BKCG Clients Receive $2.9 Million Jury Verdict
Know When to Say "No."
BKCG Clients Receive $2.9 Million Jury Verdict After Rejecting Settlement Offers of $150,000
In any litigation there comes a point when the plaintiff needs to decide “should I take defendant’s settlement offer, or roll the dice and go to trial?”
In Helen and Mike Crosson’s case that point happened less than a month before trial. After virtually no settlement offers, the defendants finally put some money on the table – $150,000. Now the Crossons had to choose whether to take the sure money or invest in trial. The Crossons invested in the trial and their decision paid off – to the tune of $2.9 million.
The case arose from moving and storage services provided by Premier Van Lines to the Crossons, beginning in Spring 2002. On the day of the scheduled move, Premier failed to show up, despite the fact that the movers knew the Crossons were required to move out of their home. When the movers arrived days later, the Crossons were faced with an ultimatum from Premier’s owner and president Gary Grubb: pay more than double the previously agreed price, or have the movers leave without moving their belongings. Under pressure, the Crossons gave in and agreed to pay more, and the move was ultimately finished; albeit later than planned and costing them additional expenses for not being out of their residence.
Premier promised the Crossons that their property would be stored in wooden vaults inside the Premier warehouse; due to the fact, the Crossons had extensive collections of art, sports memorabilia, and collectible dolls. Premier repeatedly assured the Crossons that all of their property would be covered for full replacement in the event of any loss or damage. Premier did not store the Crossons' possessions as promised. Instead, the bulk of the Crossons' property was left on the trailer parked in a remote location on the Premier lot.
The Premier trailer was broken into and the Crossons' belongings were stolen. Premier never contacted the Crossons to notify them of their losses. Rather, Premier remained silent for five months, and continued billing the Crosson's for storage of their now-stolen property. When the Crossons called Premier to arrange for the delivery of their belongings to their new home, Premier did not reveal their secret. In fact, Grubb demanded that Mrs. Crosson meet him at Premier (without her husband) to discuss more money to be paid before the delivery would be scheduled. During this meeting, Grubb detailed previously undisclosed charges and demanded payment as a condition of delivery. It was only then that Grubb finally disclosed to Mrs. Crosson that a "substantial amount" of their property had been stolen.
When the Crossons began to pursue their claim for the cost of replacing the lost items, Premier produced a contract that it claimed Michael Crosson had signed, limiting the Crossons' claim to a fraction of the replacement cost. The Crossons immediately denied the authenticity of the signature and initials -- an apparent forgery.
Despite the Crossons' desperate pleas to see what property of theirs was left, Premier refused and held their remaining possessions for another five months. It was only after the Crossons initiated a lawsuit and the court ordered Premier to deliver the property that the Crossons finally saw what was left of their possessions. Much of what was returned was badly damaged, and everything of value was gone. Even sentimental items such as baby pictures and home videos were stolen.
The Crossons sued Gary Grubb and Premier for unfair business practices, fraud, breach of contract, negligence, warehouseman claims, and intentional infliction of emotional distress. After a 4-week trial, the jury rendered its verdict, against both Gary Grubb and Premier, awarding the Crossons $524,500 in economic damages, plus an additional $150,000 for emotional distress. The jury also awarded punitive damages against Gary Grubb in the amount of $675,000, and against Premier in the amount of $1,575,000, for a total verdict of $2,924,500.
Regarding the defendants' offer to settle the case, Mike Crosson stated, "Next time, I won't think twice about a low-ball offer. My lawyers have shown me that they know how to maximize the value of my case, even if that means going to trial."