A lawyer who took heat for turning down an $8 million settlement in a medical-malpractice suit — only to lose at trial — became a hero when he scored a $130 million judgment for a brain-damaged Suffolk County girl at a new trial this week.
In a courtroom drama reminiscent of the Paul Newman film “The Verdict,” lawyer Thomas Moore persuaded a Long Island jury that St. Charles Hospital in Port Jefferson was responsible for mistakes made during delivery that left now-10-year-old Shannon Reilly with cerebral palsy.
Moore had convinced the girl’s family in 2009 to reject the multimillion- dollar settlement offer from the hospital, which they accused of failing to notice that the girl was deprived of oxygen at birth. He then lost the case at trial and the family got nothing.
At the time, the legal failure was mocked in the press by a hospital lawyer. “I’m not aware of another attorney who’s turned down an $8 million offer and got shut out,” Peter Kopff told The Post that year.
But like Newman’s character in the 1982 Oscar-nominated film, Moore persisted. A state appellate court unanimously reversed the first verdict in 2011. The case went to another trial last year, which resulted in a hung jury.
A third trial started last month — and the years of struggle finally paid off.
On Monday, the jury handed down the nine-figure verdict, which was signed by a Suffolk County judge yesterday.
“This case was a living nightmare for four years, but the family never gave up and I never gave up,” Moore said.
Shannon cannot walk or speak and needs round-the-clock medical care.
“The saddest part of this case is that despite the litany of errors, this baby could have been rescued. Had the nursing team communicated with the obstetrician just 15 minutes sooner — and delivered the baby — this terrible tragedy could have been avoided,” Moore said.
Shannon’s parents could not be reached, but her mother, Danni, told Moore she was thrilled. “She said, ‘The agony of the last 10 years is finally ended with the knowledge that our beloved daughter will be protected for the rest of her life,’ ” Moore recounted.
Moore said he felt vindicated by the verdict after taking heat for turning down the $8 million.
“I’m humbled, in all honesty . . . I believe justice has been done,” said Moore, who marveled at how the case played out like the Newman film, in which a hard-drinking Boston attorney also refuses a big settlement while pursuing a medical-malpractice case.
“This was a replay,” a jubilant Moore said. “I’m not an alcoholic, but people have told me in my better moments that I look like Paul Newman.” Kopff predicts the judge will reduce the award and blasted Moore’s courtroom antics.
“We have some issues with how Moore conducted the trial. We have certain rules of professional conduct and they were violated,” he said, claiming that Moore called one of his expert witnesses a liar in court.
Jurors found that the ASR XL implant was defectively designed and caused metal poisoning and other health problems suffered by Loren Kransky after he underwent surgery in 2007.
However, the panel rejected the 65-year-old’s claim that DePuy failed to adequately warn of the risks associated with the implant, and it didn’t find the company acted with malice, prohibiting Kransky from collecting any punitive damages.
The fraud and negligence suit is the first of nearly 11,000 similar cases involving an all-metal ball-and-socket hip joint that was pulled from the market two years ago to reach trial in the United States. Others like Kransky claim the implants have left them with crippling injuries or in need of other replacement surgeries.
Johnson & Johnson has set aside about $1 billion to cover costs of the recall and lawsuits.
Plaintiff’s attorney Doug Saeltzer said the verdict bodes well for the other cases.
“The message is that these cases are valid, that the injuries are real and severe, and Johnson & Johnson and DePuy have to pay significant money for their mistakes,” Saeltzer said.
Loire Gawreluk, a DePuy spokeswoman, said the Warsaw, Ind., company plans to appeal the verdict.
“We believe ASR XL was properly designed, and that DePuy’s actions concerning the product were appropriate and responsible,” she said.
During the trial, Kransky’s lawyers told jurors that black pieces of metal flaked off the implant and caused a type of poisoning that could have killed him if the material had not been removed.
Brian Panish, one of Kransky’s attorneys, said during closing arguments that the company “knew this hip was defective long before Mr. Kransky got it,” the Los Angeles Times reported.
“They wanted to play Russian roulette with patients. This defendant didn’t care about patient safety,” Panish said.
Defense attorneys denied Kransky’s claims and argued he had a host of pre-existing health ailments and the hip implant didn’t make him worse.
The hip joint was sold for eight years to more than 90,000 people worldwide. New Brunswick-based Johnson & Johnson stopped making the product in 2009 and recalled it the next year.
The artificial part is meant to replace deteriorated joints causing severe pain and limiting mobility, and is generally expected to last 10 to 20 years. With the DePuy hip implant, one in eight patients needed theirs replaced within five years.
Attorneys representing the patients claim J&J knew about the problems in 2008. The company has denied those allegations.
