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Josh Koskoff: The Lawyer Trying to Hold Gunmakers Responsible for Mass Shootings

Posted on September 29, 2023

The New York Times Magazine By Michael Steinberger Sept. 29, 2023

Brian Hogan was standing in front of a wrought-iron tree bench, head bowed, as Josh Koskoff approached him.

“Brian?” Koskoff asked.

“Yeah,” Hogan replied quietly. As Koskoff drew closer, he noticed that Hogan was crying. Although the two had never met in person, Koskoff quickly extended his arm across Hogan’s shoulder to comfort him. It was a warm, breezy afternoon in late June, and Highland Park, Ill., a town on Lake Michigan just north of Chicago, was a picture of suburban tranquillity. Shoppers darted in and out of stores along Central Avenue. Opposite a Walker Bros. pancake house, a father and his young daughter were happily devouring ice cream cones. But for Hogan, this spot brought back the darkest memories. It was here that he and his family were watching last year’s Fourth of July parade when Robert Crimo III, perched on a rooftop across the street and armed with a Smith & Wesson M & P 15, an AR-15-style semiautomatic rifle, opened fire on the crowd. Hogan’s father-in-law, Eduardo Uvaldo, was one of seven people killed. Hogan’s 13-year-old son was hit by a bullet but survived.

Gathering himself, Hogan recalled that Eduardo, sitting in a lawn chair, was initially struck in the forearm. He got up and stumbled toward the tree bench where Hogan and Koskoff now stood. Hogan said that as Crimo sprayed the area with bullets, he noticed an abrasion on his father-in-law’s head. He assumed that he had scraped himself while trying to escape. In fact, though, it was the entry point of the bullet that ultimately killed him. Hogan told Koskoff that he grabbed two chairs and a table and used them to try to protect Eduardo. A woman who was hiding on the other side of the tree implored him to get down. “He’s trying to shoot you!” she screamed.

Hogan took some solace in the thought that he had perhaps prevented Eduardo (“a hell of a man”) from being struck again and that this had prolonged his father-in-law’s life just enough to allow the family to say goodbye to him. Eduardo succumbed the following day. Referring to Crimo, Hogan said, “That [expletive] scumbag wanted him to take his last breath here, but I didn’t let that scumbag do it.” Even so, he had struggled with feelings of guilt. “I was putting the blame on me that he passed,” Hogan said, his voice cracking. “I tried. I tried.” Koskoff replied consolingly: “I hope you realize — I know you realize there was nothing you could do. You did everything.”

It was Koskoff’s first visit to Highland Park and first time he had come to see the Uvaldo family. When the Uvaldos began contemplating legal action against Smith & Wesson, they were directed to Koskoff, a lawyer based in Bridgeport, Conn., because of a landmark case that he won several months before Eduardo’s death: In February 2022, a $73 million settlement was announced in a lawsuit that Koskoff brought against the gun maker Remington on behalf of families of the victims of the Sandy Hook massacre. An AR-15-style semiautomatic rifle made by Bushmaster, which at the time was owned by Remington, was used in the 2012 shooting that left 20 first graders and six adults dead. Because Remington was in bankruptcy, its insurers negotiated the agreement.

While it was believed to be a record settlement in a case involving a firearms manufacturer, the real significance of Soto v. Bushmaster was not the payout but that it ever reached the point where the insurance companies felt compelled to make a deal. Federal law provides broad immunity to gun makers from tort litigation, or civil law complaints. The Protection of Lawful Commerce in Arms Act, or PLCAA, enacted by Congress in 2005, was thought to have essentially eliminated any possibility of holding them accountable for crimes committed with their weapons. PLCAA included several exceptions, however, and Koskoff, a medical malpractice and personal-injury lawyer who had no prior experience of gun litigation, used two of them to pursue Remington. Soto was not the first case to test the limits of PLCAA, but it is the only one filed since the law took effect that has arguably succeeded in pinning responsibility for a mass shooting on a gun company (although it bears repeating that it wasn’t Remington but its insurers who settled).

