S.V. and Hemalatha Gopalratnam sued the laptop manufacturer Hewlett-Packard claiming that its battery pack maker, DynaPack Technology Corp. and battery cell manufacturer, Samsung SDI Co. Ltd. were a cause of the death of their son, Arun Gopalratnam who died in a fire in the basement bedroom of the Gopalratnam’s home. An autopsy showed that Arun’s death was caused by smoke inhalation.

The origin of this fire was said to have been near the mattress of Arun’s bed, according to Special Agent Antonio H. Martinez of the Wisconsin Department of Criminal Investigations. Included in the debris was the HP laptop, a Nokia cellphone and 2 or 3 laptop battery cells in the basement bedroom and a third laptop battery cell in the debris, which was shoveled into the backyard.

The lawsuit included claims of negligence, strict product liability and breach of warranty. To support these claims, the Gopalratnam family hired two expert witnesses who gave opinion testimony at trial that one of the three battery cells experienced “thermal runaway,” which generated high temperatures causing the cell to explode and catch fire.

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In a personal injury lawsuit filed in Cook County concerning the pedestrian-vehicle collision that severely injured 2-year-old Angela Williams, the attorney representing Williams nonsuited the lawsuit in order to refile it with a jury demand. The plaintiff voluntarily dismissed the second amended complaint in April 2017 before refiling it days later, this time with a jury demand.

The same motion judge was assigned to the case. A month later, the defendant, Gregory Leonard, moved to substitute the motion court judge. The judge denied Leonard’s motion based on his interpretation of the Illinois Supreme Court case of Bowman v. Ottney, 2015 IL 119000.

Because the motion court judge thought that if he was wrong, it would hamper the progress of this case, he allowed the parties to file an interlocutory appeal. The issue on appeal was interpretation of Section 2-1001(a)(2) of the Illinois Code of Civil Procedure, which gives the parties the right to substitute judges once without cause before substantive case issues had been decided.  The Illinois Supreme Court in Bowman, held that the provision should not be used for “judge shopping” by plaintiffs.

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In an uninsured motorist case, Holly Shakelford sued Allstate Fire & Casualty Insurance Co. for 9 percent interest on a $16,000 arbitration award. She was seeking the 9% statutory interest provided by Section 2-1303 of the Illinois Code of Civil Procedure.

A more accurate term for Section 2-1303 is the “Judgment Interest Statute,” the Supreme Court explained in Illinois State Toll Highway Authority v. Heritage Standard Bank, 157 Ill.2d 282 (1993). The law provides for 9% interest on arbitration awards, jury verdicts and reports from special masters – as part of the judgment entered on the award, verdict or report – running back to the date of the initial decision. In addition to providing 9% interest on judgments, Section 2-1303 also provides for prejudgment interest on awards, verdicts and reports.

This case was complicated because Shakelford’s claim was that the arbitrator ruled $16,000 was the “gross award,” subject to setoffs and liens “to be resolved by the parties and their attorneys.”  The second issue or twist to the case was that Shakelford sued without first applying for confirmation of the award under the Uniform Arbitration Act.

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In July 2015, Henry Walker, a retired Army sergeant, was at a Wal-Mart store in Phenix City, Ala., when his foot got caught in a wooden pallet and he fell, fracturing his foot and hip. He was 59 years old at the time of this accident. He sought damages against Wal-Mart for negligence.

The jury’s verdict of $2.5 million in compensatory damages included another $5 million in punitive damages.  Walker, who lives in Phenix City, was represented by attorneys Charlie Gower, Shawn O’Hara and David Rayfield. According to the report of this case, the jury trial began on Tuesday, Nov. 14, 2017 and continued until Wednesday, Nov. 15, with a jury reaching its verdict the same day after two hours of deliberation.

According to the attorneys for Walker, Wal-Mart should have covered the pallet so that it would not entangle a shopper’s foot. Wal-Mart countered that argument by maintaining that the display was not dangerous and that the cause of Walker’s injuries was his own negligence. According to Wal-Mart, the same displays are still in use.

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According to a recent American Bar Association Journal article written by Scott Carlson, trial consultants are turning to a proprietary software and technology information service for a product called Voltaire for jury selection. At least in my jury trial experience, selecting the jury is the most difficult and anxiety-ridden part of a trial. It must also be considered the most important aspect of the trial.

