$6.6 Mil awarded for O’Hare L crash

$6.6 Mil awarded for O’Hare L crash
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CHICAGOLAWBULLETIN.COM // In the News

Volume 163, No. 31 // WEDNESDAY, MAY 10, 2017

BY LAURAANN WOOD Law Bulletin staff writer

A Cook County jury has awarded $6.65 million to a woman who suffered several injuries when a Blue Line train derailed at the O’Hare station.

Plaintiff Yolanda Montes sued the Chicago Transit Authority in 2014, alleging it negligently failed to operate its rail system safely and ensure its train operator was not fatigued while on the clock.

Montes, a Transportation Security Administration employee, was riding in the train’s sixth car on her way to work around 2:50 a.m. on March 24, 2014, when the front of the train barreled past a protective bumper onto the station platform and came to rest halfway up the escalator into O’Hare International Airport.

Reports that came out days after the incident indicated the train’s operator said she fell asleep at the controls and didn’t wake up until the collision.

Montes’ head struck a metal pole and a train door in the incident, causing her to suffer neck pain, back pain and a concussion. But the impact also aggravated her previously existing asymptomatic degenerative disk disease and arthritis, said Christopher M. Norem, a partner at Parente & Norem P.C. who represented Montes.

She began treating her injuries conservatively immediately after Early-morning derailment caused injuries to TSA worker with existing back problems

the crash but decided to undergo surgery after more than a year of no response, Norem said. She received a one-level fusion in her neck in June 2015 and a two-level lumbar fusion in March, he said.

“This was a woman that was a [Transportation security officer] at O’Hare who had to handle bags. She had to twist and bend and lift,” Norem said. “She was able to do that without a problem in her life. Then this event happened, and we have this whole cascade of treatments.”

Montes’ neck surgery resolved her radiating arm pain, Norem said, but it did not treat the local neck pain. Now 37, Montes works as an administrative assistant with the TSA in a position that meets all of her permanent restrictions related to lifting, bending and standing, Norem said.

The CTA admitted negligence in the suit and acknowledged Montes’ neck pain, back pain and concussion. However, it denied that her aggravated degenerative disk and arthritis symptoms resulted from the train crash.

“They fought us tooth and nail on that,” Norem said, noting the CTA retained a medical expert to support its contention during trial.

To challenge that argument, Norem presented jurors with two options. He said the jury could find it more likely than not that the collision triggered his client’s aggravating symptoms, or it could accept the CTA’s contention that the crash didn’t cause the symptoms. Norem called that contention “the world’s biggest coincidence.”

The CTA was represented by its managing attorney Jade G. Simmons-Ford and senior attorney Calvin A. Townsend II. Townsend deferred comment to its media relations department, which declined to comment.

Norem said the parties did not engage in settlement discussions, but the CTA offered $600,000 to settle about two weeks before and then $2 million during their weeklong trial before Circuit Judge Arnette R. Hubbard.

On Friday, The jury awarded Montes $440,000 for past loss of a normal life, $840,000 for future loss of a normal life, $50,000 for disfigurement, $840,000 for past pain and suffering, $2.75 million for future pain and suffering, $617,000 for past medical expenses, $617,000 for future medical expenses and $500,000 for lost earnings.

Norem said his client is pleased with the jury’s verdict.

“She’s made the best out of a bad situation, but unfortunately her dreams of becoming a full time law enforcement officer are never going to come true,” he said. “But she’s satisfied with her outcome. She put her trust in the jury, and it made a fair and just decision for her.”

Parente & Norem associate Amanda M. Martin also represented Montes.

The case is Yolanda Montes v. Chicago Transit Authority, 14 L 4695.

Copyright © 2017 Law Bulletin Publishing Company. All rights reserved. Reprinted with permission from Law Bulletin Publishing Company.

 


$5.4M Award for slip, fall on fuel spill

$5.4M Award for slip, fall on fuel spill
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http://www.pninjurylaw.com/parente-news-feb14-2017/

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CHICAGOLAWBULLETIN.COM // In the News

Volume 163, No. 31 // TUESDAY, FEBRUARY 14, 2017

BY LAURAANN WOOD Law Bulletin staff writer

$5.445M net jury verdict against Union Pacific Rail Road for injured an
railroad worker brought under FELA.

37 year-old diesel mechanic was attempting to loosen a fitting on a fuel pre-heater with a pipe wrench
while standing in leaking diesel fuel when the fighting broke free causing him to twist and sustain an inguinal hernia along with a lumbar disk injury.

Plaintiff returned to work in a modified duty, but before having
back surgery was unfortunately in a serious car accident which fractured
his right ankle.

We obtained a $2.95M settlement for this man for his ankle injury.

Once he healed from the ankle fracture he returned to a spine surgeon and underwent a two-level lumbar fusion surgery on his back.

Union Pacific offered $50K during the start of the trial.

The jury awarded the entire $9M we requested of them and reduced it by 39.5% contributory negligence on the part of the mechanic, resulting in the net verdict of $5.445M or more than 100x the settlement offer at trial.


Plaintiff Receives $1.45M; High-Low Deal Settles Suit

Plaintiff Receives $1.45M; High-Low Deal Settles Suit
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BY LAURAANN WOOD Law Bulletin staff writer

A construction worker received a $1.45 million settlement after a high-low agreement was reached shortly before a Cook County jury returned with a verdict.

The jury’s $2.3 million award came Friday. Though that’s $850,000 more than the settlement amount, the agreement ensured the plaintiff would walk away with compensation had the jury gone with a smaller award or none at all.

Plaintiff William Rosignal’s attorney, Christopher M. Norem, said Rosignal is still satisfied with his case’s outcome because he wanted finality. “It just goes to show that if you ’re a credible person, even if you ’re working a hard job … the jury is still going to give you money for pain and suffering and loss of a normal life,” he said.

Rosignal was injured after a school bus rear-ended his work van.

Rosignal alleged the driver of a First Student school bus improperly operated the vehicle and rammed into the back of Rosignal’s van in 2012.

Rosignal, 47, a self-employed construction worker, was stopped at a red light facing west on North Avenue at the intersection with Schmale Road in Glendale Heights when the bus struck the back of his white Chevrolet van.

The impact caused a disk in Rosignal ’s neck to herniate, which also pressed on spinal nerves and caused him to experience pain in his arms and hands.

He underwent a two-level cervical fusion to repair the disk as well as another injury to the vertebra above the injured area to relieve the pain in his hands and arms.

The surgery kept Rosignal out of work for three months, but he returned to the same type of heavy work he performed before the accident and has maintained that activity since.

But even though he still experiences persistent pain, he continues to work simply out of necessity, said Norem, a partner at Parente & Norem P.C.

“It was significant to him that the hand pain and numbness went away because he’s a construction worker,” he said. “But he still dealt with head and neck pain and pain in the low back of his head.”

Rosignal sued First Student and bus driver Stephen Boeck in May 2013, alleging Boeck failed to take any evasive measures to avoid the collision .

The suit alleged First Student provided a school bus to an unfit driver, and the company failed to properly train Boeck to operate a school bus or ensure he could safely operate a bus before allowing him to drive one for the company.

The defendants initially denied the allegations but later admitted negligence, which caused the case to proceed to trial on damages before Circuit Judge James Michael Varga.

Partners John W. Patton Jr. and Michael G. Vranicar of Patton & Ryan LLC represented the defendants.

“We are pleased that plaintiff settled this matter with us prior to the jury verdict, as the injuries were quite severe in this matter,” Patton said.

To contest damages, Norem said, the defendants recorded Rosignal engaging in work and performing heavy-duty tasks as evidence that he might not be as severely injured as he contended.

However, Varga didn’t admit the video into the trial. Norem said Varga ruled the surveillance tape wasn’t probative since Rosignal’s case didn’t include a claim he couldn’t perform physically demanding construction work.

