Recent Personal Injury Jury Awards and Settlements

Recent Personal Injury Jury Awards and SettlementsWoman awarded $8.4 million for Bad Faith Denial of Insurance Claim
NEW BRUNSWICK, NJ – A Superior Court jury has awarded $8.4 million to a woman who sued her own auto insurance company for denying her claims in two… Read More

$34.5 Million Recovery for Man Hit by Semi Truck
A Los Angeles Superior Court jury has awarded $34,555,220 to a man who suffered a below-the-knee amputation after he was hit by the trailer of a semi… Read More

NC Homeowners get refund plus $1.1 million damages for Defective Construction
Jurors awarded owners of four homes in the Mackintosh on the Lake development in North Carolina more than $1.1 million in damages Wednesday for poor… Read More

$19 Million Verdict Awarded to CA Crash Victim of Distracted Driver
A young California mother who was left in a persistent vegetative state after being crashed into at 65 mph by a negligent driver has recovered a $19 jury verdict. Attorney Maryam Parman of the Averk Law Firm in Irvine, CA, pursued the claim following a rear end collision on Nov. 27, 2011, when the Read More

Jury Awards Woman $30 Million After Throat Catches Fire
A 55-year-old woman who can no longer speak or breathe on her own after her endotracheal tube caught fire during surgery to remove polyps from her vocal cords has been awarded $30 million in her malpractice lawsuit, a jury in Seattle ruled last week. The patient, Becky Anderson, who was Read More

440,000 Deaths Annually from Preventable Hospital Mistakes

Hospital treatment causing more harm than healing?  Preventable hospital errors cause more than 400,000 deaths per year.

Preventable hospital errors cause more than 400,000 deaths per year.

A patient safety study estimates that more than 400,000 American deaths are associated with preventable harm done to patients in hospital settings.

According to the Journal of Patient Safety study, Evidence-based Estimate of patient Harms Associated with Hospital Care, preventable adverse events (PAE’s) contributing to deaths from care in hospitals cause one-sixth of all deaths that occur in the United States each year.

Preventable complications causing death

Many Americans, like 55-year-old Louis Salica, who went to a heart hospital when he felt chest pains and was short of breath, go to the hospital to get effective treatment.  Unfortunately, medical errors that are preventable can lead to further complications and even death of hospital patients.

While he was under the care of the overnight nurse, medication and oxygen provided to ease Salica’s breathing was ineffective. Had it been appropriately reported, it would have resulted in admission to the “intensive-care unit, intubating him, performing an echocardiogram, inserting an intra-aortic balloon, increasing his medications, and consulting with a cardiothoracic surgeon,” according to the testimony of an expert witness cardiologist.

However due to the failure by Salica’s overnight nurse to make a report, the “hours of progression of the underlying heart failure” decreased his chance of survival from “over 90% percent to approximately 20%.”  Salica ultimately died in an emergency surgery to repair a heart muscle rupture that occurred over night, caused by the failure to report, according to the court opinion in Salica v. Tucson Heart Hosp.-Carondelet, L.L.C., 224 Ariz. 414, 231 P.3d 946 (Ct. App. 2010)

Core studies used

The study’s author, John T. James, PhD, is the founder of Patient Safety America, which provides newsletters on patient safety and advances in medical technology and care that may affect patient safety.  The site is dedicated to his 19-year-old son who died by the medical errors of his treating cardiologist in 2002.

The Evidence-based study is based on a compilation of four other studies utilizing the Global Trigger Tool (GTT) in order to assess patient adverse events leading to healthcare harm.  The GTT is a standardized method of identifying and measuring adverse event triggers or “clues” documented in former patient records, leading to possible adverse events, according to the Institute for Healthcare Improvement (IHI), who developed the GTT.

