Recent Litigation Victories
Cristobal Bucio v. AECOM Technical Services, Earth Tech, John Lukas, Case #: 13 L 4438 (Cook County, April 2016) David J. Darling obtained Summary Judgment on behalf of all defendants in this construction accident litigation. Plaintiff, Mr. Bucio was a laborer for a cement contractor who sustained severe injuries as a result of a fall from a height at a construction project in the City of Chicago. The plaintiff alleged that the defendants were negligent under theories of Sections 414 and 343 of the Restatement (Second) of Torts. The court summarily dismissed all of these arguments and found in favor of the defendants ruling that the defendants did not “entrust” the work to the plaintiff’s employer and did not control any part of the work the plaintiff was performing.
Estate of Komacko v. Central Rent-A-Crane, et al, Cause No. 45C01-1106-CT-0091. (June 2012). The Estate of Komacko was the first case tried in Indiana where the Indiana Supreme Court allowed a video camera in the court room and the delayed web broadcasting of the trial to the general public. Komacko was a 14 day jury trial of an ironworker wrongful death case arising from a construction accident. The case received extensive media attention. Witnesses included the past and present presidents of the Ironworkers’ Union Local 395. William Stone and Charles William Cross represented the target defendant. The plaintiff asked the jury to award $16 million in damages and to find Bill’s client 60% at fault. Bill successfully persuaded the jury to apportion only 16% of fault against his client which resulted in a verdict of $1.3 million which was promptly paid by Bill’s client.
Summary Judgment Granted in Premises Liability Case Removed to Federal Court. Rick Valek and Jennifer M. Kanady recently obtained summary judgment on all counts in a slip and fall case involving tracked-in water. The plaintiff claimed the premises owner was negligent for allowing its floor to be saturated with water, for failing to place its floor mats closer to the front entrance, and for failing to place additional floor mats on the floor due to the prevailing weather conditions. The court summarily dismissed all of these arguments, and found that under existing Illinois law, a premises owner and potentially a mat supplier is not liable for claims involving tracked-in snow, water, or ice, unless the tracked-in snow, water or ice is unnatural, and/or unless there were defects in the mats placed on the floor which caused or contributed to the incident. The case is now reported in WESTLAW under case number 2011 WL 1326235 (N.D.Ill.)
Summary Judgment on all Counts in Fatal Products Liability Toxic Tort Case. Christian Ambler recently obtained Summary Judgment on all counts in a products liability case in which the plaintiff’s husband allegedly died as a result of exposure to benzene in petroleum products distributed by the firm’s client. The plaintiff asserted claims of strict products liability and negligent failure to warn. The court first found that the firm’s client had sufficiently identified the manufacturers of the products it distributed, thereby entitling it to Summary Judgment on the strict liability counts under Illinois’ “pass-through” statute. In a separate ruling, the court also found that the firm’s client had no duty under which the plaintiff could recover on the negligence count.
Construction Defect Verdict in Case of Admitted Liability Less than 10% Plaintiffs’ Final Demand. Christian Ambler recently tried a construction defect case in St. Joseph County, Indiana. The plaintiffs’ house was constructed with the furnace and the fireplace venting into the attic and the chimney chase, rather than outside the house. Liability could not be disputed, and the case was tried on damages. The plaintiffs, a family of four, lived in the house for four and a half years before the defect was discovered, along with significant mold growth caused by moisture condensation from the furnace flue. The plaintiffs claimed substantial economic losses. as well as medical, psychological and wage loss damages resulting from their alleged exposure to mold and carbon monoxide. The plaintiffs’ initial demand of $4.9 million was reduced before trial to $1.5 million after the exclusion of one of their five expert witnesses. After a 7-day trial, the jury awarded nothing to the mother of the two children, and $135,000 to the father. The verdict represents a significant victory for the firm’s client and its insurers, since liability and certain damages had to be admitted.
Claimant is Contractor not Employee in Workers’ Comp Win. Stone & Johnson partner Patrick Duffy successfully argued before the Illinois Workers Compensation Commission that an employer-employee relationship did not exist between the claimant and Dynamex. The claimant, a delivery driver, had sustained a left shoulder injury while making a delivery and sought workers’ compensation benefits pursuant to the Illinois Workers Compensation Act. Mr. Duffy argued, on behalf of Dynamex, that the claimant was not an employee of Dynamex, but rather an independent contractor and therefore not entitled to benefits under the IWCA.
