Top Verdicts 2020

$26 million verdict tops

With many courts pausing jury trials for much of 2020, the Top Verdicts of the year come in lower than what might be expected in a typical year. Several cases also used alternate formats or different layouts for the jury boxes as well. The top 10 verdicts of the year include business disputes, legal malpractice and personal injury.

The following case information was collected and shared with Law Week by The Jury Verdict Reporter of Colorado.


MG Dyess v. MarkWest Liberty Midstream and Resources

Type of Claim: Fraud, breach of contract, negligent misrepresentation, promissory estoppel, quantum meruit

Counterclaim for breach of contact

Judge: 2nd District Judge Michael Vallejos

Plaintiff’s Attorneys: William Dorris, Lee Mann III, Dustin Greene of Kilpatrick Townsend; Edward Stewart and Pawan Nelson of Wheeler Trigg O’Donnell

Defendant’s Attorneys: Michael Lindsay, James Kilroy and Ellie Lockwood of Snell & Wilmer

MG Dyess sought $41 million for three construction contracts plus $36 million to $41 million in fraud damages. The plaintiff claimed damages for three contracts for an underground pipeline project in West Virginia and alleged there were cost overruns. The plaintiff also contended that the defendant did not provide sufficient information so that the plaintiff could properly bid the contracts. 

The defendant asserted it did everything it was supposed to do pursuant to a fixed fee contract. The defendant counterclaimed and sought $4.5 million in liquidated damages for plaintiff’s failure to timely complete the underground pipeline project.

The parties disputed whether the plaintiff’s quantum meruit claim was legal or equitable, and the defendant asked the court to remove the quantum meruit claim from the jury’s consideration. 

A jury returned a verdict for the plaintiff and against the defendant on the quantum meruit claim for $26,039,641. It also found for the defendant and against the plaintiff on the fraud, contract, negligent misrepresentation and promissory estoppel claims. The jury also returned a verdict for the defendant and against the plaintiff on the counterclaim for breach of contract for $4.5 million.

In post-trial motions, the defendant argued that the quantum meruit claim is an equitable claim that was submitted to the jury as an advisory instruction. The court declined to accept the jury’s verdict on the quantum meruit claim, and on July 8, the court entered judgment for the plaintiff and against the defendant for $934,436 on the quantum meruit claim, and entered judgment in favor of the defendant on its breach of contract counterclaim against the plaintiff for $4,500,000.


Quinton Barber v. Covenant Testing Technologies and Michael Woody

Type of Claim: Personal injury: negligent supervision and vicarious liability (against Covenant Testing), negligence (against Michael Woody)

Judge: 19th District Judge Shannon Lyons

Plaintiff’s Attorneys: Angela Ekker of Lorenzo Ekker Dallner; Timms Fowler of The Fowler Law Firm 

Defendants’ Attorneys: Douglas Wolanske and John Sandberg of Messner Reeves (Covenant); Deva Solomon and Rachael Moore of Steptoe & Johnson (Woody)

Quinton Barber was employed by Lefors Energy Service as a swabber at a well production facility in Weld County. Barber said he and his supervisor, Randy Stafford, were having difficulty after a cable came off a pulley system, and Michael Woody, an employee of Covenant Testing Technologies, came to assist them. Barber said Woody told him to hold onto a sinker bar under a lubricator pipe, and the pipe came down and cut off both the plaintiff’s thumbs and severed a portion of his right pinky finger. 

There was disputed testimony about whether Woody issued one or more “stop work orders” during the efforts to resolve the operational problem. The plaintiff contended, among other things, that Covenant did not properly train Woody on its safety policies including stop work authority.

Barber alleged that Covenant Testing Technologies was negligent for failing to properly train and supervise and alleged that Covenant was vicariously liable for Woody’s actions. 

The defendants denied the plaintiff’s allegations and denied negligence.

The jury returned a verdict in favor of Barber for $7 million, with 70% negligence charged to Covenant, 10% negligence charged to Woody, 10% negligence charged to non-party Lefors Energy, and 10% negligence charged to non-party Randy Stafford, an employee of Lefors Energy Service.


MG Dyess v. MarkWest Liberty Midstream and Resources

Type of Claim: Counterclaim, breach of contract

Judge: 2nd District Judge Michael Vallejos

Defendant’s Attorneys: Michael Lindsay, James Kilroy and Ellie Lockwood of Snell & Wilmer

This verdict came in the counterclaim brought by MarkWest regarding liquidated damages for the plaintiff’s failure to timely complete an underground pipeline project.

The jury returned a verdict on the counterclaim for the defendant on the counterclaim for breach of contract, $4.5 million.


John Dahmer v. Kathryn Palm

Type of Claim: Personal injury – motorcycle/auto collision

Judge: 2nd District Judge Eric Johnson

Plaintiff’s Attorneys: Dan Caplis and Ethan Quinn of The Dan Caplis Law Firm

Defendant’s Attorneys: Christopher Witte and Caroline Rixey of SGR 

On Oct. 21, 2017, John Dahmer was riding his motorcycle south on Broadway when Kathryn Palm turned left in front of his motorcycle at the intersection of Broadway and Park Avenue West. Dahmer collided with Palm’s vehicle and was thrown approximately 15 feet, landed near a gutter, and he sustained multiple orthopedic injuries, which involved six surgeries on his legs. His past medical expenses were approximately $395,000. Dahmer sought economic and non-economic losses and damages for permanent physical impairment.