Types of Preventable Adverse Events

Based on the GTT based study results, the lower limit of adverse events leading to death from hospital care is 210,000. The study multiplies this number by a conservative factor of two, increasing the death toll to 440,000 patients each year, in order to account for other causes of PAE’s during hospitalization such as the following:

  • Errors of commission – When the wrong medical action is taken or the right medical action is taken yet performed improperly.  For example, during the surgery to remove a gallbladder, the intestine is nicked, leading to a future infection causing death.
  • Error of omission – Obvious action was necessary to heal the patient, yet it was not performed at all.  Errors of omission are difficult to detect, and at times can be the result of a patient not following given guidelines after discharge. Another example may be a necessary medication that was not prescribed.
  • Error of communication – Miscommunication from physician to physician, or between patient and physician.  For example, a cardiologist not informing a patient who experienced syncope, or fainting, while running, not to run or explaining the risks associated with running.
  • Error of context – A physician may fail to take into account patient constraints that may impact the success of treatment after discharge.
  • Diagnostic errors – Diagnostic errors can result in delayed, wrong or no treatment at all, which often leads to the death of the patient.

 

These five types of errors are not detected by the GTT and some studies suggest a factor of 3 to account for adverse events not reflected in medical records, according to the study. The serious errors occurred both while in the care of the hospital and after discharge.

Serious predischarge PAEs, according to the study include:

  • Adverse drug events
  • Nerve or vessel injury or wrong operation
  • Deep venous thrombosis –  a blood clot in a deep vein
  • Hospital acquired infection
  • Postoperative respiratory distress

 

Postdischarge PAEs include:

  • Wound infection
  • Deep venous thrombosis – a blood clot in a deep vein
  • Operative wound dehiscence – a surgical incision breaking open along the suture
  • Operative organ injury

Physicians don’t report mistakes

Interestingly, the study referenced another source that found that patients reported 3 times as many preventable adverse events than were indicated in their medical records.  The study also found that more errors were identified by direct observation rather than by the inspection of medical records.  The also study noted a national survey that found that physicians often refuse to report serious adverse events, with cardiologist being the highest of the non-reporting groups.

The Office of Inspector General reported that 86 percent of patient harm events were not reported by hospital staff as they either did not perceive the event as reportable, or did not report an event that was commonly reported, in its 2012 report Hospital Incident Reporting Systems Do Not Capture Most Patient Harm.

Public awareness and safe care

“It is time that a clueless public wake up to the widespread harm of medical errors and force changes in the system that can give reasonable assurance of safe care,” said James in a guest blog on Safe Patient Project.org.  It seems his message is being heard.  The U.S. Department of Health Services released a report showing that an estimated 50,000 fewer patients died and 1.3 million fewer patients were harmed in hospitals from 2010 to 2013 as a result of safer health care efforts.

Rise in Traumatic Brain Injuries Holds Implications for Plaintiffs Attorneys

traumatic brain injury

The class of persons most likely to sustain traumatic brain injuries, which are commonly referred to as TBIs, are children up to age 4, adolescents ages 15-19, and adults over the age of 65.

Traumatic brain injury is on the rise, according to a new study published by the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA; 5/14/14), with emergency room visits having increased by 30% between 2006-2010.

Traumatic brain injuries are often poorly understood because there is often no outward sign of injury present. Plaintiff attorneys will need to equip themselves with a deeper knowledge of the ins and outs of traumatic brain injuries when seeking to recover damages for their clients.

  • More than 2.5 million traumatic brain injuries occur per year, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control.
  • Traumatic brain injury is involved in one-third of all injury-related deaths.
  • In fact, traumatic brain injury is the leading cause of death and disability in children and adolescents in the United States.

 

Traumatic brain injuries can have tragic, life-altering results for plaintiffs, opening them up to a variety of neuropsychological disturbances. These traumatic brain injury victims may suffer subtle deficits or severe emotional disturbances, such as mood disorders, anxiety disorders, psychosis, cognitive impairments, and behavioral problems.

New York personal injury lawyer Kenneth A. Wilhelm says, “A person who suffers a traumatic brain injury may never be the same person again. They may undergo significant changes in personality and behavior, not to mention losing the physical and mental abilities they once had.”

Preparing a brain injury case

“Day in the Life” videos are powerful technique for attorneys to settle traumatic brain injury cases.

Rocco Aliotto, a 43 year-old husband, father, and construction worker is just one example of a traumatic brain injury plaintiff. He was thrown off a scissor lift in 2011 while completing masonry work at a steel forging plant in Chicago, Illinois. Aliotto fell 15 feet from the platform of the scissor lift and struck his head on the concrete floor. Aliotto’s fall caused immediate bleeding and swelling in his brain and required multiple brain surgeries to save his life. The tragedy Aliotto suffered has dramatically and permanently changed his life.