Koskoff’s unexpected victory jolted the gun industry and energized gun-control advocates. Soto “pierced the shield that PLCAA provided,” says Adam Winkler, a U.C.L.A. law professor and Second Amendment expert. Koskoff’s win came against a backdrop of despair about gun violence in America. Mass shootings have become commonplace; there were over 600 in each of the last three years, according to the Gun Violence Archive (mass shootings, by the archive’s definition, involve injury or death for four or more people, excluding the shooter). Despite polls showing strong public support for stricter gun-control measures, most congressional Republicans are unwilling to take steps to limit access to guns. Some broke with their party last year to help pass the first gun-control bill approved by Congress in nearly three decades. But the legislation was modest in scope: For example, it included making background checks slightly more stringent for buyers under 21. Many observers think that the firearms industry, through some of the weapons its sells, AR-15-style rifles in particular, and how it markets them, has contributed significantly to the prevalence of mass shootings. Soto raised the possibility that gun makers could yet be constrained through the time-honored tradition of using litigation to induce more responsible corporate behavior.

Soto has brought Koskoff, who is 57, the kind of national recognition that his father and grandfather, both prominent trial lawyers, enjoyed. His firm, Koskoff, Koskoff and Bieder, or K.K.B., also led a successful defamation suit in Connecticut against Alex Jones, the right-wing conspiracy theorist who claimed that Sandy Hook was a hoax; that case resulted in a nearly $1.5 billion total judgment last autumn. In the wake of the Soto and Jones cases, Koskoff has been in wide demand as a speaker, with fellow lawyers and civic groups eager to learn more about how he and his colleagues achieved these victories. At a conference in Boston in early September, around 800 people attended a panel discussion on mass violence that featured Koskoff.

Not surprisingly, he has become a go-to lawyer for other victims of mass-casualty gun violence. In addition to his clients in Highland Park, he was approached by families in Buffalo and Uvalde, Texas, after the deadly rampages in those communities last year, and he has been retained by a number of them. But while the three shootings followed a familiar script — the perpetrators were troubled young men who spent much of their time online and who used AR-15-style rifles to carry out their crimes — each has its own set of facts, and different jurisdictions pose different challenges; Koskoff has struggled to balance the urgent desire for legal redress with the need to build cases that stand a chance in court. Those efforts are being complicated to some extent because there are now lawsuits nationwide that are modeled after the Sandy Hook case. The law is still heavily stacked against plaintiffs, though, and Koskoff worries that even just one poorly conceived suit could result in a decision that narrows the opening he achieved with Soto. “You can snatch defeat from the jaws of victory,” he says.

But success carries its own risks. If Soto turns out to be a genuine breakthrough that leads to settlements with other gun makers or verdicts against them, it seems quite likely that the U.S. Supreme Court will eventually be called upon to decide whether such litigation is consistent with the intent of PLCAA. The court’s conservative majority has taken an expansive view of gun rights; last year, for instance, it struck down century-old New York State regulations that strictly limited the ability of people to be armed in public. If a case similar to Soto reaches the court, the gun industry might well prevail. “You can’t push back against PLCAA without potentially bringing about some even more draconian Second Amendment protection for gun manufacturers,” says Heidi Li Feldman, a law professor at Georgetown University.

On that afternoon in Highland Park, Koskoff and Hogan weren’t weighing the legal implications of Soto. Hogan just knew that he wanted Smith & Wesson punished for what he saw as its role in the shooting that killed his father-in-law. As he and Koskoff continued to talk under the tree where Eduardo Uvaldo once lay mortally wounded, Hogan said he supported the Second Amendment — “That’s what this country was built on, you know, the right to bear arms” — but that there was no justification for selling AR-15-style rifles to civilians: “That’s for [expletive] military.” He expressed disgust with the gun industry. “It’s all money for them,” Hogan said, adding that he was eager for Koskoff to file suit on his family’s behalf against Smith & Wesson. “Take them on, man. Make those son-of-a-bitch scumbags pay for it.”

