A jury awarded a warehouse worker $850,000 after a two-week trial in September 2019. Mr. Perez was at Hibachi Buffet, a restaurant in Inglewood, California for lunch following a shift at work. After going to the restroom to wash his hands, Mr. Perez slipped on a trail of liquid in the hallway leading to the dining room and fell straight down on his knee, hearing a big “crack”. The impact with the tile floor shattered Mr. Perez’s kneecap into multiple pieces. Mr. Perez endured two surgeries to repair his knee, only to learn that fracturing his kneecap caused him to have accelerated arthritis. Now, Mr. Perez is looking at a future filled with knee replacement surgeries, which will only last him about 15 years at a time. He will live with pain in his knee as a constant reminder of his fall in January 2017.
Hibachi Buffet denied liability throughout litigation but refused to cooperate in handing over key evidence such as the names of the employees working the day of the fall or any video surveillance footage of the entrance to the hallway. Hibachi Buffet also refused to produce the owner for deposition, despite testimony from staff that the owner was the only person who knew certain key facts. Despite the roadblocks thrown at KTL by the defense, our team was able to win several key motions throughout litigation.
At trial, the defense argued that because there was no evidence showing exactly how the trail of liquid appeared on the ground, the restaurant could not be held liable for Mr. Perez’s injuries. Hibachi Buffet suggested that the trail of liquid could have been created by a customer with wet hands, a cup of liquid, or even by urine. The evidence, however, supported that the trail of liquid could have only been created by one of Hibachi Buffet’s employees, who regularly bussed carts full of dirty dishware from the dining area to the kitchen through that hallway. There was no evidence that customers ever carried cups of liquid or urinated in the hallway. The jury saw through Hibachi Buffet’s weak defense, in finding Hibachi Buffet was solely at fault for the incident.
Although Mr. Perez’s physical injuries cannot be taken away, the jury’s verdict sent a message that Hibachi Buffet cannot get away with burying the truth.