2019 Trials and Verdicts

November 20, 2019

Defense Verdict in Trucking Case

Tyler Finnegan obtained a defense verdict for his clients in a trucking case. Plaintiff alleged that while waiting at a traffic light, his Ford F-150 was hit from behind and on the passenger side by the semi-truck driven by an employee of a company. The plaintiff claimed permanent neck and back injuries as a result of this collision. The defense argued the employee never made contact with the plaintiff’s vehicle and that the photographs of the plaintiff’s vehicle showed only minimal damage despite the plaintiff’s claim that he was rear-ended and side-swiped at 25 miles per hour. The plaintiff had three treating physicians testify to the permanency of his injuries, and the plaintiff’s attorney asked the jury for $480,000. After the three-day trial, the jury returned a full defense verdict.

Defense Verdict in Tonsillectomy Case

Kenneth Burke and Bryce Pfalzgraf secured a defense verdict for their ENT surgeon client. The surgeon performed a tonsillectomy on the plaintiff, who alleged the doctor went outside of the surgical plane in removing the tonsils and injured the glossopharyngeal nerve, resulting in plaintiff’s difficulty swallowing. The jury deliberated 20 minutes and returned a defense verdict.

Excellent Result in Minimum-Wage Class-Action Case

Tim WolfKathleen McCarthy and David McCourt achieved an excellent result in a minimum-wage class-action case pending in the Eastern District of Arkansas. Representing a national corporate client through their insurer, they filed a motion to compel individual arbitration of the named plaintiffs only, and to dismiss the class-action allegations with prejudice, pursuant to the terms of an arbitration agreement the named plaintiffs signed. The plaintiffs alleged their employer, a food delivery service provider, violated federal and Arkansas wage laws by using a tip-credit system requiring delivery drivers to share the tips received with ineligible employees. In opposition to the motion to compel arbitration, plaintiffs claimed the arbitration agreements contained within their online employment hiring paperwork were invalid contracts because there was no evidence that plaintiffs assented to the terms of the arbitration agreement, despite the presence of the plaintiffs’ electronic signatures, and therefore no contract was formed. Adopting the defendant’s reasoning in full, the Court found that there was no genuine issue of fact that the plaintiffs’ electronic signatures throughout the hiring packet and on the arbitration agreement were valid and manifested their assent to the terms of the agreement, thereby forming a contract. Because the plaintiffs agreed to arbitrate their wage claims, therefore, the Court stayed the named plaintiffs’ claims pending individual arbitration and dismissed the class-action claims with prejudice. This result prevented catastrophic exposure to the client.

Defense Verdict in Pulmonary Embolism Case

Philip Willman and Justin Hardin obtained another verdict for the defense in a re-trial of a case involving a sprained ankle that lead to a fatal pulmonary embolism. The decedent, a 36-year-old mother of three, sprained her ankle while bowling on April 29, 2004. She was referred to the defendant after visiting the emergency room. She was diagnosed with a sprained ankle and provided a walking boot. The decedent returned for an unscheduled appointment on May 5, 2004, complaining of burning and tingling in her toes. She was seen by the orthopedic surgeon and fully evaluated.  She was diagnosed again with a sprained ankle and instructed to exercise her foot as tolerated. Two days later, she collapsed while getting into her car after leaving work. She was rushed to the hospital and died shortly thereafter from a pulmonary embolism. The case initially went to trial in April 2013 and resulted in a defense verdict. However, that verdict was reversed on appeal and the matter was remanded for a new trial. In the re-trial, plaintiffs claimed defendants were negligent in not prescribing prophylactic anticoagulation therapy on April 30, 2004, and failing to order an ultrasound on May 5, 2004, which would have revealed the presence of a deep vein thrombosis (DVT). Plaintiffs argued the decedent’s risk factors, which included obesity, taking birth control pills and immobility of the left lower extremity, were enough to warrant prescription of anticoagulation therapy to prevent the development of a DVT. Defendants claimed that there were no signs or symptoms warranting suspicion of a DVT, and that the risk factors were not sufficient enough to cause the orthopedic surgeon to suspect the decedent was at risk of developing a DVT. In addition, defendants highlighted the risk associated with prescribing anticoagulation therapy to patients who were not at high risk of developing DVTs. At closing, plaintiffs’ counsel sought between $1.5 million and $2 million in damages. After six days of evidence, the jury returned a defense verdict on behalf of all defendants.

Excellent Result Following 537.065 Agreement

Elaine Moss recently obtained judgment for her insurance company client in Jackson County in a matter where the plaintiff was seeking to collect a $3 million judgment entered following a Section 537.065 agreement and arbitration proceeding.

Favorable Result in Multi-Vehicle Trucking Accident Defense

After a jury trial in Clay County Circuit Court, Brad Hansmann obtained a good result for his trucking company client. The plaintiff alleged the defendant’s brakes were out of service when he hit and flipped the plaintiff’s vehicle that was stopped on the interstate due to construction work and a previous accident. The plaintiff claimed traumatic brain injury, along with neck, back and shoulder injuries and permanent cognitive deficiency. The defendant said plaintiff was hit in the head with a beer bottle at a party four days after the accident. The plaintiff sought $500,000 in damages, but the jury awarded $75,000.