The road to Soto v. Bushmaster ran through Connecticut, and not just because the shooting that prompted the lawsuit occurred there. For many years, Connecticut was a center of the American gun trade. It was home to numerous gun makers, including Colt, which in the early 1960s became the first company to sell AR-15s to civilians. Over the past two decades or so, as Connecticut has become even bluer politically, there has been an exodus of firearms companies to more gun-friendly states. But some remain. When Koskoff and I had dinner several months ago, we met at a restaurant in Southport, not far from the corporate headquarters of Ruger Firearms, a well-known brand. There is also one other way in which Soto was rooted in Connecticut: A lawsuit filed by the city of Bridgeport 24 years ago inadvertently helped lead to PLCAA.

In the 1980s and ’90s, the United States experienced an epidemic of gun violence. The shootings often claimed just one or two lives, but the cumulative death toll was significant, particularly in urban areas, which suffered economically as a result. A number of cities considered taking legal action against gun companies, and they found encouragement — and a blueprint — in the litigation being pursued at the time against the tobacco industry. In the mid-’90s, dozens of states sued the nation’s largest tobacco companies over health costs related to smoking. Those companies had once been seen as unassailable, but under mounting pressure, they agreed in 1998 to a $206 billion settlement, a record sum. Some mayors and lawyers believed that the firearms industry could likewise be held accountable. They also recognized that gun makers were especially vulnerable compared with tobacco giants like Philip Morris and R.J. Reynolds. Many gun companies were relatively small, family-owned businesses that didn’t have the resources to defend themselves in multiple lawsuits.

Bridgeport was one of the first cities to act; in 1999, it sued a dozen gun makers. (More than 30 cities, counties and states ended up bringing cases.) Then as now, there was deep frustration over the failure of Congress to pass tougher gun-control measures, and Bridgeport’s mayor, Joe Ganim, said that in addition to penalizing the gun industry for the proliferation of cheap handguns and for its failure to make its weapons safer (by, for instance, adding electronic locks so that they could only be operated after entering a code), he and other civic leaders were using the legal system to do what the legislative branch conspicuously would not. The goal was “creating law with litigation,” Ganim told The Times that year. (The Bridgeport case was later dismissed by a judge who ruled that the city lacked standing to sue gun makers because it had not suffered direct harm.)

After the Columbine massacre, in 1999, the Clinton administration threatened to bring a class-action lawsuit against the firearms industry. Smith & Wesson, fearing that it might be driven into bankruptcy by a wave of litigation, negotiated a deal with the White House in which it promised to add various safety features to its guns and to exercise more rigorous controls over how its weapons were distributed and sold. Announcing the agreement, in March 2000, President Clinton said that he hoped it would lead other gun companies to “respond in kind.” Instead, some of Smith & Wesson’s competitors, along with gun industry representatives, pushed for a consumer boycott that nearly put Smith & Wesson out of business.

At the same time, the National Rifle Association and another advocacy group, the National Shooting Sports Foundation, or N.S.S.F., began lobbying their allies in Congress to enact legislation protecting gun companies from litigation. They got their wish with the passage of PLCAA, which gave gun companies a degree of immunity exceeding that given to any other industry. (Many states already had similar laws.) Republicans controlled the House and the Senate, but the bill also drew Democratic support — the Senate’s Democratic leader, Harry Reid, voted for it. Hailing the bill’s passage, President George W. Bush said that it would “stem frivolous lawsuits, which cause a logjam in America’s courts, harm America’s small businesses and benefit a handful of lawyers at the expense of victims and consumers.” The head of the N.R.A., Wayne LaPierre, called PLCAA a “historic piece of legislation” and said that “the Second Amendment is probably in the best shape in this country that it’s been in decades.”

Ryan Busse, who was a gun-company marketing executive at the time, says that PLCAA left the firearms industry feeling unshackled. Any restraint that gun manufacturers had exercised in the past with regard to how they marketed their weapons and the types of guns that they sold was seen as no longer necessary. “PLCAA changed everything,” says Busse, who is now one of the industry’s fiercest critics. He left in disgust over what he saw as its role in contributing to the conditions that have led to so many mass shootings and for what he considered its callous indifference to the bloodshed. (Busse is now a Democratic candidate for governor of Montana.) Legal experts agreed that PLCAA was a watershed that made it very difficult if not impossible to hold gun companies liable for crimes involving their weapons (though under the law, they could still be sued for defective products). Over time, that perception became a kind of shield in itself, deterring potential litigants from even trying to pursue claims.