In preparation for Aliotto’s trial, his attorneys purchased an exemplar scissor lift to fully evaluate the liability issues within the case, which is an effective means by which to become more knowledgeable about the cause of a plaintiff’s traumatic brain injury. Aliotto’s trial team deposed 22 individuals on the issues of liability and damages, gathering as many witness statements as possible for their traumatic brain injury plaintiff’s case.

Additionally, his attorneys prepared a professionally narrated settelement video documentary that addressed the issues of liability and damages. The narrative settlement video documentary, which is one of the most valuable tools an attorney can use to induce settlement, also included interviews from Aliotto’s family, friends, and medical experts.

Settlement videos

High-profile lawsuits are causing many sports organizations to take heed about the risks associated with traumatic brain injuries.

Professional settlement documentary videos, commonly referred to as “Day in the Life” videos, are effective in traumatic brain injury cases because they intelligently convey emotion that cannot be as easily represented in a brief. These videos, which are powerful technique for attorneys, can help traumatic brain injury plaintiffs’ attorneys induce settlement.

Striving for settlement in traumatic brain injury cases can be beneficial in keeping costs down for these plaintiffs, who will already be subject to an inordinate amount of medical costs due to their impending neurological health. Professional settlement or day in the life videos allow a traumatic brain injury plaintiff’s trial team to present the facts of the case in both a favorable and real way for a either a jury, should the case got to trial, or for settlement purposes.

Rocco Aliotto was left in a tragic state after his fall and subsequent traumatic brain injury. He is now unable to speak, is wheelchair-bound, and requires 24-hour care in a nursing home. Aliotto’s settlement for the significant cognitive and related physical deficits he has been left with was approved in Cook County, Illinois, in the sum of $18,605,733. The replacement parts for the two worn-down bolts that held the scaffolding to the base of the scissor lift Aliotto was working on would have cost only $22.50 to replace.

The recent increase in the number of emergency room visits for traumatic brain injuries could be caused by a growing increase in the awareness about the risks associated with head injuries and, in particular, the risks associated with brain injuries. High-profile lawsuits, such as the one recently filed by retired players of the NFL, may also contribute to an increased awareness of the risks associated with brain injuries, bringing even further attention to this area of litigation.

Football brain injuries

Within the class of children who suffer TBIs annually, children up to the age of 14 account for almost half a million of TBI emergency room visits per year.

The NFL is facing a lawsuit filed this year in which retired players alleged the organization did not properly and adequately protect its players from brain injuries. The NFL offered a $765 million settlement to the retired players, but the settlement amount was rejected by Judge Anita B. Brody for being an inadequate financial analysis. Judge Brody, who was worried the sum offered by the NFL would not cover the medical costs of the entire class of 20,000 NFL players, approved a new settlement award several months later.

This approved settlement agreement included terms such as unlimited damage caps for players, but unrestricted rights on behalf of the NFL to contest injured players’ claims as potentially false. High-profile lawsuits such as this are causing many sports organizations to take heed about the risks associated with traumatic brain injuries, such as the development of programs to alert both athletes and coaches to the appropriate safety measures designed to prevent repeated head injuries.

Depending on the nature of the injury, traumatic brain injury carries a risk of long-term health problems. More severe, long-term injuries tend to occur through repeated head trauma, through the participation in activities such as professional sports. Researchers for the JAMA have noted the possibility of an increased incidence of exposure due to the increased participation in sports.

Not just athletes

Mark Herceg, Ph.D, who is the Director of Neuropsychology at Burke Rehabilitation Hospital in White Plains, New York, has recently urged that traumatic brain injury is not just a problem for athletes. The class of persons most likely to sustain traumatic brain injuries, which are commonly referred to as TBIs, are children up to age 4, adolescents ages 15-19, and adults over the age of 65. Within the class of children who suffer TBIs annually, children up to the age of 14 account for almost half a million of TBI emergency room visits per year.

How exactly could these traumatic brain injury plaintiffs become exposed to this type of injury? According to Herceg, a TBI can be caused by a bump, blow, jolt to the head, or a penetrating head injury that disrupts the normal function of the brain. It follows that not all blows or bumps to the head result in a TBI. The severity of these injuries can be mild or severe, varying from a brief change in mental status or consciousness to an extended period of unconsciousness or amnesia after the injury.

