Florida Jury Awards $3.22 Million for Interrupted Cancer Treatments In Addition to Injuries Caused by Tractor Crash

In a two-week trial conducted by attorneys Brian Denney and Ed Ricci, a Palm Beach County jury awarded security guard Barry Davis $3,220,000 for damages incurred when his vehicle was struck by a tractor towing a grass mower. The verdict was based not only on Davis’s immediate injuries from the crash, but on his consequent inability to continue timely cancer treatments.

Tractor driver Dale Vannelli was hauling a large, heavy commercial grass mower called a bushhog when he hit Davis’s Ford Mustang on the driver’s side as Davis neared an intersection. Davis, who has been traveling 76 miles an hour in a 50 miles per hour zone, was airlifted to a nearby hospital, suffering a left hemopneumothorax, which required a thoracostomy; a splenic rupture, which required exploratory laparotomy and splenectomy; fractures of his left clavicle; and multiple rib, lumbar, and other injuries. He was hospitalized for 22 agonizing days of surgeries, therapy and rehabilitation.

Prior to the December 4, 2013 crash, Davis had been undergoing radiation treatment for a squamous cell carcinoma on his left cheek/jaw area, and the cancer had spread to his lymph nodes. For two months after the accident, due to his extensive injuries, he could not undergo critical cancer treatments. Less than two years later, doctors found that the squamous cell carcinoma had returned to Davis’s cheek and had already metastasized to the parotid gland. This diagnosis resulted in extensive surgery to remove the tumor, massive skin grafts from his right arm to repair surgical areas, and additional chemotherapy and radiation.

Because the crash with Vannelli had adversely affected his ability to treat his cancer successfully, Davis asked Board Certified attorney Brian Denney of Searcy Denney Scarola Barnhart & Shipley to represent him in a legal action to hold the tractor driver and his employer, South Florida Bushhog Service, Inc., accountable for the damages.

“There was no question that the tractor crash was the catalyst for a one-two punch that resulted in life-threatening injuries and unimaginable suffering for Mr. Davis,” said Denney. “When the defendants refused to accept responsibility, we were forced to take the case to court.”

Defendants maintained that Davis was solely liable for the crash because he was exceeding the speed limit, and that Davis’s recurrent cancer was not related to the interruption of treatment caused by the accident. They argued that, since Davis had a history of other superficial skin cancers, the recurrence on his left cheek would have occurred regardless of the crash. They also argued that Davis should not have been driving because he had received cancer treatments the day of the accident.

However, in the course of a two-week trial, the Searcy Denney attorneys disputed defense attorneys’ allegations with the sworn statements of a treating oncologist, who testified that the cancer recurrence was caused by the lapse in Davis’s treatments. The jury agreed.

Searcy Denney Scarola Barnhart & Shipley is a Florida-based trial law firm with more than 40 years’ experience handling personal injury cases. The firm has been named by U.S. News – Best Lawyers® “Best Law Firms” as a 2017 First Tier “Best Law Firm” in West Palm Beach for six practice areas and in Tallahassee for two practice areas.

Beware the Seven Deadly Sins of Attorney Bios

Katherine Hollar Barnard of Firesign addresses the seven deadly sins that you don’t want to make when you post your attorney biography at forbes.com. “Forget flashy advertising, catchy taglines or firm logo Frisbees. The professional biography is the paramount piece in any attorney’s marketing arsenal.” To read the complete article, please click here.

National Trial Lawyers Top 100 Member Mark Stanziano Killed at his Office in Kentucky

Legal News for Consumers

Mark Stanziano

We are saddened to report the death of a National Trial Lawyers Top 100 member from Kentucky who was gunned down as he opened the door to his law office this morning (Friday, June 27, 2014).  Mark J. Stanziano, 57, of Somerset, Kentucky, was shot multiple times around 8:00 CDT this morning outside his office in downtown Somerset.  WHAS-TV and the Associated Press are reporting that police have arrested Clinton D. Inabinett, 40, of Somerset, in connection with the shooting.  Somerset Police say witnesses told them Inabinett may have been in contact with Stanziano on Thursday evening, and had previously threatened Stanziano.  Police say Inabinett fired seven shots at Stanziano, who was struck multiple times in the torso.  The shooting remains under investigation.

According to Central Kentucky News, “A Pulaski County sheriff’s detective and several other people witnessed Inabnitt fire seven rounds at Stanziano, hitting him multiple times. Following the shooting, the sheriff’s detective was able to approach Inabnitt and take him into custody.”

Our deepest condolences go out to the Stanziano family.