Josh Koskoff was unaware of PLCAA when he agreed to help the family of Victoria Soto, a first-grade teacher at Sandy Hook Elementary School killed while trying to protect her students, with some probate matters. Koskoff is the third generation of a Connecticut legal dynasty. K.K.B. was started in 1936 by his grandfather Theodore Koskoff, a celebrated litigator who served as president of the Association of Trial Lawyers of America (which has since been renamed the American Association for Justice). His son, Michael, who joined the firm out of law school, was a renowned figure in his own right. Michael, who died four years ago at age 77, was known for his commanding courtroom presence and ability to turn cases into parables about right and wrong that could persuade even deeply skeptical judges and juries.

Josh inherited his father’s talent for storytelling — and winning. He has successfully litigated a number of big cases, though his manner is resolutely low-key, with a wry sense of humor that is often directed at himself. (He and I grew up in the same Connecticut town; although he was just a year ahead of me in school, neither of us can recall ever having a conversation as kids.) But despite his track record, when the Sotos and eight other Sandy Hook families, along with one survivor of the shooting, expressed a desire to try to hold Remington accountable, Koskoff knew that his skills would be greatly tested. The facts, as he saw them, were damning, and in a country with a different relationship with guns, Remington’s culpability would have been obvious and unquestioned. PLCAA, however, had seemingly put gun makers beyond the reach of the law, at least when it came to the criminal misuse of their weapons.

But David and Francine Wheeler, whose 6-year-old son, Ben, was among the Sandy Hook victims, felt that they at least had to try. They, too, were unfamiliar with PLCAA when they hired Koskoff’s firm in the summer of 2013 and were dismayed by the extent of the protection that Congress had given the gun industry. The Wheelers, though, were unfazed by the prospect of losing in court. “There was nothing worse that we could suffer,” Wheeler told me, “nothing worse that could be taken from us.”

Koskoff knew from the start that any action that he brought against Remington could not be seen as an attempt to put American gun culture on trial. “Josh was especially attuned to the need to protect ourselves from the accusation that what we wanted to do was to take a Sharpie to the Second Amendment,” says Katie Mesner-Hage, who after graduating from Yale Law School was hired as a legal fellow to help Koskoff research the gun industry and Sandy Hook. In Koskoff’s view, it was a case about corporate misconduct, not the right of Americans to bear arms. For that reason, he turned down offers of help from several gun-control organizations; while he respected their work, having them as co-litigants would have made it easy for critics to portray a lawsuit against Remington as a backdoor assault on the Second Amendment.

But Koskoff also recognized that he could not file a complaint that danced around the fact that the gun was the problem — that Adam Lanza, the Sandy Hook assailant, was able to fire 154 rounds and slaughter 26 people in around 10 minutes because he was armed with a weapon of war, the Bushmaster XM-15, an AR-15-style semiautomatic rifle. AR-15s were developed for use by the U.S. military and excel at killing large numbers of enemy combatants quickly. That is their purpose, and it was the reason AR-15-style rifles were outlawed by the 1994 assault weapons ban. Sales resumed when the legislation expired a decade later, but the guns hadn’t been made any less lethal. Koskoff believed that there was no justification for selling them to the public and that Bushmaster and its parent company Remington knew this as well as anyone.

In fact, Bushmaster’s marketing emphasized that its semiautomatic rifles were battlefield weapons. The company touted their “military-proven performance.” One ad went further, implicitly pitching some of Bushmaster’s rifles as killing machines. It read, “Forces of opposition, bow down. You are single-handedly outnumbered.”

It took Koskoff, Mesner-Hage and Alinor Sterling, a partner at K.K.B., around two years to build the case against Remington. They wanted to gather as much information as they could before filing and were dependent to a certain degree on the pace of the multiple investigations into the shooting. They knew that the brief had to be airtight. The goal of PLCAA’s backers was to get cases thrown out immediately; the law was intended to be a tripwire. This “front-loading of legal impediments,” as Koskoff puts it, meant that the reasoning and the writing needed to be extraordinarily persuasive.

