Fire alarm inspector falls from defendant's work ladder. $2.2 million. San Luis Obispo County.


Inspector uses ladder provided by the facility he is inspecting, falls 12 feet when ladder slips out.

The Case

  • Case Name: Frank Rivera v. The Ensign Group, Inc., Bella Vista Transitional Care Center
  • Court and Case Number: San Luis Obispo County Superior Court / 14CV0319
  • Date of Verdict or Judgment: Thursday, May 19, 2016
  • Date Action was Filed: Monday, June 16, 2014
  • Type of Case: Premises Liability
  • Judge or Arbitrator(s): Hon. Barry LaBarbera
  • Plaintiffs:
    Frank Rivera, 54 fire alarm technician.
  • Defendants:
    Bayshore Heath Care, Inc. dba Bella Vista Transitional Care Center
  • Type of Result: Jury Verdict

The Result

  • Gross Verdict or Award: $2,220,395
  • Net Verdict or Award: $1,703,348. Plaintiff was awarded ordinary costs and expert witness costs and pre-judgment interest as the verdict exceeded the CCP Section 998 demand made to settle in August 2015. With these costs the net judgment will be approximately $2,000,000.
  • Award as to each Defendant:

    Defendant Bayshore was found 70% at fault.

  • Contributory/Comparative Negligence: Intervenor employer Pyro Comm Systems, Inc found 28%, plaintiff was found 2% at fault.
  • Economic Damages:

    Past loss of earnings: $108,686

    Past medicals: $141,473

    Future loss of earnings: $250,000

    Future medicals: $270,272

  • Non-Economic Damages:

    Past non-economic: $450,000

    Future non-economic: $1,000,000

  • Trial or Arbitration Time: 10 days.
  • Jury Deliberation Time: 2 days.
  • Jury Polls: 12-0 liability, 10-2 damages.
  • Post Trial Motions & Post-Verdict Settlements: None to date.

Facts and Background

  • Facts and Background:

    Plaintiff was a part of a two-man crew working on defendant's transitional care premises doing an inspection/service of the fire alarms.

    Plaintiff fell off defendant's extension ladder approximately 12 feet while attempting to climb to the roof. Plaintiff claimed that the ladder slipped out as a result of the unsafe set-up and ladder conditions. Plaintiff sustained fractures to both feet and orthopedic injuries.

  • Plaintiff's Contentions:

    That the defendant's maintenance supervisor set up the subject extension ladder in an unsafe manner, failed to properly maintain and inspect the ladder, all of which violated Industry and OSHA standards and contributed to the accident.

    That plaintiff's injuries and damages all were directly caused by the accident.

  • Defendant's Contentions:

    That the accident was caused solely by the plaintiff and his employer, by failing to properly train plaintiff regarding proper ladder use and inspection.

    Also that the ladder set-up and condition was not unsafe and did not contribute to the accident. Further, that plaintiff and his supervisor had their own ladder on the work truck that could have been used to access the roof.

    On damages, defendant contended that plaintiff was not totally disabled and could have and should have returned to work prior to trial.

Injuries and Other Damages

  • Physical Injuries claimed by Plaintiff:

    Bilateral calcaneal (heel) fractures and other foot fractures requiring surgery and follow-up surgery for hardware removal. Plaintiff had four operative procedures to his feet before trial. Plaintiff also sustained a non-operative L4 compression fracture.

Special Damages

  • Special Damages Claimed - Past Medical: $141,000
  • Special Damages Claimed - Future Medical: $284,000
  • Special Damages Claimed - Past Lost Earnings: $108,000
  • Special Damages Claimed - Future Lost Earnings: $250,000

Demands and Offers

  • Plaintiff §998 Demand: Policy limits of $1,000,000.
  • Defendant Final Offer before Trial: $200,000

Additional Notes

The Ensign Group was the parent corporation of the defendant and was dismissed.