This isPersonal Injury Court. Good day, everyone. This is the matter
of Williams versus Harris. Mr. Williams,
you are suing the Harrises for medical bills, pain and suffering,
for injuries you suffered when a garage door
at their house came down
and crashed on your head and hurt your neck. You’re suing for $300,000
for your medical bills, and $125,000
for pain and suffering for a total of $425,000,
is that correct? Yes, Your Honor. And Mr. and Mrs. Harris, you all believe
that this is his fault? -[both] Yes, Your Honor.
-Absolutely. [Brogdon] His injuries and bills
are all for him to handle? -[Mrs. Harris] Yes, Your Honor.
-Exactly. Okay, well, let’s get into
the legal sauce. Now, Mr. Harris, how did you
come to be at this house? Basically, it all started,
Your Honor, is when I was younger.
I was around seven years old. My mother raised five kids,
I was the only boy. And I really didn’t have
any friends. When I met Mr. Harris
when I was in school, we just connected.
You know, I was the– -You guys are life-long friends?
-[Williams] Yes, sir. Um, I was the class clown
at school and he was too. So we just made, you know,
just connection. It was over after that. -Two clowns getting down?
-[Williams] Yes, sir. Yes, sir. We were close
all through middle school, high school,
um, I was at his wedding, he was at my wedding, he was my best man
at my wedding. He was the best man
in your wedding? -[Williams] Yes, sir.
-That’s special. Yes, it is. Now, we played
football together and, you know,
on a football team, he was better to me. I’m not going to lie,
you know, I looked up to him. [Brogdon] Some of
my best friends in my life I’ve made on the football field from fifth,
sixth, seventh grade. [Williams] Yes, sir. [Brogdon]
I understand that friendship. So, you all
played football together, you grew up together. You were friends
up until this incident? -[Williams] Yes, and–
-What lead you to be at their house this day? Basically, I was married
for ten years, Judge. [Brogdon] Yes, sir,
I was married for 21. So you know
how hard it can be, you know, just being married
in general, you know? Well, marriage is work,
but rewarding work. [Williams] Yes, sir. Yes, sir. So, I’ve been divorced now
for three months and it’s been a struggle for me. Mr. Harris
has been there for me, he told me
that he had a townhouse back in our hometown
that I can stay there. So, your man
was trying to help you out? -[Williams] Yes, sir. Yes, sir.
-Okay. So, you know, it says me
to even really be here today, you know, I have so much love
for Mr. Harris. And I still do. It’s just– [Brogdon] Did you heard that,
Mr. Harris? -He still got love for you.
-[Harris] I hear it– -[Brogdon] Do you feel the love?
-[Harris] But here we are. I always had his back. It’s something we learned…
we grew up learning, you know, got your back
on and off the field. [Brogdon]
You always had his back? So, after his divorce,
I had his back, as I always do.
I always come through for him. You were there to help him
through these tough times… From grade school to now,
and here we are. -So, you know…
-Not now. I wanted to help my brother out.
He coming back home, he needed a house to be in, I talked to my wife,
we agreed to let him in, and, sure enough, it comes back
to backfire in my face. No good deed
goes unpunished, huh? [Harris]
No good deed goes unpunished. [Brogdon] So you do see that? Your man
is trying to help you out. Yes, sir. Um, I wish
I wasn’t here today, Judge. [Brogdon]
Tell me what happened. I mean, you’re in a neck brace, you look like
you are in a lot of pain– -[Williams] I’m in extreme pain.
-What happened to get you here? I basically was in the garage and I was going to the store. I heard a noise
from the top of the garage, I look up and I notice
that the garage door was starting
to come down a little bit. So, my instincts kicked in. You know, get out of here,
survival mode. So, I sprint, I– [Brogdon]
What position did you play? Running back. [Brogdon] Your running back
instincts kicked in, then what
did the running back do? [Williams] I took off. And I was heading
for a touchdown. But what happened was
I got stopped by a linebacker that was the garage door. It slammed down
on top of my back. I mean, I’ve been hit
by linebackers 250 pounds, but it was nothing like
this pain I experienced, Judge. You know, it basically pinned me
to the ground, and the door– [Brogdon] So, this door
crashed on top of your neck? -[Williams] Yes, sir.
