Major Injuries - The Roberto Perez Story

Steve Murphy (Voiceover): Catastrophic accidents can happen anywhere, anytime, and always when you least expect them. And on July 22, 2004, Roberto Perez, a hardworking dad, was making his regular rounds delivering coffee in a Miami office building when catastrophe struck. A giant 10-foot, 250lbs. door just fell off its hinges and landed smack-dab on Roberto's head and back. Roberto lost consciousness and was rushed to the hospital. He suffered severe, traumatic brain injuries and horrible pains in his neck and in his head, buzzing in his right ear, dizziness, and radiating pain from his neck to his waist. He was nauseous and complained of problems with speech, memory, and problem-solving. He was treated by numerous doctors including a neurologist, a psychologist, a dentist, a psychiatrist, and family practitioners. But his major loss was his loss of ability to enjoy life. Roberto had changed drastically. He just shut down. Today the Insider Exclusive presents the true and tragic story of Roberto Perez and how his lawyers, Stewart Greenberg and Mark Stone, partners at the law firm of Greenberg, Stone & Urbano, got justice for Roberto earning them the highest respect from citizens and lawyers alike as one of the best plaintiff trial lawyers in Florida and in the nation. They have seen many innocent, hardworking people suffer needless injury through no fault of their own. Stewart and Mark are driven to help people who have been harmed by the negligent actions of others. Their goal is not only to get justice for Roberto Perez but to make sure that those who injure innocent people are held responsible and much more accountable.

Hi, I'm Steve Murphy and this is the Insider Exclusive live from Miami, FL at the law firm of Greenberg, Stone & Urbano.

ONSCREEN TEXT: The Insider Exclusive presents - Major Injuries - The Roberto Perez Story

Steve Murphy: It's my great pleasure to introduce Stewart Greenberg and Mark Stone to the show. Welcome to the show.

Stewart/Mark: Thank you, Steve.

Steve: This is the case that we're going to discuss today: Roberto Perez. Tell us a little bit about what happened to Roberto.

Stewart: It's a really sad story. Roberto is, as a result of what happened to him, one of the walking wounded. What happened to him was he was doing his job as a delivery man delivering products to a restaurant in a high-rise office building in downtown Miami in the summer of 2004. And through no fault of his own they had a set of doors that were about 10 feet high, each door weighing about 250lbs., with the improper hinges on the door and as he was standing there talking to the manager the door fell off its hinges and hit him on the head....knocked him out, knocked out some teeth. And as a result of that, he had a closed head injury and you've got to remember back in 2004 society wasn't as aware as they are today of post-concussive syndrome and closed head injuries because now we've studied more as a result of what's happened to the soldiers in Iraq and Afghanistan. So, we really had to prove that this man had a closed head injury and as a result, a brain injury.

Steve: And how did you do that? How did you go about doing that?

Stewart: Well, we had him tested by neuropsychologists because not every brain injury shows up on a CAT scan or an X-ray or an MRI. And neuropsychological testing gets to go to the core of the brain and tests a person's cognitive abilities, plus the fact the family in this case gave us information and gave the doctors information about a change in Roberto's personality, a change in his habits...and by just talking to him you could see that the "light was out of his eyes." You could see that he was bewildered, he was confused and this wasn't the person that everybody knew before this.

Steve: So, he changed dramatically.

Stewart: Yes he did.

Steve: We have a day in the life video clip of his sons talking about him and how that change happened or what he used to be like. So I'm going to go that right now.

Adrian Perez: When I found my father, that same night after the accident, he was very down. He wasn't himself. He barely walked. We had to help him out of the car into the sofa. He didn't talk. He didn't look at you straight in the eyes.

Roberto Perez, Jr.: Since that moment, he's not the same... I can say that basically for the people that know him, his friends and I...

Antonio Echevarria: He's been turned inside out. One moment you're speaking with Roberto then suddenly he has a blank gaze.