After four days in court and before the high-low agreement, the jury awarded Rosignal $232,641 for past medical expenses, $50,000 for future medical expenses, $350,000 for past pain and suffering. $1 million for future pain and suffering, $175,000 for past loss of a normal life and $525,000 for future loss of a normal life.

The case is William Rosignal v. First Student, Inc. et al., 13 L 4964.

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CHICAGOLAWBULLETIN.COM // In the News

Volume 162, No. 61 // TUESDAY, MARCH 29, 2016


Slip on Ice Nets $3.5M settlement

Slip on Ice Nets $3.5M settlement
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BY LAURAANN WOOD Law Bulletin staff writer

A man who severely injured his back after a construction accident has settled his suit against the project’s general contractor for $3.5 million.

The agreement came earlier this month, the day before a Cook County judge was scheduled to rule from the bench on 62-year-old Kevin Montgomery’s negligence and premises-liability case.

He sued Bovis Lend Lease Inc. alleging the company should have corrected or halted work in wintry conditions to prevent him from slipping on ice and suffering his injury in December 2007.

Montgomery, 54 at the time, worked for Tribco, Bovis’ concrete subcontractor hired to lay the concrete structure for the One Museum Park East condominium complex at 1211 S. Prairie Ave.

Montgomery and two foremen were tasked to move three carts of plywood sheets across a just completed concrete floor on the 61st floor to a temporary balcony so a crane could pick them up.

“They’re like railroad carts, they’re super heavy with big steel wheels on them,” said Christopher M. Norem, a partner at Parente & Norem P.C. who represented Montgomery. “By the time one of those is full, it weighs about 3,000 pounds.”

However, Norem said, the project had seen several prior days of snow and ice before Montgomery and the foremen had to move the carts. Although the floors and temporary balconies are placed under a cover in such conditions, he said, moisture still seeps through.

That happened on the building’s 61st floor, causing ice to build up on the concrete, Norem said. As Montgomery and the foremen moved one of the carts, he said, Montgomery slipped on an unnoticed patch of ice nearby and twisted his back.

He underwent an initial lumbar fusion about a year after the injury, Norem said, and then a second fusion about a year later.

Montgomery felt some relief from leg pain after the second surgery, Norem said, but he never returned to his pre-injury condition.

Eventually, he said, Montgomery developed arachnoiditis — an inflammatory condition of the spinal nerves — which causes him to experience constant nerve pain that medicine cannot fully remedy.

“If you have all those interventions going on in there, and you develop scar tissue in that very sensitive area, sometimes — it’s rare, but it happens — people get this inflammatory condition in there where those nerves just won’t calm down,” Norem said.

As a result, he said, Montgomery can no longer work in the construction trade or maintain any other type of employment.

Montgomery filed suit in Cook County Circuit Court against Bovis in May 2010. He alleged the company allowed him to work in unsafe work conditions by allowing snow and ice to accumulate on the premises, failing to reasonably inspect it or provide adequate safeguards against injury and requiring workers to move nearly 3,000 pounds of plywood sheets when it was unsafe to do so.

In its answer, Bovis admitted it was present during the course of construction but denied that the company directly or proximately caused any kind of injury by way of any alleged negligence.

Instead, Bovis contended in affirmative defenses, Montgomery breached his own duty of care to himself by failing to look out for his own safety, exercise proper caution to avoid potential hazards and remove the ice and snow when it was his duty to do so.

Norem said the parties hotly contested the allegation that Montgomery or Tribco should have removed the snow and ice, as the company’s contract with Bovis includes a provision that it was responsible for clearing conditions “as needed” or “if requested.”

However, Montgomery contended Bovis’ argument was flawed because Tribco had already completed its job on the floor by the time he slipped.

“They were not actively working,” Norem said. “Basically, the materials were just sitting there in the way of some other stuff … so that’s now a floor that was no longer under Tribco’s control.”

The parties attempted mediation twice — once in 2013 before retired judge Jennifer Duncan-Brice of Resolute Systems LLC and again one year from of trial before retired judge Joseph N. Casciato of ADR Systems of America LLC.

The parties failed to reach an agreement, Norem said, because Bovis contended Montgomery’s accident was more than 50 percent his fault and refused to meet his settlement demand.

Montgomery and Bovis proceeded through a four-week bench trial that ended Nov. 12 before Cook County Circuit Judge John P. Kirby. After the plaintiff rested, Norem said, Bovis moved for a directed finding. which Kirby denied.

“It was pretty clear at that point that we were going to succeed on liability, and then the question was simply, ‘Well, what’s the value?’”

Montgomery and Bovis settled Dec. 10 for $3.5 million and waiver of a $1,038,926.50 workers’ compensation lien. Kirby was scheduled to rule on the matter Dec 11.

Katherine A. Jones, a partner at Christensen & Ehret LLP who represented Bovis, said while many factors play into a party’s decision to settle, a driving factor in this case was the issue of whose duty it was to clear the snow and ice.

It’s an issue that is settled in premises liability claims but less clear in construction negligence cases, she said.

“When a contractor and a subcontractor have a relationship, there are certain factors that go into when (a contractor has) a responsibility to remediate a subcontractor’s behavior,” she said. “The interplay of that, when it comes to snow and ice, is kind of an unsettled issue under Illinois law.”

Norem said Bovis’ denied motion likely played a large role in helping the parties to meet in the middle. And considering Bovis never exceeded a $1 million offer before Kirby heard the case, he said, the settlement could have never happened without spending those four weeks in the courtroom.

“They finally paid an amount of money that was, in our opinion, fair and reasonable to the point that it outweighed the risk of getting less on the verdict or losing on appeal,” Norem said. “At that point, Kevin is satisfied. Kevin is now 62. Kevin has custody of two of his granddaughters. He can now take care of them and himself and not be worried about money for the rest of his life.”

Montgomery was also represented by associate Amanda M. Martin of Parente & Norem.

Bovis was also represented by Partner Mark E. Christensen of Christensen & Ehret LLP.

The case is Kevin Montgomery v. Bovis Lend Lease, Inc. 10 L 6192.

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CHICAGOLAWBULLETIN.COM // In the News

Volume 161, No. 254// WEDNESDAY, DECEMBER 30, 2015


Winnebago Co. Motorcycle Suit Settles for $6M

Winnebago Co. Motorcycle Suit Settles for $6M
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BY JOHN FLYNN ROONEY Law Bulletin staff writer

A woman who suffered a serious brain injury after being ejected from a motorcycle driven by her husband will receive $6 million in a settlement that stems from a tactical decision to sue her husband instead of his employer.

On May 20, 2012, Lori Hepner was riding as a passenger on the motorcycle operated by her husband, James H. Hepner Jr.

At that time, James was the sales manager for House of Harley-Davidson in Milwaukee and was riding a 2012 Harley-Davidson Ultra Classic owned by the dealership.

The couple were participating in the Little Angels Pledge Run of Illinois, an event sponsored by a McHenry County Harley-Davidson dealership.

While driving along Collins Road in McHenry County, James, who over the past two decades only drove a motorcycle a couple of times a year, drifted off the road.The motorcycle went into a ditch, which he tried to ride out of at 55 mph.

When he struck an embankment near the driveway of a farm field, the motorcycle went airborne and landed 45 feet away.

Lori, who was wearing a helmet, was ejected and landed face first on the shoulder of a two-lane road. James was also ejected and suffered orthopedic injuries, including a broken arm.

Other motorcyclists participating in the charity event stopped and provided first aid to Lori. She was airlifted to OSF Saint Anthony Medical Center in Rockford, where she was initially treated for injuries including bleeding on her brain, fractures on the left side of her face, spinal fractures and a broken left wrist.

