Articles Posted in Minors

Kacey Strough was 16 years old when he joined his high school football team. Apparently as a prank, his teammates threw footballs at his head while he was sitting on the sideline during a practice. He later went to the school nurse complaining of a headache and double vision. Kacey told the nurse that he had been hit on the head with a football and was concerned that he might have a concussion. The nurse allegedly attempted to call his grandmother with whom Kacey was living, but she was unable to reach her.


Kacey continued participating in team practices over the next two weeks.  He also returned to the nurse with continued complaints of headaches and vision difficulties. The school nurse called Kacey’s grandmother, but allegedly discussed only Kacey’s diagnosis of pink eye; she said nothing about his headaches or vision issues.


Several days later, while Kacey was home, he complained to his grandmother of headaches, neck pain and problems with vision and balance. Kacey’s grandmother took him to a hospital emergency room where an imaging revealed a mass in his head.

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About 1,000 prison inmates, some of whom have been in prison for more than 50 years for murders they committed as teenagers, may get a chance to be free.

The U.S. Supreme Court ruled in favor of Henry Montgomery, who has been in prison for more than 50 years for killing a sheriff’s deputy in Baton Rouge, La., in 1963. Montgomery was then just 17 years old and was playing hooky from school when he encountered Deputy Charles Hurt. Hurt was a truant officer. Panicked, Henry pulled a gun from his pocket and fatally shot Hurt.

Supreme Court Justice Anthony M. Kennedy, writing the majority opinion, said, “Prisoners like Montgomery must be given the opportunity to show their crime did not reflect irreparable corruption; and if it did not, their hope for some years of life outside prison walls must be restored.”

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The law firm of Williams, Bax & Saltzman P.C. represented Cole Goesel and his parents in a personal injury lawsuit that settled before trial. Because Cole was a minor, the law firm needed judicial approval to finalize the settlement. The parties’ contingent-fee agreement entitled the law firm to one-third of the gross settlement, while all litigation expenses would be covered by the Goesels’ share.

The U.S. District Court judge refused to approve the settlement unless litigation expenses were deducted off the top and one-third of the net settlement was allocated to the firm. The judge also rejected the firm’s attempt to count the cost of computerized legal research as a separately compensable litigation expense rather than rolling it into the fee recovery. The law firm appealed the judge’s order limiting its fees. The Goesels declined to participate.

The U.S. Court of Appeals reversed the district court judge’s decision. The appeals panel stated that although the district court enjoys substantial discretion to safeguard the interests of minors in the settlement of litigation, this discretion is not boundless. In this instance, the trial judge criticized aspects of the firm’s contingent-fee agreement that have received the expressed blessing of Illinois courts. The trial judge’s analysis of what the Goesels would receive, that being 51% of the gross settlement amount rather than 42%, was insufficient to justify discarding a reasonable contingent-fee agreement.

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