The case they developed rested on two of the exceptions in PLCAA. One says that a gun company can be sued for negligent entrustment — for providing a firearm to a customer who it knows might wield it in a way that physically endangers others and who indeed ends up using it in a reckless manner. They alleged that Bushmaster knew that AR-15-style rifles were unsuitable for civilians and that one of them could end up in the hands of a disturbed individual. Their other claim was based on what is known as the “predicate exception,” which holds that gun makers can be sued if they knowingly violate an existing state or federal law pertaining to the sale or marketing of firearms and that this transgression is “a proximate cause of the harm for which relief is sought.” Koskoff and his colleagues claimed that Bushmaster, by selling AR-15-style rifles to the public and through marketing that highlighted their battlefield capabilities, had run afoul of the Connecticut Unfair Trade Practices Act, or CUTPA. The predicate-exception argument seemed innovative, perhaps even audacious. “Reaching for consumer law was a very creative move,” says Timothy Lytton, a law professor at Georgia State University.

Koskoff filed Soto v. Bushmaster on Dec. 13, 2014, the eve of the second anniversary of the Sandy Hook massacre and less than 24 hours before the statute of limitations expired. It was a powerful document (“The numbered paragraphs give it an oddly religious feeling, like theses nailed to a church door,” Adam Gopnik wrote in The New Yorker). It reviewed the history of AR-15-style rifles and explained the features that made them so deadly, and it described the carnage and grief that Lanza caused with the Bushmaster rifle that his mother — whom he also killed, but with a different rifle — bought for him. The filing included biographical sketches of the deceased children and teachers. (“He also loved going out for special breakfasts before school with his dad. On the morning of Dec. 14, father and son found time to enjoy a sausage-and-egg sandwich, polished off by hot chocolate.”) Even now, more than a decade later after the shooting, Soto is agonizing to read.

When Koskoff sued Remington, though, there was considerable doubt in the legal community about the wisdom of pursuing the gun maker; many of Koskoff’s peers believed that it was unwinnable and that he was setting up the families for more heartache. “I got a lot of pushback from other trial lawyers, and honestly, it almost broke me,” Koskoff says. Some people at his firm wondered if it was a mistake and worried that the suit would drain resources from other cases. (As is standard, K.K.B. covered the upfront costs of Soto, including paying expert witnesses, and took a percentage of the settlement.) Mesner-Hage recalls that there was “legitimate concern that losing this case would put the firm at significant risk.” The risks included possibly being ordered to cover Remington’s legal fees. Koskoff had his own doubts right up until the week he filed. A conversation with his wife, Darcy, finally persuaded him to move ahead. “She asked me how I thought I’d feel years from now if I didn’t go forward with the case,” he says. It was a question that answered itself.

In October 2016, Soto was thrown out by a Connecticut Superior Court judge; she rejected the negligent-entrustment argument on the grounds that it was legal to sell AR-15-style rifles and said that the Connecticut Unfair Trade Practices Act had been interpreted to apply only to individuals who had a direct commercial relationship with a business. Koskoff appealed the decision. In March 2019, the Connecticut Supreme Court upheld the dismissal of the negligent-entrustment charge but ruled that a business relationship was not required to pursue a claim based on CUTPA and that the Sandy Hook plaintiffs had standing to sue Remington over the marketing (but not the sale) of its AR-15-style rifles. Even as it allowed Soto to proceed, the court expressed skepticism that a connection between the gun maker’s advertising and Adam Lanza’s actions could be established. “Proving such a causal link at trial may prove to be a herculean task,” the majority wrote.

Remington appealed to the U.S. Supreme Court, which declined to hear the case (not necessarily because it agreed with the Connecticut Supreme Court — one possible explanation is that, with no conflicting lower-court interpretations of PLCAA and the predicate exception, the court had little reason at that point to intervene). In 2021, after Remington declared bankruptcy, its insurers offered the families a $33 million settlement. They turned down the deal in part because it didn’t give them the right to disclose all of the evidence collected during discovery. Some time later, the insurers came back with another offer, this one for $73 million and consent to make those materials public, and the families agreed to settle.