The bleeding on her brain caused a traumatic brain injury. Now 56, she can’t work, handle family finances or drive, said Christopher M. Norem, a partner at Parente & Norem P.C. who represents Lori along with his law partner, Joseph D. Parente.

A lawsuit was filed on Lori’s behalf in July 2012 in Winnebago County Circuit Court against her husband. His mother, Theresa, who lives near the couple, is guardian of Lori’s estate.

The complaint alleged that her husband operated the motorcycle negligently and failed to slow down before they were thrown off the bike.

James was insured under two House of Harley policies.

The couple still lives together in Grafton, Wis., about 20 miles north of Milwaukee. James, who hasn’t worked for the dealership since the accident, is his wife’s primary caregiver.

Parente and Norem decided not to name House of Harley in the lawsuit because they believed the dealership would have the case removed to Milwaukee, the city where Harley-Davidson was founded and a place where a dealership would be a popular and well-liked defendant, Norem said.

“It was a tactical decision, and it worked out,” he said.

The lawsuit was filed in Winnebago County, which includes Rockford, rather than McHenry County because Norem’s jury verdict research showed jurors there would give Hepner a fair valuation for her injuries, he said.

West Bend Mutual Insurance Co., an insurer for House of Harley and James Hepner, retained legal counsel to defend him. It asserted that a gust of wind pushed him off the road and that the accident was not his fault.

The settlement, which will be paid by West Bend, was reached at a mediation session last month with Dennis J. Burke of ADR Systems of America LLC.

The money will be used to renovate the couple’s home to make it accessible and to pay for care for Lori. An attendant will help her shower, do laundry and complete other household tasks.

If the accident occurred before 1988, a lawsuit would have been barred under the previous version of Illinois’ interspousal immunity statute. But the legislature amended that law to allow claims like this one.

“Now this family will have the resources Lori needs to be taken care of for the rest of her life instead of being driven into bankruptcy,” he said.

Bradford S. Purcell, a partner at Purcell & Wardrope Chtd., represented West Bend and James Hepner. He could not be reached for comment.

The case is Theresa “Tess” Hepner, etc. v. James H. Hepner Jr., No. 12 L 205.

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CHICAGOLAWBULLETIN.COM // In the News

Volume 161, No. 52 // TUESDAY, MARCH 17, 2015


Brain-damage suit settles for $10.5M

Brain-damage suit settles for $10.5M
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BY MARC KARLINSKY Law Bulletin staff writer

Three days into a trial, Loyola University Medical Center agreed to a $10.5 million settle- ment with a man who suffered brain damage as a boy following leg surgery.

The agreement Wednesday came after a Cook County judge barred testimony from one of the hospital’s experts, the man’s lawyer said.

The lawsuit stemmed from events beginning in May 2005, when 12-year-old Henry Craig went to the hospital for surgery on both of his femurs. Christo- pher M. Norem, a partner at Parente & Norem P.C., who represented Craig, said the boy was hit by a car while on his bike, breaking both of the bones.

The long orthopedic surgery to fix his femurs required Craig to remain under a general anes- thetic for 10 hours.

The surgery went fine, Norem said. But after the surgery, doctors had trouble measuring the boy’s oxygen saturation levels due to the constriction of blood vessels after a long surgery. “Because of his body, the machine couldn’t read it,” Norem said.

The anesthesiologist removed the breathing tube and respi- rator once vital signs reached certain levels but before Craig was visibly alert and awake, Norem said.

“One of our biggest contentions in this case was, you have to treat the patient, not the numbers,” he said.

After the operation, Craig was transferred to the hospital’s post- anesthesia care unit, where doctors again had difficulty reading his oxygen levels.

The boy’s breathing became weaker and he was showing signs of a lack of oxygen, Norem said. The doctors were looking for another cable or finger clip to obtain the oxygen reading but did not reinsert the breathing tube in the meantime.

“You can’t assume they’re breathing,” Norem said.

To treat the boy’s post- operation shivering, a resident then provided him two doses Demerol, which created a respi- ratory-depressant effect that sent Craig into a coma for several weeks.

Doctors reintubated Craig 25 minutes after first removing the tube.

The complaint, first filed in August 2009 by Craig’s mother, alleged he suffered permanent brain damage from oxygen loss. Today, at age 22, Craig has limited motor control and requires assistance with daily activities. The settlement will help make Craig’s home wheel- chair-accessible and provide for attendant care.

“It’s a number that clearly will care for him at the level he needs for the rest of life,” Norem said.

Craig was also represented by Timothy D. Quinn, an associate at Parente & Norem P.C.

Loyola was represented by William F. Cunningham and Scott A. Herbert of Cunningham, Meyer & Vedrine P.C. They could not be reached for comment.

Circuit Judge Irwin J. Solganick approved the settle- ment in the case, Henry Craig v. Loyola University Medical Center, No. 09 L 10101.

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CHICAGOLAWBULLETIN.COM // In the News

Volume 160, No. 135 // THURSDAY, JULY 10, 2014


Settlement gives widow $3.15 million

Settlement gives widow $3.15 million
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BY MARY KATE MALONE Law Bulletin staff writer

An Illinois asphalt manufac- turer agreed to pay $3.15 million to settle a lawsuit filed by the widow of an oiler who died while working at a Joliet asphalt plant in 2004, her attorney said.

Approved by Will County Circuit Judge Michael J. Powers on Oct. 11, the settlement repre- sents the largest in Will County for an adult male in a wrongful death case, said John L. Kirkton, editor of the Jury Verdict Reporter, a division of Law Bulletin Publishing Co.

Jason Shelton, 26, died in November 2004 while working at Gallagher Asphalt Corp.’s plant when he suffocated inside a 30- foot bin of sandmaterial used to make asphalt, said Christopher M. Norem of Parente & Norem P.C., who represented Shelton’s then-wife, Melissa, with his partner, Joseph D. Parente.

Jeffery J. Tomczak of the Law Office of Jeff Tomczak in Joliet also represented Shelton’s widow.

“The point of the lawsuit from (Melissa Shelton’s) standpoint was not to see how much money she could get,” Norem said. “She wanted to find out what happened and have someone take responsi- bility.”

On the day of his death, Shelton’s duties included standing above the bin on a catwalk and monitoring the flow of the material through the bin, Norem said.

As the weather turned cold and snowy that day, the sand got stuck in the bin and no longer flowed out smoothly, Norem said. Another worker came over to hit the side of the bin to help the material properly, Norem said.

Several minutes later, workers found Shelton deep inside the bin and no longer breathing. He died of asphyxiation.

Melissa Shelton could not sue Gallagher Asphalt Corp. under Illinois law since it served as Jason Shelton’s employer, but she could file suit against Gallagher Materials Corp., the company that manufactured and sold the asphalt from the Joliet plant, Norem said.

Gallagher Materials Corp. agreedto pay the $3.15 million, but did not admit fault in the settle- ment, Norem said.

Michael J. Meyer, Mark C. Galasso and Patrick E. Burgess of Tribler, Orpett & Meyer P.C. in Chicago represented Gallagher Materials. They did not return a phone call seeking comment.

Both sides disputed how Shelton became trapped inside the bin — whether he fell in from the catwalk or voluntarily entered it to help break loose the sand material.

“We contended he would never do something that dangerous,” Norem said. “He likely fell in, and once he got into the bin, there was no way for him to get out.”

Jason Shelton served as a member of the International Union of Operating Engineers Local 150.

“When people hear of a construction accidents resultng in death, many times they think of a flagger being hit on the expressway during construction,” said Ed Maher, spokesman for Local 150. “But there are so many dangerous situations that construction workers put them- selves in every day. And this is one sad example.”

The case is Melissa Shelton as Special Administrator of the Estate of Jason Shelton, deceased, v. Gallagher Materials Corporation. No. 07 L 511.

