of consortium of $600,000 after reducing $750,000 by 20%.  The 20% was the amount of contributory negligence that the jury found on the part of Ovando.

The jury was presented with several special interrogatories or questions and answered those questions as follows::

Q: “Was there a condition of the premises that presented an unreasonable risk of harm to people on the premises?”

  1. “Yes.”
  2. “Did the defendant know or should the defendant have known about the condition and appreciated its risk?”
  3. “Yes.”
  4. “Should the defendant ever reasonably expect it that people on the premises would fail to discover the condition or protect themselves against the same?”
  5. “Yes.”

Before closing arguments, the parties entered into a high/low agreement of $1 million (the low) to $11 million (which was the policy limits as the high). The demand to settle the case before trial was $11 million. The jury was asked to return a verdict of $14,294,792.

The lawsuit was skillfully handled for the Ovando family by attorney Todd D. Carcelli. The only offer to settle the claim before trial made by Vita Food Products was a total of $1 million.

At trial, the Ovando family presented experts in safety and life care planning. The defendant presented a safety expert.

Nardo Ovando, disabled, Karina Baez Ovando v. Vita Food Products, Inc., No. 12 L 12504 (Cook County, Ill.).

Kreisman Law Offices has been handling work injuries, traumatic brain injury cases, catastrophic injury cases, construction injury cases and truck accident cases for individuals, families and loved ones who have been injured, harmed or killed by the negligence of another for more than 40 years, in and around Chicago, Cook County and surrounding communities, including Oak Park, Oak Lawn, Palos Park, Hickory Hills, Burr Ridge, Willowbrook, Western Springs, Orland Park, Chicago (Albany Park, Andersonville, Lakeview, Lakewood, Balmoral, University of Chicago, Roscoe Village, Ravenswood Manor, Printer’s Row, Prairie District, Pill Hill, Irving Park, Jackson Park, Highlands, Koreatown), Cicero, Evanston and Round Lake Beach, Ill.

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