Palm admitted liability and disputed the nature and extent of the injuries and damages.

Palm contended that Dahmer’s attorneys settled with the defendant’s insurance carrier for her $25,000 policy limits shortly after the accident; however, the plaintiff disputes that the settlement took place because the defendant’s insurance company would not agree to send $25,000 to the plaintiff because there was a Medicaid lien. This will be one of the areas of appeal according to the defendant’s attorneys.


Betsy Moncher v. Hisman Habili Percival, MD

Type of Claim: Medical malpractice

Judge: 10th District Judge Amiel Markenson

Plaintiff’s Attorneys: Matthew Scott Martin of Law Office of Matthew Scott Martin; Cheryl Trine of Trine Law Firm

Defendant’s Attorneys: Deanne McClung and Jane Mitchell of Hall & Evans

Dr. Hisman Habili Percival performed gall bladder surgery on Betsy Moncher on May 19, 2017, at Parkview Medical Center in Pueblo. Moncher alleged that during the surgery, the defendant physician negligently caused a portal vein injury, injured her common bile duct, and cut and tied off the right hepatic artery, cutting off most of the arterial blood flow to her liver. 

After the surgery, Moncher was transferred to UC Health for “biliary tree reconstruction.” Upon arrival at UCH, plaintiff had no blood pressure and was in acute liver failure. She was given blood pressure medication to save her life, which resulted in an interruption to the blood flow in her left hand and three of her fingers, which became necrotic and required amputation.

Moncher’s portal vein had clotted before she arrived at UCH, resulting in loss of 70% of the blood flow to her liver. Efforts by the UCH surgeons to save her liver were not successful, and she underwent a liver transplant six days after her gall bladder surgery at Parkview. Moncher claimed she lost the use of her left hand as a result of the injuries to her left thumb and fingers. 

Moncher was hospitalized for more than a month and was then treated at a rehabilitation facility. Her past medical expenses were $1,845,172.63. She requested $3 million in damages, including economic and non-economic losses and damages for permanent impairment. 

Percival denied that the care and treatment he provided to the plaintiff caused her injuries and damages. He alleged the plaintiff was comparatively negligent for not telling the physician about her history of drug use including methamphetamine use. Moncher said she had not used drugs since 2007; however, the defendant claimed that the plaintiff’s drug screen performed at UC Health was positive. Moncher claimed the drug screen was not reliable and alleged that the cause of the positive test was drugs she was given at the hospital in Pueblo prior to her transfer to UC Health.


Mary Herbka v. Metro Care Ambulance

Type of Claim: Personal injury – motor vehicle: wheelchair transport

Judge: 2nd District Judge Kandace Gerdes

Plaintiff’s Attorneys: Dan Caplis, Michael Kane and Michael Annerino of The Dan Caplis Law Firm

Defendant’s Attorneys: Jacquelyn Booker and Sara Randel of Sutton Booker

Mary Herbka hired Metro Care Ambulance to take her from the nursing home where she lived to a doctor’s appointment and back to the nursing home afterward. Prior to the return trip, the defendant’s employee placed Herbka and her wheelchair into a restraint system in the vehicle. Herbka alleged that when she was returning from the appointment, the defendant driver slammed on the brakes and she slid out from the restraint system, where she alleged she had been improperly secured. She sustained a displaced fracture of the tibia and fibula. 

Metro Care admitted liability and contested the nature and extent of the plaintiff’s injuries and damages. The company also asserted that Herbka failed to mitigate damages and claimed she failed to follow her doctor’s recommendations.

The jury returned a verdict of $155,273.36 for economic losses, $1,100,000 for non-economic losses and $1,200,000 for physical impairment.


George Hodge v. Matrix Group, Inc.

Type of Claim: Premises liability – slip-and-fall 

Judge: 2nd District Judge Christopher Baumann

Plaintiff’s Attorney: Corey Holton of Bachus & Schanker

Defendants’ Attorneys: Michael Frazier and Kirstin Dvorchak of Campbell Wagner Frazier Dvorchak

George Hodge said he was injured when he slipped and fell on ice at a storage unit owned and managed

by Matrix Group and rented by his company. His injuries included full retinal detachment, which resulted in total permanent vision loss in one eye.

Hodge alleged that, prior to his fall, he had reported a drainage problem that created the ice. Matrix denied that it was aware of a dangerous condition on the property and asserted that Hodge was comparatively negligent because he knew ice was present. Matrix also asserted that Hodge failed to mitigate his damages by waiting to see an eye surgeon after he fell. 

The plaintiff’s company was a designated nonparty. A jury returned a verdict for $2,115,000, with 35% negligence charged to the defendants, 40% negligence charged to the plaintiff and 25% negligence charged to the designated non-party.


