Trials and Verdicts, 2014
Brad Hansmann tried a wrongful death case representing a trucking company and convinced the jury to return a defense verdict. At trial, the plaintiff contended the slow movement of the defendant's truck impeded traffic and, thus, caused the collision. The jury sided with the trucking company and against the decedent's widow and children whose counsel asked the jury for $4 million in damages.
In Griffin/Elder v. Rhino's Truck Accessories, et. al. – Justin Hardin represented a company that allegedly sold defective go-karts in wrongful death product liability suits. Families of the two decedents filed wrongful death suits after their decedents were killed in a go-kart accident on the same date in which the go-kart was purchased. Families demanded more than $5 million and claimed aggravating circumstances. Justin obtained summary judgment on behalf of alleged seller prior to trial; judgment was affirmed on appeal. The case was highlighted in Westlaw Journal.
In a case tried in Jefferson County, Missouri, Irene Marusic successfully defended her client, a bar/restaurant, from a plaintiff claiming severe injuries from a fall. Irene convinced the jury that a raised area where the plaintiff fell was not a dangerous condition.
John McLeod won a defense verdict in the City of St. Louis where he represented just the trucking company at the time of trial. The truck driver passed away from unrelated causes before giving a deposition on an alleged rear-end collision. The plaintiff switched lanes due to another accident and claimed John's client had rear-ended her vehicle. There was no damage to the direct rear of plaintiff's vehicle; the damage was to the rear driver's side corner. The plaintiff claimed a closed head injury with headaches, stuttering, and PTSD, and had asked the jury for over $767,000.
John Cunningham and Daniel Hasenstab won summary judgment in the Circuit Court of Peoria County, Illinois, in favor of their insurance client in a breach of contract claim filed by a policyholder in relation to damage to his home caused by a partially collapsed brick veneer wall. The court agreed that the damage to the wall did not fit the insurance policy's definition of a covered "collapse" and, thus, the insurance company had no obligation to pay for the damage.
Tim Wolf prevailed before the Missouri Court of Appeals for his lawyer clients when the Court held that the defendant lawyers were not guilty of breaching their fiduciary duties. The Court so ruled because the lawyers' client had failed to prove any damages proximately caused by the lawyers' alleged malpractice.
Brad Hansmann and John Greffet successfully defended a landscaping company whose dump truck driver was accused of causing a collision with another driver in Callaway County, Missouri. The plaintiff alleged that Brad's and John's client failed to keep a careful lookout and negligently pulled out onto the highway at a time when it was unsafe to do so. The defense argued that it was the plaintiff who failed to keep a careful lookout, in addition to traveling at an excessive speed and colliding with the rear of the defendant's vehicle. The jury found the plaintiff to be 100% at fault for causing the accident and awarded a defense verdict.
Chris Vaporean obtained a unanimous defense verdict in a medical malpractice case in St. Louis City. The patient's family alleged that an interventional cardiologist selected an improper method for closure of the access point in the femoral artery through which a cardiac catheterization procedure was performed. The patient suffered a complication from use of the selected closure device and ultimately required amputation of his left leg.
Kurt Schmid obtained a defense verdict in Boone County, Missouri, where he represented a line haul motor carrier and its driver. After coming up over a hill, the defendant saw that the plaintiff had stopped in traffic. The defendant tried valiantly to avoid the plaintiff's vehicle, but ultimately his pup trailers came around and struck the vehicle. The plaintiff had a large lost income claim and asked the jury for a verdict between $1-$1.5 million.
The Fifth District Appellate Court of Illinois affirmed a summary judgment order for John Cunningham's and Daniel Hasenstab's insurance client in a breach of contract claim brought by its policyholder. The policyholder argued that the insurance company should have defended it against a separate lawsuit by a homeowner, which alleged that the policyholder built a faulty foundation for a house. The appellate court and the trial court agreed with John's and Daniel's position that the underlying complaint, which sought the repair or replacement of the faulty foundation, did not allege an "occurrence" or "property damage" under the insurance company's policy, and thus had no duty to provide a defense to the policyholder. Notably, these decisions were handed down by judges in Madison County and in the Fifth Appellate District, two venues that have a reputation for being hostile to insurance companies.
