Civil Clinic Helps Clear Client of Unlawful Negligence Claim

“This was the first case I was able to handle on my own and as a representative for a client,” reflected Civil Clinic Legal Intern David Gravich of a recent successful mediation. “I learned how to negotiate with other attorneys. Professor Snyder also taught me how to be strategic in knowing when to make a point by speaking up and when to make a point by not speaking at all.”

The USD Legal Clinic’s Civil Clinic represented the defendant in a suit filed by a patient of an eldercare facility who had fallen during transportation from the facility. While the plaintiff sued both the driver and the eldercare facility, the Civil Clinic represented the driver in mediation proceedings.

Photo Credit: Janey Henning, Flickr Creative Commons License.

“I came into the clinic the week before the mediation began,” described Legal Intern David Gravich. “All of the legwork had been done by prior interns and Professor Snyder and Professor Gruber. In the week I had I read through all of the discovery including the interrogatories, and talked to the client on the phone.”

The client was a driver for a residential facility serving the elderly. He was responsible for both picking up the patients at home and dropping them off at the facility, as well as returning them home at the end of the day. In early December 2013, one of the patients fell during transportation and sued both the driver and the eldercare facility. The facility then cross-complained against the driver, claiming he was liable for the incident.

“Our client is the commonplace example of why access to legal representation should be the rule and not the exception,” described Gravich. “When I came onto the case, the client was a business owner with a child on the way and in jeopardy of facing a substantial judgment against him for a slip and fall that occurred in the course of his transportation business for the elderly. When the time for mediation came, thanks to the diligent efforts of the team that worked on the case beforehand, we were able to construct a narrative of the incident which showed that what happened was an accident and not a situation for which the client should face liability.”

The facility claimed the driver had been negligent by sitting behind the wheel while the patients were loading into the van. However, the driver argued that, due to the way the van was constructed, he was standing outside by the patients when they loaded. Additionally, due to the patient’s weight and size, he was unable to catch or support the patient when she fell. After the fall, while the driver asked to take the patient into the facility to be checked for injuries, she declined, complaining only of wrist pain. The driver also informed the daughter of the incident, who chose to wait to check her mother into the hospital.

“I received support from both Professor Snyder and Professor Gruber who helped me get up to speed on the case, as well as helped me in telling me what to include in the mediation brief,” added Gravich. “I went to the mediation with Professor Snyder and one of the greatest paralegals ever, Liz Magana.”

In early September 2015, a settlement agreement was reached by all parties via mediation which had a very favorable outcome for the client.

“I was very happy with the outcome of my case and happy to still have my job,” stated the client. “I would recommend your services to friends and family.”

“This case made me proud to be part of an organization that provides access to legal representation that many need,” added Gravich.

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