His website is at this address: www.persuasionthroughmagic.com

Here is a copy of his biography from The National Trial Lawyers website:

For 8 years Mark practiced law in Columbus, Ohio before moving to Somerset, Kentucky, where he practiced for another 15 years. By the time he left Somerset, he was able to limit his practice to criminal defense in the state and federal courts. In 2005, Mark left that very successful private practice to take a position with the Minnesota Public Defender system and in 2008 left that position to form the consulting company that he now runs. Upon moving back to Kentucky in 2008, Mark continued to run Persuasion Consultants and handle private criminal defense matters. April 1, 2010 will see the opening of the law firm of STANZIANO & CATRON, PSC which will have offices in Somerset and Columbia, Kentucky.

Mark has a Bachelor of Arts degree (Economics) from the Ohio State University (1979) and a Juris Doctorate from the University of Louisville (1982).

He is a past-president (1998-1999), and a Life Member, of the Kentucky Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers (KACDL), and continues to serve on the Board of Directors. He is also a member of the National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers (NACDL). For his contributions to the practice of criminal defense law in Kentucky, Mark was awarded the Frank E. Haddad, Jr. Award, by the KACDL, in 2000. This award is the KACDL’s highest honor and Mark is the organization’s youngest recipient of this prestigious award.

Notable Appellate Decisions

Mark was both trial and appellate counsel in several cases that have “made law” in Kentucky:

Anderson v Commonwealth, Ky., 864 S.W.2d 909 (1993)

Stringer v Commonwealth, Ky., 956 S.W.2d 883 (1997)

Baker v Commonwealth, Ky. App. 11 S.W.3d 585 (2000)

Gosser v Commonwealth, Ky., 31 S.W.3d 897 (2000).

Stanziano’s profile on The National Trial Lawyers’ website is here: http://www.thenationaltriallawyers.org/profile-view/Mark/Stanziano/5807/


$23M Awarded Against Contractor who Swindled Disabled Homeowner

legal news for consumers

CA contractor to pay $23M for swindling disabled man out of home

Attorneys for the trust of a late Santa Monica, CA, disabled man secured a $23 million verdict in a lawsuit against an unscrupulous contractor who swindled a disabled man out of his home. Contractor Noam Bouzaglou maliciously manipulated Timothy McGinty and conspired with a lawyer to sign over the deed to his home to pay for unneeded repairs.

In 2009, the city of Santa Monica informed McGinty that he needed to repair some issues with his garage.  His older sister Kathleen, who was autistic, had lived in the house all her life and was supported by her brother.

McGinty signed a contract to have Bouzaglou make the unnecessary repairs.  Bouzaglou convinced McGinty to secure a $400,000 loan against the property to pay for the remodeling costs, the proceeds of which were placed in the trust account of attorney Andrew Stern.  During construction, McGinty was hospitalized for a mental condition.  When he went back home, Bouzaglou told McGinty that he needed even more money to pay for the project.  Bouzaglou offered to get financing for McGinty if he would quitclaim the property over to him.  Joining the fraud, attorney Stern drew up a contract containing false, unsecured promises that Bouzaglou would pay McGinty a portion of any profits from the sale of the property.

When the home was in escrow to be sold, McGinty died.  His cousin, Jeanne Haworth, became the successor trustee.  When she discovered that the deed to the family home showed Bouzaglou as the owner, she contacted attorney Joseph Girard, who immediately stopped the sale and filed a lawsuit against Bouzaglou.

The verdict was affirmed by the Judge Stephen Czuleger, on April 28, 2014, concluding an eight day trial, and the judge ordered the contract rescinded and the deed canceled, returning the home to Haworth, the special needs trustee for Kathleen. The jury and judge also agreed that the attorney, Andrew J. Stern, was professionally negligent and engaged in fraudulent conduct.The case is Haworth v. Bouzaglou, Case no. BC495095. Attorney Stern represented the defendant.


Settlement Roundup: Wrongful Death Lawsuit against Former Coach Settled for $900K

legal news for consumers

Settlements reached in four lawsuits

Wrongful Death Lawsuit against NJ High School, Former Coach Settled for $900K

A settlement for $900,000 has been reached with the estate of a New Jersey teen who killed himself by jumping in front of a train just before he was to testify about alleged sexual misconduct by his former high school baseball coach.  The 18-year-old’s estate settled with “Coach Bart” Bartholomew McInerney, St. Rose High School in Belmar, NJ, and The Diocese of Trenton.

The coach is awaiting retrial on charges of child endangerment in Middlesex County, NJ after a 2010 conviction on 10 counts of child endangerment in Monmouth County, NJ was overturned.  McInerney is accused of encouraging his players to masturbate, send texts to him with details, and in some cases, videotape it.