David Bub obtained a defense jury verdict after a three-day trial in the hinterlands of Missouri. The plaintiff alleged that their client had contracted bed bug bites after staying at the defendant's apartment. The defendant offered $15,000 and had made an offer of judgment in that amount. The plaintiff's demand was over $100,000; however, the jury awarded just over $344.
Irene Marusic brought in a Defendant's verdict on behalf of her bar/restaurant client in Jefferson County, Missouri. The plaintiff, who had $30,000 in medical bills, claimed a raised platform near a dance floor caused her fall. A unanimous jury found that the bar had no fault for the fall.
Ken Burke and Tucker Blaser successfully defended a physician and his practice group against medical malpractice and breach of contract claims pending in St. Clair County, Illinois. On the medical malpractice claim, Ken and Tucker obtained a dismissal with prejudice because the plaintiff's certificate of merit under the Illinois Healing Arts Malpractice Act was insufficient. On the breach of contract claim, Ken and Tucker obtained summary judgment because the contract lacked consideration and/or was rescinded by the parties' subsequent performance.
A St. Louis County jury returned a Defendant's verdict for Kevin Glynn's client, a general contractor in a gas pipeline damage case. Kevin's client was sued by Laclede Gas for $180,000 in damages to the pipeline because of allegedly defective work.
Justin Chapell and Brad Zaffiri obtained summary judgment in the Circuit Court of Clay County on behalf of their insurance company client in a breach of fiduciary duty claim based on the insured-plaintiff's complaint that the insurer settled a minor automobile accident claim over the insured's objection. The trial court entered judgment for Justin and Brad's client because the policy vested the insurer with complete control over the defense of the claim and, thus, the insurer could settle the claim whenever it deemed it appropriate to do so, the insurer's subsequent failure to produce the claim file to the insured was not actionable because the insured suffered no damages as a result of the insurer's conduct, and it was not a breach of fiduciary duty for an insurer to submit the claim history to a centralized underwriting agency.
Irene Marusic convinced a St. Louis City jury to find for her Defendant client in a red light/green light dispute. There was a dispute over which driver had the green light. The jury believed Irene's client and returned a Defendant's verdict.
Kenny Goleaner and David Bub persuaded a court that an anti-stacking provision in a business auto liability policy was clear and unambiguous, and obtained summary judgment for their insurance company client.
Justin Chapell, Nick Cammarata, and Morgan Williams obtained summary judgment in a first-party property damage case where the insured argued that a frozen waterline was covered under the policy's provision for "sudden and accidental discharges" of water. Because the policy contained a specific provision for freezing and bursting pipes, the court refused to apply the more general provision, and held the specific provision barred coverage for the loss.
The United States District Court for the Western District of Missouri upheld a pollution exclusion in a declaratory judgment action handled by Russell Watters and Patrick Bousquet. Russ and Patrick convinced the court that domestic animal waste was a "pollutant" under the policy. In so doing, they successfully rebuffed the insured's argument that the waste was a byproduct of its business and not "pollution" according to the normal meaning of the word.
Jackie Kinder convinced the United States District Court for the Eastern District of Missouri that there was no uninsured motorist coverage for a 25-year old living with an insured under an automobile policy because he did not meet the definition of a "household member." The 25-year old had lived with the insured as a foster child from ages 15-17 and then moved away. He returned when he was 24, and the court decided as a matter of law he was not the insured's "ward," thus not entitled to coverage.
Brad Hansmann, with Stacey McCullough's assistance, won summary judgment for a municipality in an employment contract case. The city manager contended the city breached its employment contract by terminating the manager. The court held as a matter of law that there was no contract because it had never been approved by the city council, as required by law.
Jon Morrow and Matt Haas obtained summary judgment in a first-party property damage case when as a matter of law, the court held that the insured had intentionally misrepresented the theft claim.
Bob Brady and Jon Morrow received a defense verdict in the United States District Court for the Eastern District of Missouri, sitting in Hannibal, Missouri, for their insurer client. The plaintiff claimed over $700,000 in roof damage and another $378,000 in consequential damages for failure to repair/pay for the roof repairs. Bob and Jon convinced the jury that the roof was old and the alleged damage was not caused by covered, weather-related events.
