Articles Posted in Appellate Procedure

The Illinois Appellate Court for the First District has affirmed the jury’s verdict in a personal injury case. On Feb. 16, 2013, Joanna Tielke was bowling at a facility run by Kevin Killerman and 3124 N. Central LLC. Tielke slipped while bowling and fell, suffering a severe injury.  She filed a lawsuit against North Central, Killerman and Manor Bowling.

There were two different law firms that represented the various defendants.  On Sept. 26, 2017, attorney Tara Ryniec-Stanek made an open court settlement offer to Tielke of $700,000. This was before trial.

That night, Ryniec-Stanek sent a text to Tielke confirming that the $700,000 offer was still available and that if accepted, the check would be delivered on Sept. 29.  On Sept. 27, Tielke spoke to Ryniec-Stanek and accepted the offer; she also confirmed the acceptance via text message to her.

Continue reading

The Illinois Appellate Court for the First District has ordered a new trial in the product-liability lawsuit against a water heater company. The jury’s verdict of $10.7 million for a toddler killed by scalding bathwater was the underlying lawsuit leading to this verdict.

The Illinois Appellate Court’s decision centered on the heater’s instruction manual as well as a warning label on both a mock-up and the actual heater. It was the opinion of the appeals panel that the jury should have been allowed to see the heater’s instruction manual in the trial.

The appeals panel also said the jury should have been given the chance to answer a special interrogatory, which was the question aimed to distill and frame the issues. The question was whether the product was “unreasonably dangerous” when it left the location of the manufacturer.

Continue reading

Daniel and Rachel Brenner purchased four works of art from Evelyn Statsinger in the 1950s and 1960s. The artworks were displayed in the Brenner home continuously through the time of Daniel’s death in 1977 and Rachel’s death in 1990. The Brenner children, Ariel and Jonathan Brenner, inherited the artwork.

When Jonathan died in 2010, he died without a will. His widow, Terry Brenner, was his sole heir.

The paintings were given back to Evelyn Statsinger in 1996. The transfer took place with Jonathan, Terry, their daughter, Statsinger and Statsinger’s husband being present.

Continue reading

In a pending appeal from a jury verdict in favor of defendants Capital Fitness Inc. and a personal trainer, the plaintiff Gabriela Sosa-Gaines appealed the verdict handed down by a DuPage County Circuit Court jury on Aug. 4, 2017 and entered by the trial court.

The principal basis for the appeal was that the trial court denied the plaintiff’s motion for summary judgment and refused to instruct the jury on assumption of risk, the risk that the plaintiff could never have imagined when signing the two exculpatory- laden agreements.

It was argued in the briefs and in oral argument, which took place on Dec. 14, 2018 at the Illinois Appellate Court, Second District in Elgin, Ill., that there was no genuine issue of disputed facts that the “mild adjustment” that herniated plaintiff’s disks at the thoracic spine level was not an activity covered by the exculpatory clauses found in the Capital Fitness/XSport Membership Agreement and the Physical Training Agreement. Both documents have broad exculpatory clauses that would make a claim for negligence against these defendants unsustainable should any one of the delineated activities injure the plaintiff.

Continue reading

Jeffrey Andrews was working as a cement finisher for F.H. Paschen S.N. Nielsen and Associates, LLC (“Paschen”) on a project for the Metropolitan Water Reclamation District of Greater Chicago (“Water Reclamation District” or “district”), a governmental entity. He fell 29 feet from a ladder to the bottom of a water chamber where he was applying sealant.

The worksite was muddy that day, and the chamber in which he fell had three feet of standing water in it. The other workers, along with Andrews, were required to use a ladder made by the construction crew for part of the descent before “pivoting” by stepping over onto a commercial fiberglass ladder for the remainder of the trip.

There was no platform between the two ladders. Andrews slipped while attempting to transfer between the two ladders landing on a co-worker, breaking multiple bones and suffering “severe, career-ending head injuries.”
Continue reading

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.

Continue reading

Matthew Schaefer’s employer, Brand Energy, was putting in place a scaffold at the Dynegy Power Plant. Brand Energy had complete control over the scaffold construction and had acquired the scaffold components from Universal Scaffolding & Equipment LLC. Dynegy paid for the scaffolding and owned it.

Brand Energy workers had difficulty with the Universal Scaffolding components because faulty components would not lock. While working on the assembly, a bar popped loose and struck Schaefer on the head.

Schaefer suffered serious injuries. In addition to bringing an Illinois workers’ compensation claim against Brand Energy, his employer, Schaefer also brought a lawsuit against Universal Scaffolding. Schaefer’s wife joined the lawsuit with a claim for loss of consortium.

Continue reading

In the opinion written by the Illinois Appellate Court for the 4th District, the appellate court upheld the right of an injured plaintiff to recover the full amount of medical expenses if that amount had been written off by the medical provider.

In the underlying case, a Coles County jury entered a verdict in favor of the plaintiff Harold Miller for $133,347 for medical expenses in his July 2015 medical-malpractice trial. The 5th Judicial Circuit Court judge reduced the verdict by $91,724 when the defendant hospital and doctor argued that such a number represented an amount of money that neither Miller nor his health-care provider had a right to recover since it was written off in his medical bills.

The defendants brought their motion to reduce the medical expenses award under Section 2-1205 of the Illinois Code of Civil Procedure. The statute provides that recovery amounts can be reduced by up to 100% of the benefits provided for medical, hospital, nursing or care-taking charges that have either already been paid or become payable to the injured party.

Continue reading

In 1981, two doctors entered into a partnership agreement to buy an office building in which they would house their separate medical practices. Each partner contributed an equal sum of money to buy the building and agreed to share equally the cost of maintaining and operating it. In spite of this agreement, one doctor, Dr. V.S. Vedam, often paid more than his half of the expenses.

The other doctor, Dr. C.U. Reddi, and Dr. Vedam ran their separate medical practices in the building until 1991. At that place and time, Dr. Reddi moved his practice to another location and stopped paying any costs related to the building.  Communications between the doctors ended and the state of silence existed between them until around 2003 when the building was sold and the proceeds placed in escrow.

In 2004, Dr. Vedam sued to recover his share of the proceeds of the sale of the real estate, plus the expenses he had paid in excess of his shares. Reddi disputed some of Vedam’s claims and filed a counterclaim to recover rent for the years that Vedam occupied the building by himself.

Continue reading

In a lawsuit and jury trial in which the defendant, Mel Richard Krumske, admitted liability causing injury to the plaintiff, Kevin Burkhamer, Burkhamer’s attorney asked on direct examination whether the defendant ever called the plaintiff to “apologize” for causing the crash. Krumske’s attorney then immediately objected and requested a mistrial. The trial judge sustained the objection and acknowledged at a sidebar that an instruction to the jury to disregard what might be an inadequate remedy for the unfair prejudice likely caused by the improper questioning would be given. However, the judge postponed ruling on the request for a mistrial and did not rule on the motion to render a mistrial until after the jury’s verdict.

At the end of the jury trial on damages, the verdict for the plaintiff Burkhamer was $175,000. The jury was discharged. But before the judgment was entered, the defendant’s attorney reminded the judge about the lingering motion for a mistrial. Concluding the verdict might have been “inflated by passion” the judge said she was granting “the motion for a new trial,” although Krumske, the defendant never filed a posttrial motion.

The Illinois Appellate Court accepted an immediate appeal by the plaintiff under Illinois Supreme Court Rule 306.

Continue reading