Johnson & Johnson, the world’s biggest provider of health care products, has issued more than 30 product recalls since 2009. Most have involved nonprescription medicines such as adult and children’s Tylenol and Motrin, but other recalls were for prescription drugs for conditions such as epilepsy or for contact lenses.
Johnson & Johnson shares rose 40 cents to $78.15 Friday.[12klasdj-20adskj22lasjkd]337,Michael Kelly, attorney for plaintiff Loren Kransky, holds up an ASR XL hip implant made by Johnson & Johnson during his opening statement to the jury at the trial of Kransky v. DePuy, at California Superior Court in Los Angeles on Jan. 25. / Bloomberg,http://www.app.com/viewart/20130308/NJBIZ/303080076/Jury-tells-Johnson -Johnson-pay-8-3M-over-defective-hip-replacement,]]>
A Circuit Court jury returned a verdict today awarding a 79-year-old man about $6.2 million for the broken back he suffered when he fell 15 to 20 feet late at night from the first tee at the Mid Pacific Country Club.
The jury found that Amar Sappal suffered damages of nearly $12.5 million for his injuries that left him paralyzed below his torso.
But the panel also found that Sappal and Mid Pacific were equally negligent.
The finding means that the country club must pay half the amount of damages under the verdict.
Sappal was on the illuminated first tee area as a guest of his son, a club member, and another member at about 11 p.m. on June 30,2009 when they said an automatic spindler went off.
Sappal’s lawyers argued that the spray stunned Sappal and knocked him backward down a slope and over the edge of the first tee.
Mid Pacific lawyers denied the country club was liable, suggesting that Sappal was intoxicated and arguing that he was familiar with the elevated tee from playing golf there previously.
“I believe in our jury system and I think at the end of the day, it’s very fair,” Sappal said about the verdict.
Michael Livingston, one of Sappal’s lawyers, also said he thought the verdict was fair.
Arthur Roeca, Mid Pacific’s lawyer, did not have any comment.
Following a trial spanning about five weeks in Circuit Judge Gary Chang’s courtroom, the jury deliberated a total of about two days before returning the verdict this afternoon.[12klasdj-20adskj22lasjkd]232,,]]>
After nearly three days of deliberations, the panelfound that the 2,600-pound Queen Palm was in a "dangerous condition" when it fell on attorney MichaelBurke on Jan. 21, 2010, following a four-day winter storm.
The jury also found that the city had notice of the tree's condition with enough time to do something about it. A second phase of the trial immediately got under way to determine the amount of damages that should be awarded to Burke and his wife, Edith. That portion of the trial is expected to last through the week.
Burke alleged the city of San Diego was responsible for the accident because it drastically cut back on yearly inspections and maintenance of trees.
City attorneys told the jury that the tree toppling was an "act of God" that could not have been foreseen. They said the city never received complaints about the condition of the tree before it fell.
The life of Burke, an attorney, changed drastically when the tree came crashing down, according to Burke's attorney, Browne Greene. Burke now takes buses and trolleys to get to work, and he has met his share of challenges trying to care for his wife and 11-year-old autistic son.
"This boy depended on his father for support … emotional and physical," said Greene.
The palm trees that fell near or on Burke were just two of more than 350 trees that toppled over during the winter storms in January 2010.
According to Burke's attorneys, he has undergone 14 surgeries and "there is a high probability that he will have to undergo bilateral, below the knee amputations due to the severity of his injuries."
Copyright 2012 Scripps Media, Inc. City News Service contributed to this report. Allrights reserved.[12klasdj-20adskj22lasjkd]269,,]]>
December 7, 2012
An Orange County, California jury has awarded $10,000,000 (ten million) in a wrongful death case against the Capistrano Unified School District (“Capistrano”) for the 2011 death of three-year-old Kevin Cisler who died on a bus ride home from school a result of Capistrano employees’ negligence. Kevin’s parents, Melissa and Daniel Cisler, were represented by Brian Panish and Tom Schultz of Panish Shea & Boyle LLP, and Keith More of Berman More Gonzalez. This verdict is believed to be a record in Orange County for the wrongful death of a child.
Kevin was a special needs child who had been diagnosed as a baby with Angelman Syndrome, a neuro-genetic disorder that is characterized by developmental delay, lack of speech, seizures, and walking and balance disorders. Despite his substantial disability, Kevin was a happy three year old boy who brought joy to his parents’ lives. To ensure Kevin received early intervention and therapy, Kevin was enrolled in a special education preschool. As part of the program, Capistrano was to provide Kevin with safe and secure transport to and from preschool in a school bus equipped for the transportation of a wheelchair, which Kevin was required to use.