It crashed from my upper back. I have a disc herniation
from C4 to C6. [Brogdon] Now, y’all,
this is your place, right, your door?
You own that door, right? [Williams] Raggedy one. How did y’all know
that this happened? -Your Honor…
-[Brogdon] How’d you find out? We didn’t know
about this incident until Roger was in the hospital. [Brogdon] I imagine that,
given he’s a good friend, you all were really concerned
for him? -I was extremely concerned.
-[Mr. Harris] Exactly. -She didn’t care.
-He’s my husband’s friend. -She didn’t care.
-I just wanted understanding. [Brogdon] You don’t sound
that cozy about that. -No, she don’t like me, Judge.
-I… hm. Has it always been that way? You know, me and my husband have been married
for almost ten years now, and we have a great partnership,
we love each other, -we have a respectable union…
-[Brogdon] That’s great. …and we accept one another
for who we are. -[Brogdon] Yes, ma’am.
-Unfortunately, that included Roger. Well, you gotta take
friends and family, -you know that…
-[Mrs. Harris] I endorsed him. -I–
-That’s what marriage is about. We don’t try to, you know, um,
put restrictions on one another -or anything like that…
-So you were saying that you all found out
when he was in the hospital? When I found out,
I was extremely concerned. This is my best friend
that I’m hearing about seeing pictures in the hospital,
phone calls from the hospital… And he’s hurt on your property. We do own the property, however,
like he mentioned before, he signed over a lease. He ran under the door,
Your Honor. But I just want to know what adult man
would run under a garage door? A former running back
who still thinks he got it. [both] We all thinks he got it. [Williams] I still got it…
[stutters] [Brogdon] Well, apparently, you didn’t still have it ’cause the garage door
tackled you, right? [Williams] Well… [Brogdon] Tell me this: if he’s not going try to slide
across the goal line into this garage door, how will he get
out of the garage? There are multiple ways. -[Brogdon] Tell me.
-Normal people… -Like us.
-[Brogdon] Normal people? A regular, responsible adult -would use a side door…
-Run under the garage. …which he has key access to. [Brogdon] So, you knew
there was a side door? -True?
-[Williams] True. You’d lived there
for a little while, -you weren’t blind.
-True. [Mrs. Harris] Where there’s also
a key pad. A working keypad? -[Williams] No.
-[Mrs. Harris] A working keypad that he had the code to that at the time
of him moving in, we even switched over
to his own personal code… Showed him how to work it. [Mrs. Harris]
Showed him how to work it… [Brogdon] So, Mr. Williams,
you had a keypad and you knew how to work it, and it worked
the garage door, right? It did not work, Judge. Did you tell them
it didn’t work? [Williams] I told them,
I got evidence, Judge. So, when he says it didn’t work, then he’s only got
one way to get out and that’s the side door? [Williams] I forgot the code. -[audience laughs]
-[Brogdon] He forgot it. That’s why it didn’t work,
Your Honor. -It worked when we signed.
-It didn’t work because he– So, you forgot the code? I will say this, Judge,
I forgot the code, but… It’s survival mode. When you see something,
you gotta go, so, yeah, I forgot the code… So, running out of the garage
was survival mode? [Williams]
I had to get out. Couldn’t you have
gone out the side door? [Mrs. Harris]
Thank you, Your Honor. But, Judge, if the garage door
would’ve been working properly -when I moved in…
-[Brogdon] You would’ve scored? Scored all day. Touchdown. Now, Mr. Williams, I see that
you have incurred $300,000 in medical bills. -Yes.
-That’s a lot of money. I’m in a lot of pain. Tell me
what you’ve been through. Basically, you know,
I’ve been injured at the disc herniation
from C4 to C6. -Upper part of my back.
