Thursday, September 2, 2010

Pepper-Spray Verdict

The San Jose Mercury News has the story of the local man who was attacked and pepper-sprayed by security personnel at a Vallejo, California supermarket.  Readers of Bad Lawyer, know why this account interests me.  The story follows:

"A Solano County Superior Court jury has awarded more than $54,000 in damages to a Vallejo man who was beaten and pepper-sprayed by security personnel at a Vallejo supermarket in 2005.

The jury ruled that Darrell Archer, 62, should receive $50,135 in compensatory damages from Nugget Market, Inc. -- owner of the Vallejo Food 4 Less -- store managers Tomas Martinez and Dwight Woodard and then-security officer Rudolpho Granados.  In a separate action, the jury also ruled last week that Granados also was liable for $4,708 in punitive damages.

According to Sacramento attorney Herman Franck, Archer and his son, David, were shopping at the Vallejo Food 4 Less on Christmas Eve 2005 when Granados, a loss prevention officer, approached Archer's son about the alleged shoplifting of a pair of $1.69 gloves.

When Darrell Archer intervened, Granados pepper-sprayed and punched him, causing numerous injuries, according to the suit.  No gloves were found and no theft charges were filed against Archer or his son. A battery complaint was made against Darrell Archer but subsequently dropped by the Solano County District Attorney's Office.

Store employees said that a security tape of the incident had been 'eaten' by the store's videotape surveillance equipment.

Archer said the attack occurred while he and his son were exiting the store after spending $133 on groceries. He said store employees confiscated the food and never gave him a refund. They also locked him and his son in a security office for 45 minutes, Archer said. 'I feel it's absolutely outrageous that this could happen to anyone,'  Archer, a retired iron worker, said this week. 'This has probably happened to other people who never said anything about it.'

Sacramento attorney David Worthington, who represented all defendants, did not return a call for comment. Attempts to reach Granados at the Pleasanton Police Department where he is now a police officer also were unsuccessful.

Archer, who was seeking $250,000 in damages, said he may appeal the jury's decision. He said he's already accrued $85,000 in legal costs -- more than the jury awarded him."
It would be interesting to know, what sort of impression the plaintiff made at trial.  My guess is not great in light of the relatively minimal verdict compared to his alleged damages and legal costs.  His comments to the press are consistent with the impression. This is one of those parameters, lawyers bemoan--the not very good impression made by the client.

When I was a young lawyer I lost a case that was a "slam dunk" because I lacked the wisdom to realize that my client was totally unsympathetic.  As a young snot nosed advocate, I mistakenly concluded that just because my client was "right" he would win, wrong.  On the other hand, my former partner Nancy and I successfully represented a "crack addict" woman assaulted by a security guard in a supermarket who was genuinely sympathetic. Many factors must be evaluated in making a determination of a client's jury appeal.


  1. This isn't the first time this individual has not been awarded fees, he has a history of being sue happy, discrediting his adversaries, and whine about the results and further look for his next lawsuit to file.

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