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CHICAGOLAWBULLETIN.COM // In the News

Volume 158, No. 209 // WEDNESDAY, OCTOBER 24, 2012


Train lawsuits end with settlements totaling $36.25M

Train lawsuits end with settlements totaling $36.25M
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By Pat Milhizer Law Bulletin staff writer

A fiery train derailment that killed a woman and caused the birth and death of a child yielded $36.25 million in two Cook County settlements.

Attorneys reached the larger settlement before trial and the other came Tuesday just before jurors issued a verdict after a Daley Center trial.

Three railroad companies will pay a $22.5 million settlement to Jose Tellez for the death of his 44-year-old wife, Zoila.

Tellez, 43, suffered burns in the accident that happened two years ago in Rockford. He sat in his car near a Canadian National Railway Co. (CN) train that derailed after heavy rains washed away the roadbed below the tracks.

Eighteen tankers derailed, causing an ethanol explosion. A fireball engulfed Tellez’s vehicle, which also carried his wife and their pregnant daughter.

Tellez’s suit alleged that 20 minutes before the derailment, Rockford authorities called CN at its Montreal headquarters to report the flooded conditions. The CN employee who took the call wasn’t trained to know that the train needed to be imme- diately stopped, the suit alleged.

CN also didn’t respond to a weather alert that there was a possibility of a washout and

the company previously knew about the potential for problems based on this type of alert, the suit alleged.

The suit accused CN of negligence in operation, maintenance and supervision of the train and negligence in maintenance and inspection of the railroad tracks. The complaint also named two CN subsidiaries — Illinois Central Railroad Co. and Chicago, Central & Pacific Railroad Co. — as defendants.

The settlement pays $7 million to Tellez and $15.5 million to his wife’s estate. Tellez has four daughters, ranging in age from 11 to 20.

Robert J. Bingle and Philip Harnett Corboy Jr. of Corboy & Demetrio P.C. rep- resented Tellez.

“It was a confluence of errors that led to the tragedy that just didn’t have to happen,” Bingle said. “This family has been through a lot and still is going to go through a lot. And there’s not going to be any way they could ever replace what was just a wonder- ful mother and wife. But this will help them to move on.”

Cook County Circuit Judge Thomas L. Hogan approved the settlement last month, which attorneys agreed not to report until the other case concluded.

Tellez’s daughter, who was in the car and pregnant at the time, filed the other suit.

Adriana Tellez suffered burns and deliv- ered her daughter after six months of preg- nancy. The premature baby died within a day.

The case went to trial and minutes before jurors read the verdict Tuesday, the dispute settled for $13.75 million. The jury’s $12.95 million verdict won’t be enforced.

Christopher M. Norem, Amanda M. Martin and Joseph D. Parente of Parente & Norem P.C. represented Adriana Tellez.

“After a very hard-fought, four-week trial where they denied liability throughout the course of the trial, Canadian National was ultimately found responsible for what happened to Adriana by the jury. And that was very important for her,” Norem said.

CN was represented by James A. Fletcher of Fletcher & Sippel LLC. A Minneapolis law firm represented the two CN subsidiaries.

Fletcher couldn’t be reached for comment this morning.

Patrick Waldron, a CN spokesman, said the National Transportation Safety Board is still investigating the accident.

“The Tellez family has endured a terrible tragedy and CN wishes to express again its sincerest regrets and deepest sympathies to the entire Tellez family,” Waldron said. “No amount of money can replace the family’s losses.”

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CHICAGOLAWBULLETIN.COM // In the News

WEDNESDAY, OCTOBER 19, 2011 // Volume 157, No. 205


Insurer loses bid to limit costs in collision involving rental car

Insurer loses bid to limit costs in collision involving rental car
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By Stephanie Potter Law Bulletin staff writer

The 1st District Appellate Court decided Friday that a rental car company was not required to provide liability cov- erage to customers who prefer to use their own coverage.

The ruling, written by Justice P. Scott Neville Jr., affirmed a decision by Cook County Circuit Judge John K. Madden, who has since retired.

The case arose out of an Oct. 25, 2000, auto accident between Allstate Insurance Co. policy- holder Rajiv Munschi and Gary Vitt, who was driving a rental car owned by Hertz Corp., the deci- sion said. Munschi settled with Vitt for $20,000, but did not pursue a claim against Hertz.

Allstate then filed an action for declaratory judgment to determine its liability under the underinsured motorist provision of its policy with Munschi.

Allstate sought to limit the amount it would have to pay Munschi under his underinsured motorist policy to its coverage limit of $100,000, minus the $20,000 Munschi received from Vitt and the $50,000 to which it argued Munschi might have been entitled had he sued Hertz.

At the very least, said Allstate attorney Peter C. Morse, Hertz should have been required to provide $30,000 in coverage, for a total of $50,000 when Vitt’s other coverage was factored in.

Hertz is required under the law to maintain coverage of $50,000 per person or $100,000 per accident in liability protect for its renters, the decision said. But in offering customers that insurance, Hertz also states that it will not indemnify customers who rely on their own insurance as long as the policies meet minimum state requirements, the decision said.

According to the decision, Vitt

rented the Hertz car on Oct. 3, 2000, and declined to purchase the liability insurance offered by Hertz. He opted to rely on his policy from Geico Insurance, which had coverage of $20,000 per person or $40,000 per acci- dent for personal injury or death, the minimum required under Illinois law.

In Allstate’s declaratory judg- ment action, Madden granted summary judgment in favor of Munschi.

Agreeing with Madden’s deci- sion that Munschi was entitled to $80,000 worth of coverage, Neville cited Hertz’s liability insurance supplement provision, which states that the company’s liability will be triggered only if the renter does not have the minimum insurance required under the law.

Allstate based its argument on the Illinois law concerning underinsured motorists, 215 ILCS 5/143a-2(4). The law states that the liability limits “for an insurer providing underinsured motorist coverage shall be the limits of such coverage, less those amounts actually recov- ered under the applicable bodily injury insurance policies, bonds or other security maintained on the underinsured motor vehicle.”

Allstate argued that Hertz’s $50,000 in self-insurance should be considered “other security,” Neville said.

But the court rejected that argument, relying on Fogel v. Enterprise Leasing Co. of Chicago, 353 Ill.App.3d 165, 176 (2004), citing Farm Bureau Mutual Insurance Co. v. Alamo Rent A Car, 319 Ill.App.3d 382, 389 (2000). Those cases hold that the parties to a rental agree- ment can contract as to which insurer, the rental agency or the renter’s own insurance, is responsible for primary cover-

age, as long as the state’s minimum requirements are met, Neville wrote.

“Finally, and most impor- tantly, the UIM statute pro- vides that the insurer (Allstate) providing underinsured motorist coverage is limited to a deduction of the ‘amounts actually recovered’ from the insurance policy on the under- insured motor vehicle,” Neville wrote.

Morse, who said he was disap- pointed with the decision, said he did not know whether Allstate would appeal. He called the issue of the definition of “other secu- rity” a minor part of the case. The real issue, he said, is that rental car companies should be held to the requirement of main- taining coverage for its renters of $50,000 per person or $100,000 per accident.

“They don’t seem to want to hold the rental car company’s feet to the statutory fire,” Morse said.

In requiring Allstate to provide $80,000 worth of cover- age. Neville said Illinois law has established that the intent of the underinsured motor vehicle law is to leave the insured in the same position he or she would have been if the other driver had adequate insurance, citing Susler v. County Mutual Insurance, 147 Ill. 2d 548, 555 (1992).

Justices Michael J. Gallagher and Sheila M. O’Brien concurred in the decision, which was unpublished under Supreme Court Rule 23.

Allstate was represented by Morse and Jeffrey A. Siderius of Morse & Bolduc. Munschi was represented by Christopher M. Norem of Parente & Norem P.C. He could not be reached for comment.

The case is Allstate Insurance Co. v. Rajiv Munschi, No. 1-04- 1919.

