Defective TV catches fire; plaintiff's daughter dies in fire. $3M. Los Angeles County.


Strict-products-liability claim against corporate apartment company for the television they supplied in unit when it catches fire and occupant dies.

The Case

  • Case Name: Shirley Oliver v. Worldwide Corporate Housing L.P.
  • Court and Case Number: Los Angeles Superior Court / BC 516791
  • Date of Verdict or Judgment: Tuesday, April 17, 2018
  • Type of Case: Products Liability
  • Judge or Arbitrator(s): Hon. Paul A. Bacigalupo
  • Plaintiffs:
    Shirley Oliver
  • Defendants:
    Worldwide Corporate Housing L.P.
  • Type of Result: Jury Verdict

The Result

  • Gross Verdict or Award: $3,000,000
  • Settlement Amount: Plaintiff settled with the distributor of the TV prior to trial for a confidential sum.
  • Contributory/Comparative Negligence: 20% to decedent.
  • Non-Economic Damages:

    Past: $1,500,000

    Future: $1,500,000

  • Trial or Arbitration Time: 7 days.
  • Jury Polls: 9-3 (distribution); 10-2 (defect); 11-1 (causation) 12-0 (damages).

The Attorneys

  • Attorney for the Plaintiff:

    Grassini, Wrinkle & Johnson by Lars C. Johnson and Brian Hong, Woodland Hills.

  • Attorney for the Defendant:

    Maranga Morgenstern by Paul A. Elkort, Woodland Hills.


The Experts

  • Plaintiff’s Medical Expert(s):

    Robert W. Armstrong, electrical engineering, Duarte.
    Nina Scotti, fire cause and origin, Canyon Lake.

  • Defendant's Medical Expert(s):

    Alan C. Donelson, Ph.D., forensic toxicology, Nevada City.
    George J. Hogge, P.E., electrical engineering and fire investigation, Mesa, AZ.
    Joseph M. Jadlowski, fire cause and origin, Las Vegas, NV.

Facts and Background

  • Facts and Background:

    The plaintiff in the case is the 79-year-old mother of decedent Lauren Humphrey. Lauren (age 46) was a chronically ill, drug and alcohol dependent woman who died in 2012. Lauren had not worked in years. She was single with no children.

    Lauren was living at the Oakwood Apartments in Woodland Hills. Plaintiff supported Lauren, including renting her a furnished “corporate apartment.” On November 13, 2012, Lauren died when a fire started in a TV in the unit that had been supplied by Oakwood. Lauren had a BAC level of .28 as well as prescription pain medication in her system at the time. She was known to be a heavy smoker and drinker. The Los Angeles fire department concluded the cause of the fire was “undetermined.”

  • Plaintiff's Contentions:

    Plaintiff, relying on the “consumer expectation test,” contended the TV was defective. Plaintiff further contended the TV was distributed by Oakwood, thus making Oakwood liable under a strict products liability theory. Plaintiff denied that decedent had any fault for her own demise.

  • Defendant's Contentions:

    Defendant Oakwood denied the fire started in the TV. Defendant further disputed that it was in the chain of distribution. Defendant also asserted decedent Lauren Humphrey was at fault for her own death in failing to get out of the apartment due to her being intoxicated.

Demands and Offers

  • Defendant §998 Offer: $100,000

Additional Notes

Plaintiff’s counsel asked for $5 million at trial. Defense counsel did not suggest a number for damages to the jury.