The severe financial detriment coupled with the physical challenges suffered by traumatic brain injury plaintiffs means that personal injury plaintiffs attorneys must strive not only to better understand traumatic brain injury as a rising cause of harm, but also to diligently research and prepare for these trials and settlements. Plaintiffs attorneys in the realm of traumatic brain injury litigation must first better understand this developing cause of action in order to obtain the best compensation possible for their clients.

$2.5M Verdict Upheld Against Lumber Company that Blocked View of Oncoming Train

The Virginia Supreme Court affirmed a $2.5 million wrongful death verdict for a driver killed by a train he could not see because a lumber company blocked his view with a tall stack of lumber.

Lumber company liable for wrongful death when lumber stack blocked view of oncoming train.

The driver was unable to see past the stacked lumber, and was struck and killed by the three-engine train going approximately 45 miles per hour.

In October 2004, truck driver Charles Settle, was making his seventh trip for the day across the private road and railroad crossing owned by Norfolk Southern Railroad in Haymarket, VA. It was controlled only with “cross buck signs,” according to court documents.

Norfolk also owned the right-of-way, extending 30 feet in each direction of the railroad track, which allowed for the “locomotive train crews and the public to safely proceed across the tracks” by “maintaining clear sight” for safety purposes, according to the testimony of a Norfolk representative.

The RGR, LLC lumber company operated a business of offloading lumber from train cars to tractor-trailers, adjacent to the Norfolk railroad track. At the time of the accident, their lumber was stacked seven feet high within the 30 foot right-of-way, “needlessly cutting down the visibility of a motorist,” according court testimony of the RGR owner.

Unable to see

The Virginia Supreme court affirmed that because of RGR’s negligence: Settles was unable to see past the stacked lumber, and crossed into the railroad track where he was struck and killed by the three-engine train going approximately 45 miles per hour, pulling more than 100 cars, according to the court ruling.

Settles widow reached a $500,000 settlement with Norfolk.  In their appeal, RGR argued that Settles widow failed to establish they had a duty of care, and denied they had a duty of care to take reasonable steps to make the railroad crossing safe as they did not own the property.  RGR also alleged that Settle shared in contributory negligence for failing to look and listen for the train, according to the court decision.

Lumber company duty of care

RGR argued that because Settle was on a private road and on the railroad crossing owned by Norfolk, they owed no duty to Settles because Virginia does not recognize a duty of reasonable care on obstructions on private property nor one to protect “mere sight lines,” according to the ruling.

The court ruled that RGR owed a legal duty of care to Settles and others, regardless of property ownership. It said the duty arises if an injury “could have been reasonably foreseen by the exercise of reasonable care,” thereby prompting a reasonable person to “avoid conduct that creates risks of harms to others.”

Other drivers who also crossed the track several times that day testified that they could not see the tracks behind the lumber stacks when they approached the tracks.

No contributory negligence

RGR alleged that Settles was contributorily negligent for “failing to look and listen for the train,” according to the court documents.  Evidence and testimony discussed in the court’s ruling showed that Settles could not have seen or heard the train.

Other drivers and an RGR employee also testified that they only heard the horn once, while others testified they never heard the train horn.  A truck operation expert witness testified that it was likely difficult for Settles to hear noise outside his truck cab.

The court affirmed the jury’s determination that Settles did not share in contributory negligence as he “had the duty to look and listen with reasonable care,” not the “absolute duty to discover the presence of the train.”

Settles, who was delivering gravel to a pipeline construction site, was familiar with the road and railroad crossing.  According to court documents, another driver testified that trucks would typically slow down and check for trains, and proceed without stopping if a train is not present.  The court also stated it could be inferred from Settles’ familiarity with the track, that he was aware that trains usually traveled in the opposite direction of the train that hit him.

Driver action was not the proximate cause of collision

The court also determined that Settles likely knew that the lumber stack blocked his view, which would force him to rely on his hearing to cross the track, but because the train horn was not sounded, Settles could not have taken any other actions to avoid the collision, refuting the claim by RGR that Settles actions were the proximate cause of the collision.

