Richard A. had recently retired and was doing some repair work on the gutters of his home. He fell from a ladder and was severely injured. There were no witnesses to the accident; a neighbor 100 yards away said she heard a sound like a â€œwatermelon hitting the groundâ€; she ran outside and found Richardâ€™s body intertwined with the legs of the ladder.
Mr. Murphy investigated the accident and determined the ladder may have been defective. The ladder company, one of the largest in the world, refused to pay anything on the claim; the case was initially litigated for two years. Mr. Murphy hired top experts in the field of accident reconstruction and was able to make a reasonable argument the ladder was made of soft material, causing the leg to bend, contributing to the accident. The ladder company claimed that Richard had fallen onto the ladder, thereby causing the ladder to bend.
The case was aggressively litigated in Superior Court for the County of San Luis Obispo. The top offer was $10,000.00. The case was an uphill battle from the beginning; near the end of the trial, Mr. Murphy realized some compelling evidence had to come forth or the client was at risk of losing the case.
One day before the trial was to end, Mr. Murphyâ€™s team made contact with a former quality control supervisor for the ladder company at the very plant where the ladder was made. This woman had recently been fired by the ladder company; she was angry over the termination. She was prepared to come forward and tell the truth.
The quality control supervisor testified as follows: that 50% of the ladders made by this ladder company were made with soft or defective materials; that defective ladders were offered red-tagged by inspectors; when the inspectors left the premises, the red tags were often ripped off the defective ladders and the ladders were shipped to consumers for retail sale.
The Chicago-based law firm specializing in ladder defense brought their engineering expert to trial to testify that highly-sophisticated equipment was used to test these ladders at the plant. Mr. Murphy elicited from the former quality control supervisor testimony that the equipment used to test ladders at this plant had been whittled from scrap wood by the maintenance man.
In a remarkable reversal of fortune, the jury awarded a $1,100,000.00 verdict in favor of the injured consumer. Unfortunately, the jury did not award general damages, indicating they did not believe Richard should receive general damages because he was not aware of his impairment. Mr. Murphy filed an immediate appeal.
The jury decision to deny general damages to Richard was reversed on appeal; the case was remanded to the trial court for a second trial. The ladder company hired â€œbig-gunâ€ lawyers from Los Angeles to fight the case. At the conclusion of the opening statement, a mistrial was granted; the case later settled for an additional $1,000,000.00 for a total recovery in excess of $2,000,000.00 on a case in which the final pre-trial offer was $10,000.00.