$2.75 Million Jury Verdict for Pro Bono Client
By FRED NORTON
March 12, 2019
I am thrilled to announce our trial victory on behalf of our client, Ronald Turner. Today a jury in the United States District Court for the Northern District of California found in Mr. Turner’s favor on all issues and awarded him $2.75 million in damages. It is a just and pleasing result.
Mr. Turner served for over 20 years in the United States Marine Corps, including combat duty in Iraq that left him with PTSD. In May 2014, a psychiatrist working at the VA notified Mr. Turner’s supervisor at the Forest Service and law enforcement that Mr. Turner was planning to kill his supervisor. That false accusation mischaracterized what Mr. Turner had privately told the psychiatrist the one time he met her. It was also contrary to what Mr. Turner had unequivocally told the psychiatrist, and what everyone else who knew Mr. Turner told the psychiatrist. The report cost Mr. Turner his job at the Forest Service, he was humiliated in his community, and he suffered adverse mental health effects.
Mr. Turner filed and litigated his suit pro se. He sued the psychiatrist and he sued the physician staffing agency that had placed her at the VA. In late December, with discovery concluded and shortly before trial, he asked the court to appoint pro bono counsel, and we volunteered for the assignment. In only two months, we did everything necessary to prepare for trial. On the very eve of trial, defendants filed an interlocutory appeal and moved to stay the trial – we defeated the motion and got the appeal dismissed. There had been no depositions – we took every cross-examination cold. And after a four-day trial, the jury held that the psychiatrist breached her duties to Mr. Turner, that she was an employee not an independent contractor, that Mr. Turner should win $750,000 in economic damages, and that he should win $2,000,000 in non-economic damages. Equally importantly, the jury’s verdict rejects the slander that cost Mr. Turner his job and his reputation. This was a vindication as well as a victory.
I am grateful to the jurors for their attention and care. I am grateful to Bree Hann and Matt Turetzky for their superhuman efforts, including Bree’s masterful appellate brief writing and Matt’s clear and precise direct examination of our expert (which the jurors expressly appreciated). The chance to do this kind of important work, with this kind of amazing lawyers, is exactly why I wanted to start this firm.