By Dan Phillips
One of the cases that we worked was a personal injury case in San Antonio that is better recalled around the Bexar County courthouse as the “Courthouse Annie” case. The case was styled Leal V. Steak N’ Ale. Courthouse Annie had been to dinner at the restaurant when a waiter dropped a tray of food on her. She eventually sued the restaurant and underwent surgery which said left her wheel chair bound. The case was defended by Lewin Plunkett of Plunkett Gibson and Allen. Courthouse Annie had initially hired a law firm in San Antonio, but the case eventually ended up in the lap of one of Texas’s best known trial lawyers, Pat Maloney.
The case was heard by Judge Peter Michael Curry in Bexar County. During the pre trial hearings, Courthouse Annie appeared in the court room in a wheelchair. She testified that she could no longer perform every day activities such as laundry, cooking, shopping or driving without help. The plaintiffs and the defense lawyers agreed to a settlement of 2.2 million dollars without going to trial. The excess carrier was AIG out of New York and a few days later attempted to send the funds to one of the several lawyers on the plaintiff side. One lawyer suggested they wait to send the funds as they were trying to sort the percentages for each firm and Courthouse Annie. A couple of days passed and on a Wednesday I got a call from the Plunkett firm. They stated that one of the paralegals that had attended the hearings was eating in a restaurant when she looked up to see Courthouse Annie, walking across the floor of the restaurant in high heels and without the aide of her wheel chair. We performed surveillance on Courthouse Annie for the next four days and found her not only active but washing clothes, shopping and driving.
The following Monday, Lewin Plunkett and his team appeared in front of Peter Michael Curry’s court room to in essence take away their agreement to settle. They then offered the surveillance video tape as evidence of their being mislead. The tape having been admitted into evidence became public information and was shown on the local stations and picked up by print news around the country. Pat Maloney eventually offered a “Miraculous Recovery” as the reason for his client’s ability to perform the very activities she claimed she could not do.
The case ended up in appellate courts and eventually was settled for much less than the original 2.2 million dollars.