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CHICAGOLAWBULLETIN.COM // In the News

Volume 151, No. 197 // FRIDAY, OCTOBER 7, 2005

 

 


Carpenter injured in a fall preparing to set trusses

Carpenter injured in a fall preparing to set trusses
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Chicago Daily Law Bulletin  // In Circuit Court

 A carpenter who was injured in a fall while preparing to set trusses at a residential construction site has settled his lawsuit against the project’s general contractor and a crane/truss company for nearly $4.9 million, according to the carpenter’s attorney.

As a bundle of trusses was being lowered by a crane, John Halek, 42, was standing on the top edge of a back wall of a house under construction, waiting to grab the trusses that would make up the home’s roof, when the bundle shifted, causing him to fall 30 feet, said Christopher M. Norem of Parente & Norem P.C., who along with Joseph D. Parente and Timothy D. Quinn represented the plaintiff.

The carpenter sustained a moderate traumatic brain injury, fractured wrists requiring surgery and a neck injury requiring fusion surgery, Norem said.

The plaintiff claimed that Kingsport Development LLC, the owner and general contractor of the project, failed to ensure that Halek’s employer, the carpentry subcontractor, had an OSHA- compliant fall-protection plan and to ensure that feasible work supports were being used while landing the truss bundles, rather than the top edge of the walls. The plaintiff also alleged that the crane and truss company did not provide the correct rigging for a bundle of that size, or a competent opera- tor.

The general contractor, who was represented by Jeffrey H. Lipe and Thomas J. Pontikis of Williams, Montgomery & John Ltd., agreed to pay $4 million on Thursday, after a trial had begun before Cook County Circuit Judge Jennifer Duncan- Brice, who dismissed the case, Estate of John Halek v. Kingsport Development LLC, et al., No. 08 L 6980.

On Nov. 2, the case against Tempo Components and Tempo Wood Products, which supplied the crane operator and the trusses and was represented by Christopher G. Buenik and John J. Moroney IV of Bollinger, Ruberry & Garvey, was settled for $875,000.

Norem said the carpenter’s employer waived a $1.66 million workers’ compensation lien, dismissing it from the case.

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CHICAGOLAWBULLETIN.COM // In the News

TUESDAY, AUGUST 5, 2003 // Volume 149, No. 152


Vehicle rear-ended by a truck

Vehicle rear-ended by a truck
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Chicago Daily Law Bulletin  // In Circuit Court

A $3 million settlement stemming from a 1997 Arlington Heights auto accident was approved Wednesday by Cook County Circuit Judge Susan G. Fleming.

Javaid Malik was traveling westbound on West Higgins Road, when the vehicle in which he was a passenger was rear-ended by a Jack Gray Transport truck. As a result of the accident, Malik underwent double-level cervical fusion surgery, which aggravated his preexisting condition of degenerative disk disease, said plaintiff attorney Christopher M. Norem. Javaid Avan Malik, et al. v. Jack Gray Transport Inc., et al., No. 97 L 0867.

The defense was represented by Martin D. Synder, an attor- ney in Williams, Montgomery & John.

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CHICAGOLAWBULLETIN.COM // In the News

Volume 147, No. 97 // WEDNESDAY, MAY 16, 2001

 


Woman suffered head injuries when she fell on a concrete stairwell

Woman suffered head injuries when she fell on a concrete stairwell
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Chicago Daily Law Bulletin  // In Circuit Court

A woman who suffered head injuries when she fell on a con- crete stairwell has reached a $2.5 million settlement with the owner of the building.

On June 16, 1999, Barbara Everett fell in what she claimed was an unlit, garbage-strewn stairwell at her apartment build- ing on the South Side. She sustained a head injury and under- went surgery at Cook County Hospital.

Cook County Circuit Judge Irwin J. Solganick approved the settlement Monday after a week of trial, in which facts such as the condition of the stairwell and the effects of the fall were dis- puted.

Joseph D. Parente, Christopher M. Norem and Randall W. Schwartz of Parente & Norem represented Everett. Mitchell H. Frazen of Litchfield, Cavo represented the building owner.

The case is Barbara Everett v. South Lowe Ave. Terrace LLC, No. 99 L 13249.

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CHICAGOLAWBULLETIN.COM // In the News

Volume 149, No. 49 // WEDNESDAY, MARCH 12, 2003

 


Two lawsuits from deck collapse yield $12 million

Two lawsuits from deck collapse yield $12 million
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BY PAT MILHIZER // Law Bulletin staff writer

A deck collapse during a construction project to expand the Will County jail has yielded two equal settlements that total $12 million.

Ramiro Zavala and Joshua Comer worked for Lindblad Construction and poured concrete in October 2007. They stood on a steel deck that collapsed, causing them to fall about 20 feet.

Zavala, 41, suffered a pelvis fracture and a severe back injury. Comer, 33, fractured his left leg and suffered wrist, thigh, ankle and knee injuries.

The plaintiffs filed separate lawsuits in Cook County Circuit Court against the construction management firm, the deck installer and the deck supplier.

They alleged that the construction plans required support for the deck, but nobody supplied the needed support before the concrete started pouring.

Both men alleged that they couldn’t return to work in construction.

The defendants tried to move the suits to Will County, but Cook County Circuit Judge Lynn M. Egan kept the cases in the Daley Center.
Zavala’s case settled for $6 million in April but remained confidential until Comer settled his case for $6 million last week.

Zavala was represented by Joseph D. Parente and Christopher M. Norem of Parente & Norem P.C.

“The fact that they’re alive is a miracle,” Parente said.

“This was an accident waiting to happen that could have been completely avoided had somebody taken a visual inspection of the decking before the pour. It was clear there was zero shoring whatsoever.”

Comer was represented by Sean P. Murray and Marc A. Taxman of Anesi, Ozmon, Rodin, Novak & Kohen Ltd.

Murray said the settlement will take care of Comer for the rest of his life.

“This fall took away his livelihood, his profession, his career, his identity,” Murray said. “And this settlement is the first step in rebuilding his life.

“He’s had five years’ worth of surgeries. … He’s been through constant physical therapy and it’s time to move on. And this settlement will allow him the freedom to do that.”

For the defendants, Timothy D. McMahon of Wiedner & McAuliffe Ltd. and Jeffrey H. Lipe of Williams, Montgomery & John Ltd. represented Harbour Contractors Inc.

Andrew C. Seiber of SmithAmundsen LLC repre- sented Waukegan Steel Sales Inc.

Mitchell H. Frazen of Litchfield, Cavo LLP represented Cordeck Sales Inc.

McMahon, the lead defense attorney, declined to comment.

Zavala’s case is Ramiro Zavala v. Harbour Contractors Inc., et al. 08 L 10918.

Comer’s case is Joshua Comer v. Harbour Contractors Inc., et al. 09 L 3180.

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CHICAGOLAWBULLETIN.COM // In the News

WEDNESDAY, JUNE 13, 2012 // Volume 158, No. 116

 


Man fractured spine when a school bus ran over a pothole

Man fractured spine when a school bus ran over a pothole
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Chicago Daily Law Bulletin  // In Circuit Court

A Chicago man with a brittle bone disease whose spine was fractured when a school bus ran over a pothole has settled his lawsuit against the bus company for $1.9 million.

Rocky Eljubeh, who suffers from Torg’s Osteolysis, claimed that the Chicago School Transit bus company should have out- fitted their special needs bus more carefully and should have trained its drivers to recognize road hazards better.

Eljubeh and the bus company came to terms Wednesday and Cook County Circuit Judge Bill Taylor formally dismissed the suit Friday. Under terms of the settlement, Chicago School Transit will put the $1.9 million into an compound-interest- bearing annuity, which will pay Eljubeh more than $8 million over 56 years.