The information gathered through discovery has not been released yet. But Koskoff shared two documents with me. One was the transcript of a deposition that he took of George Kollitides II, who from 2012 to 2015 served as chairman and chief executive of the conglomerate that included Remington and Bushmaster; it was called Freedom Group when he started, and was subsequently renamed Remington Outdoor Company. The deposition was conducted in November 2021. At one point, Koskoff asked Kollitides, “If there was a shooting every single day using a Bushmaster AR-15-type rifle that was manufactured and sold by Freedom Group, would it still be full steam ahead for you, or at some point would you say, you know, maybe we don’t need to market and sell these things?” Kollitides replied, “It would be full steam ahead.” Koskoff also asked, “Is it your testimony that in the wake of the Sandy Hook shooting while you were C.E.O., your approach to business in this space didn’t change at all, that it was the same after the shooting as it was before?” In response, Kollitides said, “100 percent.”

The other document that Koskoff showed me was the minutes of a board meeting that the company held on Dec. 20, 2012, six days after Sandy Hook. According to the minutes, Kollitides “noted that year-end sales continued to be strong in the wake of the tragedy.” He said that the company “had hired crisis advisers” who could “assist in managing the public relations and various other issues” it was facing as a result of the shooting. The board then moved on to discuss the proposed acquisition of a Montana gun-barrel manufacturer; another Remington executive told the board that the deal would “greatly enhance the company’s capacity in the high-margin M.S.R. market.” (M.S.R. stands for “modern sporting rifle,” a gun-industry category that includes AR-15-style rifles.)

Koskoff says that when all of the evidence from discovery is made public, it “will provide a depth of understanding as to what goes on behind closed doors with the gun industry.”

The decision of the insurance companies to settle infuriated the gun lobby. Lawrence Keane, senior vice president and general counsel of the National Shooting Sports Foundation, insists there was no evidence that advertising was a factor and thinks that Remington would ultimately have won in court. “I believe that had the case gone to trial, Remington would have prevailed,” Keane says. Koskoff disagrees. He is confident that he could have persuaded a jury to see a link between the marketing of the gun and the crime it was used to commit. Nevertheless, Koskoff was happy that the families were spared the strain of a trial, especially in light of the distress that the Alex Jones case was causing them, and with Soto settled, he figured he would get back to focusing on medical-malpractice and personal-injury cases. But then, in a span of around seven weeks, there were mass shootings in Buffalo, Uvalde and Highland Park, and families in all three cases turned to Koskoff.

Although AR-15-style rifles have been sold commercially since the 1960s, for a long time there was barely a market for them. In 1990, they accounted for just 1.2 percent of all firearms manufactured in the United States. But starting in the mid-2000s, after the assault weapons ban expired, their appeal grew. The wars in Afghanistan and Iraq gave AR-15-style rifles a certain cachet — people wanted the same guns the soldiers were using. The spike in sales was also influenced by politics, including the election of the country’s first Black president. Concerns about new gun-control measures, coupled with fears about where the country was heading, caused a surge in demand. According to a recent poll commissioned by The Washington Post, about one in 20 Americans now own an AR-15-style rifle. The Post cited a gun-industry estimate that there are currently around 20 million AR-15-style rifles in private hands, although that number was not confirmed independently. They have become so popular that they are often referred to these days as “America’s rifle.” Representative Barry Moore, an Alabama Republican, recently introduced legislation to designate the AR-15 “the national gun of the United States.” Some Congressional Republicans have taken to wearing AR-15 lapel pins.

AR-15-style rifles have been involved in some of the worst mass shootings that the United States has experienced over the last decade or so, including those in Las Vegas; Orlando; Sutherland Springs, Texas; Parkland, Fla.; and San Bernardino, Calif. In the view of Koskoff and others, the firearms industry bears considerable blame for this — not only because it continues to sell AR-15-style rifles but also because gun advertising has become increasingly provocative. Many ads for AR-15-style rifles play up their lethality, even glamorize it. A lot of the marketing seems directed at one group in particular: young men. Masculinity is a common theme, as are appeals to male grievance. In 2012, a few months before Sandy Hook, Bushmaster published an ad in the men’s magazine Maxim that featured a picture of an AR-15-style rifle with the caption, “Consider your man card reissued.” Gun makers have also cultivated buyers through popular first-person shooter games like the Call of Duty franchise that showcase their AR-15-style weapons (the virtual versions look identical to their real counterparts and sometimes sport the brand names). Adam Lanza reportedly played Call of Duty games obsessively. Gun companies, Timothy Lytton says, are “marketing semiautomatic rifles to young people in the form of fantasy games that deliver the experience of shooting to kill as a form of entertainment.”

