Crosley Law Firm’s Case against Cosmic Jump in Houston
A Hidden Danger
It was the first day of summer in Houston and our 16-year-old client looked forward to an afternoon of fun and activity at Cosmic Jump, a local trampoline park. Instead, he fell victim to a hidden danger there that changed his life forever.
Our client dunked basketballs and played dodgeball at Cosmic Jump with his friends for almost an hour before the group approached the “Summit” — an eight-foot-tall, hill-type trampoline designed so patrons could climb up and then slide down. The teenagers did not know that a serious hazard lay hidden just on the other side of the Summit: a wide tear in the trampoline material, three feet above a bare concrete floor.
Although the hole was visible from one side of the Summit, it could not be seen at all from the “blind side” where our client and his friends were jumping. Only an inadequate warning was posted at this spot, and no barrier was put in place to prevent customers from going up the Summit and sliding directly down into the hole. Unfortunately, that is exactly what our client did, striking his head on the concrete floor below as he landed.
The impact of the fall fractured the teenager’s skull, causing bleeding in his brain. He also suffered a severe seizure as friends and bystanders tried to comfort him. Emergency medical personnel responded, arrived on the scene, and stabilized him for transport to the emergency room. Meanwhile, our client’s parents were notified that he had been injured, and they rushed to meet him at the hospital.
The teenagers did not know that a serious hazard lay hidden just on the other side of the Summit: a wide tear in the trampoline material, three feet above a bare concrete floor.
A Complicated Brain Injury
Emergency room doctors worked frantically to stabilize the teenager’s condition as the pooling blood inside his brain grew by the hour. His condition required constant monitoring as doctors compared each brain scan to the last. Meanwhile, our client’s family and school friends gathered at the hospital, waiting for the latest updates on his condition. By evening, the blood pocket inside the teen’s skull had grown to a dangerous thickness of 10 millimeters.
As with most traumatic brain injuries, our client’s real struggle did not begin until he left the hospital. As he rested at home, our client began noticing changes in his sense of smell and taste; his family observed major shifts in his personality and behavior. He also suffered from serious balance problems and issues with his motor skills and coordination.
Fortunately, our client received some of the best medical treatment available. His neurologist diagnosed him with a traumatic brain injury (TBI) and referred him for physical, speech, and occupational therapies at a leading rehabilitation institute. One of the nation’s leading brain scientists administered an MEG scan that showed abnormal slow-wave activity in several areas of our client’s brain. A world-class neuropsychologist conducted extensive testing to measure his cognitive deficits over time, and our client began receiving formal accommodations in school to help him keep up.
Over time, it became clear that the traumatic brain injury our client suffered would touch every aspect of his life. Friends and teachers noticed his formerly vibrant and social personality had become hesitant and solitary. He struggled to maintain his academic performance, eventually moving to lower level classes than those he had taken before the injury. In his daily life, he continued to suffer from problems with memory and attention as well as persistent headaches and ringing in his ears.
The Road to Justice
Soon after his injury at Cosmic Jump, our client’s parents sought out the services of Crosley Law Firm’s personal injury attorneys to investigate the case. Our attorneys were able to obtain the Cosmic Jump security camera video showing the fall with 16 different angles of color video that became key evidence at the trial. Our attorneys also obtained sworn admissions from Cosmic Jump employees regarding a number of key liability issues, including:
- That the hole had been there since at least the day before
- That managers knew of additional steps that could have been taken to keep customers safe – but failed to take them
- That the company had no written plan in place for dealing with trampoline holes, despite their common occurrence at the park
- That employees would have followed a written plan if one had existed
- That Cosmic Jump had failed to add a second protective layer of trampoline material to the Summit, despite being fully aware of the need for it
Crosley Law Firm attorneys then retained a team of top-notch medical experts who specialize in helping patients with traumatic brain injuries. Our client’s cognitive issues were examined, measured, and documented by multiple brain doctors, and a life care plan was created to project the extensive future medical treatment he would require. An analysis was also conducted regarding the amount of job earnings and benefits our client would lose over the course of his lifetime due to his brain injury.
As the case moved forward, the Crosley Law Firm team worked diligently to reach a fair settlement. A number of reasonable offers were made to the defendant, but each one was rejected. As negotiations between both sides stalled, it became clear that a full jury trial would be the only way to achieve the positive outcome our client deserved.
Crosley Law Firm attorneys then retained a team of top-notch medical experts who specialize in helping patients with traumatic brain injuries.
Our Day in Court
Although most injury cases settle before trial, the ones that do not require an extra level of dedication and preparation from the attorneys who present the case. The attorneys of Crosley Law Firm embrace our role as trial lawyers when necessary and look forward to the opportunity to speak directly to juries.
