A Fresno County jury on Wednesday awarded more than $2 million in damages to a Fresno homemaker who severely injured her right foot and hip while returning merchandise to HomeGoods furniture store in the Villagio Shopping Center in north Fresno.
The Superior Court jury deliberated about six hours over two days before awarding K. Kaur $2,073,373.88 in damages for past and future medical bills and lifelong pain and suffering, said Fresno attorney Jacob Rivas, who represented her. (She goes by the initial K for her first name).
The trial in Judge Jeffrey Hamilton’s courtroom took two weeks. Rivas, who sued HomeGoods Inc. for negligence, gave this account of the April 19, 2013, incident:
My client has sustained permanent, life-altering injuries.
Fresno attorney Jacob Rivas
Kaur, 53, drove to HomeGoods at Blackstone Avenue near Nees Avenue to return four chairs. A store employee went to Kaur’s car with a flatbed cart to help load and transport the chairs to the store.
While pushing the cart back to the store, the chairs became unstable and fell. The employee asked Kaur to walk beside the cart and hold the chairs.
As they arrived at the front door, the employee accidentally hit Kaur with the cart, causing her to lose her balance, fall and get hurt.
Rivas said a store video camera supports his account of the accident in which Kaur suffered several injuries, including ligament damage to her right ankle.
To repair the damage, Kaur underwent arthroscopy, ligament repair and reconstruction, and synovectomy to her right ankle. Rivas told the jury that Kaur still has residual pain and physical limitations in her right ankle and foot due to the injury.
In addition, Kaur suffered a tear of the labrum in her right hip as a result of the accident, Rivas said. Kaur has received multiple injections to her right hip to alleviate the pain, but it persists and she has received little to no relief from the injections, he said.
Because of her injuries, Kaur has been diagnosed by multiple medical specialists to have Complex Regional Pain Syndrome.
Because of her injuries, Kaur has been diagnosed by multiple medical specialists to have Complex Regional Pain Syndrome, Rivas said. In general, the syndrome is chronic pain that most often affects an arm, leg, hand or foot, usually after an injury.
To cope, Kaur has taken painkillers such as Vicodin and Gabapentin, participated in physical therapy, and undergone “sympathetic nerve block injections,” Rivas said. But none of that worked, he said.
As a last resort, Kaur underwent surgery in July 2016 to implant a neurostimulator device to her spinal cord. The initial implantation was performed on a trial basis to see if Kaur should have a permanent neurostimulator. In October 2016, Kaur underwent a second procedure to get a permanent neurostimulator in her spinal cavity. Rivas said the results from the permanent neurostimulator have been poor and Kaur continues to experience constant pain and burning to her right foot and ankle.
“My client has sustained permanent, life-altering injuries,” Rivas said, noting that she has undergone two major surgeries and is awaiting a third. Kaur uses a cane to help her walk and a walker for more extensive excursions. Because of pain, she is only able to drive short distances, Rivas said.
HomeGoods was represented by Southern California attorney Michael Dolan, who argued that Kaur contributed to her trip and fall. Dolan also told the jury that Kaur’s pain syndrome was caused by one of her surgeries.
The trial in Judge Jeffrey Hamilton’s courtroom took two weeks.
But Rivas said HomeGoods knew it was liable for Kaur’s injuries.
Initially, HomeGoods offered $15,000 to settle the case, Rivas said But as the trial neared, HomeGoods settlement offer rose to $500,000, he said.
On Tuesday, HomeGoods offered to settle the case for $710,000, Rivas said, but the offer was rejected. Then two hours before the verdict, the company’s offer was $1.5 million, he said.
After the verdict, Rivas said jurors told him that they were upset with the way HomeGoods employees treated Kaur after she fell. “They just left her on the ground,” Rivas said. “They didn’t help her or ask her what was wrong.”
She called her husband, who took her to the emergency room at Kaiser Permanente Medical Center.
Rivas said jurors also told him that HomeGoods wanted its employees to use flatbed carts, but the company did not train its employees on how to safely operate them.
“We are pleased with the outcome,” Rivas said.