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Year in Review 2010: Verdicts & Settlements

A listing of all verdicts & settlements that were submitted to the Wisconsin Law Journal in 2010.

Click here for 10 Top-Dollar Settlements for 2010 and Million-Dollar Verdicts

WAGE CLAIMS

Workers owed for time changing clothes

Case: Spoerl, et al. v. Kraft Foods Global Inc.

Number: 09-2691

Court: 7th Circuit Court of Appeals

Outcome: Court affirmed District Court ruling

Amount: About $4 Million

Disposition date: Aug. 2, 2010

Plaintiffs’ attorney: James Olson, Lawton & Cates, Madison; Sarah Siskind, Miner, Barnhill and Galland, Madison

Defense attorneys: William Conley, Daniel Kaplan, Foley & Lardner, Madison

Plaintiff counsel’s fact summary: On June 16, 2009, Judge Barbara Crabb ruled in favor of plaintiff, hourly employees at the Oscar Meyer plant in Madison who had challenged Kraft’s failure to compensate them for donning and doffing personal protective equipment. The parties agreed that the unpaid wages as of April 30, 2008 totaled nearly $2.2 million. Pursuant to the order in place, Kraft deposited $2.2 million into the settlement fund in July 2009. Based on this decision, Kraft will also have to pay for the employees’ time spent donning and doffing since May 1, 2008, plus pre-judgment interest. This is an additional award likely to exceed $2 million.

Kraft did not pay wages for donning and doffing because it argued their collective bargaining agreement and the Fair Labor Standards Act preempted Wisconsin Law.

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ACCOUNTING MALPRACTICE/MISREPRESENTATION

Inaccurate accounting revealed in insolvency

Case: American Trust & Savings Bank v. Philadelphia Indemnity Insurance Company, et al., Numbers: State court: 07-CV-1175; federal court: 09-474

Courts: Dane County, Western District of Wisconsin

Injuries alleged: Lender’s loss of funds; borrower’s insolvency

Amount: $3.8 Million

Disposition date: Oct. 5, 2010

Plaintiff’s attorneys: Robert J. Kasieta, Andrew J. Parrish, Kasieta Legal Group, Madison

Defense attorneys: Bruce Schultz, Joseph Cavitt, Coyne, Schultz, Becker & Bauer, Madison

Plaintif counsel’s fact summary: Between 2001 and 2005, Shullsburg Creamery received accounting services from Vaassen Pluemer, CPAs and Bremser, Schommer, & McHugh and its successor, Bremser Group.

During that same time, plaintiff American Trust & Savings Bank was the commercial lender for Shullsburg Creamery. In December 2005, Shullsburg Creamery entered Chapter 128 receivership, where it was liquidated.

Plaintiff filed suit in circuit court against the accounting firms alleging claims for accounting malpractice and misrepresentation. The claims against Vaassen Pluemer settled at mediation. The receiver for Shullsburg Creamery later assigned all its claims to plaintiff, and a separate action was commenced against the Bremser firms in June 2009 in federal court.

The state court action against Bremser was tried. The jury found in favor of plaintiff and awarded $3 million. Defendants appealed. While the appeal was pending, the federal action proceeded to trial in October 2010. During that trial, the parties reached a global settlement of $3.8 million on all plaintiff’s claims.

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CONSUMER CREDIT

Creditor’s account statements prove default

Case: Capital One Bank, USA NA v. Summers

Number: 2008SC440, 2008CV242

Court: Green Lake County

Outcome: Verdicts on summary judgment; summary affirmance by the Wisconsin Court of Appeals

Disposition date: May 26, 2010

Plaintiff’s attorney: Paul H. Thielhelm, Kevin T. White, Kohn Law Firm, Milwaukee

Defense attorney: Gary W. Thompson, Thompson Law Offices, Milwaukee

Plaintiff counsel’s fact summary: Capital One brought two separate actions against defendant, one in large claims and the other in small claims, seeking judgments for amounts due on his credit cards after he defaulted.

Plaintiff sought summary judgment in both cases, relying upon employee affidavits that included account statements showing the status of the accounts from a zero balance to the amounts in litigation. Defendant countered that plaintiff had not complied with the Wisconsin Consumer Act at Sec. 425.109(2), which requires that upon a defendant/customer’s written request, the creditor must submit copies of the “writings evidencing any transaction” upon which the creditor’s claim is based.

The court granted summary judgment in both cases, and the Wisconsin Court of Appeals summarily affirmed both judgments. The case offers persuasive authority regarding the issue of the “writings evidencing” requirement, which has long been in dispute between debtor and creditor counsel.

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PATENT INFRINGEMENT

No patent infringement with sippy cup design

Case: Learning Curve Brands v. Munchkin Inc.

Number: 09-CV-416

Court: Western District of Wisconsin

Outcome: Summary judgment of non-infringement in favor of defendant

Disposition date: Sept. 29, 2010

Plaintiff’s attorney: Marshall Schmitt, Michael Best & Friedrich, Chicago

Defense attorneys: Josephine K. Benkers, Quarles & Brady, Milwaukee; John L. Knoble, Knoble, Yoshida and Dunleavy, Philadelphia

Defense counsel’s fact summary: Plaintiff Learning Curve Brands alleged that one of Munchkin’s sippy cup products, the Twist-Tight Reuseable Spill-Proof cup, infringed one of its patents. Judge Barbara B. Crabb found in favor of Munchkin on non-infringement.

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BUSINESS TORT/NUISANCE

Stray voltage harms herd

Case: Bollant Farms Inc., et al. v. Scenic Rivers Energy Cooperative and Federated Rural Electric Service Exchange

Number: 07-CV-349

Court: Grant County

Injuries alleged: Lowered milk production, lost value of the herd, excess expenses

Outcome: Verdict for plaintiffs

Amount: $5 Million

Disposition date: April 20, 2010

Plaintiffs’ attorney: Scott Lawrence, Lawrence Law Office, St. Nazianz; Christopher D. Stombaugh, Kopp, McKichan, Geyer, Skemp & Stombaugh, Platteville

Defense attorneys: Denis R. Vogel, Mary Beth Peranteau, Wheeler, Van Sickle & Anderson, Madison

Insurance: Federated Rural Electric Insurance Exchange

Plaintiff counsel’s fact summary: Dairy farm owners/operators sought damages for stray electricity damage to the herd and its productivity between 2002 and resolution of the electrical problems with defendant’s utility system in 2008, plus damages during the herd’s recovery period to the present. Defendant made a wiring error during 2005 that was discovered and remedied in early 2008. The dairy herd’s health and production improved dramatically afterward.

The “cow contact voltages” as measured by the methods of the Public Service Commission of Wisconsin did not exceed the PSC “level of concern” for 60 Hz., steady state AC rms voltage. However, the herd was exposed to ground current transient voltages, originating from the power line, which are short duration bursts of electrical energy and whose measurement and mitigation are not addressed by the PSC protocols. As in Hoffmann v. Wisconsin Electric Power Co., 2003 WI 64 262 Wis.2d 264, 664 N.W.2d 55, negligence was established under the common law.

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BAD FAITH

Insurer won’t pay after fire

Case: Park Terrace LLC v. Transportation Insurance Co., et al.

Number: 2007CV012848

Court: Milwaukee County

Outcome: Verdict for plaintiff

Amount: $8.37 Million

Disposition date: May 14, 2010

Plaintiff’s attorney: Douglas W. Rose, Jennifer Geller Baumann, Victor E. Plantinga, Rose and deJong, Milwaukee

Defense attorneys: Christine K. Nelson, Nelson, Connell, Conrad, Tallmadge & Slein, Waukesha; Zacarias Chacon, Lewis Brisbois Bisgaard & Smith, Chicago

Plaintiff counsel’s fact summary: A large fire occurred during construction of a condominium project. Although the property damage portion of the claim was paid by CNA, Park Terrace claimed that CNA engaged in bad-faith conduct by failing to provide coverage and payment pursuant to a loss-of-income endorsement to the fire insurance policy. Trial evidence and testimony revealed that bad-faith conduct was “systemic” throughout the CNA companies.

The court found as a matter of law that CNA had improperly reformed the policy. The jury deliberated for approximately two hours before reaching its verdict. Of the $8.37 million awarded, $4 million was punitive damages.

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CIVIL RIGHTS

Police shoot suspect at point-blank range

Case: Estate of Bell, et al. v. Strausbaugh, et al.

Number: 05-CV-01176-CNC

Court: United States District Court, Eastern District of Wisconsin

Injuries alleged: Death; emotional distress

Outcome: Settlement at mediation

Amount: $1.75 Million

Disposition date: Feb. 5, 2010

Plaintiffs’ attorneys: Patrick O. Dunphy, Brett A. Eckstein, Cannon & Dunphy, Brookfield

Defense attorneys: Gregg G. Gunta, Kevin P. Reak, Gunta & Reak, Milwaukee

Insurance: Cities & Villages Mutual Insurance Company

Plaintiff counsel’s fact summary: This case concerned numerous allegations of civil rights violations, including an unlawful stop, excessive use of force, excessive force by use of taser, and excessive use of deadly force by shooting the plaintiff at point-blank range through the head.

