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Family v. Agricultural Trust

In Family v. Agricultural Trust (Central Calif. Sup. Ct.), Douglas Saeltzer and Spencer J. Pahlke represented the surviving wife and children of a man tragically killed by an irrigation siphon pipe in the San Joaquin Delta. The decedent, his family and friends were wakeboarding on the delta when the tow rope got caught in the boat’s propeller. Swimming under the back end of the boat, he slapped the side of the boat with his hand, signaling he was unable to resurface. Rescuers discovered his leg had been sucked into a 12” irrigation siphon. He drowned as his family and friends attempted to rescue him. Doug and Spencer elected to proceed under Maritime Law. Because the incident occurred on navigable waters, it could be filed in admiralty, permitting a recovery for pre-death pain and suffering. The team also obtained a preferential trial date based upon the age of one of the surviving children. In discovery, Doug and Spencer obtained admissions from the property owner’s manager and employees that this was an accident waiting to happen. The matter settled for $20,000,000 shortly before expert discovery was to commence.

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