The jury and Virginia Supreme court affirmed that Settles was not negligent in his death, and that RGR’s lumber stacks obstructed Settles’ view, which was the proximate cause of him crossing the path of the train, causing his death.  The Jury and court affirmed Settle’s widow an award of $2.5 million against RGR, deducting the $500,000 already settled with Norfolk.

The case is RGR, LLC v. Settles, 764 S.E.2d 8 (Va. 2014).

Healthcare Network Liable for $1.6M for Overdosing Patient

Krambule’s treatment included sedatives, pain killers and sleep aids, that reached to more than  30 pills per day. As a result, the cocktail of medications “metabolized and accumulated” in Randy Krambule’s body.

Krambule’s treatment included sedatives, pain killers and sleep aids that totaled more than  30 pills per day.

A jury in the Second District Court of Utah returned a  verdict for $1.6 million in a wrongful-death and medical malpractice action against Intermountain Healthcare for fatally overdosing a patient with a cocktail of medications.

The original complaint alleged Intermountain negligently and carelessly acted below the standard of care by prescribing a combination of medications.

Intermountain is a large healthcare network based in Salt Lake City, Utah. The healthcare provider has 22 hospitals in the state and more than 185 clinics in the Intermountain Medical Group.

Following the unexpected death of her husband Randy Krambule, Bobbie Krambule filed suit against Intermountain in 2010.  Randy Krambule had been seeking treatment for chronic back pain. The treating physician was employed by the Defendant in its North Ogden, Utah medical center.

Krambule’s treatment included sedatives, pain killers and sleep aids, that reached  to more tjan 30 pills per day, according to the Standard Examiner. As a result, the cocktail of medications “metabolized and accumulated” in Randy Krambule’s body, which led to drug toxicity and ultimately caused his death on April 3, 2008.

Wrongful Death

In Utah, a wrongful death suit may be brought by the surviving spouse or the victim’s heirs against the person responsible for the conduct or as in this case, the employer who is responsible for the [employee’s] misconduct. Utah Code Ann. § 78B-3-106.

Families may recover damages as a remedy for financial injuries suffered as a result of the death. In Utah, damages are measured by the conditions existing at the time of death. See Shields v. Utah Light & Traction Co., 105 P.2d 347, 351-52 (Utah 1940).

There are several factors used to determine the damages for heirs. The possible factors may include age, health, habits and the victim’s disposition to earn money. Moore v. Utah Idaho Cent. R. Co., 174 P. 873, 880 (Utah 1918).

Medical Malpractice Requirements

Medical malpractice is also a tort action grounded in negligence. Generally, wrongful death and medical malpractice claims are joined together because the death occurred from medical negligence.

In this case Bobbie Krambule had to prove the following elements:

  •  A duty existed on the part of the physician to conform to the specific standard of care.
  • The applicable standard of care.
  • The physician failed to perform the standard.
  • Breach of the duty was a proximate cause of [Randy Krumbule’s] injuries.

 

See H. Beau Baez III, Tort Law in the United States 56-57 (Roger Blanpain et al. eds. 2nd eds., 2014).

A medical malpractice claim differs from general negligence because the treating physician shares a special relationship with the patient. This special relationship increases the standard of care from general reasonableness to whether the physician fails to follow the custom of the medical profession.

The medical professional is required to treat each patient with reasonable diligence, skill, competence and prudence as is practiced by other professionals in the same specialty or general field . As long as the conduct in question is a custom practiced among others in the profession a malpractice claim will be unsuccessful. Generally, the customs and appropriate standard of care is proved through expert testimony,

Krambule v. Intermountain proves that it is uncommon for physicians to prescribe a number of medications without acknowledging the potential side effects and dangers to the patient.

Bobbie Krambule was represented by Peter Summerill, The Law Offices of Peter Summerill, Utah.

This case is Bobbie Krambule v. Intermountain Healthcare, Case No. 100907050, Second Judicial District Court, Ogden, Utah.

Mother of Bullied Student Sues Chicago School Over Suicide

McKenzie Philipot School Photo

The child’s mother contacted her daughter’s school on multiple occasions to express her concerns and report the bullying she repeatedly suffered.

The mother of a sixth grader who hanged herself after being bullied by fellow students has filed a wrongful death suit against the Chicago Public Schools for failing to provide a safe and secure learning environment.