Despite knowing of Kevin’s special needs and physical limitations, while placing him on the school bus on March 25, 2011, Capistrano employees failed to properly strap Kevin into his wheelchair or ensure that his chest harness was in place and that the lap belt and pummel required to keep him in his seat were secured. Further compounding these mistakes, even though there were only two children on the bus, Kevin’s wheelchair was positioned directly behind the bus driver’s seat where he could not be seen in the driver’s rearview mirrors. During an almost hour long bus ride, because he was not being properly restrained, Kevin slid down in his chair until the chest harness was around his neck and obstructed his breathing. The weight of his body and the position of the chest harness caused Kevin to slowly suffocate to death.
Despite overwhelming evidence available early in the case, the Capistrano refused to admit fault in Kevin’s death for 18-months. Although Capistrano later admitted liability, it initially took the position that the value of Kevin’s life and the loss suffered by his parents should somehow be “discounted” because of Kevin’s developmental disability.
Trial attorney Brian Panish stated: “The slogan of the Angelman Syndrome Foundation is, 'We may not speak but we have much to say.' And with this verdict it is clear that young Kevin Cisler had a lot to say. The family is overwhelmed and honored that the jury recognized how much love they had for their son. This is a great moment in the law – the jury was able to look beyond disability and recognize the damage that the loss of any young child does to a family.”
Case No. 30-2011-00498422
Melissa and Daniel Cisler v Capistrano Unified School District
Superior Court of the State of California, Orange County
The Hon. Geoffrey T. Glass, presiding
Published: Thursday, December 6, 2012, 4:16 p.m.
An Allegheny County jury Thursday afternoon awarded $109 million, including $61
million in punitive damages, in the death of a Hempfield woman who was
electrocuted by a downed West Penn Power Co. line in 2009.
Judge Michael A. Della Vecchia said the award is the largest in Allegheny County
history and likely in Western Pennsylvania.
The jury deliberated only 90 minutes before returning the verdict despite
mountains of evidence during the two-week trial, including multiple pieces of
the downed wire and utility company logs, books and interoffice memos.
During their deliberations, jurors asked only to see three photographs taken
during Carrie Goretzka’s autopsy.
Juror Tina Wojton of Pittsburgh said, “There was a lot of evidence to review
during the trial, but once we got back there, we spent a lot of time talking and
laying out the evidence.
“It was nice to know that everyone was pretty much in agreement,” she said.
Wojton said the jurors hope the $61 million in punitive damages sends a message
to utility companies to be more careful.
“None of us ever want to see something terrible like this ever happen again,”
Michael Goretzka hugged his attorney, Shanin Specter of Philadelphia, and wiped
tears from his eyes as the verdict and penalty damages were read.
Michael Goretzka and his mother, Joann, embraced and shook hands with each juror
as the panel left the courtroom.
Specter said the size of the verdict should send a message to utility companies
across the state that they should be more careful in safeguarding the public.
“It’s terrible that we can’t bring back Carrie, but this jury honored her
memory” with the verdict, he said.
Jurors heard attorney Shanin Specter’s closing statements on Thursday morning on
behalf of Michael Goretzka, Carrie’s husband; their two young daughter’s, Chloe,
8, and Carlie, 6; and Michael’s mother, Joann, who saw the 7,200-volt line fall
onto the victim.
Carrie Goretzka died in UPMC Mercy Hospital in Pittsburgh of burn injuries three
days after the accident.
Jurors began deliberations Thursday afternoon. The family had sought unspecified
damages against the utility.
On Wednesday, the attorney for West Penn Power pleaded with the jury to focus on
scientific evidence rather than emotion when determining its verdict in the
death of Carrie Goretzka, 39.
Avrum Levicoff of Pittsburgh, who represents the utility company in a wrongful
death lawsuit filed by the Goretzka’s heirs, told jurors during his closing
argument that evidence presented during the trial does not prove that negligence
by West Penn Power Co. or its employees caused the June 2, 2009, accident
outside the victim’s West Hempfield Drive residence.
Joann Goretzka, 69, “We’re excited, we’re overwhelmed, and that’s about all I
can say right now,”
Carol Rizzo, Michael Goretzka’s sister, who helps to take care of the two
Goretka daughters, said. “We were just hoping that they would do the right thing
so that this will never, ever happen again. It won’t bring back Chloe and
Carlie’s mother, but we don’t want to ever see anybody ever have to go through
what our family has gone through.”
Michael Goretzka declined comment as he left the courthouse with his attorney.
West Penn attorney Avrum XX declined comment and would not say whether the
company would file an appeal.
