Quintairos, Prieto, Wood & Boyer, P.A., attorneys Michele D. Morales, Robin N. Khanal and Amber J. Hraha pulled off a defense verdict in a slip and fall case against the nation’s largest retailer in Baker County, Florida, much to the chagrin of the prominent Jacksonville trial lawyers.  Ms. Morales led the team into what seemed to be a certain loss: employee testimony had confirmed a leaking roof where the Plaintiff fell, the Plaintiff was a lifetime local who had multiple surgeries and massive medical bills, and a trial judge who appeared skeptical of the defense. Ms. Morales and her team feared they would depart the small town with a seven-figure defeat and the taste of home cooking on their lips. Undaunted, Ms. Morales and team set to work against what some called “impossible” facts.

Mr. Khanal’s opening statement set the stage for the defense’s case.  He laid out the inconsistencies in the Plaintiff’s versions of events, challenging the jury with rhetorical questions about the motivation behind Plaintiff’s morphing narrative.  First, Ms. Morales took on the local surgeon who claimed the Plaintiff suffered a permanent injury in his fall at the store. Showing a shell game of letters of protection and sketchy medical records, Ms. Morales revealed the surgeon was far from the objective witness the Plaintiff claimed in opening statement. Next, Ms. Morales and her team used store security video to dismantle the Plaintiff’s wife’s version of how the incident happened. The QPWB lawyers next showed through surveillance and shifting versions of the incident in medical records that the hometown and folksy Plaintiff was not who he seemed.  Mr. Khanal, using the Plaintiff’s own demonstrative aids against them, showed through defense expert that Plaintiff’s injuries were clearly exaggerated and inconsistent with the medical evidence.

Finally, Ms. Morales and company embraced the testimony of an employee who had previously appeared to sink their case. An employee had confirmed in deposition that the roof of the store leaked constantly, and that the Plaintiff had fallen from water on the floor. The Plaintiff’s lawyers had hitched their wagon to this apparently devastating testimony, ignoring the fact that the store security footage revealed that the employee had been truthful in that she simply repeated what the Plaintiff told her caused his fall. Ms. Morales broke down the video frame by frame in closing, showing that the Plaintiff had not been truthful with his physicians nor the jury about how the incident happened. Unprepared for this turn of events, the Plaintiff lawyers instead threw million dollar per diem arguments and attempted to charm the now skeptical jury. By this point, the formerly skeptical judge also saw what had been occurring all along: Plaintiff’s case was simply a house of cards with sky high demands and no foundation in the actual facts of the event. The jury agreed, dispatching the once confident Plaintiff’s lawyers back to Jacksonville with a defense verdict and sending the Plaintiff away with nothing, despite generous settlement offers on the table.

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Michele D. Morales, a partner in the Orlando office, focuses on premises liability, governmental/municipality liability, nursing home defense litigation and labor and employment law. She has successfully defended in all areas of tort litigation including wrongful death and catastrophic injury cases from pre-suit to trial. She obtained her Juris Doctor in 2000 from the University of Florida while simultaneously earning a Master of Health Administration.

Robin N. Khanal, a partner in the Orlando office, concentrates his practice on complex personal injury defense; predominantly, in the areas of premises liability, medical malpractice, nursing home and assisted living defense. He earned his Juris Doctor, with honors, from the Shepard Broad Law Center at Nova Southeastern University in 2002. He has received the Pro Bono Service Bronze Pin from the Legal Aid Society of the Orange County Bar Association for continuous service to his community.

Amber J. Hraha, an associate in the Jacksonville office focuses on insurance defense, first party property claims under commercial and homeowner policies stemming from insurance coverage disputes, general liability, automobile liability, premises liability, product liability, professional liability, construction defect, and fraud and arson. Ms. Hraha received her Juris Doctor cum laude from Florida Coastal School of Law in 2013. Read more HERE.

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