McKenzie Philipot was a Chicago Public Schools pupil who hanged herself on May 8, 2014, after being subjected to a full year of bullying at the Helen C. Peirce School of International Studies in Chicago’s Andersonville neighborhood.

McKenzie’s mother, Beth Martin, is the administrator of her daughter’s estate, and together with McKenzie’s father, Travis Philipot, brought the lawsuit on her behalf.

The complaint demands a trial by jury against the two named defendants in the lawsuit, Chicago Public Schools and the Chicago Board of Education. Represented by attorneys with Corboy & Demetrio, P.C., the parents charge that the defendants had a duty to provide a safe and secure learning environment for all of their students, as well as a duty to provided reasonable and proper care in ensuring the safety of all students.

The Chicago Public Schools and the Chicago Board of Education have an anti-bullying policy in their Student Code of Conduct that mandates specific responsibilities for employees when addressing bullying.

Repeated Pleas Unanswered

The child’s mother contacted her daughter’s school on multiple occasions to express her concerns and report the bullying her daughter repeatedly suffered. The school, which is in control of its students while on school premises, failed to prevent any further bullying against McKenzie, which McKenzie’s estate claims eventually led to her death.

The complaint alleges the employee agents of both the Board and the schools had reliable information that would lead a reasonable person to suspect McKenzie was the target of bullying. Among the alleged anti-bullying failures of the defendants are:

  • Failure to conduct a timely and proper investigation.
  • Failure to take the proper disciplinary action.
  • Failure to inform the police and juvenile authorities.
  • Failure to intervene immediately in any manner to prevent bullying.
  • Failure to report to the parents/legal guardians of all students involved.

 

“The lawsuit claims that as a result of bullying, McKenzie sustained physical and emotional injuries that led to her suicide and that such conduct was in disregard of [Chicago Public Schools] policy,” said Robert J. Bingle, a managing partner of Corboy & Demetrio. “The school was aware of this bullying and did not follow the steps mandated by the [Chicago Public Schools] code to stop this behavior.” Bingle is a National Trial Lawyers Top 100 Trial Lawyer.

The case is Beth Martin, Administrator of the Estate of McKenzie Phlipot v. Chicago Public Schools and Chicago Board of Education,  #2014L010493.

Ninth Circuit Reinstates $1.7M Civil Rights Damages in Cop Shooting

Autistic man shot by police after found sleeping

The victim, who was autistic and often wandered from home, was shot by police after they found him sleeping in front of a building.

The Ninth circuit overturned a California district court ruling that prohibited pre-death pain and suffering damages caused by the violation of an autistic man’s civil rights when he was shot and killed by a police officer.

Los Angeles Police Officer Joseph Cruz and Officer David Romo found an autistic man, Mohammad Usman Chaudhry, 21, sleeping in front of an apartment building in Los Angeles. Believing he might be a drug user, Officer Cruz and his partner asked Chaudhry for his identification, which he provided.

While Cruz’s partner checked for warrants at their police vehicle, Cruz reported that Chaudhry lunged at him with a “boot knife.” Cruz fired four shots, killing Chaudhry in the early morning of May 25, 2008.

Shot while collapsed on the ground

Chaudhry’s parents filed a lawsuit for wrongful death, excessive force and assault and battery claim against Officer Cruz and the City of Los Angeles. The claims relied on both California state law and federal law, (42 U.S.C. section 1983) providing a cause of action for civil rights violations resulting in injury or death.

Evidence presented in trial showed that Chaudhry’s DNA was not on the “boot knife,” and that Cruz shot him while he “collaps[ed] to the ground, rather than while he was advancing toward Cruz.”

A jury awarded Chaudhry’s estate and decedents $700,000 for the wrongful death claim and $1 million under section 1983 for the excessive force civil rights violation arising from Chaudhry’s pre-death pain and suffering.

California statute prohibited recovery

The California district court later struck down the $1 million award based on California’s survival statute that prohibits recovery for pre-death pain and suffering and limits survival action compensatory damages to “the victim’s pre-death economic losses.” The district court held that the limit on compensatory damages was incorporated into and consistent with the civil rights violation law section 1983. In Chaudhry’s case, as a young autistic man sleeping on the street, the amount of pre-death economic loss was zero.