Read more: http://triblive.com/news/westmoreland/3089049-74/goretzka-west-allegheny?printerfriendly=true#ixzz2EJKqYKhB
Thursday, May 31, 2012
By Eoin English
An Irish-born attorney ranked as one of America’s top lawyers has won a record medical malpractice suit in New York.
Waterford native Thomas Moore, 70, fought a case which resulted in a jury awarding around $121m (€93m) to his client last Friday. It is the largest award of his legal career.
Mr Moore has recorded 85 verdicts over $1m, won a $40m case in 2010, and a $7m case in 2008. But he described Friday’s settlement for a mother who became permanently incapacitated after being treated at three New York hospitals almost a decade ago as "very, very, gratifying".
It was the second longest case of his career and the award has been reported as the largest in "present value" terms in New York state legal history.
"After giving 100% for seven weeks, getting just three hours sleep a night during the trial, I was exhausted and elated when the jury returned the award," Mr Moore said from his New York office last night.
"But it was gratifying for me, and more importantly for my client. I always believed we had a very strong case, and my confidence grew during the trial."
Mr Moore, who studied at De La Salle College and left for the US aged 17, is a senior partner at Kramer, Diloff, Livingston & Moore law firm in New York.
The lawsuit was filed on behalf of Jacqueline Martin, a 45-year-old mother-of-two, by her mother.
Ms Martin sought medical treatment for seizures during several hospital visits in 2004. She suffered an allergic reaction to seizure medication and was later diagnosed with Stevens-Johnson syndrome, a rare and serious skin disorder. She later suffered brain damage after going in to cardiac arrest.
Ms Martin, who worked as a claims adjuster before her collapse, now requires 24-hour care.
The court ruling allocated 50% responsibility to Jacobi Medical Centre in the Bronx, 40% to Kings County Hospital Centre in Brooklyn, 5% to Brookdale University Hospital and Medical Centre in Brooklyn, and 4% to one of its neurologists. The City’s Health and Hospitals Corporation plans to appeal the settlement, in an effort to reduce the award amount.
Judge Robert Torres is expected to make his decision in about two months.
"The saga is not ended. But now we are in the driver seat," Mr Moore said.
He runs five miles a day and visits Ireland regularly, including most recently to visit his daughter, who was studying in UCD.
He has been cited by New York magazine and Super Lawyers magazine as one of the best lawyers in New York, and has been repeatedly been listed in Dragonlaw as one of the top 500 lawyers in the US.
Mr Moore urged young Irish people facing immigration to "grab every opportunity they can".
"Work hard and take advantage of every opportunity that comes your way," he said. "And have the confidence to know that people who have gone before you, and who were in the very same position, have achieved amazingly, and there is no reason why you can’t surpass what earlier generations have done."
By Clare Trapasso
January 5, 2012
The wife of a Flushing man who died after a Queens hospital forgot to remove his inflamed gallbladder - twice - said she hopes to use a $7.6 million court award to reunite her family.
The widow of Korean immigrant Nam Lee, who died at the age of 60 in 2008 at New York Hospital Queens, in Flushing, plans to use the money to bring her mentally ill daughter home from a state institution.
A lawyer for the hospital said he will appeal the award later this month.
Jae Yon Lee, 32, has lived in state hospitals and group homes since the death of her father, who was her primary caregiver. Nam Lee's job as a salesman allowed him to bring his daughter to work with him every day.
"I first thank God for the justice that was served," widow Young Sook Lee, 59, who works full time, said through a translator.
Nam Lee's son, Hyung Ki Lee, 35, of Fresh Meadows, said the money will enable his family to afford around-the-clock care for his sister, who also has epilepsy.
"After [my dad] passed away, my sister was very confused," he said. "It was devastating."
His father was admitted to the hospital on June 18, 2008, for gallstones, the family's lawyer Judith Livingston said. Nam Lee's gallbladder was scheduled to be removed the following day.
But the next day, Nam Lee's name wasn't on the surgical schedule, she said. And the same thing happened the day after that.
By the time the hospital was ready to operate, Nam Lee was too sick, Livingston said.
Four days after Nam Lee was admitted to New York Hospital Queens, he was dead.
"Nobody in the United States of America should die of a gallstone when they get to the hospital in plenty of time," she said.
A Queens Supreme Court jury decided on Dec. 23 to award the Lee family the money.
Attorney Shawn Kelly, who represents the hospital, said the hospital admitted an error had occurred in Nam Lee's treatment. But he plans to file an appeal in mid-January.
"The verdict was grossly excessive based on sympathy," he said. "The jurors were overwhelmed with sympathy for the family and the daughter. That's what happens on Christmas Eve."
Kelly said he is confident that the award will be reduced.
Hyung Ki Lee said he and his mother are depending on that money to bring his sister home.
"The figure represented what my dad went through - what we went through," he said.