Della Gallegos v. Patric LeHouillier and LeHouillier & Associates

Type of Claim: Legal malpractice

Judge: 4th District Judge David Prince

Plaintiff’s Attorneys: Chad Hemmat, Cameron Hunter and Jason Alleman of Anderson Hemmat

Defendants’ Attorneys: John Bolmer II and Andrew Reitman of Hall & Evans

Della Gallegos hired Patric LeHouillier to represent her in a medical malpractice claim against a Colorado Springs neuroradiologist. Gallegos claimed the doctor missed a clearly present small benign meningioma brain tumor in an MRI, and the tumor was not detected until a follow up scan three years later. Gallegos claimed that had the tumor been detected at the earlier MRI, she could have undertaken non-invasiveGamma Knife therapy to stop its growth with a success rate of greater than 95%, but instead she required three open brain surgeries which resulted in side-effects including the plaintiff’s loss of use of her left eye, hearing loss on the

left side, left sided facial paralysis and memory loss sufficient to disable her from returning to work. 

The plaintiff said LeHouillier had the claim reviewed by an expert neuroradiologist

who confirmed in writing that the doctor had breached the standard of care. LeHouillier was required to file suit on behalf of his client on or before the two-year statute of limitations from the date of that expert report but did not do so. 

LeHouillier claimed he had quit the case and had informed Gallegos and her husband of such decision long before the statute of limitations ran, but he admitted he had no documentation to verify that.

The plaintiff alleged that the defendants’ file maintained on the plaintiff’s case identified that defendants’ legal staff continued to work on the case, issued memos, updated medical bills and even had case meetings long after defendant LeHouillier claimed he had quit the case. 

The defendants said they properly disengaged prior to the expiration of the statute of limitations. They denied they were negligent and claimed they explained to the plaintiff they would not represent her in her claim against the doctor and the reasons for that decision. The defendants also denied that the plaintiff would have won her case against the doctor.

A jury found that the amount of plaintiff’s damages in the underlying medical malpractice case was $1,585,760; with respect to the legal malpractice claim, the jury charged 72% negligence to the defendants and 28% negligence to the plaintiff.

On July 21, judgment was entered for the plaintiff and against the defendant for $2,204,783.31.


150 Tejon Street and KGBI Colorado v. John Pastore

Type of Claim: Fraudulent concealment

Judge: 2nd District Judge Kandace Gerdes

Plaintiffs’ Attorney: Andrew Oh-Willeke of Semler Law

Defendant’s Attorney: John Pastore, pro se

The plaintiffs owned and operated a marijuana grow facility and alleged they entered into a contract with New Age Alternative to supply and operate a medical marijuana dispensary. They claimed they had invested hundreds of thousands of dollars to develop the medical marijuana business, which ultimately failed because New Age did not obtain the necessary license to operate a medical marijuana business. They also alleged that John Pastore failed to disclose significant information and factors that adversely impacted approval of the license.

The jury returned a verdict for the plaintiff and against John Pastore for $1.1 million.

The court entered default judgment in favor of the plaintiffs and against New Age Alternative, LLCL on a breach of contract claim for $830,001.


Elk Creek Ranch Owners Association v. William H. Wheeler; Elk Creek Ranch Development, Inc.; Elk Creek Operations and YZ Ranch

Type of Claim: Breach of contract, breach of fiduciary duty, breach of lease

Judge: 9th District Judge Denise Lynch

Plaintiff’s Attorneys: Matthew Ferguson and Michelle Schindler of The Matthew C. Ferguson Law Firm

Defendants’ Attorneys: Kris Kostolansky, Caitlin McHugh and Frances Staadt of Lewis Roca Rothgerber Christie 

Elk Creek Ranch is a fly-fishing and hunting club near Meeker. In 2007, William Wheeler developed his land as a shared ranch community with 67 lots. Wheeler is the owner of Elk Creek Ranch Development, Inc. and owner of Elk Creek Operations. The Elk Creek Ranch lots initially sold for approximately $1 million each. Approximately 50 members own privately held parcels within the Elk Creek Ranch, and those members pay annual assessments. Plaintiff Elk Creek Ranch Owners Association is the homeowners’ association for the owners of lots in Elk Creek Ranch. 

Elk Creek Ranch Owners Association brought suit against Elk Creek Operations for breach of contract, against William Wheeler and Elk Creek Operations for breach of fiduciary duty and against YZ Ranch LLC for breach of lease. The owners association alleged that Elk Creek Operations violated the original documents of the association and failed to properly manage the finances, books or records of the association and failed to ensure that assessments were paid in accordance with the declaration. The owners association also claimed that Elk Creek Operations improperly used association funds to pay attorneys’ fees. The owners association also alleged that Wheeler breached his fiduciary duty, and claimed that YZ Ranch breached a lease.

A jury returned a verdict for $872,013.19 for the plaintiff and against Elk Creek Operations on the breach of contract claim. It also delivered a $144,000 verdict for the plaintiff against William H. Wheeler, individually, on the breach of fiduciary duty claim, and for $1 for the plaintiff against YZ Ranch, LLC on the claim of breach of the fishing lease.

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