During discovery, plaintiffs alleged that the officers offered multiple and contradictory accounts for how the shooting actually occurred. The officers’ basic contention was that defendant police officer was on plaintiff’s left side when he shot him in the right side of the head. Plaintiffs alleged that the officers’ account was inconsistent with eyewitness observations, the autopsy report, ballistics evidence and blood spatter evidence. In addition, plaintiffs alleged that the use of force was excessive and violated his Fourth Amendment rights.

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MEDICAL MALPRACTICE

Baby is severely injured during delivery

Case: Birmingham, by Lowe, GAL and Lee v. Injured Patients and Families Compensation Fund, et al.

Number: 06CV006494

Court: Milwaukee County

Outcome: Verdict for plaintiff

Amount: $23.2 Million

Disposition date: May 10-27, 2010

Plaintiff’s attorney: Jeffrey M. Goldberg, Jeffrey M. Goldberg Law Offices, Milwaukee

Guardian Ad Litem: David Lowe, Jacquart & Lowe, Milwaukee

Plaintiff counsel’s fact summary: Plaintiff’s rate of dilation during the birth of her son was far below accepted obstetric norms. After many hours of little progress, defendant doctor took over. Once plaintiff was fully dilated, he instructed the nurses to have her push and left the labor room. When he returned over an hour later, he allowed the mother to continue pushing and thought he could deliver by forceps. Despite knowing that the fetus was in a compromised position in terms of oxygenation status and knowing that the labor had not been progressing normally, the doctor gave the forceps to a resident, who failed with them. He reapplied forceps twice, and then allowed the resident to apply the vacuum for delivery.

The child was born with a cord blood pH of 6.96 and base deficit of -17.3. In addition, the child had multiple skull fractures from the forceps.

Defendants denied negligence but also claimed that since the child’s cerebral palsy was not spastic quadriplegic, the type normally seen in global hypoxia, the injury actually resulted from a sinus venous thrombosis, a type of stroke. None of the treating doctors diagnosed that. Plaintiff disclosed rebuttal experts, including a world-renowned sinus venous thrombosis expert, and a pediatric neuroradiologist who works her in the area of stroke research, who told the jury that this child never had a sinus venous thrombosis.

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Caregivers didn’t cause elderly man’s fall

Case: Kohlwey v. Holy Family Memorial Inc., et al.

Court: Manitowoc County

Injuries alleged: Past medical expenses; past and future pain and suffering; loss of society and companionship

Outcome: Jury verdict for the defense: zero dollars

Plaintiffs’ attorney: Paul J. Scoptur, Aiken & Scoptur, Milwaukee

Defense attorney: Mark T. Budzinski, Corneille Law Group, Green Bay

Insurance: Physicians Insurance Company of Wisconsin

Defense counsel’s case summary: Plaintiffs sued Holy Family Memorial Adult Day Services alleging staff was negligent in assisting plaintiff to the bathroom, causing him to fall and fracture his hip. Plaintiff had multiple co-morbidities including gait instability and chronic obstructive pulmonary disorder. He was being assisted by two nursing assistants, but had breathing difficulties and asked a staff member to retrieve his inhaler. He subsequently fell and fractured his hip. Plaintiffs contended he never fully recovered. At trial, they sought $577,000.

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Cardiac patient’s care was reasonable

Case: Jackson, et al. v. Dr. F., et al.

Court: Iron County

Injuries alleged: Past medical and funeral expenses; loss of society and companionship for surviving spouse and minor child; pecuniary loss for surviving spouse and minor child

Outcome: Jury verdict for the defense: zero dollars

Plaintiffs’ attorney: Anthony D. Cossi, Cossi Law Office, Ironwood, Mich.

Defense attorneys: Mark T. Budzinski, Crystal M. Uebelher, Corneille Law Group, Green Bay

Insurance: Physicians Insurance Company of Wisconsin

Defense counsel’s case summary: Plaintiffs brought a wrongful death claim against plaintiff’s primary-care physician. Plaintiff presented with numbness and tingling in his arm and subsequently developed a ball of acid in his chest. Dr. F. prescribed medication for high cholesterol, referred him for an EMG study of his arm and prescribed medication for acid reflux. He died suddenly of cardiac arrest approximately one month later. Plaintiffs alleged the standard of care required a referral to a cardiologist, and sought $1 million at trial. The defense argued Dr. F.’s evaluation and treatment were appropriate and within the standard of care. The jury found the doctor’s care and treatment were reasonable.

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Failure to diagnose didn’t cause patient’s demise

Case: Weis v. Marshfield Clinic, et al.

Number: 07-CV-175

Court: Brown County

Injuries alleged: Pre-death pain and suffering; loss of society and companionship

Outcome: Jury verdict for the defense: zero dollars

Disposition date: March 11, 2010

Plaintiff’s attorney: D. James Weis, Theresa B. Laughlin, Habush Habush & Rottier, Wausau

Defense attorneys: Randall J. Sandfort, Marshfield Clinic, Marshfield; Barrett J. Corneille, Corneille Law Group, Madison; Jeremy T. Gill, Nash Spindler Grimstad & McCracken, Manitowoc

Defense counsel’s fact summary: Plaintiff appeared for her annual OB/GYN examination by her primary-care provider. Per her deposition, she had left breast abnormalities on that date. The history read that breast abnormalities existed prior to the patient visit, but had resolved. There was a dispute regarding the accuracy of the history and a delay in its transcription and signing.

The physician conceded that if breast abnormalities had been present at the time of the examination, the standard of care would have required an immediate referral to a surgeon to evaluate for the possibility of breast cancer.

Plaintiff’s breast cancer was diagnosed 12 months later and she eventually died. Plaintiffs argued that earlier diagnosis would have meant a different outcome, but the defense asserted that her aggressive cancer precluded a change in outcome.

Plaintiff’s husband sought $350,000, the cap, for loss of society and companionship, and the estate sought $1 million in pre-death pain and suffering.

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Doctor operates on wrong side of patient

Case: Plants v. White, D.O., et al.

Number: 05-CV-001-497

Court: Milwaukee County

Injuries alleged: Damage to left sciatic nerve

Outcome: Settlement

Amount: $3 Million

Disposition date: June 8, 2009

Plaintiffs’ attorney: Ted M. Warshafsky, Warshafsky, Rotter, Tarnoff & Bloch, Milwaukee

Defense attorney: William R. Wick, Nash, Spindler, Grimstad & McCracken, Manitowoc

Insurance: The Medical Protective Company

Plaintiff counsel’s fact summary: Plaintiff, a neurosurgeon at St. Luke’s Hospital Milwaukee, was to do a disc operation on the right side of the back of plaintiff. Instead, he operated on the left side. He did not inform the plaintiff, but created records from the operative report on, indicating it was a right-sided operation. After the surgery, it was clear that plaintiff had suffered severe disabling injury to his left sciatic nerve. There were no offers to settle until three weeks before trial, when the defense accepted plaintiff’s offer.

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Overdose causes cardiopulmonary arrest

Case: Roark, et al. v. Preferred Professional Insurance Company, et al.

Number: 10CV000746

Court: Milwaukee County

Outcome: Settlement

Amount: $5.9 Million

Disposition date: June 17, 2010

Plaintiff’s attorneys: William M. Cannon, Cannon & Dunphy, Brookfield

Defendant’s attorneys: Christopher Riordan, von Briesen & Roper, Milwaukee; Kathleen Bonville, Gutglass, Erickson, Bonville, Milwaukee

Insurance: Preferred Professional Insurance Company; Injured Patients and Families Compensation Fund

Plaintiff counsel’s fact summary: Plaintiff was admitted to the hospital for chronic hip pain. She was ordered to receive Dilaudid via a patient controlled analgesic pump. In changing the syringe of the pump, a nurse inserted a new syringe that was concentrated 10 times higher than the previous syringe. The nurse negligently failed to reprogram the pump for this new concentration.

As a result of the Dilaudid overdose, plaintiff suffered cardiopulmonary arrest, causing severe hypoxic ischemic encephalopathy. Approximately two months later, she was discharged for extensive rehabilitation. She has needed several hospitalizations for bladder infections, agitation, anxiety, depression, botulism injections, swallowing studies and pain.

Her future care needs include treatment with physical therapy, occupational therapy, speech therapy, psychiatry, orthopedics, primary-care medicine and skilled nursing care.

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Post-surgical infection kills patient

Case: Wilms v. Extendicare Health Services Inc., et al.

Number: 09-CV-1602

Court: Dane County

Injuries alleged: Post-surgical infection causing death

Outcome: Settlement

Amount: $2.25 Million

Disposition date: Sept. 16, 2010

Plaintiff’s attorney: Matthew Boller, Boller & Vaughan, Madison

Insurance: Laurier Indemnity Company

Plaintiff counsel’s fact summary: Plaintiff underwent voluntary hip replacement surgery and was discharged to defendant nursing home for short-term occupational and physical therapy. The nurses were also to monitor the surgical incision for signs and symptoms of infection.

Thirteen days after her admission, the wound went from being “healed,” to being open in three areas with three different colors of drainage. The nurses noted that the orthopedic surgeon was to be called in the morning; however no orthopedic surgeon was ever called, despite complaints from plaintiff. She was ultimately diagnosed with “obvious” infection where her left total hip replacement was performed. After the hardware was removed, she suffered known complications of the hip infection, which included renal failure and caused her death.

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PERSONAL INJURY

Collapsed porch injures worker

Case: Eisler v. West Bend Mutual Insurance Company, et al.