-[Brogdon] Yes, sir. [Williams]
It’s changed my life completely. It aches and throb every day,
it’s in pain right now. [Brogdon]
To further understand the nature and severity of your injuries,
Mr. Williams, I’ve invited Doctor Karin Flood to come and explain
from a medical perspective what you’re going through. Dr. Flood, would you stand
and step to the monitor? And tell me what this is
from a medical perspective. -[dramatic music]
-[narrator]Next…from a medical perspective
what you’re going through. Doctor, can you explain
the extent of the plaintiff’s injuries?
Mr. William’s injuries? [Flood] Yes, Your Honor. When the garage door
struck the claimant in the back of the neck, it caused an injury
to his cervical spine. This is an image
of the cervical spine, the bones of the neck. They line up like little boxes. Between each of those
is the disc. And this cushions each of those
little vertebral bodies. And allows you, as you bend your neck
forwards and backwards, to absorb some of that shock. In his case,
he damaged these discs at a couple different levels. That comes out
and pushes on the nerves that go out
to the rest of your body. So, how do you repair
such a thing? Well, in this case,
you actually need to take out that damaged disc. -I’ve got a video of that.
-[Brogdon] Surgery. [Flood] Yes, surgery. You see what y’all did to me? -Doc, explain what this depicts.
-[Williams] Your garage. So, this depicts
taking the disc out from between
those vertebral bodies, between those boxes of bone, putting a spacer of bone
in between them. -I will never be the same.
-[Flood] You can take those from your own hip
or from a donor, and then you’ll put
a plate on the front and screw in a series of screws
to hold that plate in place to allow this to fuse
into one piece of bone to support those nerves and help prevent
from further damage. So, what’s his prognosis after this, uh,
hardware’s put in? [Flood] Depends how bad it is. Because of the pressure
on the nerves, you can get damage that causes numbness
into your hands, you can get weakness
of your arms. You can get chronic pain
that can be persistent, even after surgery.
And, of course, you’ll have some stiffness
of the neck. Okay, thank you, doctor. [Flood] Yes, Your Honor. Mr. Williams, what, uh,
numbness, things in your arms, you experiencing any of that? Numbness, sharpness,
tightness… -[Brogdon] Is this every day?
-Every day. Y’all see he’s
in some agony, right? [Harris] Yes, Your honor. [Brogdon] And you wouldn’t want
that to happen to your buddy -or simply just a tenant?
-Anyone. [Mrs. Harris]
You’re right, Your Honor. [Brogdon] But you believe
it’s his fault? -Absolutely, Your Honor.
-Yes, sir. So, Mr. and Mrs. Harris,
y’all said that, uh, you had Mr. Williams
sign a lease, -and that you signed?
-[Mrs. Harris] Yes, Your Honor. [both] Absolutely. [Brogdon] To formalize
this relationship. Yes, Your Honor. [Brogdon] Did you bring
the lease? -Absolutely.
-[Brogdon] Sheriff Matt, will you retrieve that lease? [Mrs. Harris]
I have it right here. Now, Mr. Williams,
you remember signing a lease? Yes, Your Honor. [Brogdon]
I see here on item number 17: “Tenant is responsible for lawn,
trash, windows, garage, air conditioning,
lavatories, sinks, -toilets, glass and doors.”
-Yes, sir. Now, Mr. Williams,
you understood that you had
certain responsibilities to maintain the property? Yes, Your Honor. But… [Brogdon] So, why didn’t you get
this garage door fixed? Well, Your Honor,
I did send Mr. Harris a text telling him about the code
of the garage door -wasn’t working–
-[Brogdon] Did you get the text? I did, I even responded. [Williams]
And I told him I couldn’t pay. Now, even though
this is your responsibility, you wanted him to pay for it. I didn’t have the money.
I told him I couldn’t pay. He agreed to it. I actually,
I have something to– -[Mr. Harris] Your Honor–
-[Brogdon] Let’s look at it. Let’s take a look at the text that you submitted
to the court. Mr. Harris,
you’re in the red, right? -[Harris] Yes, sir.
-[Brogdon] And you wrote, “How much are you able to pay
for the garage door?” -Right?
