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Denny's Settles for $13M Before Jury Awards $46M

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By Stephanie Rabiner, Esq. on February 10, 2011 8:50 AM

An out-of-court settlement in a lawsuit stemming from a Kent Denny's shooting has saved the company an outrageous $33 million dollars. And the plaintiffs are probably better for it.

Denny's is well-known for its sometimes less than savory late night customers. In fact, a Kent Denny's in the southern suburbs of Seattle has made dozens upon dozens of phone calls to local police in the last few years just to deal with the rowdy post-bar crowd. Which is why, when a man re-entered the Denny's shooting, wounding five, the victims filed a lawsuit.

Steve Tolenoa, Lisa Beltran-Walker and her husband Carl were all present during the Kent Denny's shooting spree, each sustaining injuries. Lisa Beltran-Walker was shot in the knee, according to The Seattle Times, and though he was not injured, Carl sued the Kent Denny's on the basis of emotional distress. Steve Tolenoa was not so lucky.

Steve Tolenoa was shot in the back and rendered quadriplegic. His situation is what drove the settlement. Currently in an assisted living facility, he and his lawyer wished to provide him with enough money to move him into his own home, supervised by 24-hour care.

Under the agreement, the plaintiffs would receive no less than $5 million and no more than $13 million, all dependent on the jury award, reports The Seattle Times. Denny's insurance company also promised not to appeal, and to deliver the money within two weeks.

Settlement is often the better deal in personal injury lawsuits. Personal injury jury awards are almost always appealed, especially when a company is large and backed by an insurance company. Appeals can drag on for years, racking up legal feels that come out of a final award. And that's even if a jury gives an award, which is not always predictable.

Settlement also allows plaintiffs to move on with their lives and begin healing--both physically and emotionally. Drawn out lawsuits take a toll on plaintiffs' personal lives, putting them under constant stress. For some, getting away from that is worth a few million dollars.

In the end, Steve Tolenoa will receive the majority of the $13 million, just as he would have if he hadn't settled. Lisa Beltran-Walker will receive $35,000, while according to The Seattle Times, Carl will receive $15,000. They actually broke even.

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