Steve: About these closed-head injuries...we have some video of some of the doctors who actually diagnosed what went on with him. I believe one of them is Dr. Ken Fisher who is a neurologist and another doctor is Dr. Fernando Gonzalez who is a psychiatrist and I want to show the clips so we can make comments about them. So, let's go to Dr. Fischer right now.

Dr. Ken Fischer: He has had consistent difficulty with his memory and cognition...forgetful, confused, disoriented. He can't put things together. He's been unable to work. His headaches have been extraordinary. He's a shadow of the person he was at this time before the accident. He had residual symptoms including headaches, dizziness, loss of balance and equilibrium, and severe depression. These symptoms have persisted over the last several years. He'd be left with this, these exact symptoms: the headaches, the confusion, the depression, reduced cognition...indefinitely. His future is having persistent symptoms... requires substantial help for the rest of his life.

Dr. Fernando Gonzalez: I believe that Mr. Perez feels very bad that is son is taking care of him. Sometimes he does resent that because he feels bad. He feels frustrated, guilt, and ashamed. I've seen him for a long time and I think he has a major depression, single episode, severe, at times, with psychotic features. The signs and symptoms that he is displaying are consistent with Traumatic Brain Injury and subsequent major depressive disorder.

Steve: Now that we've listened to what they've said, does the other side, the folks that you're suing, do they have their own witnesses who have completely different analysis of Roberto Perez's condition?

Mark: Sure, Steve. You know in every case the defendant is not going to just sit there and roll over. They're going to hire experts of their own, many of whom have long affiliations with the insurance companies who are representing these defendants. We understand this it's a battle all the way to and through, including trial. You know that's why when we take a case we want to vet the case...making sure that the doctors who are treating our particular plaintiffs or our particular clients are also well-credentialed.

Steve: You brought up an interesting point. The other side gets doctors who have a long affiliation with insurance companies. Now, they're not employed by the insurance companies, are they?

Stewart: No, they're not.

Steve: Can you bring up, because I remember the verdict, can you bring up a situation where a doctor has testified a thousand times for the same insurance company? Can you bring that out in court?

Stewart: Well first of all we're not allowed to talk about insurance in Florida.

Steve: Ok.

Stewart: So the jury has to be smart enough to understand that these big companies have insurance coverage. But we can certainly talk about how many times the doctor has worked on behalf of defendants and how much money he has earned as a result of that {inaudible}...

Steve: You can bring that out in court?

Stewart: Oh, absolutely...to show this doctor's prejudice and the direction of which he testifies.

Steve: Do some doctors make a significant amount of money per year? And what amount of money would that be?

Stewart: There are doctors in this community that between $500,000 to $1 million per year.

Steve: Just testifying?

Stewart: Just testifying.

Steve: Never putting the white coat on?

Stewart: Well the put the white coat on but they never treat the patient, they don't operate on the patient, they don't prescribe medication...

Steve: So they make a million dollars per year.

Stewart: Some do, yes.

Mark: Steve, there are doctors in this community and in Florida who make upwards of 95% percent of their income is derived from doing medical, legal evaluations on behalf of defendants and insurance companies.

Steve: We are going to show a clip right now of who Roberto Perez was, the personality that he was. We're also going to show how those roles have been reversed. I want to show the contrast here.

Voiceover: Roberto was a happy, fun-loving, active person who loved and cared for his family and was raising his son Adrian as a single parent.

Luz Elena Arcila: He was like a Mr. Mom. He was very special. He was very attentive to his son. He took care of his clothes, his meals, he took him to school, and he would leave food prepared for him when he came home from school. He was an excellent father.

Adrian: When I was growing up I looked up to him as a perfect, father-figure because he was always there to help me with my problems. He would always help me with my schoolwork. He would always support me. He would always be like, "You have to get good grades."

Voiceover: Roberto was a very intelligent, well-read individual whose talents gave him the ability to more than provide for his family. Roberto Perez isn't the only victim. His family and friends have also lost a great deal.

Luz Elena Arcila: He was a complete package. He was active, he was joyful, he was youthful, he was happy...he told jokes. He was mischievous. He made the coffee. He cooked dinner. In other words, he was a complete person.

