Owner/builder of commercial building liable for worker's fall. $12.3M. Stanislaus County.


Fixed roof-access ladder falls off building with contractor on it.

The Case

  • Case Name: John Painter v. Sean Amin
  • Court and Case Number: Stanislaus County Superior Court / 9000704
  • Date of Verdict or Judgment: Tuesday, October 03, 2023
  • Date Action was Filed: Tuesday, January 09, 2018
  • Type of Case: Premises Liability
  • Judge or Arbitrator(s): Hon. Stacy P. Speiller
  • Plaintiffs:
    John Painter, 64, HVAC technician
  • Defendants:
    Sean Amin
  • Type of Result: Jury Verdict

The Result

  • Gross Verdict or Award: $12,346,721.22
  • Net Verdict or Award: $8,697,542.82 (Award reduced for negligence of non-parties.)
  • Contributory/Comparative Negligence: Sean Amin 70%; Non-party Kevin Amin 15%; Non-party Western Telesis Corporation 15%
  • Economic Damages:


  • Non-Economic Damages:


  • Trial or Arbitration Time: 12 days
  • Jury Deliberation Time: 4 hours
  • Jury Polls: 11-1 liability, 9-3 damages
  • Post Trial Motions & Post-Verdict Settlements: Pending.

The Attorneys

  • Attorney for the Plaintiff:

    The Law Offices of Lawrence Knapp by Lawrence Knapp and Howard Knapp, Stockton.

  • Attorney for the Defendant:

    McCormick Barstow by Dana Denno and Graham Van Lueven, Fresno.

The Experts

  • Plaintiff’s Medical Expert(s):

    Randall Epperson, Ph.D. neuropsychology

    Brandon L. Tullis, DPM  podiatry

    Paul J. Braaton, M.D.,  orthopedics

  • Defendant's Medical Expert(s):

    Leslie Konkin, M.D., orthopedics.

    Ronald Roberts, Ph.D., neuropsychology.

  • Plaintiff's Technical Expert(s):

    Patrick Kelley, engineering.

  • Defendant's Technical Expert(s):

    Michael D. Jundt, S.E., engineering.

Facts and Background

  • Facts and Background:

    In 2002 defendant Sean Amin and his brother Kevin applied for an owner/builder permit to build a commercial building in Modesto. They listed their glazing company, Western Telesis Corp as the contractor of record. They hired subcontractors to build the project. In 2013 Kevin Amin sold his share of the property to his brother Sean Amin who became the sole owner.

    On November 25, 2017 plaintiff, an employee of Bailey’s Heating and Air, an HVAC maintenance company, was on a fixed roof-access ladder when the ladder fell off the side of the building.

    In 2018, plaintiff sued building owner Sean Amin, Kevin Amin, and Western Telesis Inc., for negligence and premises liability. On the first day of trial, plaintiff dismissed Kevin Amin and Western Telesis Inc. because they were insolvent and lacked coverage. At no time did  any defendant identify who actually installed the ladder, which installation was defective.

  • Plaintiff's Contentions:

    That defendant was negligent per se. That defendant knew or should have known about the concealed dangerous condition. That defendant negligently provided defective equipment. That defendant was vicariously liable for the negligently installed ladder.

  • Defendant's Contentions:

    That defendant was not involved in the construction of the building. That defendant did not know who installed the ladder. That defendant did not know the ladder was installed improperly and could not have known.

Injuries and Other Damages

  • Physical Injuries claimed by Plaintiff:

    Plaintiff suffered severe injuries to his brain, right foot, and right hand. These injuries ultimately required him to undergo three separate surgeries, including a subtalar fusion in 2022. Plaintiff’s neuropsychologist expert later concluded that plaintiff had suffered a traumatic brain injury due to the fall. He and the defense neuropsychologist expert both also diagnosed plaintiff with PTSD. Because the incident occurred during the course and scope of plaintiff’s HVAC work, his employer's workers' compensation insurance carrier provided benefits for his injuries. As a result, plaintiff incurred a worker’s compensation lien for over $400,000.

Special Damages

  • Special Damages Claimed - Past Medical: $182,793.22

Demands and Offers

  • Plaintiff §998 Demand: $1,800,000
  • Plaintiff Final Demand before Trial: $2,000,000 policy limits
  • Plaintiff Demand during Trial: Indication of $1,750,000
  • Defendant §998 Offer: $800,000
  • Defendant Final Offer before Trial: $800,000
  • Defendant Offer during Trial: $0