Number: 07-CV-2734

Court: Waukesha County

Injuries alleged: Crushed pelvis; two broken legs; numerous internal injuries, and several infections from them

Outcome: Verdict for plaintiff

Award: $8.8 Million

Disposition date: May 14, 2010

Plaintiffs’ attorneys: Thadd J. Llaurado, Keith R. Stachowiak, Murphy & Prachthauser; Patrick McNally, Borgelt, Powell, Peterson & Frauen, Milwaukee

Defense attorney: Terry Booth, Piper & Schmidt, Milwaukee

Plaintiff counsel’s fact summary: During the building of a residence in Sussex, plaintiff, a siding subcontractor, pulled on some plastic that had been left behind by the masonry contractors to protect their cement work from rain. The porch roof then collapsed on him.

On the morning that jury selection began, plaintiffs resolved their case against three other contractors. The amount received was $1,212,500 under a Pierringer-type release. The case went forward against the masonry contractor, and the jury returned a verdict finding them 40 percent responsible for the $8.8 million verdict.

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Patron shot by bouncer/convicted felon

Name: Wright v. Edwards, et al.

Number: 08-CV-5171

Court: Milwaukee County

Injuries alleged: Bullet wounds in the right chest, with the bullet passing through his body and exiting out his back

Outcome: Bench verdict for plaintiff

Award: $1,730,089

Disposition date: June 24, 2010

Plaintiff’s attorneys: Charles J. Hausmann, Michael J. Donovan, Hausmann-McNally Law Offices, Milwaukee

Defense attorney: Joe Neterval, Non-Profit Legal Services of Southeast Wisconsin, Milwaukee

Plaintiff counsel’s fact summary: Plaintiff and some friends went to a bar. At closing time, there was an argument in the parking lot. Plaintiff, who knew people on both sides of the argument, attempted to mediate. As the argument continued, defendant, the bar’s bouncer, brought a semi-automatic rifle out from the bar. As a convicted felon, defendant was not allowed to own a gun. He fired several shots in the air. When the crowd didn’t disperse, he fired several shots into the crowd, one of which struck plaintiff in the chest.

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Boat-rental company not liable for near drowning

Case: Estate of Patel, et al. v. Lake Geneva Boat Line Inc., et al.

Number: 07-CV-644

Court: Walworth County

Injuries alleged: Wrongful death

Outcome: Jury verdict for the defense: zero dollars

Disposition date: Nov. 11, 2010

Plaintiffs’ attorney: Stephan D. Blandin, Romanucci & Blandin, Chicago

Defense attorney: David F. Andres, McCoy & Hofbauer, Waukesha

Insurance: Markel American Insurance Company

Defense counsel’s fact summary: A pontoon was rented to a group of about 10 adults. Although the rental agreement prohibited swimming, one of the passengers went swimming, eventually stopped and went underwater. When he was retrieved from the water, he was unconscious. At the hospital, he was diagnosed as being in a persistent vegetative state, which he remained in until his death. Approximately four hours after the incident, he had a blood alcohol level of 0.14.

In closing arguments, plaintiffs asked for more than $5.2 million. The jury found the boat line not negligent.

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Propane gas explosion didn’t cause injuries

Case: Roach, et al. v. Dixie Gas Co., et al.

Number: 06-02-0140

Court: Hardeman County, Tenn.

Injuries alleged: Severe PTSD and depression; permanent hearing loss and impaired speech; complete disability; lost earnings

Outcome: Jury verdict for the defense: zero dollars

Disposition date: Jan. 28, 2010

Plaintiffs’ attorney: Edward M. Bearman, Memphis, Tenn.

Defense attorneys: John V. McCoy, Eugene LaFlamme, McCoy & Hofbauer, Waukesha

Defense counsel’s fact summary: Defendant had propane tanks on its premises. A liquid propane leak found an ignition source and exploded. At the time of the leak, plaintiffs were at the facility to purchase propane.

Defendants conceded they were negligent in causing the explosion. Thus the sole issue at trial was whether defendants’ negligence caused the alleged injuries, and if so, what damages did plaintiffs suffer.

Plaintiffs’ original demand was $15 million, but the demand at trial was $6.5 million. The jury awarded zero dollars.

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Jury backs store clerk

Case: Jackson v. Harris Ace Hardware of Beloit Inc., et al.

Number: 08-CV-2516

Court: Rock County

Injuries alleged: Soft-tissue injuries to right shoulder, right arm, back and right hip

Outcome: Jury verdict for the defense: zero dollars

Disposition date: May 17, 2010

Plaintiff’s attorneys: George Chaparas, Weigel, Carlson, Blau & Clemens, Milwaukee

Defense attorneys: Chester Isaacson, Corneille Law Group, Madison

Insurance: General Casualty

Defense counsel’s fact summary: A hardware store patron claimed he suffered injuries after he was involved in an altercation with a store employee. Defendants vehemently denied these allegations. Prior to trial, the court dismissed plaintiff’s claim for medical expenses. Consequently, plaintiff was only permitted to seek compensation for his alleged pain and suffering. In closing argument, plaintiff requested an award of $10,000. After approximately 10 minutes of deliberation, the jury returned a unanimous verdict of no negligence.

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Jet boat tour operator not negligent

Case: Alkaraki v. Dells Boat Tours, et al.

Number: 08-CV-647

Court: Sauk County

Injuries alleged: Compression fracture at T12-L1 and herniated disk at L5-S1 requiring surgery and significant recovery time

Outcome: Jury verdict for the defense: zero dollars

Disposition date: Dec. 1, 2010

Plaintiff attorney: Rodney Seefeld, Conway & Seefeld, Baraboo

Defense attorney: Matthew R. Rosek, McCoy & Hofbauer, Waukesha

Insurance: Markel American Insurance Company

Defense counsel’s fact summary: This case arose out of an alleged back injury during a jet boat adventure ride in the Wisconsin Dells. Dells Boat Tours provides thrill rides on the Wisconsin River. Plaintiff alleged that the jet boat went over a wake or other object in the river causing a compression fracture and herniated disk in his back. Plaintiff’s demand at trial was over $1 million. After a three-day trial, the jury returned a verdict finding no negligence.

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Concealed fence posts cause injuries

Case: Dobrzynski v. M.J. Electric Inc.

Number: 07-CV-9

Court: Clark County

Injuries alleged: Right ankle malleolar fracture with associated ligament/tendon damage; injuries to the left foot including metatarsalgia and hammer toe resulting from gait changes associated with right ankle fracture

Outcome: Verdict for plaintiff; liability: M.J. Electric 83 percent, Dobrzynski 17 percent

Amount: $183,549: past medical expenses: $50,300; future medical expenses: $26,560; past pain and suffering: $106,240; property damage: $449

Disposition date: Nov. 5, 2010

Plaintiff attorney: Brian F. Laule, Bye, Goff & Rohde, River Falls

Defense attorney: John Schroth, Chapin & Associates, Brookfield

Insurance: Travelers Insurance

Plaintiff counsel’s fact summary: Plaintiff/dairy farmer granted an easement to companies erecting a transmission line through rural Clark County. Plaintiff sustained injuries, including an ankle fracture, when he stepped from his tractor on a site on or near the easement, and landed on fence posts left in the tall grass. Plaintiff alleged M.J. Electric, as the general contractor, was negligent in causing his injuries, and that the fence posts that caused his injury were identical to fence posts used on the construction site. The defendant maintained there was no liability on the part of M.J. Electric because there was no information indicating who placed the posts in the injury-causing location, and argued that in any event damages were minimal. Procedurally, defendant M.J. Electric, along with other defendant-contractors, had been granted summary judgment in early 2008, a decision reversed by the Court of Appeals with respect to defendant M.J. Electric.

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Volunteer coach injures student wrestler

Case: Lampe v. Allstate Insurance, et al.

Number: 06 CV 005921

Court: Milwaukee County

Injuries alleged: Cervical spine dislocation called bilateral locked facet at C-5 and C-6, causing severe spinal cord injury

Outcome: Settlement

Amount: $3.85 Million

Plaintiff’s attorneys: Daniel A. Rottier, Christopher E. Rogers, Habush Habush & Rottier, Madison

Defense attorneys: Todd Smith, Linda Schmidt, Godfrey & Kahn, Madison; John Swietlik, Michael Aiken, Kasdorf, Lewis & Swietlik, Milwaukee; Raymond Pollen, Daniel Mullin, Crivello Carlson, Milwaukee

Insurance: Allstate Insurance; Wausau Underwriters Insurance Company; Employers Insurance Company of Wausau

Plaintiff counsel’s fact summary: Plaintiff was a wrestler at Oak Creek High School. After a regular wrestling practice ended, he was invited to participate in an extended after-hours practice organized by defendant/volunteer coach. Defendant made the decision to live wrestle plaintiff, taking him to the ground and fracturing his neck. He suffered catastrophic injuries as a result.

Plaintiff filed suit. The insurers filed a joint summary judgment motion arguing that defendant did not fit the definition of “volunteer” under the policies, which the trial court granted. Plaintiff appealed, and the Court of Appeals reversed.

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Dock worker severely injured

Case: Vinson v. Wyroslak, et al.