Eljubeh was 14 and on his way to Jesse Spaulding High School on Jan. 10, 2000, when the bus was rattled. He suffered compression fractures on his lumbar spine.

He was represented by Joseph D. Parente and Christopher M. Norem of Parente & Norem P.C.

The case was mediated by retired Cook County circuit judge Anthony John Bosco of LaRose & Bosco Ltd.

Craig A. Tomassi of The Law Offices of Craig Tomassi defended Chicago School Transit.

Tomassi said that he thought the settlement “was very fair to both sides.” Eljubeh was “severely injured” in the accident and would have made “a very sympathetic witness” at trial, Tomassi said.

The case was Rocky Eljubeh, et al. v. Chicago School Transit, No. 00 L 3867.

Copyright (c) 2014 Law Bulletin Publishing Company. All rights reserved. Reprinted with permission from Law Bulletin Publishing Company.

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CHICAGOLAWBULLETIN.COM // In the News

FRIDAY, JUNE 3, 2005 // Volume 151, No. 109

 


Cook County jury hands out $2.4M for back injuries from truck crash

Cook County jury hands out $2.4M for back injuries from truck crash
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BY JENN BALLARD

Law Bulletin staff writer

A Cook County jury awarded $2.4million to a man who suffered back injuries when his parked truck was hit by a semitrailer truck.

Clanton Pitchford slept at a truck stop in Tuscon, Ariz., in 2006 when a Knight Transportation Inc. truck, traveling at about 5 mph,struck the left corner of his vehicle.

Pitchford, then 59, was tossed around in a raised bed behind the driver’s seat, but he did not fall out.

The accident caused him to suffer lower back pain, which he did not have prior to the accident, the suit alleged.

Pitchford went to an emergency room five hours later and was diagnosed with a lumbar strain.

When he returned to Chicago a month later, the suit alleged, Pitchford visited a spinal surgeon who diagnosed him with an aggra- vation of asymptomatic degenera- tive spondylolisthesis — in which one vertebra slips over the one below it — of his third and fourth vertebrae.

The surgeon also diagnosed him with stenosis — a narrowing of the spinal column — between his fourth and fifth vertebrae, the suit alleged.

In 2007, Pitchford received a lumbar fusion between his third and fourth vertebrae to stabilize his spine.

Two years later, Pitchford had a spine stimulator — which exerts electrical signals to the spinal cord to control chronic pain — placed in his lower back.

In 2011, he received a revision of his previous spinal fusion and a fourth and fifth vertebrae lumbar fusion.

Partner Christopher M. Noremand Associate Jordan W. LaClair of Parente & Norem P.C. represented Pitchford.

Norem said Pitchford had preexisting back conditions that didn’t require medical treatment. But the accident caused complica- tions that led to the surgeries and made him more susceptible to future injuries.

“This 59-year-old had conditions on his MRI and CT scans that we conceded existed in his body for years,” Norem said.

“But the issue was, ‘When did it become symptomatic?’ And we contended that was after this event.”

The defendant offered $350,000 to settle the case, Norem said.

“The first surgery alone was about $118,000 in medical,” Norem said. “And from that point, he incurred another $500,000 in medical, which made a big differ- ence in terms of the value.”

Shareholders Gregory D. Conforti and James E. Phelan of Johnson & Bell Ltd. represented Knight Transportation.

Conforti said he and Phelan started working on the case in December when the company changed its legal representation.

The defense attorneys plan to file a post-trial motion to address an issue of an expert not being allowed to testify in the case.

In addition, Conforti said, Pitchford was replaced as a plaintiff by a bankruptcy trustee after he filed for bankruptcy.

“Mr. Pitchford was allowed to be the named plaintiff to the jury and sit at counsel table,” Conforti said.

Because of the filed bankruptcy petition, Conforti said, Pitchford should have informed the creditors about the pending lawsuit.

“He did not disclose this claim in the initial (bankruptcy) filing and denied the existence of any lawsuits during the meeting of the creditors,” Conforti said.

“However, he had already retained counsel to represent his interests forthis claim, and five days before the meeting of the creditors, he signed a mortgage foreclosure document, stating he had a pending lawsuit against Knight Transportation.”

Cook County Associate Judge Michael R. Panter presided over the trial, which ended with a verdict on Feb. 20.

The case is Clayton Pitchford, et al. v. Knight Transportation Inc., et al., No. 08 L 8670.

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CHICAGOLAWBULLETIN.COM // In the News

FRIDAY, FEBRUARY 11, 2011 //  WEDNESDAY, FEBRUARY 27, 2013

 


$5M settlement reached in a drunken-driving lawsuit

$5M settlement reached in a drunken-driving lawsuit
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Chicago Daily Law Bulletin  // In Circuit Court

By Maria Kantzavelos Law Bulletin staff writer

A lawsuit brought by a Walgreens project manager who suffered injuries in a 2006 traffic accident involving a worker who was drinking on St. Patrick’s Day at a bar across the street from his job site before driving away in his company-issued van has settled for $5 million, the plaintiff’s attorney said.

The case involved a foreman of United States Fire Protection Inc. The company, which equips buildings with fire sprinkler systems, was also a defendant in the lawsuit.

On March 17, 2006, Gary W. Ericksen, who had been working as a foreman sprin- kler fitter at the construction site of a Westin Hotel in Wheeling, left the job site with his crew for lunch to patronize the Old Munich Inn, a bar across the street that Ericksen frequented regularly during work hours for a period of five to six months, the plaintiff’s lawyers alleged.

The plaintiff, Joseph Ambrogio, con- tended that Ericksen was intoxicated when he got into his company van and drove about a mile — to Lake-Cook Road on a bridge over the intersection with the Canadian National Railroad — where he struck a line of stopped cars including the car driven by Ambrogio, which was the second car in line, said Joseph D. Parente of Parente & Norem P.C. who, along with Christopher M. Norem, represented the plaintiff.

Ericksen was later convicted of aggra- vated driving under the influence of alcohol as a result of the accident. But the lawsuit alleged that this was not the first time the sprinkler fitter was convicted or charged with drinking-related offenses.

Parente said a unique fact pattern in the case helped drive the settlement, which was approved last week by Cook County Circuit Judge Lynn M. Egan, just a few days before the matter was to proceed to trial before her on Monday.

“You had a person who was somewhat

known to be a drinker, who would frequent the drinking establishment right across the street from the construction site multiple times a week and it actually happened on St. Paddy’s day. I couldn’t make up better facts than that,” Parente said.

“It’s pretty compelling if you’re talking to a jury,” Parente said. “First of all, it’s a motorist who’s a known drinker, who is given the keys to a company vehicle and he chooses to drive that vehicle after drinking in excess on St. Paddy’s Day. The fear is that anyone in the jury, including any of the lawyers, could face the same danger that Joseph Ambrogio did — a drunk driver.”

Prior to the settlement, the judge granted the plaintiff leave to plead punitive damages against not only the individual driver of the van but his employer as well — another unique factor that Parente said he believes was key to the settlement.

“We were prepared to ask the jury for in excess of $10 million in punitive damages,” said Parente, pointing out that Illinois law does not allow punitive damages to be covered by liability insurance.

If a jury were to award punitive damages in the case, Parente said, “they would’ve had to have been paid or satisfied directly by United Fire Protection, out of corporate funds.”

United States Fire Protection was rep- resented by Dean Barakat of Nyhan, Kralovec & Barakat P.C., and John W. Patton Jr. and John A. Ouska III of Patton & Ryan LLC. Barakat declined to comment and Patton and Ouska could not be reached on Friday.

The driver of the van was represented by James B. Tobin of Lewis, Brisbois, Bisgaard & Smith LLP, who declined to comment on the case.