Great Result in Case Involving Customer Struck by Car in Restaurant Parking Lot Following Altercation

Kristie Crawford obtained a favorable result for her client in Greene County. The plaintiff was struck in the parking lot of a bar and grill in Springfield, Missouri, by another patron. Witnesses indicated that during a physical altercation in the parking lot, the plaintiff was struck and fell to the ground in front of the other patron’s vehicle. He sustained a head injury, fractures to his ribs, a spleen laceration, fracture of multiple pubic rami, an acetabulum fracture, bilateral hip dislocations, a liver laceration, transverse process fractures, a clavicle fracture, multiple abrasions, and multiple lacerations. He was hospitalized for 60 days and underwent surgery seven times. Plaintiffs claimed at trial that the restaurant defendant’s failure to have sufficient security at closing contributed to cause the incident and that surveillance video showed violations of liquor laws. The defendant argued that none of the claimed violations caused the incident and that the incident was caused by plaintiff’s own conduct because he left the building five minutes before the other patron and, rather than leaving the premises, stayed in the parking lot for 18 minutes before any physical altercation occurred. Defendant further argued based on the testimony of witnesses that the plaintiff voluntarily engaged in the physical altercation. Plaintiffs requested the jury award $5.1 million and find the defendant 90% at fault. The jury returned a verdict finding plaintiffs’ damages totaled $5,008,333, plus $50,000 in compensatory damages for his wife on a loss of consortium claim, and no punitive damages. They assessed 90% of the fault to the plaintiff and 10% to the defendant.

Defense Victory in Case Leading to Near Blindness in Both Eyes

Philip Willman and Justin Hardin secured a defense verdict for their client, a retinal specialist. The case involved a 20-year-old female plaintiff who saw her optometrist complaining of visual disturbances. She was referred to a retinal specialist for evaluation of a possible retinal detachment. After a full examination and evaluation, the retinal specialist determined the plaintiff did not have a retinal detachment, but noticed she had dramatic swelling of her optic nerves and suspected she suffered from pseudotumor cerebri. He contacted a neuro-ophthalmologist who treated pseudotumor cerebri and referred the plaintiff to the same. The office was located next door, and the plaintiff was escorted there. The doctor was not in the office, but a visual field test was performed and showed an abnormal visual field. The result of the visual field test was never shared with the plaintiff or the retinal specialist. After conducting the visual field test, it was determined the doctor’s office did not have a contract with Illinois Public Aid and the plaintiff decided to not treat with the neuro-ophthalmologist. The plaintiff did not return to the retinal specialist’s office, but rather contacted her primary care physician and saw him the following day. She did not receive a referral to a neuro-ophthalmologist or other specialist right away and eventually went nearly completely blind 15 days later as a result of pseudotumor cerebri. There was no dispute at the trial that the plaintiff had a severe and permanent visual disability. She claimed the retinal specialist was negligent in not ensuring the neuro-ophthalmologist’s office took the plaintiff’s insurance (Illinois Public Aid) prior to referring her to him. The plaintiff also claimed the retinal specialist was negligent for not following up with either the neuro-ophthalmologist or the plaintiff to ensure she was actually seen by the neuro-ophthalmologist for her urgent medical condition. The plaintiff sought and submitted punitive damages as well. In closing, the plaintiff requested between $5 million and $15 million in damages. The plaintiff did not submit any medical bills and made no lost wage claim. The damages were all in the form of noneconomic damages (it should be noted that because the cause of action accrued in June 2015, the statutory cap on noneconomic damages was not applicable). The jury returned a verdict in favor of our client and apportioned 100 percent of fault to the plaintiff.

Defense Verdict in Case Involving Child’s Fall at Pool

Corey Kraushaar obtained a defense verdict in a two-day jury trial in Taney County Circuit Court. The 2-year-old plaintiff’s grandparent and next friend claimed the kiddie pool area in the client’s waterpark was dangerous because the child tripped on blue rubber material sticking up from the pool floor. The plaintiff claimed the child fell and struck her head on the edge of the pool, resulting in a closed head injury, bruising, scarring and developmental deficits. The jury returned with a verdict for the defendant.

Defense Win in Case Involving Icy Fall at Church

Brandon Copeland and Kelsey McLean obtained a great result for their client in St. Charles County. The plaintiff was working as a caregiver for an elderly church member when she alleges she slipped and fell on a set of stairs leading from the street to the entrance of the church. She sustained a broken ankle, torn tendon, and nerve damage that required two surgeries to repair. We argued that plaintiff was responsible for her injuries due to her failure to keep a careful lookout for ice on the stairs when she was aware of ice on other parts of the property and freezing rain earlier in the day. Plaintiff asked the jury to award her $200,000. The jury returned a unanimous verdict finding plaintiff’s damages totaled $10,000 and assessing her 90 percent at fault for the accident—resulting in a $1,000 net verdict that was reduced to zero by a setoff in favor of defendant.