Number: 09-CV-7800

Court: Milwaukee County

Injuries alleged: Crush injury to right thigh, back sprain; permanent injury to the right thigh, with permanent scarring and tissue loss; permanent thoracic soft-tissue injury; psychological trauma

Outcome: Settlement

Amount: $525,000

Disposition date: Oct. 15, 2010

Plaintiff’s attorney: Benjamin S. Wagner, Habush Habush & Rottier, Milwaukee

Defense attorney: Thomas Klug, Borgelt, Powell, Peterson & Frauen, Milwaukee

Insurance: Occidental Fire & Casualty

Plaintiff counsel’s fact summary: Plaintiff was a dock worker/materials handler at the XpedX plant in Pewaukee. Defendant arrived at the plant to deliver a load. He backed into the dock and disengaged his tractor from the trailer. Plaintiff placed a jackstand at the nose of the trailer for support. After plaintiff unloaded the trailer, defendant backed his tractor into him, pinning him between the tractor and trailer. Plaintiff was behind the tractor attempting to free the jackstand from underneath the trailer. Liability was contested.

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Farm worker injured on the job

Case: Updike v. Nelson

Number: 08CV151

Court: Trempealeau County

Injuries alleged: Bilateral mandible fracture; right femur fracture; right calcaneal fracture; right shoulder injury resulting in adhesive capsulitis; facial lacerations; fractured teeth and multiple abrasions

Outcome: Settlement

Amount: $168,750

Plaintiff’s attorney: Mark Young, Habush Habush & Rottier, Milwaukee

Defense attorney: Paul Millis, Skolos, Millis & Matousek, Black River Falls

Insurance: Rural Mutual Insurance Company; policy limits: $300,000

Plaintiff counsel’s fact summary: Plaintiff was performing work on the inside of a silo located at defendant’s farm. Plaintiff was sitting atop the silo unloader inside the silo to complete his work when the cables failed, causing him to fall 30 feet.

Plaintiff’s negligence theory: Defendant knew or should have known the cables were hazardous, dangerous and in an unsafe condition. Defendant denied the cables were unsafe, claimed plaintiff lacked permission to use the unloader, and claimed plaintiff should have worn a safety harness.

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Child’s severe burns result in scarring

Case: Crooks v. Family Living Child Care Center

Number: 08-CV-607

Court: Brown County

Injuries alleged: Severe burns to 20 percent of her body; permanent scarring to her left face, left neck, left shoulder/trunk and back

Outcome: Settlement

Amount: $653,021

Disposition date: Nov. 16, 2009

Plaintiff’s attorney: Ralph J. Tease Jr., Habush Habush & Rottier, Green Bay

Defense attorney: Joseph J. Beisenstein, Menn Law Firm, Appleton

Insurance: West Bend Mutual Insurance Company; policy limits: $1 million underlying liability and $1 million umbrella

Plaintiff counsel’s fact summary: This accident occurred at the defendant’s daycare center in Green Bay. Plaintiff was put into a highchair next to a crockpot of water, which was used for warming bottles. The child pulled the electric cord on the crockpot causing it to spill on her.

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MOTOR VEHICLE NEGLIGENCE

Turning car hits pedestrian

Case: Friar v. Pusa

Number: 08CV014235

Court: Milwaukee County

Injuries alleged: Depressed left lateral tibial plateau fracture and 3-mm anterior knee joint fracture fragment with moderate joint effusion; plaintiff will continue to take blood thinners to avoid further embolism and clotting; increased risk of spontaneous internal bleeding

Outcome: Settlement

Amount: $145,000

Plaintiff’s attorney: Mark S. Young, Habush Habush & Rottier, Milwaukee

Defense attorney: Richard Mueller, Mueller Goss & Possi, Milwaukee

Insurance: State Farm Mutual Insurance Company; liability policy limits: $150,000

Plaintiff counsel’s fact summary: Plaintiff, a pedestrian walking Eastbound on North Avenue in Milwaukee, began crossing the street at a corner crosswalk of North 103rd Street. At the same time, defendant attempted to make a right-hand turn and struck her.

Plaintiff’s negligence theory: Defendant was 100 percent liable, as he failed to yield right-of-way to a pedestrian in a crosswalk and failed to use proper lookout. Defendant disputed the damages.

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Auto accident results in loss of eye

Case: Kreie v. ITC Electrical Technologies

Number: 10-CV-2035

Court: U.S. District Court, District of Wyoming

Injuries alleged: Trauma to the right eye, necessitating surgical removal; extensive midfoot injuries including Lisfranc fractures to both the second and third metatarsal head, fractures to the medial cuneiform and fracture to the lateral aspect of the cuboid of the right foot; permanent orthopedic injuries to right foot

Outcome: Settlement

Amount: $1.4 Million

Plaintiff’s attorneys: Donald J. Jacquart, Paul R. Jacquart, Jacquart & Lowe, Milwaukee; Robert Tiedeken, Wolf & Tiedeken, Cheyenne, Wyo.

Defense attorney: John Fairless, Lambdin and Chaney, Denver

Insurance: EMC Insurance Company

Plaintiff counsel’s fact summary: Plaintiff, a Roman Catholic nun, was traveling southbound on Highway 135, in Fremont County, Wyo. A driver employed by defendant failed to yield the right-of-way and made a left-hand turn into plaintiff’s lane of traffic, colliding nearly head on at a high rate of speed into her vehicle.

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Truck accident causes leg amputation

Case: Stodola v. Veolia Solid Waste Midwest Inc., et al.

Number: 09-CV-1494

Court: Brown County

Injuries alleged: Left leg amputation above the knee; right ankle fracture; multiple rib fractures; scalp lacerations and hematoma; pulmonary contusions; left wrist fracture; pneumothorax; spinal fractures of T12 and L1

Outcome: Settlement

Amount: $4.5 Million

Disposition date: Oct. 21, 2010

Plaintiff’s attorneys: Robert L. Habush, Colleen B. Beaman, Habush Habush & Rottier, Milwaukee; Ralph J. Tease, Jr., Byron B. Conway, Habush Habush & Rottier, Green Bay

Defense attorney: Ken Halvachs, Boyle Brasher, Belleville, Ill.

Plaintiff counsel’s fact summary: Plaintiff was crossing Monroe Street in downtown Green Bay, within the crosswalk and with a walk signal, when she was run over by a Veolia garbage truck operated by defendant. He struck plaintiff because he was rushing through his route and not paying attention. Plaintiff’s left leg was almost completely torn off, and could not be saved. Defendants claimed plaintiff entered the crosswalk when the “Don’t Walk” signal was flashing and also claimed she should have seen the truck before it hit her. Shortly before trial, the parties stipulated to liability.

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Motorcyclist responsible for passenger injuries

Case: Hoffmann v. American Family Insurance, et al.

Number: 10 CV 4033

Court: Dane County

Injuries alleged: Right and left rib fractures; C2 right lamina fracture; C1 right posterior ring fracture; T1 left lamina fracture; spinous process fractures at C7, T2, T5-T8; left transverse process fractures at T8 and T10; burst fractures of T6 and T8; anterior vertebral body fractures at T3 and T7; left distal radius/ulnar styloid fractures and splenic laceration open mandibular fracture and open left tibula/fibular fractures

Outcome: Settlement

Amount: $1.05 Million

Disposition date: Sept. 15, 2010

Plaintiff’s attorney: Timothy S. Trecek, Habush Habush & Rottier, Milwaukee

Defense attorney: Mark Koss, American Family Insurance, Waukesha

Plaintiff counsel’s fact summary: Plaintiff was a passenger on a motorcycle being driven by her husband. They were traveling with a group of motorcyclists on Hwy. 78 near Mazomanie. When coming upon a curve in the highway, husband was unable to turn the motorcycle, failed to negotiate the turn and lost control of the motorcycle. They went off the road, hit a ditch and plaintiff was thrown from the cycle.

Initially, the husband believed there was a defect in the steering mechanism and claimed the defect caused the accident. The experts conducted a joint inspection of the accident motorcycle. In finding no defect, plaintiff claimed negligent management and control on behalf of her husband and pursued a claim against his insurer on the basis of his negligent management and control of the motorcycle.

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Driver was distracted, impaired

Case: Kraby v. Gomez

Number: 08CV016391

Court: Milwaukee County

Injuries alleged: Multiple lacerations to his face

Outcome: Settlement at mediation

Amount: $75,000

Plaintiff’s attorney: Mark S. Young, Habush Habush & Rottier, Milwaukee

Defense attorney: Mary Kniaz, American Family Insurance, Waukesha

Insurance: American Family Insurance

Plaintiff counsel’s fact summary: Plaintiff was traveling Southbound on South 27th Street in Milwaukee. At the intersection of West Cold Spring Road, he entered the intersection with a flashing yellow light. At the same time, defendant was traveling West on Cold Spring Road and entered the intersection with a red light, crossing into his path. Prior to the crash, defendant had been arguing with his passenger and was under the influence of alcohol. Plaintiff’s negligence theory: Defendant failed to yield right-of-way and also was operating a motor vehicle under the influence of alcohol. Defendant disputed the value of the damages.

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Fireworks in road cause accident

Case: Starcevic and Kubin v. Anfang, et al.