Coverage Win in Construction Litigation. William Stone and Steve Pietrick recently succeeded in obtaining summary judgment from a Cook County Chancery Court judge in a major declaratory judgment action involving underlying construction litigation. Not only did the court find that the defendant insurer owed a duty to defend the firm’s construction company client and to reimburse the defense costs already paid by another insurance company, but also ruled that the defendant violated Section 155 of the Insurance Code and therefore owed attorneys fees and penalties. Additional rulings sought and obtained by the firm for tactical reasons have positioned the clients well for any possible appeals.
Coverage Attorney Prevails in Declaratory Judgment Action on Advertising Injury Claim. Christian Ambler successfully obtained summary judgment for an insurer in a declaratory judgment action regarding an underlying claim seeking over $8 million. The underlying claim alleged that the insured misappropriated intellectual property and misused marketing material belonging to the claimant. The insured tendered the claim to its carrier under the advertising injury coverage of its general liability policy. Christian filed a declaratory judgment action on behalf of the insurer, and ultimately prevailed on cross-motions for summary judgment. The court awarded summary judgment to the insurer, finding that coverage was precluded under the Knowing Violation and Knowledge of Falsity exclusions to the advertising injury coverage. This decision was successfully protected and affirmed upon further challenge by the insured.
Verdict in a Serious Arm-Off Case Against Prominent Illinois Plaintiff’s Counsel. William Stone, Charles William Cross, Steve Pietrick and Jennifer M. Kanady of Stone & Johnson recently concluded a three week trial before the Honorable Judge Duncan-Brice in an arm-off case where the plaintiffs asked the jury for $16.8 million and received a verdict for $2.6 million which was $400,000.00 less than the $3 million offered prior to trial. Although it was the first jury verdict lost by lead counsel, William Stone, given the verdict was $400,000.00 less than the offer, the firm’s client, St. Paul Insurance Company, considered the verdict a major win.
Appellate Victory in Matter of First Impression. Stone & Johnson partner Patrick Duffy obtained a significant appellate victory in the case of Chubb Group of Insurance Companies, as subrogee of Caliber Auto Transport v. Jose Carrizalez, 375 Ill.App.3d 537. Chubb Group had filed a subrogation action to recover workers’ compensation benefits it paid as a result of a vehicle accident. The defendant filed a motion to dismiss based on a release signed by the injured employee. The First District Appellate Court held, as a matter of first impression, that a release signed by an injured employee in settlement of a personal injury case is not valid to release the subrogation claim of the employer workers’ compensation insurer.
Directed Verdict for Defendant Bank in Defamation Case. Rick Valek obtained a Directed Verdict on behalf of his client, Chase Bank, in a jury trial before Judge Zwick in the Law Division of Cook County. Shortly after a Chase Bank branch was robbed, several bank employees pointed out that the plaintiff was acting suspiciously; he was then arrested by the Chicago police but later released. Plaintiff then sued Chase Bank and the City of Chicago, alleging false arrest, false imprisonment, defamation and negligence. At trial, Rick argued that Chase employees were justified in cooperating with police and pointing out an individual acting suspiciously after an armed robbery. Judge Zwick granted Rick’s Motion for a Directed Verdict in favor of Chase. The jury later found the City of Chicago was Not Guilty.
Summary Judgment Granted in Slip and Fall. Rick Valek recently prevailed on a Motion for Summary Judgment in a Cook County premises liability case. The plaintiff tripped and fell, allegedly on a plastic beverage container lid, while entering a restaurant. Plaintiff’s medical specials were approximately $150,000, and she claimed an additional $60,000 in lost wages. Rick filed a Motion for Summary Judgment arguing that the defendant’s inspection and garbage removal procedures were reasonable, and that the defendant did not have notice of any debris on the day of the accident because of windy conditions in the area. The trial court granted summary judgment, and dismissed the case with prejudice.
Motorcycle Riding School Prevails Against Injured Student. Matt Stephens won a Motion for Summary Judgment on behalf of a motorcycle riding school. The plaintiff was taking a beginner’s course in motorcycle riding. On the second day of the course, he fell over while riding on the practice course, resulting in fractures of his left tibia and fibula. Matt filed a Motion for Summary Judgment based on the Release and Waiver of Liability forms signed by the plaintiff. Judge Lawrence granted the defendant’s Motion for Summary Judgment, and dismissed plaintiff’s case with prejudice. Plaintiff has not appealed the decision.