Brad Hansmann, with the assistance of Jon Greffet, prevailed on appeal before the Southern District of the Missouri Court of Appeals, winning an affirmance of the trial court's summary judgment for their client in a co-employee liability lawsuit.
Bob Carter obtained summary judgment for a subdivision board of trustees in the Circuit Court of St. Charles County based on the expiration of the applicable statute of limitations. The plaintiffs, who owned a home in the subdivision, claimed the board failed to enforce restrictions that prohibited construction in an easement that changed the property's natural drainage channels. Bob established that the plaintiffs were aware of the construction in the late 1990s but failed to file suit until 2011.
Patrick Bousquet, assisted by Patrick Cody, prevailed on appeal before the Fifth District of the Appellate Court of Illinois. At trial, there were contradicting stories concerning how the auto accident giving rise to the plaintiff's claim occurred. The Appellate Court affirmed the jury's verdict for Patrick's client, adopting his argument that the jury was free to disbelieve plaintiff's self-serving testimony concerning his injuries and could have found that he was not injured at all.
The United States District Court for the Eastern District of Missouri dismissed several bad faith counts in a first-party underinsured motorist case defended by Jackie Kinder and Russ Watters. The District Court held that all common-law bad faith claims were pre-empted by Missouri's vexatious-refusal-to-pay statute, finding there could be no stand-alone, common-law tort claim for bad faith in such circumstances.
John Cunningham and Jessica Holliday successfully defended a motor vehicle accident case in Madison County, Illinois. John’s client made a left turn in front of plaintiff’s vehicle; the plaintiff alleged that the accident caused a full thickness rotator cuff tear in the left shoulder. The plaintiff’s spouse made a loss of consortium claim. Liability was admitted at trial. The plaintiffs’ last demand before trial was $450,000. John and Jessica’s last offer was $40,000. The jury returned a verdict of $29,000 for the plaintiff and entered a defense verdict on the loss of consortium claim.
John Rahoy successfully defended a major retailer client in a slip-and-fall case in which the plaintiff had over $100,000 in past and future medical bills and the plaintiff’s medical expert had linked the plaintiff’s injuries to subsequent surgeries and a third future surgery. Videotaped evidence at trial established that the plaintiff had clearly slipped on a wet surface in the store, that John’s client was on notice of the spill, and that a store employee had actually mopped the area of the fall just before it happened. The plaintiff asked for $700,000 in damages during closing argument; the jury returned a verdict of $25,500.
In the United States District Court for the Eastern District of Missouri, Bob Brady and Stacey McCullough, on behalf of their insurer client, convinced a jury, after a week-long trial, that the insureds in a business fire case committed arson and misrepresented their claim to the insurer. On the judgment entered on the jury's verdict, the insureds collected nothing for the fire that completely destroyed their business.
Kristie Crawford and Megan Dittmann successfully persuaded the trial court in Christian County, Missouri, to enter summary judgment for their real estate agent defendants on claims of negligent and intentional misrepresentation. The plaintiff claimed the defendants failed to disclose a potential sewer assessment in the subdivision in which she was purchasing a home until the closing. Kristie and Megan convinced the court that the plaintiff did not rely on anything the defendants did or did not do because she admitted to knowing about the potential assessment before signing the final closing documents.
Brad Hansmann obtained a defense verdict after a lengthy jury trial in federal court in an underinsured motorist case. The insured had claimed brain damage and other injuries as a result of a rollover accident and had asked for $1.4 million in damages. Brad persuaded the jury that the insured's alleged physiological injury and treatment were unrelated to the accident.
Bob Brady and Patrick Bousquet convinced the Missouri Court of Appeals to reinstate a jury verdict for their insurer client in an arson/fraud case. Bob had obtained a verdict for his client in the trial court, which subsequently found that the jury's verdict was against the weight of the evidence and entered judgment for the insureds as a matter of law. Bob and Patrick appealed the trial court's decision and, in a 2-1 decision, the Missouri Court of Appeals reversed the trial court and reinstated the jury's verdict for the insurer.