Number: 08CV813

Court: Kenosha County

Injuries alleged: Starcevic: lacerations to cheek, lips and chin; severe laceration and muscle damage to bicep and deltoid muscles; severe lacerations to left shoulder thoracic joint; left clavicle fracture; Kubin: laceration above eye; cheekbone complex fracture; finger fracture with tendon damage

Outcome: Settlement at mediation

Amount: $950,000

Plaintiffs’ attorney: Mark S. Young, Habush Habush & Rottier, Milwaukee

Defense attorneys: Emile Banks, Emile Banks & Associates, Milwaukee; Douglas Carroll, Farmers Insurance Company, Brookfield; Lance Grady, Grady, Hayes & Neary, Waukesha

Insurance: State Farm Mutual Insurance Company; Farmers Mutual Insurance; ACUITY, A Mutual Company

Plaintiff counsel’s fact summary: Plaintiffs were riding a motorcycle traveling Southbound on CTHB/Tuttle Road when their motorcycle collided with a minivan operated by defendant, which came into their lane to avoid fireworks (smoke bomb) used by children under the supervision of defendants Peter and Linda Anfang.

Plaintiff’s negligence theory: The children were negligent in the use of smoke bombs on an incline causing them to roll into the roadway. The parents failed to properly supervise them, failed to read and implement instructions on warning labels, and negligently instructed the children where to safely light smoke bombs on a steep driveway.

Defendant driver failed as to proper lookout and did not check for oncoming traffic prior to swerving. Also, she made a sudden decision to swerve into oncoming traffic rather than stopping to avoid the smoke bomb in the road.

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Speeding driver causes accident

Case: Craker v. Parker

Number: 09-CV-290

Court: Waupaca County

Injuries alleged: Multiple fractures (hip, tailbone, ribs, arm) and internal injuries; scars and disfigurement from the chest tube and left flank lacerations

Outcome: Settlement at mediation

Amount: $425,000

Plaintiff’s attorney: David E. Sunby, Habush Habush & Rottier, Wausau

Defense attorney: Jane Kirkeide, American Family Insurance, Appleton

Insurance: American Family Insurance

Plaintiff counsel’s fact summary: Driver was speeding and lost control of the vehicle.

Plaintiff’s negligence theory: Reckless driving. Defendant’s position: Contributory negligence for getting in the car. Noteworthy evidentiary issue: Was there contributory negligence for entering the car with her drunken, enraged boyfriend?

Plaintiff’s special damages included past medical expenses of $108,204 and past wage loss of $3,600.

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Sidetracked driver rear-ends vehicle

Case: Britten v. USAA, et al.

Number: 08-CV-3189

Court: Waukesha County

Injuries alleged: Cervical disc herniations at C5-6 and C6-7

Outcome: Settlement

Amount: $359,987

Disposition date: March 16, 2010

Plaintiff’s attorney: Edward E. Robinson, Cannon & Dunphy, Brookfield

Defense attorney: Terry E. Johnson, Peterson, Johnson & Murray, Milwaukee

Insurance carrier: USAA

Plaintiff counsel’s fact summary: Plaintiff was stopped behind another vehicle at a red light on County Highway P at its intersection with Lisbon Road in Oconomowoc, when he was forcefully rear-ended defendant’s vehicle. Defendant told the investigating police officer he had dropped a bottle of water, and was attempting to pick it up. The impact propelled plaintiff’s vehicle into the vehicle in front of him.

A notice of claim and proof of loss was submitted to USAA demanding the $300,000 underlying policy limits. The total settlement of $359,987 includes $34,986.60 in statutory interest pursuant to Wis. Stat. § 628.46 based on USAA’s failure to timely pay that claim.

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Driver turns into car at intersection

Case: Tupper v. American Family Insurance, et al.

Number: 09CV00078

Court: Waukesha County

Injuries alleged: Fractured pelvis; fractured right humerus with dislocation

Outcome: Settlement at mediation

Amount: $500,000 policy limits

Disposition date: Jan. 13, 2010

Plaintiff’s attorney: Edward E. Robinson, Cannon & Dunphy, Brookfield

Defense attorneys: James T. Murray Jr., Peterson, Johnson & Murray, Milwaukee; Robert A. Levine, Law Offices of Robert A. Levine, Milwaukee

Insurance: American Family Insurance

Plaintiff counsel’s fact summary: Plaintiff, age 80, was traveling northbound approaching an intersection. It was raining lightly. At the same time, defendant was traveling southbound, and was intending to turn left at the intersection. As plaintiff approached the intersection, the light was still green, but turned yellow just as she got to the intersection. Because she was already entering the intersection, she could not stop. As soon as the light turned yellow, defendant, instead of yielding, proceeded to make his left turn, causing him to collide into the front of plaintiff’s vehicle. Plaintiff’s vehicle was then pushed into another vehicle. Defendant contended that the light had already turned yellow prior to plaintiff reaching the intersection, and that she appeared to be slowing as if she were going to stop.

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Joyride ends in tragedy

Case: Worzalla v. Fleck, et al.

Number: Settled before filing

Injuries alleged: Spinal cord injury requiring spinal fusion; incomplete paraplegia but ambulatory

Outcome: Settlement

Amount: $1.25 Million (policy limit)

Plaintiff’s attorney: Keith Clifford, Clifford & Raihala, Madison

Insurance: State Farm Mutual Insurance Company

Plaintiff counsel’s fact summary: Claimant, 17, was injured while a passenger in the vehicle of driver, 21, who turned onto a road none of them had been on before. It was nighttime. Driver accelerated from a dead stop to approximately 80-100 mph, unaware that the road dead-ended. The car flew off the end of the road striking a pile of boulders and a tree. The driver was charged with three felonies, including reckless endangerment and reckless injury. The insurer first paid $250,000 under its primary policy as an advance payment. Having exhausted those limits, it ultimately paid the limits under its umbrella insurance policy of $1 million.

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Passenger injured while working

Case: Rogers v. Kleinhas, et al.

Number: 08-CV-1100

Court: Washington County

Injuries alleged: Cervical spine injury requiring two surgeries

Outcome: Settlement

Amount: $1.7 Million

Disposition date: May 11, 2010

Plaintiff’s attorney: Patrick R. Griffin, Griffin Law Center, West Bend

Defense attorney: John T. Juettner, Crivello Carlson, Milwaukee

Insurance: Liberty Mutual Insurance Company

Plaintiff counsel’s fact summary: Plaintiff was a passenger in a truck driven by a co-employee that was involved in a collision while the two were on the job. Plaintiff came to see counsel with a question regarding worker’s compensation benefits. Upon investigation, they discovered that plaintiff’s employer had a waiver of the co-employee exclusion in its liability policy. Plaintiff suffered a serious neck injury that required two surgeries. The case was settled at mediation after suit was filed.

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Bus collides with overturned semi (No. 1)

Case: Collicott, et al. v. Whole Foods Market Group Inc., et al.

Number: 05-CV-450

Court: Chippewa County

Outcome: Settlement

Amount: $3 Million

Plaintiffs’ attorneys: Daniel A. Rottier, Anne MacArthur, Joseph M. Troy, Habush Habush & Rottier, Madison, Appleton

Defense attorneys: Daniel A. Haws, Stacy R. Ertz, Murnane Brandt, Minneapolis; Michael Knippen, Traub Lieberman, Chicago; Jay R. Starrett, Michael Rosenberg, Thomas Gonzales, Whyte Hirschboeck Dudek, Milwaukee; Thomas J. Graham Jr., Weld, Riley, Prenn & Ricci, Eau Claire

Plaintiff counsel’s fact summary: A semi-tractor-trailer combination unit owned by Whole Foods Market Group went off the shoulder of I-94 and overturned. The semi blocked both westbound lanes and both shoulders. Soon afterward, a tour bus transporting Chippewa Falls High School students returning from a band competition collided with the underside of the overturned semi. Five people were killed, and many others were injured. Plaintiff was one of the most severely injured.

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Bus collides with overturned semi (No. 2)

Case: Rozga v. Whole Foods Market Group Inc., et al.

Number: 08-CV-612

Court: Chippewa County

Outcome: Settlement

Amount: $1.2 Million paid by the insurer for Whole Foods Market Group Inc.; also received reduction of $85,000 in the worker’s compensation lien

Injuries: Fractures of the pelvis, lumbar spine, right hand, septum, right scapula and six ribs; laceration of the liver

Disposition date: Sept. 23, 2010

Plaintiff’s attorney: Dean P. Laing, O’Neil, Cannon, Hollman, DeJong & Laing, Milwaukee

Defense attorneys: Daniel A. Haws, Murnane Brandt, St. Paul; Michael S. Knippen, Traub Lieberman Straus & Shrewsberry, Chicago; Jay R. Starrett, Whyte Hirschboeck Dudek, Milwaukee; Thomas J. Graham Jr., Weld, Riley, Prenn & Ricci, Eau Claire

Plaintiff counsel’s fact summary: Plaintiff was employed part-time as the color guard captain for the Chippewa Falls High School marching band, and was a passenger in the bus that collided with an overturned semi (See the previous fact summary in Collicott).

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Driver’s careless lane change causes crash

Case: Hartwig v. Eland

Number: 09-CV-220

Court: Marinette County

Injuries alleged: Fractured left forearm; permanent nerve damage in forearm/elbow and arthritis in left wrist

Outcome: Settlement

Amount: $495,196

Disposition date: Sept. 15, 2009

Plaintiff’s attorney: Ralph J. Tease Jr., Habush Habush & Rottier, Green Bay

Defendant’s attorney: Joseph J. Ferris, Kasdorf, Lewis & Swietlik, Green Bay

Insurance: Nationwide Mutual Insurance Company; $500,000 policy limit

Plaintiff counsel’s fact summary: Defendant attempted to change lanes. She didn’t see plaintiff’s vehicle in the next lane, and collided with it. The impact caused plaintiff’s vehicle to leave the roadway, strike a traffic control signal and stop against a business sign. Plaintiff’s negligence theory: Defendant failed to properly and safely change lanes.