Among the allegations in the lawsuit was the contention that United States Fire Protection was aware or should have been aware that Ericksen was regularly present at the bar across the street from the work site, with a company van, during work

hours and immediately following regular work hours for several months. The lawsuit also alleged that the employer failed to learn or inquire about Ericksen’s driving record, including a 1998 DUI conviction, before allowing him to use the company van to drive from home to various work sites.

“That’s where the rub was in this case,” Parente said. “They were supposed to do background checks on their drivers. It’s our argument that had they done it, they would’ve seen that he had prior DUIs and/or convictions for drinking-related offenses. … If they did the proper background check, they never would have allowed this man to take a company vehicle.”

Parente said his client, who was 34 at the time of the accident, suffered a herniated disc in his lower back that required a single- level lumbar fusion and a meniscal injury in his knee requiring several arthroscopic sur- geries. But, other than during a few weeks following his back surgery and knee surger- ies, since the accident, the plaintiff has been working full-time in the same job as a com- munications technician supervising the installation of communications wiring in newly constructed Walgreens stores, his attorneys said.

Parente said the $5 million settlement is the highest reported settlement in Illinois “for an injury involving a single-level lumbar fusion wherein the plaintiff contin- ued in his pre-accident occupation since the date of the accident.”

John L. Kirkton, editor of the Illinois Jury Verdict Reporter, said he could not confirm that claim. But he said the settle- ment is particularly hefty in light of the injuries the plaintiff suffered in the crash.

“Most of the time when you get into that dollar value it’s because there is some per- manent disability or paralysis that resulted from the spinal damage and there’s cer- tainly none in this instance,” Kirkton said.

The case is Joseph Ambrogio and Debra Ambrogio v. Gary W. Ericksen, et al., No. 06 L 6380

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CHICAGOLAWBULLETIN.COM // In the News

Volume 157, No. 30 // FRIDAY, FEBRUARY 11, 2011


Construction worker fractured vertebrae and injured his rotator cuff

Construction worker fractured vertebrae and injured his rotator cuff
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Chicago Daily Law Bulletin  // In Circuit Court

A construction worker who fractured vertebrae and injured his rotator cuff on the job has received a $3.5 million settle- ment, his attorney said.

Kyle Ziminsky was 17 years old in 2004 when he was working as a non-union laborer at a condominium construction site in Frankfort.

He stepped onto a shaft opening that was covered with Styrofoam and fell 13 feet onto his back.

The shaft was covered, but not barricaded, the plaintiff alleged.

Ziminsky was represented by Christopher M. Norem and Joseph D. Parente of Parente & Norem P.C.

Bruti Associates Ltd. was represented by W. Grant Farrar of Bollinger, Ruberry & Garvey.

Frankfort Masonry and FMC Service Corp. were repre- sented by Thomas P. Boylan of Cassiday, Schade LLP.

HTH Mechanical Services Inc. was was represented by William Walter Elinski of Pretzel & Stouffer Chtd.

Bruti Associates paid $1.5 million. HTH Mechanical Services paid $1.5 million. Frankfort Masonry and FMC Service Corp. paid a total of $500,000.

The settlement was reached Thursday after a private medi- ation before Jerome M. Orbach, a retired Cook County circuit judge.

Kyle Ziminsky v. Bruti Associates, et al., No. 04 L 5670.

CHICAGOLAWBULLETIN.COM // In the News

TUESDAY, DECEMBER 16, 2008 // Volume 154, No. 246


Construction worker falls from overhang

Construction worker falls from overhang
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Chicago Daily Law Bulletin  // In Circuit Court

A construction worker who fell from an overhang covering a concrete stairwell reached a $1.1 million settlement with the general contractor on the project. The plaintiff, whose right foot was severely injured as a result of the fall, was an employee of a siding subcontractor that had been enlisted by the general contractor to do rough framing work on a residence.

The plaintiff was represented by Joseph D. Parente and Christopher M. Norem of Parente & Norem P.C. Co-defendants David Beechy and By-The-Book Construction were repre- sented by Larry Schectman and Rita Filiaggi of O’Hagan, Smith & Amundsen LLC, and Jon Yambert of Chilton, Yambert, Porter & Coghlan, respectively. The case was settled on Friday before Cook County Circuit Court Judge Richard J. Elrod. Mark Anderson v. David Beechy and By-The-Book Construction Inc., No. 00 L 004344.

Copyright (c) 2014 Law Bulletin Publishing Company. All rights reserved. Reprinted with permission from Law Bulletin Publishing Company.

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CHICAGOLAWBULLETIN.COM // In the News

TUESDAY, AUGUST 5, 2003 // Volume 149, No. 152


Jail construction worker win settlement

Jail construction worker win settlement
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By Brian Stanley // [email protected]

CHICAGO  –  Two construction workers who were injured years ago when a floor collapsed at the Will County jail each will receive a $6 million settlement.

On Oct. 9, 2007, Ramiro Zavala and Joshua Comer had just started pouring concrete on the third-floor level of the jail expansion project when the steel deck they were standing on col- lapsed.

The two men fell more than 20 feet, along with some supports and concrete.

Zavala, then 36, of Joliet, suffered a fractured pelvis and underwent back surgery.

Comer, then 29, of Braidwood, suffered a broken femur and wrist, ankle and knee injuries. Neither man was able to return to work in the construction trades.

Zavala’s attorney Christopher Norem said the $70 million construction project was managed by a joint venture entity on behalf of the Will County Building Commission.

That joint venture, along with Harbour Contractors; Waukegan Steel Sales Inc., the deck supplier; and Cordeck Sales Inc. the deck installer, were sued in Cook County by Zavala in 2008 and Comer in 2009.

The expansion opened in May 2009 and roughly tripled the jail’s inmate capacity. 

Zavala’s case was settled in April and the $6 million settlement was made public Monday when Comer’s case was settled for the same amount.


Company settles death suit

Company settles death suit
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Joliet asphalt maker to pay widow more than $3 million

By Janet Lundquist // Joliet Herald News // [email protected] 

A Joliet asphalt manufacturer has agreed to dish out more than $3 million to settle a lawsuit brought by the widow of a Channahon man who died at the company’s plant in 2004.

Gallegher Materials Corp. agreed to pay most of the $4.45 million settlement, with $225,000 paid by the manufacturer of the bin, whose name remains confidential.

The settlement maybe a record high number for a male wrongful death lawsuit in Will County, said Chris Norem, Who represented Melissa Shelton in her case with his partner, Joseph D. Parente, and Joliet attorney Jeff Tomczak.

“(Melissa) wasn’t doing this for money, ” Norem said. “She wanted answers as to how and Why Jason died feel pretty strongly We obtained those answers.”

Her husband, Jason Shelton, 26, died just before Thanksgiving in 2004 after he suffocated in a bin of sand-like material at the plant.

“It was a very unfortunate accident,” said Michael Meyer, who represented Gallagher Materials with Mark Burgess. “We lost a very valuable employee. We Wish (his family) well. ”

Shelton, a Local 150 oiler, was working for Gallagher Asphalt Corp. at the company’s Brandon Road plant.

The night he died, Shelton was monitor ing the flow of sand through a bin that narrowed at the bottom. It was cold and snowy, and the sand was sticking together.

He last was seen standing on a catwalk above the bin and had radioed for someone to come out and hit the side of the bin to loosen the sand.

Several minutes later, he was discovered at the bottom of the bin.

The catwalk had a grate that was open at the time to allow the sand to flow into the bin, Norem said, and added that he believes Shelton likely fell through the open grate and into the bin.

“(Gallagher) contended he intentionally went into the bin to loosen the material. We contended all along he fell in, and once he got in there was no way to get out based on the configuration of the bin,” Norem said.

The removable grate was an Occupational Safety and Health Administration violation, he said.

Also, Norem said the bin would have been safer with a steel grate inside that would allow the sand to flow through but not large objects or people  –  a safety measure that has been recommended by the National Safety Council since the 1950’s.