Pennsylvania Resort Owner Reaches Partial Settlement in Wrongful Death Lawsuit for $200K

A Fayette County, PA judge has approved a partial settlement of $200,000 between the parents of a teen killed in a drunk-driving accident and the founder of a resort in Farmington.  Zack Nelson died five days after a car he was riding in crashed into a tree on the resort.  The teenage driver of the car had a blood alcohol content of 0.136 percent.

Resort founder Joseph Hardy and his daughter Paige were named in the lawsuit.  According to the lawsuit, Hardy knew his daughter hosted underage drinking parties, but didn’t do anything about them.


Undisclosed Settlement Reached in Wrongful Death of Virginia Woman Who Choked to Death in Jail

A settlement was reached this week in the wrongful death lawsuit of a Virginia woman who choked to death on her plastic jail ID bracelet.  Jacquelynn Schwartz, 31, was found dead in her cell in the Virginia Beach Correctional Facility where she was being held on contempt charges after having a blood alcohol level of 0.21 during a court appearance for a driving offense.

The late woman’s husband, David LaClair, filed the lawsuit against Conmed, a privately-owned medical company used by the jail.  Three of Conmed’s nurses were also named in the lawsuit for failing to take Schwartz’s vital signs or reviewing her intake forms which might have alerted them to Schwartz’s condition.  An autopsy revealed Schwartz was likely suffering from “alcohol withdrawal with seizures and delirium,” and ruled Schwartz’s death accidental.


$625K Settlement Reached for Rhode Island Woman Injured in Wreck

A Rhode Island attorney has reached a $625,000 settlement for his unidentified client after she was injured in a wreck in January 2013.  Her car was struck by another vehicle traveling at an estimated 60 mph that had run through a red light.

The plaintiff, a West Warwick, RI resident, suffered multiple fractures, bruises and lacerations, and was hospitalized for two weeks.  Emergency responders worked for more than an hour using the “Jaws of Life” to extract the woman from her vehicle.  She was then airlifted to the trauma center at Rhode Island Hospital.

Louisiana Appeals Court Adds $2.4M Award to Victim of Underage Drinking Crash

legal news for consumers

Louisiana appeals court adds $2.4M to amount awarded to underage drunk driving victim

The Louisiana 5th Circuit Court of Appeals has awarded $2.4 million in additional damages to a permanently disabled victim of an automobile accident involving underage drinking.  Three teenagers from the New Orleans suburb of Chalmette were killed, and the man receiving the award is one of two teens who survived the crash on August 21, 2005, just days before Hurricane Katrina.

Ryan Wiltz was 16 when the accident happened on Louisiana Road 16, near the Sun community in St. Tammany’s Parish.  Brian LaFontaine, 17, was driving the vehicle the teens were in when it went out of control and struck a tree.  Investigators said LaFontaine’s blood alcohol level was two-and-a-half times the legal limit for adults in Louisiana.  Charie Billiot and Rachel Gabb, both 16, were killed along with LaFontaine.  Billiot’s sister Chrissie was the only other survivor, and the only passenger wearing a seat belt.  The teens had been tubing on the Bogue Chitto River to celebrate the start of their senior year in high school.

Wiltz was left partially paralyzed and suffered irreversible brain damage.  His parents filed a lawsuit in the 24th Judicial District Court in Gretna, LA against the Meraux Food Store and Winn-Dixie in Chalmette.  A Jefferson Parish jury found the defendants partially responsible for Wiltz’s injuries in August 2011, and awarded $18.5 million to Ryan Wiltz, $15 million of which was designated for future medical expenses.  The amount included $600,000 for his pain and suffering.  But the three-judge appeals court panel last month decided that amount was not enough, and increased it to $3 million.  Judge Hans Liljeberg called the $600,000 award “abusively low.”

The Wiltz’s attorney, Richard Trahant, said he was pleased with the appeals court’s decision, but added that he expects the defendants to appeal the decision to the Louisiana Supreme Court.

The case is Gina and Timothy Wiltz, et al v. Brothers Petroleum, LLC, et al, case number 13-CA-332 C/W 13-CA-333 & 13-CA-334 before the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeal for the State of Louisiana.  The trial was held in the 24th Judicial District Court in Jefferson Parish, case number 630-138 C/W 634-479 C/W 634-752, Division “J.”

UCLA Medical Center Reaches $10M Settlement with Whistleblower

legal news for consumers

UCLA Medical Center reached $10 million settlement with whistleblowing faculty member

Attorneys for UCLA Medical Center reached a last minute $10 million settlement with a whistleblowing doctor who claimed medical industry payments compromised patient care.  The settlement was reached just before closing arguments in Los Angeles Superior Court.  As part of the settlement, Robert Pedowitz, M.D., 54, agreed to resign his faculty position at the medical center.