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Subdural hematoma results from accident

Case: Tracy, et al. v. American Standard Insurance Company, et al.

Number: 08-CV-04374

Court: Waukesha County

Injuries alleged: Subdural hematoma, post-traumatic seizure and left lung contusion; exacerbation of pre-existing migraine headaches

Outcome: Settlement in mediation

Amount: $128,000

Plaintiffs’ attorney: Robert L. Jaskulski, Habush Habush & Rottier, Milwaukee

Defense attorneys: James R. Sommers, Hunter & Sommers, Waukesha; James S. Smith, Smith, Gunderson & Rowen, Brookfield

Insurance: American Standard Insurance Company; Society Insurance

Plaintiff counsel’s fact summary: Plaintiff was a passenger in a vehicle being operated by one of the defendants, Chapman. Chapman was driving her vehicle south on Highway 67 in Oconomowoc. The operator of the second vehicle involved in this accident, Larosa, was driving his car east approaching Highway 67. As Larosa began to turn left onto Highway 67, he was hit by Chapman’s vehicle. Chapman ran a red light and failed to yield the right-of-way to the Larosa vehicle, pulling out directly into Larosa’s path, causing a collision to occur between the two vehicles. As a result of the collision, Plaintiff suffered a subdural hematoma, post-traumatic seizure and left lung contusion.

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Crash with semi results in multiple injuries

Case: Joseph v. Wolter, et al.

Number: 09-C-743

Injuries alleged: Left pneumothorax; right scalp laceration; right distal radius and proximal ulnar fracture; left clavicle fracture; right condyle fracture; Atlanto-occipital dislocation; left cerebellar stroke; transverse process fractures on the left at C7, T1 and T3; on the right at T8 and T9; rib fractures, multiple, permanent scarring

Outcome: Settlement

Amount: $1,975,615, representing remaining policy limits

Disposition date: July 14, 2010

Plaintiff’s attorneys: Lynn R. Laufenberg, Michael J. Jassak, Laufenberg, Stombaugh & Jassak, Milwaukee

Defense attorneys: Emile H. Banks Jr., Vicki L. Arrowood, Emile Banks & Associates, Milwaukee

Plaintiff counsel’s fact summary: Plaintiff, traveling westbound on state Route 95 approaching the intersection of state Route 93 in Arcadia, was injured when a semi northbound on state Route 93 tried to make a right turn onto state Route 95 at a high rate of speed. While attempting to turn onto state Route 95 eastbound, the semi tipped over on top of the plaintiff’s passenger vehicle and severely crushed the vehicle. The semi driver claimed his brakes were not able to control the vehicle’s speed as it traveled down the hill. Plaintiff alleged multiple violations of federal regulations by both the driver and his employer, and negligent driving skills once confronted with an emergency of his own making.

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Failure to yield right-of-way causes crash

Case: Andresek v. Nelson

Court: Milwaukee County

Injuries alleged: Traumatic closed-head brain injury; comminuted fracture of the left fibula/tibia (ankle pilon type fracture) requiring multiple surgeries; right lateral femoral condyle fracture (right knee) also requiring surgical repair; wrist fracture; right sacroiliac joint ligament injury combined with separation of the pelvic bone; skin grafting to battle infection and tissue damage to the left lower extremity; lacerations and skin damage

Outcome: Settlement

Amount: $1.05 Million

Disposition date: April 7, 2010

Plaintiff’s attorneys: Laurence J. Fehring, Habush Habush & Rottier, Milwaukee

Defense attorneys: Hayes & Neary, Waukesha

Insurance: ACUITY, A Mututal Insurance Company

Plaintiff’s counsel’s fact summary: Plaintiff was operating his motorcycle within the posted speed limit northbound on South 145/Fond du Lac Avenue and was struck by defendant. Defendant proceeded from the stop sign traveling eastbound, without warning, directly into plaintiff’s path. After the collision, he veered into the westbound lanes and struck another vehicle. Plaintiff’s negligence theory: Defendant failed to yield right-of-way from the stop sign. Defendant’s position: Contributory negligence on the plaintiff, charged with operating with THC in his system.

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Exchange student injured in car accident

Case: Alfaro v. State Farm Mutual Insurance

Injuries alleged: Multiple lower extremity injuries, including a right femur fracture, lacerated liver and kidney, fractured hip

Outcome: Settlement

Amount: $1.129 Million

Disposition date: January 2010

Plaintiff’s attorneys: Douglas E. Swanson, Habush Habush & Rottier, Waukesha

Defense attorney: Negotiations were conducted via the claims office

Insurance: State Farm Mutual Insurance

Plaintiff counsel’s fact summary: Plaintiff, an exchange student, was a passenger sitting in the right rear seat of a vehicle driven by a teenage classmate. Her host “sister” was sitting in the front passenger seat. The driver of the vehicle made a left-hand turn directly in front of oncoming traffic. The host “sister” was killed and plaintiff received many serious injuries. After she was discharged from the hospital she was unable to reside with her host family, so she was required to return to her home country. She was left with permanent orthopedic injuries to her hip and right leg.

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Plaintiff suffers tinnitus from auto accident

Case: Ashenhurst v. Nicholson, et al.

Court: Milwaukee County

Injuries alleged: Neck pain; whiplash; tinnitus

Outcome: Settlement

Amount: $95,000

Disposition date: July 12, 2010

Plaintiff’s attorneys: Jonathan P. Groth, Groth Law Firm, Brookfield

Defense attorneys: Richard T. Mueller, Mueller, Goss & Possi, Milwaukee

Insurance: State Farm Mutual Insurance

Plaintiff counsel’s fact summary: Plaintiff was rear-ended by the defendant while traveling on I-894 in the City of Milwaukee. Defendant admitted to the police that he may have “dozed off.” Plaintiff’s vehicle was totaled. The following day plaintiff sought treatment for upper back and neck pain. Within a week her treating doctors noted “some new tinnitus.” She was prescribed physical therapy and underwent a battery of diagnostic tests. The neck and back pain subsided, leaving only the permanent tinnitus.

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Car accident results in knee replacement

Case: Backes v. Eveland

Number: 08CV47

Court: Iowa County

Injuries claimed: Fractured leg; knee replacement

Outcome: Settlement

Amount: $665,000

Disposition date: Sept. 4, 2009

Plaintiff’s attorneys: Douglas E. Swanson, Habush Habush & Rottier, Waukesha

Defense attorneys: Stephen Murray, Coyne Schultz Becker & Bauer, Madison

Insurance: American Family Insurance. Policy limits: $1 million

Plaintiff counsel’s fact summary: Plaintiff was driving through an intersection. Defendant driver struck the rear of the vehicle waiting to turn left after it had cleared the intersection. That vehicle was pushed across center lane and head on collided into plaintiff. Plaintiff’s negligence theory: Defendant rear-ended the vehicle pushing it into plaintiff’s.

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Accident causes severe leg damage

Case: Buse v. Sentry Insurance

Injuries alleged: Severe damage to right leg

Outcome: Settlement

Amount: $1.1 Million

Disposition date: Aug. 31, 2010

Plaintiff’s attorney: Kelly L. Centofanti, Centofanti Law, Mequon

Insurance: Sentry Insurance

Plaintiff counsel’s fact summary: Plaintiff, age 71, was struck by the right front end of a motor vehicle while crossing Drexel Avenue to get her mail. The driver claimed he did not see her until he hit her, although she was wearing a reflective vest. There were no skid marks, and she was thrown over 33 feet. She suffered a severe right open tibia and fibula fracture. She was at high risk for losing her leg. She required many surgeries related to her initial injury and her subsequent infection in the leg, and now has a permanent partial impairment of the leg.

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Spinal injuries causally related to accident

Case: Frye, et al. v. Liberty Mutual Insurance Company, et al.

Number: 08CV003124

Court: Milwaukee County

Injuries alleged: Cervical and lumbar spine disc injuries

Outcome: Settlement at mediation

Amount: $425,000

Disposition date: July 23, 2010

Plaintiffs’ attorney: Kevin R. Martin, Cannon & Dunphy, Brookfield

Defense attorney: Daniel Jungen, Stilp Law Office, Brookfield

Insurance: Liberty Mutual Insurance Company

Plaintiff counsel’s fact summary: Plaintiff was a rear-seat passenger in a vehicle that was rear-ended by defendant. Plaintiff had immediate complaints of neck and low-back pain and was placed on conservative treatment for both. After that failed, plaintiff underwent a lumbar laminectomy. Post-operatively, he continued his home exercise program for his neck. He developed worsening neck pain with radiculopathy. After additional conservative treatment failed, plaintiff underwent two cervical spine surgeries. Defendants admitted that the lumbar spine injury and surgery were causally related to the subject collision, but disputed the cervical spine injury and surgeries.

