A woman, who shattered her ankle after her 4-inch high-heel shoe broke, recently received $250,000 following a settlement in mediation with the major shoe distributor.
The woman was leaving a bar after celebrating her 25th birthday when the shoe, marketed as "The Nasty," broke as she tried to cross the street. Shortly thereafter, she called the MBA's Lawyer Referral Service and was referred to David V. Lawler, a litigator with a practice in Hyannis.
"I almost didn't take it," Lawler said. "I thought, 'A broken shoe? Give me a break.'"
He changed his mind, however, after meeting with the client in January 2002.
"I saw her X-rays and she had a badly broken ankle," Lawler said. "I examined the shoe and to me it looked like it had been negligently manufactured."
So Lawler took the case and started his research by looking for a shoe expert. He found the perfect person, a 78-year-old retired quality control manager from a national shoe company, by using Casemaker, the MBA's online legal research system.
"I ran a search under 'shoe' and I came up with a case … and I contacted the attorney who tried the case about 10 years earlier who came up with an expert," he said.
The expert, Larry Carboneau, had started his career in shoe manufacturing by cutting leather as a teen-ager. He later ran shoe factories and became the head of quality control for a major shoe manufacturer based in Massachusetts.
"He indicated it was both designed and manufactured in a negligent manner," Lawler said. "The grain of the wood ran in the wrong direction and the wood wasn't thick enough to support someone's foot without a steel shank."
When the shoe broke, the woman had to be taken to the hospital by ambulance. Doctors had to place a couple of pins and a plate in her ankle. She had very high medical and prescription bills and was fully disabled for five months.
The case settled in mediation because there was a dispute over the woman's long-term loss of function and ability to continue on with her prior employment. Alcohol also was an issue in the case. Lawler credited the diligent efforts of mediator Brian Jerome for how the two sides were able to come to an agreement.
Lawler received approximately $83,000 in attorney's fees for the case.
The LRS Case in Point is a regular feature in Lawyers Journal. The feature highlights cases that pertain to interesting legal issues or large fee generating cases that were referred to attorneys through the MBA's Lawyers Referral Service.
LRS makes more than 25,000 referrals each year to its 1,200 attorneys across the state. If you are interested in becoming a member of LRS in order to obtain referrals please call the Lawyer Referral Service at (617) 338-0556 or e-mail [e-mail lrs].