Dr. Pedowitz was hired as the chair of UCLA’s Department of Orthopedic Surgery in April 2009.  Over the following year, Pedowitz reported conflicts of interest between faculty members and outside industries, as well as other alleged misconduct.  In 2010, Dr. Pedowitz was asked to step down as chairman, but reached a settlement agreement to stay on as a faculty member.  After hearing all the evidence over a two month long trial, but before the case settled, Judge Susan Bryant-Deason issued a ruling to rescind the 2010 settlement agreement based on the fraudulent concealment of documents which Dr. Pedowitz claimed would have caused him not to settle his claims had the documents been made available to him.

Plaintiff attorneys Mark Quiqley, Ivan Puchalt and Christian Nickerson of Green Broillet & Wheeler in Santa Monica argued Dr. Pedowitz’s removal from his position as department chairman was in retaliation for exposing staff surgeons who received payments from medical device manufacturers.  Attorneys contended that California’s Whistleblower Protection Act should have afforded protection to Dr. Pedowitz, who testified at trial that one UCLA Medical Center orthopedic surgeon received $250,000 in consulting fees from Medtronic, a medical device manufacturer.  They also argued that UCLA had turned a blind eye to these conflicts of interest because the university profited from medical devices or drugs developed by staff doctors.

Attorneys also claimed that false rumors about Dr. Pedowitz were spread throughout the orthopedic department in an effort to gain support for his removal as chairman.  Evidence was presented at trial that his retaliatory claims weren’t investigated for more than a year after he made them, and that he was forced to sign the 2010 settlement agreement without being provided with documentation of the defamatory campaign.  He was finally able to get copies after making a public records request.

Defense attorney Michael Lucey of Gordon & Rees in San Francisco said Dr. Pedowitz was asked to step down based on poor leadership abilities and interaction with faculty and staff.  Defendants also argued that the defamatory statements about Dr. Pedowitz were substantially true and were not widely circulated.  They further contended that to fulfill its mission, UCLA Medical Center had to collaborate with industry, and that such ties are unavoidable at a research institution.  Lucey represented the Regents of the University of California and two doctors; Richard A. Paul of Paul Plevin & Sullivan of San Diego represented three other doctors named as defendants.

The case is Robert Pedowitz, MD v. The Regents of the University of California, et al.  The trial was held in Los Angeles Superior Court, case number BC 484611.

Elderly Veteran Negotiated $1.25M Settlement with California Dept. of Veteran’s Affairs

An 80-year-old Korean War veteran reached a $1.25 million settlement with the California Department of Veteran’s Affairs on April 1 after being dropped several times by caregivers and suffering a broken back.  The settlement was reached after filing a Complaint in Los Angeles County Superior Court in which the plaintiff’s attorneys alleged elder abuse, negligence and negligent hiring and supervision.

John Tully was admitted to the Veteran’s Home of California – West Los Angeles on April 29, 2013 after suffering a stroke and two heart attacks, according to court documents.  Plaintiff alleged that his physician issued two orders that Tully should have at least two caregivers help him with transfers from his bed to his wheelchair and from a shower chair to his wheelchair.  However, there were two documented incidents in which Tully was dropped in the facility when only one caregiver was assisting.  Despite that, the facility continued to report to the federal government that Tully was being assisted by two caregivers.

Tully’s attorneys Stephen Garcia and William Artigliere of Garcia, Artigliere & Medby in Long Beach argued that the second of these drops caused a fracture of his T-12 vertebrae including retropulsion into his spinal canal.  This left him in severe pain, and eventually unable to move his legs out of a “frog leg” position in bed.  As a result of remaining immobile in this position, Mr. Tully developed a Stage IV pressure sore on the outside of his foot.  Unfortunately, the risks of surgery on this fracture outweighed the potential benefits to Mr. Tully and the fracture left him without control of his bowels and bladder.

The case is John Tully v. State of California Department of Veteran’s Affairs, Case Number: SC121764, and was venued at the Santa Monica Courthouse before Judge Allan J. Goodman.

NJ Appeals Court Upholds $5.5M Verdict in Tire Blow-Out Lawsuit

legal news for consumers

$5.5 M verdict upheld for NJ family injured when tire blow out overturned SUV

A $5.5 million award to a family injured when a tire blew out on their SUV has been upheld by the Appellate Division of the New Jersey Superior Court on April 23.  An Essex County, NJ, jury found that Flemington Buick Chevrolet Pontiac GMC in Raritan Township was negligent in servicing the vehicle three days before it overturned on Interstate 95 in Virginia on Easter Sunday, 2009.  Flemington Car and Truck Country appealed the verdict, but the Appellate judges found no errors that would have justified a mistrial.