The Ninth Circuit court overturned the California district court, ruling that Chaudhry’s estate was entitled to the recovery of damages for the pre-death pain and suffering inflicted as a result of the deprivation of Chaudhry’s federal civil rights. The court stated that the purpose of section 1983 was to provide compensation as a “remedy for killings unconstitutionally caused…by state governments” and to deter law enforcement from committing “abuses of power [while] acting under color of state law.”

The court found that Officer Cruz’s use of excessive force violated Chaudhry’s civil rights causing his death and thus entitling his estate and decedents to recovery. The court further asserted that California’s survival statute restricts compensation so severely that it has “the perverse effect of making it more economically advantageous for a defendant to kill rather than injure his victim.” The court remanded to the district court to determine a reasonable award amount.

$15M Award for Motorcyclist in Fatal Collision with Fatigued Trucker

Motorcyclist ended up under tractor trailer truck's rear axle after collision with fatigued truck driver

Motorcyclist ended up under tractor trailer truck’s rear axle after collision.

A Florida Jury awarded $15 million in the wrongful death of motorcyclist who was killed when he collided into the rear panel of a tractor trailer truck. The truck driver, Roger Wirick, and his employer, Landstar Ranger Inc., were found liable for negligence.

Motorcyclist Carl Simmons, 29, was heading westbound on Sand Lake Road in Orlando on June 2, 2011 at 10:40 p.m. At that moment Roger Wirick was was driving eastbound and violated Simmons’ right of way by makng a left turn. Simmons crashed into the rear of Wirick’s tractor trailer and a nearby traffic pole.  Simmons was taken to Orlando Regional Medical center, where he was pronounced dead.

Simmons was found comparatively negligent by seven percent because the defense expert determined Simmons was riding at about 75 miles per hour at the time of impact, exceeding the 55 mph speed limit.

Attorney Thomas P. Schmitt of Goldstein, Schmitt & Cambron, PL, in Stuart, Florida, represented the widow, son and estate of the deceased motorcyclist.

Driver fatigue in large truck crashes

Wirick violated the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration’s (FMCSA) 11 hour daily service limit, according to his truck’s black box.  In addition, he only had eight hours of sleep in the 30 hours prior to the accident.

Every year there are 73,000 large truck injury crashes and more than 104,000 persons injured in these crashes, according to a study by the FMCSA and U.S. Department of Safety. Action or inaction by a driver was the critical reason for 88% of the crashes studied.

The plaintiff also alleged Landstar Ranger failed to maintain their driving records adequately, by keeping paper instead of electronic logs. This enabled Wirick to falsify the number of hours he had been driving and resting.

In a study by FMCSA, scientists found that drivers who had just one nighttime period of rest prior to a work shift exhibited more lapses of attention, especially at night. The study also indicated that working long daily and weekly hours on a continuing basis is associated with chronic fatigue and a high risk of crashes.

The defense counsel did not argue the issue of damages, but did assert comparative negligence because Simmons he was speeding at the time of the collision. The jury found that Simmons was seven percent liable and reduced Simmons’ wife and minor child’s award of $15,206,113 for loss of support and services, pain and suffering, and funeral expenses, to $14,141,685.

$3.5M Verdict for Trucker Death in Faulty Transmission Explosion

Transmission leak explosion causing deadly explosion

Heat from leaking exhaust fumes caused the truck’s transmission fluid to explode.

A California jury delivered a $3.5 million verdict against a trucking company for the death of a driver killed in an explosion caused by an improperly maintained transmission.

Armajit Khunkhun, 43, was driving the malfunctioning truck owned by his friend, defendant Aftar Gil, who operated GMG trucking of Fresno with his wife Jaswinder Gil.

Within 30 minutes of Khunkhun driving in the defendant’s truck on March 23, 2010, a severe transmission leak ignited by the heat emitted the exhaust caused the explosion and cabin fire that killed Khunkhun, according to Bill Robins, the lead attorney for Khunkhun.

Heard a “ticking noise”

In the days prior to Khunkhun’s death, Gil drove the defective truck and heard a “ticking noise.”  He added transmission fluid at a truck stop in Oklahoma City, but the noise continued. A dispatcher told Gil to park his truck and have Khunkhun help him deliver the load. Afterwards, Gil reported he no longer heard the noise while driving the truck without a load attached.