Daniel Defense, a Georgia firearms manufacturer, has generated particular controversy with its marketing. One ad, which was posted on the company’s Twitter account a few months before Robert Crimo III began shooting people from a Highland Park rooftop, displayed a rifle mounted on top of a building, with the lights of a city or town visible below; an adjoining photo showed the view through the gun’s sight — it was of a parked vehicle. The caption read, “Rooftop ready, even at midnight! ????” The gun maker has also been accused of deploying racist imagery: A few years ago, its catalog included a picture of a man with a Valknot tattoo; the Valknot is a Norse symbol embraced by white supremacists.

A recent congressional report said that Daniel Defense’s annual revenues from sales of AR-15-style rifles tripled between 2019 and 2021, to over $120 million from $40 million. A Daniel Defense DDM4 V7, an AR-15-style semiautomatic weapon, was used in the shooting last May at Robb Elementary School in Uvalde, which left 19 fourth graders and two teachers dead. According to a report commissioned by the Texas House of Representatives, the teenage gunman, Salvador Ramos, a former student at Robb Elementary, purchased the rifle for around $2,000 shortly after his 18th birthday. (Daniel Defense did not respond to a request for comment. In congressional testimony last year, Marty Daniel, the company’s founder and at the time its chief executive, denied any responsibility for Uvalde, saying, “These murders are local problems that have to be solved locally.”)

The Texas House report also included personal details about Ramos, who was killed by law-enforcement officers after they entered the school. A native of Uvalde, he came from a broken home, spoke with a stutter and had been bullied by classmates. When he was 17, he was expelled from high school, having only completed ninth grade. In the year that followed, he went into a spiral. He dressed in black clothes and combat boots and retreated to the online world — he was active on several social media platforms and also played violent video games, including the Call of Duty series (in which the Daniel Defense DDM4 V7 has appeared). “Most of his usernames and even his email address reflected themes of confrontation and revenge,” the report said. It added that he became fascinated with the idea of acquiring notoriety and developed an interest in school shootings. Some of his online peers jokingly nicknamed him “school shooter.”

In the weeks following the Uvalde shooting, Koskoff was retained by the families of three of the victims (another 14 families have since joined them). It struck him as self-evident that Daniel Defense had contributed to the tragedy, and possibly in ways that went beyond its manufacturing of the gun. During one of our conversations, he shared with me a PowerPoint presentation that included another Daniel Defense ad showing someone pulling a gun from the trunk of a car. “Refuse to be a victim ????,” the ad was captioned. But the supposed victim was not in a defensive crouch or any other position that would indicate immediate danger. If anything, the body language suggested aggression.

Daniel Defense is already facing lawsuits tied to Uvalde; Everytown for Gun Safety, an advocacy group that Michael R. Bloomberg helped found, has filed claims on behalf of the families of two children. “Factually, Uvalde is stronger than even Sandy Hook,” Koskoff says. But Texas is a gun-friendly state, and persuading a judge or jury to rule against a firearms company could be difficult. The Soto template might be of limited value, too. Texas has a law similar to CUTPA, called the Deceptive Trade Practices Act, but according to Koskoff, it has generally been interpreted quite narrowly: Only people who actually bought the product in question have standing to sue under the D.T.P.A. Koskoff concedes that the Texas law “may be more challenging.”

In late May, he went to Uvalde to visit the families he was representing and to gather with the community as it marked the one-year anniversary of the shooting. When I spoke to him a few days later, he said the trip had been sobering but left him even more determined to pursue accountability. He still wasn’t sure, though, when and how he would proceed. He told me that during the years that he was litigating Soto, he was concerned only with holding gun makers liable. “For a long time, I felt that any case that involved a shooting that does not focus on the gun industry is a gift to the gun industry,” he said. But he had since come to recognize that there was an entire ecosystem that facilitated the industry’s practices — social media platforms, insurance companies, video-game makers. While Daniel Defense was, in his view, a bad actor, it had enablers who might bear some responsibility as well for what happened in Uvalde. “Increasingly, I am thinking more about these other participating factors,” Koskoff said. “There are other problems here.” He declined to elaborate, but it appeared that Daniel Defense was not the only potential target he was eyeing.