Mike Maguire and Kevin Glynn obtained a summary judgment for the defendant employee in an occupational disease case in which the plaintiff employee claimed severe and permanent injuries. The trial court held the plaintiff employee's exclusive remedy was his workers' compensation award.
John Greffet successfully tried a contribution action on behalf of his client who had contributed fifty percent to a settlement with the plaintiff who had been injured as a passenger in a car driven by the co-defendant who also contributed fifty percent to the settlement. Following the settlement, the driver's insurer pursued a contribution action against John's client, claiming John's client bore more than fifty percent responsibility for the accident because John's client had allegedly failed to yield the right of way. After a two-day trial, the jury came back with the same 50/50 split so the pay-out stood as originally agreed.
In a large products liability case, Brad Hansmann and Kevin Glynn received a 9-3 defense verdict for the defendant product manufacturer. The plaintiff was severely injured and rendered a paraplegic after his car struck grates manufactured by the defendant. At trial, the plaintiff sought over $18 million in damages. After a two-week trial and four hours of deliberations, the jury returned a defendant's verdict.
Read the featured article in Missouri Lawyers Weekly
Dave Ellington and Halle Dimar, in a medical malpractice case tried in Marion County, Missouri, received a unanimous defense verdict for their clients. The plaintiff alleged the defendant doctor had failed to place the plaintiff on DVT prophylaxis upon her admission to the hospital for cellulitis, although the hospital's own risk assessment forms placed the plaintiff at a "very high risk" for developing blood clots. After discharge, the plaintiff had a DVT and developed post-thrombotic syndrome, requiring a number of stenting procedures. The plaintiff's pre-trial demand was $2 million, and at trial, the plaintiff sought over $3.5 million in economic damages and a non-specified amount of non-economic damages.
Read the featured article in Missouri Lawyers Weekly
Ken Burke, in a medical malpractice action tried in Randolph County, Illinois, received a defense verdict for his OB/GYN physician client who had been accused of suturing a portion of the plaintiff's large bowel as part of a vaginal cuff repair during the performance of a vaginal hysterectomy.
Joe Swift and Scott Morgan won an appellate court victory for their client, a national restaurant chain. The plaintiff, who slipped and fell in Illinois, filed her lawsuit in Missouri in an attempt to escape Illinois' two-year statute of limitations, claiming she planned her trip in Missouri based on information contained on the chain's website. In response, Joe and Scott demonstrated that Missouri's "borrowing" statute governed the plaintiff's action, and required the application of the Illinois statute limitation, regardless of where the plaintiff had filed her lawsuit.
David Bub came in with a big win for his client who was sued by a co-employee in Jackson County, Missouri. His client, the defendant employee, struck the co-employee plaintiff while operating a backhoe at a construction site. The plaintiff has underwent three surgeries with total medical specials of $185,000 and his expert testified that he would require a future knee replacement at a cost of $250,000. At trial, the plaintiff asked the jury for $2.4 million in damages. After a five-day trial, the jury found for the defendant.
In another co-employee lawsuit, Russell Watters and Jackie Kinder persuaded the trial court in Greene County to enter summary judgment for their co-employee defendants under the evolving legal standards governing co-employee liability claims in Missouri. The defendants, a co-employee operating a fork lift and his foreman, were sued by the plaintiff who was run over by the fork lift. The trial court held as a matter of law that the plaintiff's exclusive remedy under workers' compensation barred the plaintiff's claims against both defendants.
John Cunningham, Dan Hasenstab, and Nicholas Biersbach persuaded the Circuit Court of Madison County, Illinois, to dismiss a complaint filed by an oil refinery against their client, a construction company. The refinery sought over $20 million in property damage and economic loss allegedly sustained when the construction company accidentally severed one of the refinery's power lines. The refinery filed its lawsuit over four years after the accident. John and his team successfully argued that the refinery's claim fell under Illinois' four-year statute of limitations for claims involving the construction of improvements on real property, rather than the general five-year limitations period for property damage.
