Martinez: Burned But Not Beaten

July 24, 2015

Ray Martinez saw the lights flicker and heard a noise. Turning to investigate, he saw a bright ball of light moving towards him and felt a horrifying heat as he was engulfed in flames. On fire and screaming for his life, Ray was burning to death.

After winning his fight against death, Ray and Gloria Martinez came to Baker, Burton & Lundy to fight those whose negligence had almost killed Ray.

The Referral

Baker, Burton & Lundy prides itself in having clients for life, with many decades-long client relationships to our credit. We are honored that clients consider us their lawyers for life, and a significant number of our cases comes from clients referring us to their friends and relatives.

Former clients the Grijalvas had suffered a tragedy and been represented by Albro Lundy and Brad Baker in the 80s and 90s. Here was another tragedy: their close friend Ray had burns on 75% of his body, and over 35% of those were deep second and third degree burns. He was teetering between life and death when Jim Grijalva arrived at the hospital and began urging Ray to hang on. Gemma Grijalva called our firm, asking if we could help Ray in any way.

Pre-Trial Investigation

Without hesitation, BB&L moved as quickly as possible to prosecute the matter for Ray, launching an investigation into how the electrical explosion occurred and who was responsible for the injuries not only Ray and but also Gloria suffered. (Ray’s wife Gloria was entitled to money damages as a result of Ray’s tremendous physical and psychological injuries through something the law calls “loss of consortium”.)

Within days of being notified of the event, BB&L had an attorney and an investigator at the site of the explosion, preserving the evidence and developing theories of liability. Our team found that the demolition company had failed to properly protect against metal shavings falling into an electrical panel. Those metal shavings eventually caused a short circuit and a fireball explosion.

BB&L’s quick response and thorough investigation proved crucial to establishing liability against the demolition company found legally responsible. It also protected the Martinezes against the negligence of Ray’s own employer.

Ray’s New Life

Ray vividly recalls the approach of the massive fireball, when he began to burn and the sensation of his flesh searing as he screamed for help and tried to extinguish the flames.

While BB&L meticulously conducted its investigation, Ray and Gloria attempted to adjust to their new life. Ray could not do most of the activities that he used to do for enjoyment.  Ray loved to coach, especially baseball, and had remained a coach in the Little League in his area even when his sons had grown and moved away. Ray found a great sense of purpose in teaching the boys sportsmanship and character in addition to the love of the game. But after the accident, because of his body’s inability to cope with heat and sun, Ray had to leave this important pastime in the past.

“We were an incredibly active family,” Ray wistfully recalled, “When we were not working, we were playing. We were gone almost every weekend.”  Ray’s motto was work hard, play hard.  Now, he could neither work nor play. Ray and Gloria fought through the changes with admirable strength. Gloria stayed at her husband’s side, encouraging him to embrace his therapy and adapting to the role of a caretaker.

Results: $3.16 Million Awarded

Baker, Burton & Lundy prosecuted this case tenaciously, trying the case for over 30 days and taking the case up to the California Supreme Court twice. The jury spent over a week determining a verdict, awarding $3.16 million to the Martinez family for their damages suffered as a result of the explosion.

The BB&L litigation team is proud that it spared no time or expense in righting this wrong. The firm knew it wouldn’t receive a cent unless it won and following the jury verdict of $3.16 million and an appeal, over $600,000 had been spent in expert fees and investigation costs alone (not attorney’s fees). And rather than giving up following a loss in a mock trial, the team had used the experience to win the case in California Superior Court.

Baker, Burton & Lundy’s litigation team does whatever it takes to get the best possible results for clients. Though no amount of money can replace their loss, the Martinez family now has the ability to pay Ray’s many medical expenses and they can begin to move on with their lives.