Gallagher Materials disputed Shelton’s claims and denied liability as part of the settlement.

Under Illinois law, Melissa Shelton could not sue Gallagher Asphalt because her band was employed there, Norem said.

She could, however, sue Gallagher Materials, which manufactured and sold the asphalt.


Deck-collapse victim sues for over $50,000

Deck-collapse victim sues for over $50,000
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The suit was filed Wednesday in Winnebago County Circuit Court.

By Carrie Watters // Rockford Register Star

ROCKFORD – At least one victim in a Hampton Meadows deck collapse is suing the owners of the Rockford apartment complex, with others expected.

About a dozen people fell 10 feet when a wooden deck detached from the building shortly after midnight June 29. Injuries included broken bones in feet and ankles, according to a Rock- ford Department report.

Lucas J. Jeanmaire, 22, of Rockford seeks in excess of $50,000. Details of his injuries were undisclosed, although the complaint listed permanent injuries to his head, body, mind, limbs and nervous system.

Jeanmaire is represented by Chicago ­based personal injury attorney Christopher Norem, who alleges that apartment owners failed to properly maintain the deck and ensure it was properly fastened to the building.

“The fact that it collapsed speaks for itself, ” Norem said in a phone interview.

Norem and Rockford-based attorney Frank Perrecone, who is representing mo other victims, will appear in court this morning, Norem said. The attorneys seek a court order to obtain remnants of the deck and to preserve the accident site, Norem said.

The 12-year-old apartment building off Bell School Road is owned by Hampton Properties. Majority owner and Rockford developer John Slack has said the deck was built to withstand 100 pounds per square foot, or 7,200 pounds. Slack could not be reached Wednesday afternoon. Doug Winters, who manages the property, also did not return phone calls.

Norem said the deck should have been able to handle the occupants’ weight. “They weren’t partying,” Norem said. “They were hanging out on the deck.”

Norem contends the deck did not have enough lag bolts fastening it to the building, and the bolts were not long enough. Norem said only a half-inch to an inch of bolt was screwed into the buildings structure.

State law required owners to hire a design professional to determine the cause of the accident ‘This immediately was done.

But Mike Pfieffer, vice president of codes and standards development with the International Codes Council, said it often is the court system that decides who was at fault.


Award to family in Rockford train derailment: $36.2 million

Award to family in Rockford train derailment: $36.2 million
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By Chris Green // rrstar.com

CHICAGO – A multimillion-dollar settlement was reached today stemming from the June 19, 2009, train derailment and explosion that claimed the life of a woman and her daughter’s unborn baby.

Canadian National Railway will pay a total of $36.2 million to the Jose Tellez family. 

Killed in the multi-car derailment was Jose Tellez’s wife, Zoila Tellez. The railroad company settled with Jose Tellez for $22.5 million. Jose suffered second and third-degree burns over 25 percent of his body, said his Chicago-based attorney, Robert Bingle of Corboy and Demetrio. 

Jose and Zoila’s 19-year-old daughter, Adriana, was pregnant and suffered second- and third-degree burns to her face, chest,  shoulder, arms and hands as wcll as the loss of her baby, Samara Ramirez-Tellez. After a four-week trial, Canadian National Railway  settled with Adriana for $137 million, said her Chicago-based attorney. Christopher Norem of Parente and Norerm Law Offices. 

About 8:35 pm. June 19, 2009, the Tellez family was traveling north on South Mulford Road when they stopped at the south set of double railroad tracks. 

Unknown to them and to the operators of a freight train hauling ethanol, torrential rains had washed away the bedrock underneath the railroad tracks. As the train traveled over the tracks, ethanol cars derailed. exploded and burned for nearly 21 hours. 

“The Tellez family has endured a terrible tragedy, and CN wishes lo express again its sincerest regrets and deepest sympathies to the entire Tellez family. No amount of money can replace the family’s losses,” CN spokesman Patrick Waldron said. 

The family’s personal-injury attorneys were pleased with the settlements. 

“It was a terrible tragedy, and nothing will bring back that wonderful mother and wife, but this is certainly a measure of justice,” Bingle said.  

Norem added: “The family wanted to hear the jury hold Canadian National responsible, and that’s what the jury did.” 

Waldron said the settlements conclude all remaining litigation in connection with the 2009 train derailment. The case remains under investigation by the National Transportation Safety Board. 

 

Copyright 2011 Rockford Register Star. Some rights reserved

Jury awards $2.4M for back injuries from truck crash

Jury awards $2.4M for back injuries from truck crash
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BY JENN BALLARD
Law Bulletin staff writer

A Cook County jury awarded $2.4 million to a man who suffered back injuries when his parked truck was hit by a semitrailer truck.

Clanton Pitchford slept at a truck stop in Tuscon, Ariz., in 2006 when a Knight Transportation Inc. truck, traveling at about 5 mph, struck the left corner of his vehicle.

Pitchford, then 59, was tossed around in a raised bed behind the driver’s seat, but he did not fall out. The accident caused him to suffer lower back pain, which he did not have prior to the accident, the suit alleged.

Pitchford went to an emergency room five hours later and was diagnosed with a lumbar strain.

When he returned to Chicago a month later, the suit alleged, Pitchford visited a spinal surgeon who diagnosed him with an aggravation of asymptomatic degenerative
spondylolisthesis — in which one vertebra slips over the one below it — of his third and fourth vertebrae.

The surgeon also diagnosed him with stenosis — a narrowing of the spinal column — between his fourth and fifth vertebrae, the suit alleged.

In 2007, Pitchford received a lumbar fusion between his third and fourth vertebrae to stabilize his spine.

Two years later, Pitchford had a spine stimulator — which exerts electrical signals to the spinal cord to control chronic pain — placed in his lower back.

In 2011, he received a revision of his previous spinal fusion and a fourth and fifth vertebrae lumbar fusion.

Partner Christopher M. Norem and Associate Jordan W. LaClair of Parente & Norem P.C. represented Pitchford.

Norem said Pitchford had preexisting back conditions that didn’t require medical treatment, but the accident caused complications that led to the surgeries and
made him more susceptible to future injuries.

“This 59-year-old had conditions on his MRI and CT scans that we conceded existed in his body for years,” Norem said.

“But the issue was, ‘When did it become symptomatic?’ And we contended that was after this event.”

The defendant offered $350,000 to settle the case, Norem said.

“The first surgery alone was about $118,000 in medical,” Norem said. “And from that point, he incurred another $500,000 in medical, which made a big difference in terms of the value.”

Shareholders Gregory D. Conforti and James E. Phelan of Johnson & Bell Ltd. represented Knight Transportation.

Conforti said he and Phelan started working on the case in December when the company changed its legal representation.

The defense attorneys plan to file a post-trial motion to address an issue of an expert not being allowed to testify in the case.

In addition, Conforti said, Pitchford was replaced as a plaintiff by a bankruptcy trustee after he filed for bankruptcy.

“Mr. Pitchford was allowed to be the named plaintiff to the jury and sit at counsel table,” Conforti said.

Because of the filed bankruptcy petition, Conforti said, Pitchford should have informed the creditors about the pending lawsuit.

“He did not disclose this claim in the initial (bankruptcy) filing and denied the existence of any lawsuits during the meeting of the creditors,” Conforti said.

“However, he had already retained counsel to represent his interests for this claim, and five days before the meeting of the creditors, he signed a mortgage foreclosure document, stating he had a pending lawsuit against Knight Transportation.”

Cook County Associate Judge Michael R. Panter presided over the trial, which ended with a verdict on Feb. 20.

The case is Clayton Pitchford, et al. v. Knight Transportation Inc., et al., No. 08 L 8670.

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CHICAGOLAWBULLETIN.COM // In the News

Volume 159, No. 40 // WEDNESDAY, FEBRUARY 27, 2013