Peter Spataro and Morgan Murphy received a defense verdict for their client in a medical malpractice case in a three-week jury trial in St. Louis County. The plaintiff brought a wrongful death claim for the death of his forty-five-year-old wife who died following complications from a gynecologic surgery that left the plaintiff's wife in a vegetative state for over eighteen months before dying. The plaintiff alleged her treating physicians had failed to timely diagnose a small bowel leak and abscess. Their client, a radiologist, was charged with misinterpreting the wife's abdominal CT scan. Before trial, the plaintiff's demand was $1,965,000 based on over $800,000 in medical bills, over $800,000 for wage loss and loss of services, and $350,000 in non-economic damages.
Kurt Schmid and Zachary Faires successfully persuaded the United States District Court for the Eastern District of Missouri to enter summary judgment for their client, a national hotel chain in a slip and fall case involving significant injuries and medical specials. Kurt and Zack convinced the court that the hotel had no notice of the defect that the plaintiff claimed was the cause of her fall.
Justin Chapell and Nick Cammarata obtained summary judgment in a business-related conversion case in which a customer sued the defendant for an employee theft of money during a commercial transaction. The trial court held as a matter of law that the employer was not liable for the employee's act in stealing the money.
John Cooney received a defense verdict in a jury trial for his farmer client in a case in which the client has pulled his tractor onto a road where it was struck by an oncoming tractor-trailer. John persuaded the jury that the accident was caused by the tractor-trailer's high speed at the time of collision.
Justin Chapell and Nick Cammarata obtained another summary judgment, this time in a first-party property damage case where the plaintiff had argued that the implied covenant of good faith entitled her to "gap coverage" for the loan deficiency on her totaled vehicle, even though she did not purchase such coverage. The court rejected the plaintiff's theory and granted judgment for the defendant insurer based upon the policy's express terms.
In a large win, Brad Hansmann, Russ Watters, and Erica Blume brought in a defense verdict for their boat manufacturer client in a double wrongful death case filed in the United States District Court for the Eastern District of Missouri. The plaintiffs sought $16 million in damages, and after a two-week trial in January 2014, the jury returned a unanimous defense verdict for the manufacturer.
Read the featured article in Missouri Lawyers Weekly
Joe Swift and Scott Morgan obtained a defense verdict in St. Louis County in a premises liability claim brought against a national chain restaurant chain in a case involving a slippery substance on the floor. Although liability was probable, the plaintiff had made other personal injury claims and the jury did not believe that the incident at the restaurant was responsible for the plaintiff's total disability.
Russ Watters and David McCourt obtained summary judgment in the United States District Court for the Eastern District of Missouri for over 30 municipalities in a class action lawsuit filed against their clients which had been sued for collecting illegal fees.
The court granted summary judgment for an insurer in a first-party lawsuit based on the vacancy exclusion. David Bub and Ed Reilly convinced the court that the undisputed facts established as a matter of law that the insured premises were vacant at the time of the loss.
John Cunningham and Dan Hasenstab obtained summary judgment in St. Clair County, Illinois for their tavern client in an Illinois Dram Shop Act claim in which the plaintiff claimed she had purchased alcohol from John's client and then shared that alcohol with her friend who was driving the car. The friend later ran off the road, and the plaintiff, her passenger, was seriously injured. The court concluded the bartender had no reason to know that the plaintiff would share alcohol with her friend and that the plaintiff was guilty of complicity for providing the alcohol to the driver.
Tim Wolf and Cynthia Juedemann obtained a summary judgment for their insurer client on a UIM stacking claim. The court ruled as a matter of law that the insurer's UIM provisions prohibited stacking.
Denise Baker-Seal obtained summary judgment in the United States District Court for the Southern District of Illinois for her employer client. The plaintiff, a physician, claimed race discrimination and retaliation under Title VII arising out of the employer's decision to offer the physician a non-management position.
Corey Kraushaar won a bench trial in Clay County, Missouri, in a first-party property claim where the insured had set fire to his garage in an unsuccessful suicide attempt. The court concluded that the insured had intentionally set his garage on fire and refused to submit to an examination under oath, despite the insured's claim that he lacked the mental capacity to commit an intentional act.
