Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Stock Exchange Beating Due To Negligent Security

A 2006 verdict in the case of Dooner v. DiDonato and Philadelphia Stock Exchange saw claims of both negligent security and negligent infliction of emotional distress go to trial.

On Dec. 4, 2002, plaintiff William Dooner, 38, a stock trader and a member of the Philadelphia Stock Exchange, arrived at the exchange's trading floor, selected a work station, started his laptop computer, and prepared for the work day. Several minutes later, another trader, Ralph DiDonato enraged that Dooner had sat in his seat, grabbed Dooner's head and banged it against a steel post. Dooner sustained back and neck injuries.  Stock-exchange officials conducted an investigation and determined that the assault was unprovoked and inexcusable. DiDonato was suspended and fined.

Dooner sued DiDonato; the stock exchange; the stock exchange's president, John Wallace; and unspecified members of the stock exchange's security staff. Dooner alleged that DiDonato's actions constituted assault, battery and intentional, negligent infliction of emotional distress. He also alleged that the remaining defendants were negligent in their supervision of DiDonato.

Dooner subsequently discontinued his claim against Wallace, and he did not pursue his claims against any of the security-staff members. The matter proceeded to a trial against DiDonato and the stock exchange.

Dooner claimed that similar incidents had occurred during the two years that preceded the assault and that one incident involved a similar assault that was committed by a trader who was employed by TD Waterhouse Group Inc. He contended that the stock exchange's executives were aware of the prior incidents, and he acknowledged that the exchange employed a security crew that policed the trading floor. However, he claimed that the executives did not attempt to prevent recurrences of such incidents and that no new security measures were implemented after the assault that was committed by the TD Waterhouse Group trader. Thus, his counsel claimed that the stock exchange failed to protect the interests and bodily integrity of Dooner and similarly situated individuals.

DiDonato contended that he selected a work station, set down his belongings, left the area, and subsequently discovered that Dooner was using the station. Thus, defense counsel contended that Dooner bore some degree of responsibility.

Dooner was treated at Thomas Jefferson University Hospital, in Philadelphia. He claimed that he sustained whiplash that produced disc protrusions at C4-5 and C6-7, moderate stenosis of his spine's C5-6 level, lumbar sprains and strains, and an exacerbation of preexisting spinal-cord stenosis. He contended that he developed osteophytes that occupied his spine's C4-5 and C6-7 levels. He also contended that he suffered severe stenosis, deformity and compression of his spinal cord's C4-5 level and moderate-to-severe stenosis of his spinal cord's C6-7 level. He claimed that the neck injuries produced daily pain that disturbed his sleep.

Dooner undergoes pain-management treatment. His treating orthopedist has opined that surgery could be necessary if Dooner's symptoms worsen.

Dooner claimed that his injuries prevented his resumption of his stock-trader duties. He is a sales associate employed by the Home Depot Inc. retail chain, and he earns about half of the $100,000 annual salary that he earned prior to the incident.

Dooner also claimed that the assault led to marital difficulties that produced a one-month-long separation of him and his wife. He contended that the couple underwent marriage counseling.

Dooner sought recovery of $17,898 for his past medical expenses, about $200,000 for his past lost earnings, $1,725,590 to $2,778,352 for his future lost earnings, and unspecified damages for his past and future pain and suffering. His wife presented a loss-of-consortium claim.

Dooner also sought recovery of punitive damages against all of the defendants. His counsel contended that DiDonato's conduct was malicious and outrageous and that the stock exchange's failure to address prior incidents also constituted malicious, outrageous conduct. However, the court dismissed the punitive damages claims.

Defense counsel disputed Ms. Dooner's loss-of-consortium claim. They noted that her marriage counselor's documents indicated that the couple "always" engaged in physical intimacy. In response, plaintiffs' counsel contended that all other questions regarding the couple's closeness and intimacy received "never" responses.

After a week of trial and 7 hours of jury deliberations, the jury rendered a plaintiffs' verdict. The stock exchange was assigned 50% liability, DiDonato was assigned 30% liability, and Dooner was assigned 20% comparative negligence. The jury determined that the Dooners' damages totaled $1,935,000, which included $1.8 million for Mr. Dooner and $135,000 for Ms. Dooner. The comparative-negligence reduction produced a net recovery of $1,548,000. Share this post :
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