In practice, I have used trial consultants regularly to help select jurors who would be most receptive to the kind of case brought before them. Trial consultants are extremely objective in how they evaluate prospective jurors, their backgrounds, experiences, work histories and family backgrounds and are essential in the jury selection process. There’s been no practical way to search on the fly what the social media references show about a potential juror. That information could be especially valuable to deselect a prospective jury member.

The days of human-to-human contact in jury selection may be changing. Instead, lawyers could eventually rely on the technical information services of a software product such as Voltaire to pick appropriate jurors.

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The issue in this case was whether the financial condition of Wexford Health Sources, the defendant in this federal lawsuit, is relevant for Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 26(b) to apply. This rule limits discovery to that which is “relevant to any party’s claim or defense.” If a corporate defendant’s wealth may not be considered when assessing punitive damages, it is not “relevant,” but if it may be properly considered then, of course, it is relevant. In this U.S. Federal District Court of Illinois (Central District) lawsuit, the initial question to be answered was whether Wexford’s financial condition could be investigated through discovery; this was answered mostly by the case of Zazu Design v. L’Oréal, 979 F.2d 499 (7th Cir. 1992).

In Zazu, a case relied upon by Wexford, the defendant in this case, the court considered the defendant’s appeal in a trademark infringement action. The court reversed and remanded, finding that the plaintiff did not have superior rights in trademark to the defendant and, even if it had, the damages award was excessive.

Regarding the punitive damages award, the court noted that although courts “take account of a defendant’s wealth when an amount sufficient to punish or deter one individual may be trivial to another,” such may not be the case when the defendant is a corporation. The court explained:

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A Cook County jury signed a verdict for $1,100,000 for Martin Bader and his wife Julia. They sued Giovanni Melendez-Ortiz in 2015 when it was alleged that the defendant, Melendez-Ortiz, was negligent as he drove across the center line on Green Bay Road near Keith Avenue in Waukegan, Ill., and drove the wrong way on Green Bay Road. In doing so, Melendez-Ortiz crashed head-on into the Bader vehicle.

The jury’s verdict of $1.1 million was made up of the following damages:

  • $72,487.48 for past medical expenses;
  • $50,000 for future medical care;
  • $250,000 for past loss of normal life;
  • $250,000 for future loss of normal life;
  • $250,000 for past pain and suffering; and
  • $250,000 for future pain and suffering.

The total verdict reached was $1,122,487.48.

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Doug Miller owned two companies in Indiana:  E.T. Products, which blended and sold fuel-additive products, and Petroleum Solutions, which blended and sold lubricant products.

Petroleum Solutions also supplied a few customers with fuel additives from E.T. Products.

In January 2011, a group of investors led by Tom Blakemore purchased E.T. Products. As part of the sale, Miller and his son, Tracy, signed essentially identical non-competition agreements.

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Joan Grove was standing at an intersection in downtown Pittsburgh during rush hour. She was in her fifties at the time. While a bus was attempting to pass another car near the intersection, the driver of that commuter bus came close to the curb where Grove stood. The bus struck Grove, and she fell to the ground.

While lying on the ground, the bus’s rear wheel ran over her right lower leg. Grove suffered a crush injury to that leg. She later developed a MRSA infection and osteomyelitis, which led to the amputation of her leg.

Grove sued the Port Authority of Allegheny County claiming that its driver chose not to keep a proper lookout during rush hour. The defendant maintained that Grove had stepped into the bus’s path by standing on the outside curb margin.

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The Illinois Appellate Court has upheld a record-breaking $21.4 million jury verdict for a railroad conductor after his heel was irreparably damaged at a railyard.

The Illinois Appellate Court for the 1st District rejected all of Norfolk Southern Railway Co.’s attempts to either vacate or reduce the verdict signed by the jury in favor of the plaintiff, Michael Parsons.

Parsons’s November 2015 jury verdict was the largest reported verdict or settlement for a heel-related injury in Cook County. Norfolk Southern was unable to persuade the 1st District Illinois Appellate Court that the jury’s verdict went against the evidence and that the defendant railroad was prejudiced by the jury instructions.

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