In March 2014, Joe Swift and Jennifer Kawicki obtained a defense verdict in St. Louis County for their common-carrier client in a sideswipe accident in which the plaintiff claimed severe injuries and total disability. The plaintiff contended the tractor-trailer entered her lane; the tractor-trailer driver contended the plaintiff entered his lane. The defense presented expert testimony that allowed the jury to break the "He said/she said" dilemma and return a unanimous defense verdict.
Justin Chapell and Beth Silker obtained summary judgment for their insurer client in a UIM coverage case in which the insured sought to stack five policies for $500,000 in coverage. The court found the plaintiff was not entitled to UIM coverage because he could not meet the policy's "underinsured motor vehicle" definition and because the policies' anti-stacking provisions were unambiguous and enforceable.
Erica Blume convinced the trial court in Sangamon County, Illinois, to grant summary judgment for her asbestos contractor client in a contribution action brought by other defendants. The court held the defendants had no right as a matter of law to bring a contribution action because the plaintiff's claims against the parties seeking contribution were based on fraud and breach of contract.
Justin Chapell and Brad Zaffiri obtained summary judgment in Platte County, Missouri for their insurer client in a declaratory judgment and constructive fraud action brought after the insurer had refused to provide its insured with a complete copy of the insurer's claim file. The court held the insurer's later production of the file rendered the declaratory judgment action moot and that the constructive fraud action failed because the insured could identify no harm from the insurer's actions.
John Cooney received a defense verdict in a jury trial for his farmer client in a case in which a client had pulled his tractor into a road where it was struck by an oncoming tractor-trailer. John persuaded the jury that the accident was caused by the tractor-trailer's high speed at the time of the collision.
Ken Burke received a defense verdict in a medical malpractice case involving a fetal exposure to medical ionizing radiation. At trial, the plaintiffs sought $10 million in damages.
In a large business litigation case involving alleged damages in excess of $6 million, Tim Wolf and Cynthia Juedemann, after a two-week trial, convinced a federal jury to find for their defendant client, an interstate manufacturer that had been sued for illegally terminating a dealership.
Joe Swift and Scott Morgan obtained a defendant's verdict in a toxic chemical exposure claim tried in Jefferson County, Missouri. The plaintiff claimed he was totally disabled by the release of chlorine gas at a national restaurant chain.
Jon Morrow successfully defended his insurance company client in an arson and fraud case, persuading a state court jury that the fire was not accidental.
Corey Kraushaar and Sam Vincent upheld on appeal a defense verdict in a serious personal injury action arising from a car/motorcycle collision. At trial, the plaintiff claimed over $6 million in damages.
Mike Maguire and Nick Loyal obtained summary judgment for their homeowner client against a guest who fell off their client's patio and became a quadriplegic. The plaintiff had claimed over $8 million in actual and projected damages. In obtaining summary judgment, Mike and Nick demonstrated that the plaintiff was a licensee and that the alleged defect was an open and obvious one.
Joe Swift obtained a defendant's verdict in a serious personal injury action tried in Phelps County arising from an accident in which the defendant's tractor trailer "rear ended" the plaintiff's vehicle.
In a co-employee liability claim, Brad Hansmann and John Greffet obtained summary judgment for their client, a co-employee driver who ran over the plaintiff while on the job. The court found that Brad's client was immune from civil liability based on Missouri's workers' compensation law.
In a case where a severely injured passenger in a one-car rollover accident had obtained a $2.5 million judgment against the insured driver, Russ Watters and Cynthia Juedemann obtained summary judgment for their insurance company client. They established there was no coverage under the policy because the insured driver was engaged in a criminal act at the time of the accident (i.e., transportation of 200 lbs. of marijuana) and had also misrepresented to the insurer his purpose for procuring the insurance.
Joe Swift and Scott Morgan obtained a defendant's verdict in a slip and fall case tried in St. Louis County for their client, a national restaurant chain. The plaintiff had claimed permanent and total disability.
Kristie Crawford and Mike Ward persuaded the Missouri Court of Appeals to reverse the summary judgment entered against their insurance company client on UIM stacking claim. On appeal, the appellate court ruled that the policy's UIM anti-stacking disclaimer language provided an unambiguous defense to the insured's stacking claim.
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