Laborer doing electrical work is electrocuted on job site. $14.3 million awarded. Fresno County.


A laborer instructed to work on a door bell is electrocuted on job site; no workers' comp coverage.  Developer/contractor is held liable.

The Case

  • Case Name: Consuelo Martinez, individually and as Successor In Interest to Francisco Martinez Moreno; Trinidad Moreno; and Sophia Martinez, a minor, by and through her Guardian Ad Litem Consuelo Martinez v. Herndon Partners, LLC, Amador Electric, Does 1-100
  • Court and Case Number: Fresno Superior Court / 10 CE CG 03837
  • Date of Verdict or Judgment: Thursday, May 30, 2013
  • Date Action was Filed: Friday, October 29, 2010
  • Type of Case: Construction Site Accident, Premises Liability, Wrongful Death
  • Judge or Arbitrator(s): Hon. Mark W. Snauffer
  • Plaintiffs:
    Consuelo Martinez, wife of decedent, 32
    Sophia Martinez, daughter, 4
    Trinidad Moreno, mother, 47
  • Defendants:
    Herndon Partners, LLC
    Amador Electric
  • Type of Result: Jury Verdict

The Result

  • Gross Verdict or Award: $14,327,859.
  • Net Verdict or Award: $14,327,859
  • Award as to each Defendant:

    100% responsibility on Herndon Partners, LLC.  Defense verdict for Amador Electric.

  • Economic Damages:

    Economic Losses: $3,303,855

  • Non-Economic Damages:

    Non-economic losses: $10,000,000

  • Trial or Arbitration Time: 28 days
  • Jury Deliberation Time: 4 hours

The Attorneys

  • Attorney for the Plaintiff:
    The Veen Firm, PC by Craig M. Peters and S. Anoush Lancaster, San Francisco.
  • Attorney for the Defendant:
    LeClairRyan, LLP by Charles H. Horn, San Francisco.
    Wood Smith Henning & Berman, LLP by Charles A. Leath, Fresno.
    Petrie, Dorfmeier & Morris, LLP by J. David, Fresno.

The Experts

  • Plaintiff's Technical Experts:
    Gerald Fulghum, C.S.P., safety engineering, Sacramento.
    Thomas Yankowski, M.S., C.V.E., vocational rehabilitation, Oakland.
    Alan L. Nelson, M.S., C.V.E. , vocational rehabilitation, Oakland.
    Robert W. Johnson, MBA, forensic economist, Los Altos.
    John Nicholas, electrical expert, Henderson, NV.
  • Defendant's Technical Experts:
    James E. Flynn, engineering, Fresno (for Defendant Amador Electric).
    Wesley W. Walter, electrical engineering, Fresno (for Defendant Amador Electric).
    AI Tichenor, engineering, Fresno (for Defendant Amador Electric).
    Douglas Douty, electrical contracting, Fresno (for Defendant Amador Electric).
    Nora C. Ostofe, economist (for Defendant Herndon Partners).
    Kerry Wolf, general contracting, Clovis (for Defendant Herndon Partners).
    Mark Loose, engineering, Menlo Park (for Defendant Herndon Partners).
    John Bobis, safety engineering, Rancho Murieta (for Defendant Herndon Partners).

Facts and Background

  • Facts and Background:

    Mr. Martinez, age 28, was electrocuted underneath a Malibu home that was being fully renovated when he was instructed to perform electrical work on a doorbell. Despite being hired to perform basic clean-up of the job site, testimony revealed that Mr. Martinez and his co-workers were required to perform dangerous tasks outside of their scope of employment including welding, roofing and electrical work without safety training, safety equipment or competent supervision.

    Mr. Martinez died from his injury. It occurred one day prior to the completion of the project, one day before he was scheduled to return to his family in Fresno.

  • Plaintiff's Contentions:

    Plaintiffs proceeded to trial on a variety of negligence theories including uninsured employer and negligent exercise of retained control.

    Testimony established that Herndon Partners, LLC controlled and directed work at the project, including knowingly assigning skilled work to the untrained and unsupervised laborers on the project.

  • Defendant's Contentions:

    Herndon Partners contended that it had hired a construction company, solely owned by Herndon Partners’ sole owner, to act as general contractor on the project and was therefore shielded from liability.

    (Plaintiff attorney notes that there was little documentary evidence to support this claim.) 

Injuries and Other Damages

  • Physical Injuries claimed by Plaintiff:

    Death by electrocution.

  • Economic losses, past and future earning. Loss of father, son, husband. Loss of household support.

Special Damages

  • Special Damages Claimed - Past Lost Earnings: $142,899
  • Special Damages Claimed - Future Lost Earnings: $2,000,000

Demands and Offers

  • Plaintiff §998 Demand: $3,300,000
  • Defendant Final Offer before Trial: $500,000

Additional Notes

Judgment entered on June 12, 2013 adding $990,270.31 in 998 interest.

The jury’s findings of fact: Herndon Partners was acting as the owner/builder on the project, was decedent’s employer (while lacking workers’ compensation insurance), and retained control over safety.

The jury compensated The Martinez Family with over $13 million. The Fresno Superior Court entered judgment awarding $13,337,589 in damages and, in holding with the recent Martinez v. Brownco Construction Co. Inc. Supreme Court Ruling, $990,270.31 in 998 pre-judgment interest. This judgment brought the verdict to $14.3 million: Plaintiff attorney notes that this is the largest wrongful death verdict in Fresno for the last decade.