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Corneille leads again in defense verdicts

Once again, Madison’s Corneille Law Group reported the highest number of defense verdicts to the “Verdict & Settlement Reporter,” with three lawyers reporting five impressive outcomes in 2010.

First, the firm’s namesake, Barrett J. Corneille, came out on top in Weis v. Marshfield Clinic, et al., with a zero-dollar verdict in a medical malpractice case involving a woman’s death from breast cancer. Plaintiff’s husband sought $350,000, the cap, for loss of society and companionship, and her estate requested $1 million for her pre-death pain and suffering. They alleged an untimely diagnosis, but a Brown County jury agreed with the defense that her aggressive cancer precluded a change in outcome. Corneille shared the victory with Randall J. Sandfort, of Marshfield Clinic in Marshfield, and Jeremy T. Gill, of Nash Spindler Grimstad & McCracken in Manitowoc.

In addition, Mark T. Budzinski and Crystal M. Uebelher in the Green Bay branch, reported another zero-dollar outcome in Jackson, et al. v. Dr. F., et al., another wrongful-death medical malpractice case. Plaintiff saw his primary-care physician, complaining of numbness and tingling in his arm, as well as a ball of acid in his chest. Defendant prescribed medications and referred him for an EMG study of the arm, but plaintiff died suddenly of cardiac arrest approximately one month later. Plaintiffs asked for $1 million at trial, but an Iron County jury found the doctor’s care and treatment were reasonable.

Budzinski was responsible for another zero-dollar verdict. In Kohlwey v. Holy Family Memorial Inc., et al., plaintiff incurred injuries from a slip and fall that caregivers failed to prevent. Plaintiffs sought $577,000 at trial, but a Manitowoc County jury gave that a thumbs-down.

Another Corneille lawyer, Chester A. Isaacson of Madison, reported a favorable outcome in an auto negligence case. Isaacson mitigated his client’s exposure to just $214 in Evans v. American Family Insurance. Ins. Co., et al. That’s a far cry from the $69,097 plaintiff requested in closing.

Further, in Jackson v. Harris Ace Hardware of Beloit Inc., et al., a Rock County jury awarded zero dollars to a plaintiff/hardware store patron who claimed he suffered injuries after an altercation with a store employee. In closing arguments, plaintiff requested $10,000, but after just 10 minutes of deliberation, the jury returned a unanimous verdict of no negligence.

Another frequent contributor to the “Verdict & Settlement Reporter” is McCoy & Hofbauer in Waukesha. The firm had another outstanding string of successes last year, reporting four verdicts.

In Roach, et al. v. Dixie Gas Co., et al., John McCoy and Eugene LaFlamme defended a property owner whose propane gas tank exploded. Plaintiffs originally demanded $15 million, but came down to $6.5 million at trial. A jury in Hardeman County, Tenn. was not persuaded, and plaintiffs left the courthouse with nothing.

Likewise, a jury awarded zero dollars in Estate of Patel, et al. v. Lake Geneva Boat Line, et al. Plaintiff requested $5.2 million in closing arguments, in a case involving a man who died shortly after swimming while on a pontoon boat excursion. The pontoon rental agreement had prohibited swimming. David F. Andres led the boat line’s defense.

In addition, one of the firm’s rising stars, Matthew R. Rosek, had a banner year, obtaining two zero-dollar verdicts. In Alkaraki v. Dells Boat Tours, et al., plaintiff sought more than $1 million at trial for an alleged back injury incurred during a jet boat adventure ride in the Wisconsin Dells. A Sauk County jury nixed that request.

Moreover, in Culver v. Compass Properties Germantown, et al., the jury found no negligence on the part of a business hired to clear snow from a Pick ‘N Save parking lot, after a plaintiff slipped and fell. Plaintiff demanded $150,000 prior to trial.

American Family Insurance reported three noteworthy defense victories in 2010.

Roger Flores of Madison whittled the insurer’s liability down to just $7,500 in Kealy, et al. v. American Family Insurance, an auto accident case. The Rock County jury was not swayed by plaintiffs’ claim of $127,000 in past medical expenses, not to mention that in closing arguments, plaintiffs asked for $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.

In addition, in a pedestrian dart-out case, Flores obtained another successful outcome when a Dane County jury apportioned 67 percent of the negligence on the plaintiff. The case was Buckner, et al. v. American Family Insurance, et al.

Finally, his colleague, Fred L. Morris of Eau Claire successfully defended a driver in a case where the setting was an uncontrolled intersection on a snowy evening. Plaintiff in Anderson v. Lanier, et al. claimed approximately $452,000 in past and future medical expenses, plus past and future pain, suffering and disability. The jury wasn’t having it.

Jane Pribek can be reached at jpribek@bellsouth.net.

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