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Failure to yield right-of-way causes injury

Case: Fox v. Johnson

Injuries alleged: Closed-head injury; blunt chest trauma with pneumothorax; facial lacerations; scapula and clavicle fracture; fifth rib fracture; transverse process fractures T2-T4; and dental fracture #10 and cerebral artery occlusion with cerebral infarction

Outcome: Settlement

Amount: $450,000

Plaintiff’s attorney: Craig A. Christensen, Habush Habush & Rottier, Appleton

Insurance: West Bend Mutual Insurance Company; policy limits: $1 million

Plaintiff counsel’s fact summary: Plaintiff was traveling northbound on County Highway J when his vehicle was suddenly struck in the passenger side by defendant. Defendant was driving a cement truck traveling westbound on County Highway JJ, and failed to stop at the stop sign. The passenger in plaintiff’s vehicle was killed.

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Pedestrian darted out into roadway

Case: Buckner, et al. v. American Family Insurance, et al.

Number: 08-CV-5921

Court: Dane County

Injuries alleged: Left chest/rib pain, permanent left knee pain, left elbow pain, permanent right-sided neck pain with associated headaches

Outcome: Jury verdict for the defense

Amount: $16,216 for past medical expenses; $5,100 for past pain and suffering; $800 for past medical expenses; zero dollars for future pain and suffering; the jury apportioned 67 percent negligence on the plaintiff and 33 percent negligence on the defendant.

Disposition date: Feb. 22-25, 2010

Plaintiffs’ attorney: Lee R. Atterbury, Atterbury, Kammer & Studinki, Middleton

Defense attorney: Roger S. Flores, American Family Insurance, Madison

Insurance: American Family Insurance

Defense counsel’s fact summary: The insured was southbound on Aberg Avenue at an estimated speed of 20-25 mph (25 mph speed limit). As the insured neared Ruskin Street, plaintiff darted out from the insured’s right side. Upon seeing plaintiff running out towards her, the insured swerved her vehicle to the left over the center-line and came to an abrupt stop. Plaintiff collided with the front passenger side fender of our insured’s vehicle. Plaintiff bounced back off the insured’s vehicle, spun, and then fell to the ground. Based on a skid mark left by the defendant’s vehicle, the defense’s accident reconstruction expert was able to estimate the defendant’s speed at 16 to 17 mph immediately before commencing the skid.

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Disc injuries from collision are minor

Case: Kealy, et al. v. American Family Insurance

Number: 08-CV-745

Court: Rock County Circuit Court

Injuries alleged: C5-C6 disc bulge with anterior C5-C6 discectomy and cervical fusion surgery

Outcome: Jury verdict for the defense: $2,500 for past pain and suffering; $5,000 for past medical expenses; zero dollars for future pain and suffering, loss of services for plaintiff’s wife, and loss of society and companionship

Disposition date: September 28-30, 2010

Plaintiff’s attorney: James A. Carney, Carney Davies and Thorpe, Janesville

Defense attorney: Roger S. Flores, American Family Insurance, Madison

Insurance: American Family Insurance

Defense counsel’s fact summary: Plaintiff’s vehicle was broadsided on the rear driver’s side by defendant’s insured at the intersection of Garfield Avenue and East Milwaukee Street in Janesville. Plaintiff complained of left-sided neck pain and with radiculopathy in the upper extremity.

Plaintiff alleged $127,000 in past medical expenses. In closing arguments, plaintiff also requested $200,000 for past pain and suffering, $10,000 for future pain and suffering, $25,000 for loss of services for plaintiff’s wife, and $10,000 for loss of society and companionship. The defense conceded $2,500 for past pain and suffering and $5,000 for past medical expenses, but argued that awards for future pain and suffering, loss of services for plaintiff’s wife and loss of society and companionship weren’t warranted.

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One-car accident causes rotator cuff tear

Case: Wundrow v. Ryall, et al.

Court: Rusk County

Number: 09 CV 41

Injuries alleged: Right lower back pain radiating into hips and legs and left rotator cuff tear

Outcome: Verdict for plaintiff

Amount: $56,934

Disposition date: June 22, 2010

Plaintiff’s attorney: Tracy N. Tool, Bye, Goff & Rohde, River Falls

Defense attorney: Charles G. Norseng, Wiley Law, Chippewa Falls

Insurance: American Family Insurance

Plaintiff counsel’s fact summary: Plaintiff was a passenger in a Chevy truck driven by defendant. Defendant encountered slippery conditions and saw an animal in the road. Defendant lost control of the truck and entered a ditch, striking a tree head on. Plaintiff and defendant walked away from the vehicle to a nearby residence, the owner of which drove them home. Plaintiff did not seek medical treatment for about five weeks following the accident.

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Jury favors man injured in rear-end collision

Case: Bellamy v. Allstate Insurance

Court: Milwaukee County

Number: 2008CV014027

Injuries alleged: Muscle strain; sprain to lower back

Outcome: Verdict for plaintiff

Amount: $29,867: past pain and suffering: $10,000; future pain and suffering: $10,000; past medical expenses: $8,885; future medical expenses: $982

Disposition date: Sept. 22, 2010.

Plaintiff’s attorneys: Peter M. Young, Benjamin S. Wagner, Habush Habush & Rottier, Rhinelander, Milwaukee

Defense attorney: Gregory Knapp, Smith Amundsen, Milwaukee

Plaintiff counsel’s fact summary: Plaintiff was stopped at a red light. Defendant’s insured failed to stop behind him and collided with his automobile. He immediately began to feel pain in his lower back. As a result of the accident, plaintiff endured more than 65 rounds of treatment to his lower back between emergency care, primary care, chiropractic care and physical therapy. Ultimately, his treating doctors determined he had reached maximum medical improvement roughly one year after the accident, and was thereafter subject to palliative care for his lower-back injury. He continues to suffer from the injury.

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Curve is deadly for young driver

Case: Estate of Koppa, et al. v. Sheboygan Falls Insurance Company and Ward

Number: 09-CV-249

Court: Oneida County

Injuries alleged: Wrongful death; conscious pain and suffering from the time of the collision until death

Outcome: Verdict for plaintiff

Amount: $2,201,292

Disposition date: Aug. 12, 2010

Plaintiffs’ attorneys: Russell T. Golla, Anderson, O’Brien, Bertz, Skrenes & Golla, Stevens Point

Defense attorney: James O. Conway, Olsen, Kloet, Gunderson & Conway, Sheboygan

Insurance: Sheboygan Falls Insurance Company

Plaintiff counsel’s fact summary: Koppa, age 23, was driving on a highway curve when his vehicle collided with defendant’s, approaching from the opposite direction.

Liability and damages were contested. Defendants contended that Koppa lost control coming through the curve, entered the defendant’s lane of travel and caused the collision. The plaintiffs contended that Koppa was in full control of his vehicle, which gradually slowed coming through the curve when he was suddenly confronted with the defendant’s vehicle in his lane of travel and engaged in a very strong evasive maneuver by slamming on his brakes and turning to his left. Evidence also suggested that defendant may have been talking on her phone at or immediately before the collision. The jury apportioned negligence at 70 percent to the defendant and 30 percent to Koppa.

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Car, van collide at dangerous intersection

Case: Anderson v. Lanier, et al.

Number: 07-CV-919

Court: Eau Claire County

Injuries alleged: Soft-tissue injuries to the wrist, shoulder, upper back; a herniated disk at L5-S1; activation of dormant, never treated degenerative conditions in the lower back, SI joint; and Piriformis Syndrome, causing pain in the butt cheek, resulting in a limp with severe activity limitations

Outcome: Jury verdict for the defense: zero dollars

Disposition date: March 5, 2010

Insurance: American Family Insurance

Plaintiff’s attorney: Timothy J. Aiken, Aiken & Skoptur, Milwaukee; Raymond E. Krek, Krek & Associates, Jefferson

Defense attorney: Fred L. Morris, American Family Insurance, Eau Claire

Defense counsel’s fact summary: Plaintiff’s car collided with defendant’s pizza delivery van on a snowy evening at an uncontrolled intersection at the top of a hill. On agreement of the parties at the pretrial, the court allowed a jury view of the intersection. The jury view gave jurors a good sense of what a hazard this intersection was, even on a good day. Plaintiff claimed to the jury $50,026 in past medical expenses, $52,000 in future medicals, and past and future pain, suffering, and disability of $300,000-$350,000.

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No award for plaintiff’s alleged pain

Case: Evans v. American Family Insurance, et al.

Number: 07-CV-664

Court: Sauk County

Injuries alleged: Pain from neck, upper-back injuries

Outcome: Jury verdict for the defense: $214 for past medical expenses; zero dollars for pain and suffering

Disposition date: Feb. 24, 2010

Insurance: American Family Insurance

Plaintiff’s attorney: Eric P. Molberg, Chiquoine & Molberg, Reedsburg

Defense attorney: Chester A. Isaacson, Corneille Law Group, Madison

Defense counsel’s fact summary: Defendant driver collided with plaintiff’s vehicle when pulling out of a gas station into traffic. Plaintiff complained of continued pain as a result of injuries to her neck and upper back. In closing argument, plaintiff requested $69,097. The jury apportioned 25 percent of the liability to plaintiff and awarded her $285, the cost of her initial visit to the emergency room, reduced to $214. Plaintiff received nothing for pain and suffering.

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PRODUCT LIABILITY

Yakima liable for defective bike rack

Case: Frohlich v. Yakima Products Inc. and Gordon

Number: 09L103

Court: Lake County, Ill.