While making his deliveries, Khunkhun became ill. Gil offered to exchange trucks with him and deliver Khunkhun’s last load so that Khunkhun could return home sooner. Gil met Khunkhun at a Texas rest area where Khunkhun switched trucks.  After driving into New Mexico, Khunkhun pulled over on a stretch of highway where he died in the truck explosion.

The New Mexico fire department found a lighter and cooking utensils in the cabin and concluded that the fire started inside of the truck. Khunkhun’s family requested further investigation because it was not typical for Khunkhun to cook recklessly within the truck cabin, according to Robins.

Toxic fumes

Dallas Lane, an independent fire investigator, examined the fire patterns and determined the fire had started under the truck. He found that the hottest area appeared in the location of the transmission. The truck had a severe transmission leak, with only half an inch of transmission fluid present.

The plaintiff attorneys also presented a diesel mechanic expert, Tom Trust, who evaluated the transmission and determined that it was “severely damaged, and not properly maintained and running with leaking transmission fluid,” according to Robins.  He also discovered that there was a hole in the exhaust, concluding that the fumes ignited the transmission fluid.

Replicating the travel of the fumes on an exemplar truck indicated that the fumes likely traveled in the direction of the cab. Attorney Robins reported that Khunkhun had been exposed to toxic gases which disoriented him. Khunkhun had a 51% level of carbon monoxide in his blood stream at the time of his death.

The jury concluded on October 3, 2014 that as Khunkhun had called his wife while in Oklahoma and mentioned to her that Gil had problems with his truck, he should have recognized that it was unsafe to drive the truck.The jury awarded $3.5 million in damages, after a reduction in the award by 15% for Khunkhun’s contributory negligence.

Widow Files Lawsuit in Death of Off-Duty Chicago Officer Killed in Police Chase

Harris, a 10-year Chicago Police veteran, had just ended his shift and was on his way home the night of March 14 when the van struck his car in the 8700 block of South Lafayette Avenue just off the Dan Ryan Expressway.  Source: http://www.nbcchicago.com/news/local/Family-of-Killed-CPD-Officer-Sues-Calumet-Park-275383471.html#ixzz3DcIJYKWI  Follow us: @nbcchicago on Twitter | nbcchicago on Facebook

Harris, a 10-year Chicago Police veteran, had just ended his shift and was on his way home the night of March 14 when the van struck his car in the 8700 block of South Lafayette Avenue just off the Dan Ryan Expressway.

The wife of Chicago Police Officer David Harris, 42, who was killed by a van that was being chased by Calumet Park Police, has filed a wrongful death lawsuit against the village.

Harris, a 10-year veteran of the CPD, was driving home on March 14, 2014 when he was killed when the van rammed into Harris’ vehicle on the city’s South Side, and was just 15 minutes from his home.

Harris’ wife Sandra filed the lawsuit naming as defendants the Village of Calumet Park and Jerald Nettles, the police officer who was pursuing the van, and alleges that both acted “with utter disregard for the safety of others.”

Shanell Terrell, 31, of Chicago was driving the van. She was charged with murder and possession of cannabis in connection with the fatal crash.

Recklessly indifferent to safety

Corboy & Demetrio attorneys Matthew T. Jenkins and Thomas A. Demetrio represent the Harris estate. Both are members of The National Trial Lawyers Top 100.

“The primary focus of a police department is the safety of the public,” Jenkins said. “On March 14, Officer Nettles and the Calumet Park Police Department were recklessly indifferent to the safety of the public. The result was the tragic death of Officer David Harris,” Jenkins added.

The chase began when the van rolled a stop sign and ended in the death of Harris who earned 87 awards during his career with the CPD.

“Officer David Harris was an incredibly special person. He was a highly decorated Chicago police officer, a loving husband to Sandy, and dedicated father to David and Caleb,” Jenkins said. “His loss is profound, not only to the Harris family, but to the entire community,” Jenkins added.

Corboy & Demetrio also obtained an order to preserve evidence in the case, including the audio communications of the Calumet Park Police.

“The Harris family and the public at large are entitled to know how such a preventable tragedy occurred,” Jenkins said.

Case info: #2014L9643, Sandra Harris, Special Administrator of the Estate of David Harris v. Village of Calumet Park and Jerald Nettles, Cook Co. Circuit Court.