-Yes, Your Honor. [Brogdon] You expected him
to pay something? -As per…
-As he agreed. [Brogdon] Okay.
Now, in the gray it says, “After all I’ve been through,
I cannot afford it right now.” That’s what you wrote,
Mr. Williams. Yes, Your Honor. [Brogdon] and then in response,
Mr. Harris, you said, “Okay, I got it.” What did you mean by that? [stammers] I just meant
I understood him, Your Honor. I know what he’s going through,
I feel like I’m his friend, I tried to bail him out and take care of him
as much as I can. So, when I say,
“Okay, I got it”, I mean “I understand
what you’re going through.” [Brogdon]
What did you think he meant? I got it covered,
that’s what it says. [Brogdon] You thought
he would pay for it? I mean, yes. Yes, Your Honor. [Harris] I think he’s used to me
taking care of him. That meant that
we weren’t going to pressure you -in trying to fix it.
-[Brogdon] Mr. and Mrs. Harris, here’s the legal lesson
in this case. When you all sign a lease,
a written lease, as the law requires you to do
when you lease a place, you all got into
a contractual relationship. This is a binding,
legal agreement where both of you have
responsibilities to each other to make sure that
this works out right. You were responsible
to take care of the property, you were responsible
to pay for this door. I know that you
had texted Mr. Harris about paying for the door
’cause you couldn’t. Y’all, you were very specific
in the lease, but real unclear as to what was going to happen
with the door. You see that
in hindsight, right? Yes, Your Honor. So, both of you all knew
that the garage door was kinda uh, ragged… right? [Harris and Williams] Yes. But the lease determines
your legal responsibilities. And we cannot
lose sight of that. [Harris] Yes, Your Honor. I mean, yes. Gentlemen, Mrs. Harris,
I think that I’ve heard enough and I am ready
to render my decision. Mr. Williams,
from the evidence that you’ve presented today you’ve suffered an incredible,
life-altering injury. Now, I understand your friend
is doing a good job for you. You had those, uh,
running back kind of, uh, uh, reminiscence about getting
under the garage door and you tried to make it
and it did not work out. You also thought from that text that Mr. Harris
was going to fix the door. So, the evidence in the case
that you kind of assumed that the door was okay. Unfortunately, the move you made
left you on the garage floor with the door
on the back of your neck. You all did him a great favor in allowing him
to stay at your home, provided,
as provided in the lease, that he did some repairs
and kind took care of it. You gave him a break,
he gives you a break. Y’all had no idea that he was going to be
injured like this. The reality is, though, that the law requires
that everyone be responsible for what they
contractually agreed to. In a personal injury case there are three things
that must be proven. You, Mr. Williams, have to prove
that the Harrises were wrong, and that their wrong
caused your injuries. Clearly you were injured
because of that garage door. But the wrong is what is, uh,
ticklish for me. Here, you had some choices
about going under the door. Mrs. Harris, you made the point that he could’ve gone out
the side door. And you could have. That would have been
reasonable and safe. You all, on the other hand, you knew that
this door was in bad shape. You also kinda knew
he didn’t have the money to fix the door,
he’s in the midst of a divorce. I find here
that there was wrong. But it was shared. That is you took a chance,
then you had to pay a price. A dear price, a terrible price. You all did not have
your property in good shape. And, therefore,
you’re both wrong. But, I do not find,
Mr. Williams, that you are 50% wrong. I find you 49% wrong. And in that regard, I’m going to reduce your claim in this case. You are asking for $425,000. In reducing your award by 49%, I award you $216,750 -against the Harrises.
-[Mrs. Harris] What? That is my final decision
and this matter is adjourned. [Williams] Thank you. [narrator]
Our attorneys across Americajust viewed this case
for the first time.Let’s hear what Chad Dudley
has to say.There’s an interesting aspect
to this case. Even though Mr. Williams
was friends with the plaintiff, he still required him
to sign a lease that memorialized
the terms of the rent and the obligations
and responsibilities of both parties. This is always
the wise thing to do, especially when the act
is between family members or friends. Legally protect yourself just as you would
with strangers. You know this is your fault. Irresponsible.