Articles Posted in Settlements

In a federal district court matter, the district judge ruled that the obligation of a defendant who settled a negligence lawsuit wasn’t “uncollectible” and would not be reallocated between the remaining tortfeasors.

The Illinois Supreme Court, answering a question presented by the 7th Circuit Court of Appeals, concluded that “the obligation of a tortfeasor who settles is ‘not uncollectible’ within the meaning of Section 3.” Section 3 is part of the Illinois Joint Tortfeasor Contribution Act, which states that “no person shall be required to contribute to one seeking contribution an amount greater than his pro rata share,” except when “the obligation of one or more of the joint tortfeasors is uncollectible.”

Two of the seven Illinois Supreme Court justices dissented with a view that this ruling undermined the legislative goal of promoting settlements. The dissent stated that the Illinois Supreme Court’s decision “would likely require the General Assembly to revisit the Contribution Act.”

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Marikate Maggio, an 18-year-old student, was driving a Mini Cooper on a highway when she arrived at an intersection with a traffic light. She attempted to turn left when a tractor-trailer driven by Miguel Garcia-Moreno crashed into her vehicle. Maggio suffered traumatic injuries and died twenty minutes later. She was survived by her mother.

Maggio’s mother, individually and on behalf of Maggio’s estate, sued Garcia-Moreno’s employer, 48Forty Solutions LLC, claiming negligent retention and choosing not to perform a proper background check on Garcia-Moreno or providing him with adequate supervision and training.

The Maggios maintained that the dashcam would have showed Garcia-Moreno had run a red light. The Maggios also alleged that the defendant trucking company had written up Garcia-Moreno three times for preventable collisions in addition to other preventable incidences that allegedly occurred while Garcia-Moreno was working for other trucking companies.

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The Doe family was riding in a SUV on a highway on the way to Walt Disney World in Orlando. Jane Doe, 40, was driving the SUV when the car was rear-ended by a tractor-trailer that was moving at approximately 25 mph. The tractor-trailer was in the right lane and was being driven with a flat tire and another ruptured tire.

Jane Doe’s sister, 45, and a child, 6, were killed in the crash. Three other children ages 9 to 16 sustained injuries. One of the children required an extensive hospital stay.  The family’s medical expenses totaled about $100,000.

The lawsuit was filed against the trucking company, alleging that the driver of the tractor-trailer had chosen not to timely exit the highway as it experienced the flat tire and the ruptured tire. Additionally, the plaintiffs asserted that the trailer had been unsafe in that all its tires were in poor condition, including having insufficient treads and air pressure.

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Mr. Doe, a 36-year-old construction worker, was completing his first day at work at a town home construction site. He was standing next to a large flatbed truck, waiting for help to unload a crane when a commercial trash collection truck came around the corner and sideswiped the flatbed truck.

Mr. Doe was crushed between the two vehicles and suffered severe injuries to his right leg and foot, as well as rib and spinal fractures. Despite multiple foot and leg surgeries, Mr. Doe continued to suffer from chronic lymphedema and deformity. Mr. Doe’s medical expenses totaled almost $400,000.

Mr. Doe sued the truck driver’s corporate employer, alleging that it was liable for the driver’s choosing not to remain in his lane of traffic. Before trial, the parties settled for $1.25 million.

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A truck driver, the plaintiff, Joseph Streetman, was operating a Penske truck on a highway when he was rear-ended by a pickup truck that had just been rear-ended by a tractor-trailer driven by Walto Hendricks. Hendricks was driving for his employer, Gardner Trucking.

Streetman, 77, was taken by ambulance to an emergency room where he was evaluated and released. He was later referred to an orthopedic surgeon and underwent a cervical fusion, lumbar laminectomy, and shoulder surgery.

Streetman had medical expenses that totaled $415,000. He also had a claim of lost income of $55,000.

