$1,762,470 :: Chapman v. L.A. Unified School District

JURY VERDICT: Plaintiff apparently fell from scaffold, but no one witnessed it

Harlan Chapman was seriously injured in an accident and was rendered unable to talk about what happened, but with representation by Lawrence R. Booth, he did not have to to get the financial justice he needed to move forward.

In 1978, Harlan Chapman was working alone on a construction job at Virgil Junior High School on North Vermont Avenue when some accident occurred and he was found lying unconscious on the concrete floor beneath job site scaffolding. Doctors later diagnosed him with serious physical injuries and potentially permanent brain injuries that rendered him unable to speak.

Due to Chapman’s inability to speak, he was unable to testify or give witness to what occurred. Lawrence R. Booth of the Law Offices of Booth & Koskoff was thereby hired to represent him in court against the L.A. Unified School District and get financial restitution.

According to Booth, there was little proof to tell whether Chapman fell from above or tripped. “It was necessary for us to establish that he fell off a certain 20-foot-high wall scaffold in the general vicinity of where he was found,” Booth told Los Angeles Times reporters.

Therefore, when the case when to trial, Booth needed to respond to the defense’s reconstruction of the accident and their attempt to place full fault on Chapman. Booth also presented expert testimony stating Chapman’s injuries were a peculiar type of injury that a person could only get by falling at least 15 feet from an overhead position.

The Compton Superior Court jury initially awarded the plaintiffs $2.5 million in damages, but that judgment was reduced by Judge Rosemary M. Dunbar to $1,763,470 on the theory that the Chapman was at least 20% at fault for what occurred and by subtracting worker compensation benefits received between the time of the accident and the 1983 trial

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