15 Million Verdict in Disabled Man’s Para-Transit Death in Las Vegas
Mar 7, 2016
Atlanta, GA (Law Firm Newswire) March 7, 2016 – Atlanta attorney Charles Allen and Las Vegas attorney Benjamin Cloward announced today a winning verdict of $15 million in the case of Chernikoff v. FIRST TRANSIT.
The case involved the death of Harvey Chernikoff, a mentally disabled 51-year-old who choked to death on a sandwich while on a para-transit bus for the handicapped on his way to work at a sheltered workshop. The transit company had rules against eating and drinking on the bus and requires the bus driver to scan interior mirrors every five seconds; rules that were both broken by the driver that day.
A Las Vegas jury deliberated for just 30 minutes in Clark County, Nev., on Feb. 29, returning with a favorable verdict awarding the Chernikoff family $7.5 million for pain and suffering and $7.5 million for loss of consortium to the decedent’s elderly parents, Jack and Elaine, who are in their seventies.
“With their verdict, the brave jurors in this case spoke for Harvey and provided him with a voice,” Allen said. “The result gives the Chernikoffs some justice over what happened to their son, and it tells a company such as FIRST TRANSIT that it is unacceptable to break their own rules and put members of the community at risk.”
Harvey Chernikoff had been diagnosed with a cognitive impairment at age 5 and was later diagnosed with schizophrenia at age 13. Throughout his life, his family worked to provide him every opportunity to have an independent life. Part of that commitment required entrusting others to watch over and protect Harvey, such as the trust they put in the transit company to get their son to and from his volunteer job.
On July 29, 2011, Harvey began eating his lunch on the bus. The driver of the bus not only allowed him to eat, but assisted him in violating the company’s policy. Harvey sat in the seat directly behind the driver as the sole rider that day. Video footage from the bus showed Harvey reaching out for help as he began choking, unable to speak, slowly slipping into unconsciousness just feet away from the bus driver.
The driver admitted that he failed to enforce the company’s rules against eating and drinking, and failed to scan the interior mirrors. The emergency room physician testified that use of CPR and the Heimlich maneuver would have saved Harvey’s life. However, the transit company failed to train its drivers on these life-saving techniques, in order to save the company $88.00 per driver – despite the company’s Las Vegas transit contract being valued at more than $220 million.
Cross-examination by Cloward of the company’s Corporate Safety Director highlighted significant inconsistencies between deposition testimony taken by Allen, and her trial testimony in court.
“This revealed to the jurors just what lengths the defense would go to avoid being responsible,” said Cloward. “By the end of cross-examination, the jury understood how the family’s trust had been betrayed and violated by the company’s failures to follow their own rules.”
The jury awarded 100 percent negligence on the corporate company, and none on the driver. The family plans to start a foundation aimed at educating lawmakers. They hope to pass “Harvey’s Law,” which would mandate para-transit companies to train their drivers in CPR and other life-saving techniques – the same techniques that could have saved Harvey Chernikoff’s life.
About Attorneys Charles Allen and Benjamin Cloward
Charles Allen has more than 20 years of experience representing clients in personal injury cases. He has represented clients across the U.S. The areas of practice for the firm include medical malpractice, wrongful death, product liability, premise liability, motor vehicle collisions, trucking collisions, construction litigation and business litigation.
Charles Allen Law Firm
950 East Paces Ferry Road
Atlanta, Georgia 30326
Benjamin Cloward is a founding partner of Cloward Hicks & Brasier, who practices in Nevada and Utah. He is the youngest member of the Nevada Las Vegas chapter of ABOTA by nearly a decade and sincerely loves what he does. He is a graduate of the Gerry Spence Trial Lawyers College and uses that training to truly understand the wonderful people he represents. The firm specializes in the personal injury areas of car and motorcycle crashes, wrongful death, spinal injury, brain injury, slip and fall, animal bites, aviation negligence and product liability.
Cloward Hicks & Brasier
721 South 6th St.
Las Vegas, NV 89101