One key to presenting a case to a jury is making sure the most powerful testimony is heard. In this case, Crosley Law Firm attorneys recorded the testimony of critical eyewitnesses using video depositions so that even though the witnesses were not in the courtroom during trial, the jury was still able to “experience” the event through their eyes. Our attorneys also showed video testimony from Cosmic Jump employees to highlight differences between the information they gave at trial and their accounts in previous depositions.
Brain injury cases often turn into a “duel of the experts” at trial because of the complex medical and scientific issues involved. At this point, cross-examination becomes a crucial skill that trial lawyers rely on. In our case, the trampoline park hired a neuropsychologist to testify that our client had merely suffered a concussion, which had later completely resolved, and that our client did not need future medical care.
One key to presenting a case to a jury is making sure the most powerful testimony is heard.
During cross-examination, lead attorney Tom Crosley exposed the deceptive nature of the defense doctor’s testimony to the jury, eliciting admissions that the doctor:
- Has been deceptive and manipulative in the past.
- Did not personally conduct the testing on our client that he relied upon to make his statements.
- Acquired the nickname “Dr. No” because he is so often hired to testify that a patient does not have a brain injury.
- Has made millions of dollars performing medical exams for the defense in his career.
- Has evaluated over 50 former NFL players on behalf of the NFL disability insurance plan, and in every single case he issued a report claiming that the player had no neurocognitive deficits attributable to football.
After both sides rested, Tom Crosley delivered a passionate closing argument to the jury where he explained that a brain injury is especially tragic because it affects “everything that makes you the person you are.” Crosley also helped the jury understand each type of individual damage our client suffered and reminded them of key testimony that came to light during the trial. After closing arguments, the jurors spent five hours deliberating the case before reaching a consensus.
At the close of the two-week trial, the jurors returned their verdict: they unanimously agreed that Cosmic Jump was both negligent and grossly negligent in its handling of the dangerous trampoline hole. The jury assigned 100% of the fault to Cosmic Jump and 0% fault to our client. For damages, the jury awarded our client $5.485 million, pending an appeal, to compensate him for his future medical care as well as lost earnings, physical pain, and mental anguish.
To punish Cosmic Jump for its grossly negligent conduct and send a message to the entire trampoline park industry, the jury awarded another $6 million in punitive damages, again pending an appeal. This result marks the largest jury verdict ever against a trampoline park. More importantly, though, the award will provide a lifeline of needed care and support for our young client as he deals with the ongoing effects of his brain injury.
Unfortunately, our client has not been the only victim of injury at a trampoline park in recent years. As trampoline parks have grown exponentially in popularity — with more than 345 known facilities operating today, up from only a handful in 2009 — many safety advocates have expressed concern about the lack of regulations governing these facilities, and a number of high-profile injury incidents like the one that affected our client have made national headlines. One such trampoline park injury proved fatal, taking the life of a 30-year-old man in Phoenix in 2012.
The potential dangers of trampolines themselves are well-documented: nearly 100,000 trampoline-related injuries occur each year according to the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission. Additionally, the CPSC reported 22 trampoline-related deaths occurred between 2000 and 2009. As a result of the concerning data regarding trampoline injuries, the American Academy of Pediatrics issued a policy statement in 2012 advising the public against recreational trampoline use altogether.
“Pediatricians need to actively discourage recreational trampoline use,” said Michele LaBotz, MD, FAAP, co-author of the AAP’s updated policy statement. “Families need to know that many injuries occur on the mat itself, and current data do not appear to demonstrate that netting or padding significantly decrease the risk of injury.”
The attorneys of Crosley Law Firm hope our client’s case will highlight the dangers of trampoline use and the ongoing safety crisis at trampoline parks nationwide. Although states like Michigan and Arizona have successfully enacted safety regulations for trampoline parks, Texas currently has no such measures; until elected leaders in our state decide to act on this issue, Texas families will have to rely on the legal justice system to hold parks individually accountable. We sincerely hope that this tragic injury and the ensuing jury verdict will mark a turning point in the effort to enact sensible safety measures that could prevent future harm and loss.
The attorneys of Crosley Law Firm embrace our role as trial lawyers when necessary and look forward to the opportunity to speak directly to juries.
ABC News. (2015, June 30). Big bounce in trampoline parks puts safety in spotlight. ABC News. Retrieved from http://abcnews.go.com/US/big-bounce-trampoline-parks-puts-safety-spotlight/story?id=30551552
American Academy of Pediatrics. (September 24, 2012). AAP advises against recreational trampoline use[Press release]. Retrieved from https://www.aap.org/en-us/about-the-aap/aap-press-room/Pages/AAP-Advises-Against-Recreational-Trampoline-Use.aspx