ORANGE, CA –– On January 16, 2013, Waslworth Franklin Bevins & McCall attorneys Helen Luetto and Karen Sullivan won a defense verdict in one of the largest brain damage suits over the past year.
 
A Fresno, California jury reached the verdict for two contracting companies whose failure to cover an air intake vent while excavating an underground storage tank allegedly caused a worker in a nearby building to develop brain and lung injuries.

The California Superior Court for Fresno County found, after a 5-week trial and two hours of deliberations, that WFBM clients Balch Petroleum Contractors and Builders Inc. and Roebbelen Contracting Inc. were not negligent.  Judge Kristi Culver Kapetan presided over the trial.

The claims were brought by Jody B. and Daryl Gutierres. The plaintiffs allege that Jody Gutierres was exposed to carbon monoxide and diesel exhaust as a result of an excavation of an underground storage tank.  The toxins entered the vent in the building in which she worked, leading her to develop brain injuries and lung damage, the plaintiffs contended.  Balch Petroluem and Roebbelen Contracting were named as defendants in the action for their alleged failure to cover the air intake vent at Gutierres' place of employment.

WFBM argued during trial that covering the air intake vent is not something that would reasonably have been expected of their clients.  Balch Petroluem and Roebbelen Contracting also contended that the amount of carbon monoxide Jody Gutierres was allegedly exposed to would not be enough to cause her alleged injuries.  The defense also argued and presented evidence that Mrs. Gutierres' alleged injuries were pre-existing.  

The plaintiffs had requested $5 million in damages prior to, and during, the trial. 

Gutierres, et al. v. Balch Petroleum Builders and Contractors Inc., et al._, No. 09CECG04550 (Calif. Super. Ct., Fresno Cty.).