Voiceover: Now, the parent-child role has been reversed.

Luz Elena Arcila: He became very bitter and bored. He felt useless. He was always dizzy. It really affected our physical relationship and that made him feel worse.

Adrian Perez: Each day he does less and less. He talks to less and less people. He closes himself up more. Sometimes he doesn't talk to me even for 15 or 30 days.

Antonio: This is hard. It's as if I'm looking at another person. That person that I know and shared many good times with is...I'm sorry...

Steve: This case was settled, wasn't it?

Stewart: Yes it was.

Steve: Okay, what was your legal strategy, up until the time you settled it, to win this case?

Stewart: Our strategy was very simple. We were trying to prove fault on all the people that we sued and trying to prove how injured our client was.

Steve: It was clear cut evidence the door fell on his head through no fault of his own.

Stewart: But understand that we had to sue various people and they all pointed the finger, and went like this, and then they argued that he wasn't as hurt as bad as we claimed he was and they had a right to have him examined and things of that nature.

Steve: And that's typical in cases like that, isn't it?

Stewart: Yes it is.

Steve: Even though there's clear proof that the other side actually did the deed...

Stewart: Correct.

Steve: They are going to try to weasel out of any responsibility, right?

Mark: Sure Steve. Our experience is when you sue one company for something that seems pretty obvious the first thing they're going to do is point the finger at someone else. And that's part of what we have to do.

Steve: We fortunately have Roberto with us today and we're going to bring him on with his interpreter. So let's do that right now.

Steve: It is my great pleasure to introduce Roberto Perez and his translator, Vincente De La Vega. Welcome to the show. Roberto Perez: Thank you.

Steve: Take us back to that day you were delivering coffee, I think, at a high rise here in Miami and all of a sudden a door landed on your head. What do you remember after that?

Roberto: I don't remember the exact details because everything happened quite fast. That day was like "a stop" in my life, like everything stopped and I suffered a change. It was a metamorphosis.

Steve: Do you sometimes try to be your old self as you knew yourself before rather than, let's say, living with this situation? What do you do to try to help yourself?

Roberto: After having lost...I used to have a relationship and we were going to get married but all that went to the dumps. Financially, I had to sell my apartment in order to survive and after that money ran out, I had to practically live as homeless.

Steve: You live with your son now?

Roberto: Yes, always, for the last 13 years. Since my wife passed away I've been in charge of him for the last 13 years now.

Steve: What is your life like today? What do you do every day?

Roberto: Now, I lead a quiet life. But after having suffered and gone through that change, I am no longer the same person I used to be before.

Steve: Right.

Roberto: But now I have a safety net...things that allow me to go on even though my life has changed in that regard. I feel more relaxed. I feel I am more capable now to face the challenges of the future.

Steve: As a result of your case which was successfully won by your attorneys, Stewart Greenberg and Mark Stone, what's your opinion of this law firm?

Roberto: At the beginning, I really didn't have that much trust but then I realized that as time went by they behaved not only as a law firm but mainly as part of my family.

Steve: Well that's the way everybody wants their lawyers to be and thank God you had them representing you.

Roberto: I was fortunate to find this law firm and they have professionally performed with me and I will be forever thankful to them.

Steve: I want to thank you for coming on this show Roberto and our best to you.

Roberto: Thank you very much.

Steve: It's my great pleasure to introduce Adrian Perez. Welcome to the show Adrian.

Adrian: Thank you.

Steve: You have lived over last 7 years through this whole transformation of your dad. We showed earlier, a clip, where you were talking about how your dad used to be like - very fun loving, active, and that sort of thing. And then as a result of the injury, he change dramatically. Tell us your feelings as you went through this evolution from when it happened all the way to today. How has that change happen for you?

Adrian: Well my father used to be the kind of father that every child had...a father that would like to do things with his son, like any other father. Now, he doesn't have enough energy. He gets tired very easily. We would be watching a movie or do anything he would just fall asleep or not remember if he left this door opened or if he left that light on. He just falls asleep all over the place, basically.