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Yadvinder Singh, a 30-year-old truck driver, was hired by Destination Anywhere Inc. to haul aggregate materials from Granite Construction Company‘s facility to a construction site. He drove his dump truck to Granite Construction, where an employee loaded it with washed sand.  As Singh drove the truck toward his destination, its right front tire blew out. That caused his truck to leave the road and overturn. Singh was severely injured, taken to a nearby hospital and died that evening. He was survived by his wife and two minor children. He had been earning approximately $50,000 per year.

Singh’s family sued Destination Anywhere claiming it chose not to perform a mandatory safety check on the dump truck two days before the incident. It was alleged that had this inspection been done, it would have been discovered that the front tire’s tread depth was significantly below the limit. The lawsuit also alleged that Granite Construction’s employee was negligent in overloading the truck.

The defendant argued that Singh had routinely instructed aggregate suppliers to load his truck fully. The defendant also argued that maintaining the truck, which Singh had leased from Destination Anywhere, was his responsibility and duty.

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Tom Gillette parked his pickup truck in a residential neighborhood in Everett, Wash. He was there doing construction work on a home. As he was unloading sawhorses from the back of his truck, Snohomish County Sheriff’s Deputy John Sadro, who was transporting a witness to court, ran a stop sign while traveling 49 mph in a 25 mph zone. Another motorist, who had the right-of-way, broadsided the police cruiser, causing it to spin around and strike Gillette, pinning him between the police cruiser and the bumper of his truck.

Gillette was 59 years old at the time; he suffered severe crush injuries to both of his legs, which were almost fully traumatically amputated at the scene. He was hospitalized and nearly died from blood loss. Doctors were unable to save either of his legs. His left leg was amputated just below the knee while his right leg was amputated at the knee.

Gillette underwent more than 12 surgeries and spent nearly two months in the hospital. Now he uses a wheelchair and requires some assistance with daily living activities. His past medical expenses totaled more than $425,000 and his future care costs are estimated at more than $1,300,000.

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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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The issue before the Illinois Appellate Court was whether the parties’ high-low agreement was a settlement agreement and if so, whether interest pursuant to Section 2-1303 of the Illinois Code of Civil Procedure accrues on an award that is predetermined by that high-low agreement. Mark Pinske thought he was entitled to 9% post-judgment interest on $100,000 of the $194,000 arbitration award he received against Lawrence White.

The arbitration award was made under a hybrid mediation/arbitration contract that also contained a high-low agreement. Pinske and White’s automobile insurer, Allstate Property & Casualty Insurance Co. agreed that Allstate would pay at least $50,000, but no more than $100,000 for injuries, that Pinske suffered in an automobile crash with White. The agreement asked a retired Cook County judge to mediate and that if the mediation effort failed, then to arbitrate the dispute for a binding result.

When Pinske sued for judgment on the award, he relied on Section 2-1303 of the Illinois Code of Civil Procedure. That section starts by saying “judgments recovered in any court shall draw interest at the rate of 9% per annum until satisfied.” The section also provides that “when judgment is entered upon any award, . . . interest shall be computed at the above rate, from the time when made or rendered to the time of entering judgment upon the same, and included in the judgment.”

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A 33-year-old elevator mechanic’s helper (known only as C.E.) was working on top of a traction elevator in an apartment building in Broward County, Fla. Before starting, the elevator mechanic‘s helper engaged a safety stop switch to prevent the elevator cab from moving. When C.E. was holding onto a guide rail with his right dominant hand and preparing to cross to an adjacent elevator, the elevator cab which he was standing on moved upward, suddenly and at a high rate of speed. Three wheels that move the elevator ran over C.E.’s hand.

C.E. suffered crushed injuries to the right hand, including partial severance of his ring finger and injuries leading to amputation of his pinky finger. C.E. underwent more than a dozen surgeries to repair the damage to his hand. He later developed complex regional pain syndrome that was diagnosed to be permanent and caused swelling, burning and electric-shock-like pain and required pain medication. Worker’s compensation paid approximately $750,000 in past medical expenses and earnings.

C.E. retrained himself to use his left hand. He returned to work about 4 ½ years after the incident and became an elevator inspector. He was later laid off. He since has obtained work as a security guard.

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