Injuries alleged: Subarachnoid hemorrhage; left pneumothorax; fractured left scapular wing; fractured left third rib; comminuted left femur fracture; broken nose and facial fractures; and cuts and abrasions to her face and body; permanent orthopedic injuries to her left lower leg; a moderate closed-head injury and post-traumatic stress disorder

Outcome: Settlement at mediation

Amount: $1.5 Million

Plaintiff’s attorney: Robert L. Jaskulski, Habush Habush & Rottier, Milwaukee

Defense attorneys: Stephen B. Frew, Leahy, Eisenberg & Fraenkel, Chicago; Thomas M. Devine, Hostak, Henzl & Bichler, Racine

Insurance: Specialty Risk Services; Illinois National Insurance Company; Progressive Insurance Company

Plaintiff counsel’s fact summary: Plaintiff was driving southbound on I-94 in Libertyville, Ill. She was driving in the far left lane of the tollway when a bicycle was ejected off a bike rack on the rear of defendant’s vehicle. Attempting to avoid the bicycle, she moved into the left-hand shoulder and, upon returning to the travel portion of the roadway, slid into the center lane of travel where she was struck by a truck in the passenger side of her vehicle.

Plaintiff brought strict liability and negligence claims against Yakima, the manufacturer of the bike rack, claiming that it was defective and Yakima was negligent in its design and instructions because the rack failed to adequately secure bicycles to the vehicle.

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Man falls from horse due to defective saddle

Case: Benda, et al. v. Crates Leather, et al.

Number: 08-CV-010-297

Injuries alleged: S1 (sacroiliac) joint disruption on the left; pubic symphysis diastatis; a closed sacral fracture on the left side, urethral tears; a rectroperitoneal hematoma; and left 4, 5, 6, 7 rib fractures; the urethral tear eventually led to permanent erectile dysfunction

Outcome: Settlement

Amount: $525,000

Plaintiffs’ attorney: Victor C. Harding, Warshafsky, Rotter, Tarnoff & Bloch, Milwaukee

Defense attorneys: Michael Murray, Kasdorf Lewis & Swietlik, Milwaukee; Quentin Shafer, Drawe, Shafer & Stewart, Waukesha; Scott Ritter, John Griner, Chapin & Associates, Brookfield; Eric Darling, Schmidt, Darling & Erwin, Milwaukee

Plaintiff counsel’s fact summary: While horseback riding, suddenly the right stirrup on a high-end saddle failed with plaintiff’s foot going straight through the bottom, sending him to the ground.

Plaintiff sued the sellers and makers of the saddle, sounding generally in negligence and strict liability/defective product, along with their insurers. Plaintiff’s special damages included medical bills of approximately $98,000. At the time of the accident, he was a lieutenant colonel in the Marine Reserves, as well as a middle school teacher. A claim for loss of future earning capacity was made, as plaintiff aspired to becoming a full bird colonel in the Reserves before retiring. This advancement became impossible as a result of his residual injuries. In addition, it was asserted he would need to retire early from teaching.

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Excavation ‘coupling device’ catastrophically injures worker

Case: Szuta, et al. v. Kelbe Bros. Equipment Co. Inc., et al.

Number: 05 CV 2997

Court: Waukesha County

Injuries alleged: Permanent crush injuries to middle and lower extremities

Outcome: Settlement

Amount: $4 Million

Disposition date: Oct. 2, 2009

Plaintiffs’ attorneys: Daniel A. Rottier, Christopher E. Rogers, Habush Habush & Rottier, Madison

Defense attorneys: William Katt, Leib & Katt, Milwaukee; Patrick Brennan, Crivello Carlson, Milwaukee

Insurance: Sentry Insurance

Plaintiff counsel’s fact summary: Plaintiff/worker began preparations for changing the oil of a Link Belt excavator owned by his employer, an excavating company. The excavator was equipped with a Hendrix J.B. Quick Coupler, manufactured by Hendrix Manufacturing Equipment Company and sold by defendant Kelbe Bros. Equipment Co. through defendant LBX Company.

The Hendrix quick coupler is a coupling device that attaches to the end of an excavator boom arm. Its design allows for a more rapid changing between various boom arm attachments, the most common being an excavating bucket.

Plaintiff requested that his employer move the cab and boom arm of the excavator 180 degrees to allow for easier access to the engine. Upon the employer doing so, the excavator bucket released from the quick coupler as a result of the locking lever missing the link-pin. The bucket fell, struck some debris, and ultimately landed on the plaintiff, causing him catastrophic injuries.

Plaintiffs sued Kelbe Bros. and LBX on strict liability and negligence grounds. Plaintiffs were prepared to offer substantial evidence of other similar incidents that had occurred throughout the country.

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Cement mixer’s design leads to death

Case: Swenson v. Oshkosh Truck Corporation and General Casualty

Number: 08-CV-0600

Court: Dane County

Injuries alleged: Death

Outcome: Verdict for plaintiff

Amount: $703,820

Disposition date: July 21, 2010

Plaintiff’s attorney: Timothy S. Trecek, Habush Habush & Rottier, Milwaukee

Defense attorney: Jeff Spoerk, Quarles & Brady, Milwaukee

Plaintiff counsel’s fact summary: Plaintiff cement truck driver was killed when his head inadvertently came into contact with the rotating fins at the discharge end of a front discharge cement mixer while performing his normal operating duties.

The subject mixer, known as an S-series mixer, was designed and manufactured by defendant Oshkosh Truck Corporation. Plaintiff contended Oshkosh Truck was negligent in the design of the subject mixer. Discovery revealed that Oshkosh Truck owned two subsidiary corporations, who manufactured rear discharge mixers and incorporated dedicated guards on its rear discharge mixers at the discharge end. Plaintiff contended this type of design should have been utilized on the subject mixer, and such a design would have prevented plaintiff’s death.

The jury found Oshkosh Truck 100 percent negligent in the subject mixer design.

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Wood chipper manufacturer wasn’t negligent

Case: Simonson, et al. v. Morbark Inc.

Number: 07-CV-96

Court: Jackson County

Injuries alleged: Massive head trauma leading to near-instant death

Outcome: Jury verdict for defendant: zero dollars

Disposition date: Oct. 8, 2010

Plaintiffs’ attorneys: Jesse M. Cohen, Law Offices of Robert A. Stutman, Fort Washington, Penn.; Robert Caplan, Law Offices of Robert A. Stutman, Fort Washington, Penn.; Ronald Poquette, Law Offices of Ron Poquette, Eau Claire

Defense attorneys: Josh Johanningmeier, Godfrey & Kahn, Madison; Bryan Cahill, Godfrey & Kahn, Madison

Defense counsel’s fact summary: Plaintiffs were the daughters of a worker killed in an accident at a Black River Falls sawmill in 2006. They brought strict liability and negligence claims against Morbark Inc., the manufacturer of a commercial wood chipper.

OSHA investigated and issued a single citation, with 32 violations, to the employer. Evidence of those violations was admitted and the employer witnesses conceded not only the violations, but their ignorance of the requirements prior to the accident.

Morbark countered that this accident was the only one of its kind since the product was designed and first sold in 1968, and also presented evidence of more than 11 million estimated safe hours of use for the same model of chipper with identical guarding.

The jury returned a unanimous verdict that Morbark was not negligent.

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PREMISES LIABILITY

Carelessness causes fall on uneven sidewalk

Case: Joiner, et al. v. East Pointe Marketplace Limited Partnership, et al.

Number: 08 CV 16230

Court: Milwaukee County

Injuries alleged: Fractures and an ulnar deviation of two fingers, requiring surgery and extensive physical therapy; permanent decrease in flexion and extension of one of the fingers

Outcome: Jury verdict for the defense: zero dollars

Disposition date: Feb. 18, 2010

Plaintiffs’ attorney: Thomas A. Ogorchock, Miller & Ogorchock, Milwaukee

Defense attorney: Thomas J. Binder, Simpson & Deardorff, Milwaukee

Insurance: ACUITY, A Mutual Insurance Company

Defense counsel’s fact summary: Plaintiff tripped and fell on the sidewalk in front of the East Pointe Marketplace on Ogden Avenue in Milwaukee, purportedly due to a difference in elevation between two sidewalk slabs. She alleged negligence and a safe-place statute violation. She originally sought $135,000. Defendant denied liability. The difference in elevation between the two slabs was only three-eighths of an inch, well within the three-quarter inch tolerance utilized as a standard by East Pointe. Defendants argued the main reason plaintiff tripped and fell was because she was not watching where she was walking at the time of the accident.

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Snowplowing company not negligent

Case: Culver v. Compass Properties Germantown, et al.

Number: 08-CV-0777

Court: Washington County

Injuries alleged: Fractured knee cap requiring surgery and significant recovery time

Outcome: Jury verdict for the defense: zero dollars

Disposition date: Sept. 16, 2010

Plaintiff’s attorney: Mark D. Baus, Murphy & Prachthauser, Milwaukee

Defense attorney: Matthew R. Rosek, McCoy & Hofbauer, Waukesha

Insurance: Rural Mutual Insurance Company

Defense counsel’s fact summary: This case arose out of an injury to plaintiff at a Pick ‘N Save store, where Suburban Lawns had been hired as its snowplowing company. Plaintiff alleged that she slipped and fell on ice in the parking lot serviced by Suburban Lawns. Plaintiff’s demand at trial was in excess of $342,000. After a four-day trial, the jury returned a verdict finding no negligence.

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