Steve: Has he gotten better or stayed the same over the years?

Adrian: He's gotten a little bit better in the sense that he's not in pain as much as he was at the beginning but it's still the same attitude. as in he's still in the same stage where he doesn't have enough energy. He's not motivated to do anything. He just lies around, sitting down...

Steve: Now, you live with him now?

Adrian: Yes.

Steve: You are the only one that lives with now?

Adrian: Yes.

Steve: So you go to college now, right?

Adrian: Yes.

Steve: What does your dad do during the day when you're in college?

Adrian: I would imagine he does the same thing that he does when I'm there which is just to be sitting on the couch watching TV or sleeping.

Steve: But he can take care of himself and that sort of thing?

Adrian: Does he go out much?

Adrian: No.

Steve: Not at all. You try to encourage him to go out?

Adrian: I try to encourage him to do stuff with me...go to the movies, or to the market, or anywhere just to go outside of the house. Just to motivate him to...

Steve: Does he go to a psychologist, or a psychiatrist, to a therapist or something like that to try and get him out of his depression?

Stewart: Unfortunately, cognitive rehabilitation has done everything it can for him.

Steve: Really.

Stewart: He's plateaued. He's as good as he's ever going to get but for the love of his family, and especially Adrian, he would not be where he is today.

Steve: So you're almost kind of a caretaker for him?

Stewart: He's been that way ever since the day of the accident. As a teenager he had to take care of his dad.

Steve: And you were like 14 years old...you have another brother....how much older is he?

Adrian: He is 34.

Steve: Where does he live?

Adrian: He lives here with his wife and kids so he doesn't really have the time to care of him like I do.

Steve: What has been your opinion of the whole experience?

Adrian: Well, honestly it has been a traumatic experience for the whole family especially for me...not being able to do what regular teenagers would do. Unlike when my friends for example would be going out to the movies or hanging out, I would have to be home taking care of my father which wasn't a bad thing, it's just...

Steve: What about now as you're getting older?

Adrian: Well now, for example, he can take care of himself but even when I go to college or I go to a job interview I always have that thought in my mind if I'm doing the right thing by trying to progress in life while leaving my father at home when he took care of me when I was growing up.

Steve: Well, you've been doing a really courageous thing. It's a huge responsibility. Thank you very much for being on the program. I'll ask one last question. Obviously, you have come to know Stewart and his law firm very well, what is your opinion of them as lawyers and as friends?

Adrian: My opinion is, honestly, 100%, my father couldn't contract better people. They're the best lawyers I know. They're not only professional, they're personal. They're your lawyers but your friends at the same time. The best people you could possibly ever meet.

Steve: Thank you very much for being on the program.

Adrian: Thank you.

Steve: When you look at a case like this, when you really don't see any external, physical damage, these are tougher cases to handle aren't they?

Mark: Yes, they definitely are but as Stewart alluded to earlier MRIs have limitations and CAT scans have limitations. In brain injury cases you have microtrauma that may not appear on a scan so you have to go the next step or two and three steps further and have a neuropsychological exam evaluated.

Steve: This is unfortunately a permanent situation, sad.

Stewart: It's very sad.

Steve: Because when you look at what Roberto was before and what he is today... it's almost going from a best friend to being a burden.

Stewart: Yes, and it's hard for a juror to understand it. It's easier, God forbid, if somebody were paralyzed or came into the courtroom in a wheelchair or missing a limb they could see it. He looks normal and it's not until you get to spend time with him and understand him and talk to him do you begin to realize that something's off.

Steve: Well you did a great job for Roberto. You've done a great job for a lot of your clients and we certainly thank you for spending time with us today.

Stewart/Mark: Thank you, Steve.

Steve Murphy (Voiceover): Thanks for joining us. You can find more information about our guest and the issues at InsiderExclusive.com.

To Schedule a Free Consultation with Greenberg, Stone & Urbano, call 305-595-2400 or 1-888-499-9700. You can also visit us at www.sgglaw.com.