Roy Allen and his family were driving to Florida for a vacation in Allen’s 2004 Chevrolet TrailBlazer when the right rear tire blew out.  According to the Allen family’s attorney, Chris Hager of Niedweske Barber Hager in Morristown, NJ, Allen had purchased three maintenance agreements from Flemington Chevrolet, including one specifically for the SUV’s tires.  The dealership had serviced the vehicle 17 times prior to the crash.  When Allen brought the TrailBlazer in for service on April 9, 2009, he told service department employees that something wasn’t right with the vehicle’s rear axle.  However, the employees didn’t check the rear tires, even though that’s the first item that should have been checked according to the General Motors service manual.  Furthermore, the right rear tire that blew out was known to have had a bald spot as early as January 2009, when it was rotated from the front to the rear axle by workers in the Flemington service department.

The Allens’ daughter, Carla Ceasar, was driving the SUV when it overturned.  Her son and daughter were also in the vehicle, along with Allen and his wife, Erna.  Hager says Ceasar sustained serious head injuries in the wreck, and still suffers migraines, hearing loss and involuntary hand tremors.  Roy Allen was 82 when the accident happened, and died later from an illness not related to the accident.  His wife Erna was 73 at the time, and sustained neck, shoulder and back injuries that will require treatment for the rest of her life.  One of Ceasar’s children suffered minor injuries and emotional trauma.

Following a 13-day trial before Judge W. Hunt Dumont, the Essex County jury awarded $7.5 million to the family.  However the punitive part of the damages was later reduced from $5 million to $3 million.  Compensatory damages were $2.5 million.

The case is Carla A. Ceasar, Erna D. Allen and the estate of Roy D. Allen, et al v. Flemington Car and Truck Country, et al.  The appeal was heard by the Superior Court of New Jersey Appellate Division, Docket No. A-1464-12T3.  The trial was held in the Superior Court of New Jersey, Law Division, Essex County, Docket No. L-7665-09.  Kevin Barber and Christopher W. Hager of Niedweske Barber Hager, LLC represented the plaintiffs/respondents/cross-appellants in the appeal, and Alan White, Alexander Gillespie and Becky Caruso of Bonner Kiernan Trebach & Crociata, LLP represented the defendants/appellants/cross-respondents.

AZ Supreme Court Rules Marijuana Traces in Bloodstream Not Enough for DUI

legal news for consumers

The Arizona Supreme Court rules the state must prove drivers are actually impaired if they have marijuana metabolites in their bloodstreams

The Arizona Supreme Court ruled that finding trace amounts of marijuana metabolite in a driver’s bloodstream isn’t enough to convict the person of Driving Under the Influence (DUI).  The justices ruled that the state must prove that drivers have actually been impaired by the drug while driving.

According to the on April 22 ruling, police stopped a vehicle driven by Hrach Shilgevorkyan for speeding and making unsafe lane changes.  Shilgevorkyan admitted to smoking pot the night before, and submitted to blood tests, which revealed Carboxy-THC in his bloodstream.  Shilgevorkyan was charged with two counts of DUI.  The charge was dismissed by a trial judge, who argued in a pretrial motion that the blood tests didn’t reveal any THC or its metabolite, Hydroxy-THC.  Prosecutors argued that they didn’t test for Hydroxy-THC because it doesn’t stay in the body long and converts quickly to Carboxy-THC, which can remain in the body for up to 30 days.  The state then appealed the judge’s decision to the Arizona Supreme Court.

The opinion reverses a state appellate court memorandum decision from 2012 which stated that Arizona law prohibits “driving with a proscribed drug or ‘its metabolite’ includes the metabolite Carboxy-THC.”

The Supreme Court’s decision notes that the state’s position could create problems for Arizona residents who smoke marijuana for medicinal purposes.  Arizona legalized medicinal marijuana in 2010.

The case is The State Of Arizona v. Myra Harris, No. CV-13-0056-PR, April 22, 2014.

Attorneys for the defense were Clark L. Derrick, Rhonda E. Neff, Kimerer & Derrick, P.C., Phoenix; and Michael Alarid, III (argued), Law Offices of David Michael Cantor, P.C., Phoenix, for Hrach Shilgevorkyan. Attorneys for the state were William G. Montgomery, Maricopa County Attorney, Andrea L. Kever, Deputy  County  Attorney, Susan  L. Luder, Deputy County Attorney (argued), Phoenix, for State of Arizona.