Independent contractor falls off platform while giving a tour. $1.68M. Los Angeles County.


Plaintiff beat CCP 998 demand.

The Case

  • Case Name: Edward Harry v. James Goldstein
  • Court and Case Number: Los Angeles Superior Court / BC581667
  • Date of Verdict or Judgment: Tuesday, December 06, 2022
  • Date Action was Filed: Tuesday, May 12, 2015
  • Type of Case: Premises Liability
  • Judge or Arbitrator(s): Hon. Gregory Alarcon
  • Plaintiffs:
    Edward Harry, 52
  • Defendants:
    James Goldstein
  • Type of Result: Jury Verdict

The Result

  • Gross Verdict or Award: $1,686,493.46
  • Net Verdict or Award: $1,686,493.46
  • Award as to each Defendant:

    $1,179,859.96 against defendant James Goldstein after comparative negligence allocations.

  • Contributory/Comparative Negligence: 67% to defendant, 23% to plaintiff, and 10% to other persons.
  • Economic Damages:

    Lost earnings: $30,093.46

    Past medical: $113,000

    Future medical: $356,000

  • Non-Economic Damages:

    Past: $350,400

    Future: $837,000

  • Trial or Arbitration Time: 7 days
  • Jury Deliberation Time: Approximately 4 hours
  • Jury Polls: 9-3

The Attorneys

  • Attorney for the Plaintiff:

    Lederer & Nojima, LLP by Eddie B. Dennis, Los Angeles.

  • Attorney for the Defendant:

    Friedenthal, Heffernan & Brown, LLP by Kevin Heffernan, Pasadena.

The Experts

  • Plaintiff’s Medical Expert(s):

    Huyn Bae, M.D., spine surgery. (Treating physician.)

    Akash Bajaj, M.D., pain management. (Treating physician.)

  • Defendant's Medical Expert(s):

    William Dillin, M.D., spine surgery.

    Agnes Grogan, RN.

  • Plaintiff's Technical Expert(s):

    Brat Avrit, PE, civil engineering.

  • Defendant's Technical Expert(s):

    Jay Preston, CSP, PE, CMIOSH, safety engineering.

Facts and Background

  • Facts and Background:

    On November 6, 2014, plaintiff Edward Harry was working as a site representative at the infamous Sheats-Goldstein house owned by self-described fashion icon and NBA superfan, James Goldstein. The property is known for hosting large events, photo shoots, and has been used in several movie shoots such as The Big Lebowski.

    Defendant Goldstein required site representatives be present to protect his house from damage and to give tours of the property to guests. The site reps were independent contractors. On the night of the incident, plaintiff was giving tours to guests of the property as he had done many times in the past. Part of the tour required him to stand on an unguarded cantilevered platform that stuck out over the hillside of defendant Goldstein's property. The platform did not have a guardrail system around it, and was dimly lit, making it difficult to see the edges of the platform at night. Nevertheless, plaintiff testified that he knew about the risk of falling off the platform, and had been on the platform more than 250 times before the incident. During the final tour of the evening, the group of guests grew larger than expected and began to crowd the platform where plaintiff was standing. Despite efforts to have the crowd back up, plaintiff ultimately stepped off of the platform edge and fell onto his back. The fall caused plaintiff to sustain three transverse process fractures to his lower back. The fractures did not impact any aspect of spinal cord or nerve bundles.

    Following the incident, plaintiff was taken to the hospital and released after several hours. He followed up with an orthopedic spine surgeon who monitored his condition, hoping that the fractures would heal and the pain would subside with physical therapy. Unfortunately, the pain persisted and plaintiff was referred to a pain management specialist who ultimately diagnosed plaintiff with "chronic pain syndrome." From 2016 to the present, plaintiff has received injection therapy to control the pain. Plaintiff is not a surgical candidate. His future treatment recommendation consists of conservative pain management, anti-inflammatory medications, physical therapy, and injection therapy.

  • Plaintiff's Contentions:

    That the Los Angeles Building Code required the subject platform to be equipped with a guardrail system since the drop off exceeded 30 inches. Also, that the lighting around the platform fell below the minimum requirements set forth by the applicable building codes. Plaintiff's safety expert testified that defendant Goldstein's property did not comply with the appropriate building codes and that there was no evidence that defendant Goldstein ever obtained a permit for the construction of the platform. As such, plaintiff contended that the platform was a dangerous condition.

    With respect to plaintiff's injuries, plaintiff contended that he developed chronic pain syndrome as a result of the fall and will continue to suffer from pain and discomfort in his lower back.

  • Defendant's Contentions:

    That plaintiff was responsible for his own injuries since he had been on the subject platform many times in the past and knew about the dangers associated with the platform. Further, that it was not unreasonable for defendant Goldstein to omit a guardrail system around the subject platform because defendant used alternative means to keep guests away from the edges. In addition, that the subject platform was considered a work of art.

    With respect to plaintiff's injuries, defendant Goldstein contended that the medical treatment received by plaintiff was unnecessary and the associated medical bills were unreasonably high.

Injuries and Other Damages

  • Physical Injuries claimed by Plaintiff:

    Three transverse process fractures to L1, L2 and L3 resulting in the development of chronic pain.

  • Pain, suffering and emotional distress.

Special Damages

  • Special Damages Claimed - Past Medical: $113,000
  • Special Damages Claimed - Future Medical: $356,000
  • Special Damages Claimed - Past Lost Earnings: $30,093.46
  • Special Damages Claimed - Future Lost Earnings: $0

Demands and Offers

  • Plaintiff §998 Demand: $295,000
  • Defendant §998 Offer: $75,000

Additional Notes

Insurer: The Hartford Insurance Company