By then, he had reluctantly concluded that he couldn’t participate in possible litigation against any gun makers over the Buffalo shooting, a racially motivated attack that left 10 people dead, all of them targeted because they were African American. The assailant, an 18-year-old named Payton Gendron, had been armed with a Bushmaster XM-15. Koskoff said there were a couple of reasons for his decision, but with other lawyers pursuing cases tied to the gun, he didn’t want to comment further. It was easy to speculate about what might have given him pause. Gendron, who was sentenced to life in prison earlier this year, published a lengthy manifesto in which he disparaged the weapon he used to carry out his crime. “In all honesty,” he wrote, “this is probably the worst AR-15 I could’ve bought for this mission.” That comment would surely be cited by a defense lawyer. Also, the gun was apparently quite old, and the Remington and Bushmaster brands are now under new, separate ownerships. It seemed as if it could be an especially complicated case, and I was mindful of a point that Koskoff made during several of our conversations: In an area of the law as fraught as gun litigation, any setback could imperil the gain that Soto represents.

A few months ago, after a shooting at a Nashville private school that left three children and three adults dead — an AR-15-style rifle was one of the weapons used — the former Senate majority leader Bill Frist, a Republican from Tennessee, wrote a column for Forbes in which he proposed some measures to help curb gun violence. He called for reintroducing a ban on assault weapons, which was notable because the previous ban expired while he was the Republican leader in the Senate. In addition, Frist said that it was time to “make gun makers liable for harm caused by their products,” adding that “right now, the firearms industry bears no liability for shootings, and thus has no financial incentive to make their products safer.” Given that he was the Senate majority leader when PLCAA was enacted, this seemed to mark a significant reversal on his part. Frist didn’t make himself available to me for an interview, but what he wrote suggests that he now believes either that the law was a mistake or that it went too far.

President Biden has called on Congress to repeal PLCAA; during a Rose Garden ceremony in 2021, he said that if God could grant him any item on his gun-control wish list, “give me that one.” But while congressional Democrats have introduced bills seeking to rescind the law, there seems little chance of that happening anytime soon. Still, Soto punctured the idea that PLCAA completely shielded the gun industry from liability, and it is not just victims of mass shootings who are seeking to capitalize on this possible opening. A handful of states, including New York, New Jersey, California and Illinois, have recently enacted public-nuisance laws that are intended to allow litigants to bring claims against gun makers via the predicate exception in PLCAA. The city of Buffalo is now suing several gun makers using the New York statute. (Ten states and the District of Columbia have assault-weapon bans.)

The National Shooting Sports Foundation is challenging the new laws in federal court. (In September, a federal judge dismissed its bid to overturn Delaware’s public-nuisance law, passed in 2022.) Lawrence Keane of the N.S.S.F. says the legislation and lawsuits inspired by Soto amount to an effort to thwart the expressed will of Congress. The point of PLCAA, he says, was to protect gun manufacturers from being sued over criminal activities for which they could in no plausible way be blamed; if, as a result of Soto, gun companies are now swamped with lawsuits, the predicate exception will have become “the exception that swallows the rule,” as Keane puts it. He claims that the Connecticut Supreme Court erred in allowing Soto to go forward and suggests that it mistakenly conflated marketing and advertising. Keane says they are not the same thing and that, in the context of the predicate exception, “marketing” referred to sales and distribution practices, not advertising. He adds that advertising, however distasteful one might find it, is protected speech.

He denies that the N.S.S.F., in contesting the public-nuisance laws, is trying to engineer a so-called circuit split that might induce the Supreme Court to step in. But if there are enough conflicting lower-court rulings, it is hard to imagine that the court won’t feel compelled to decide whether the legal strategy promulgated by Soto is anchored in a legitimate reading of the predicate exception. “Whether violation of a generic unfair-trade-practices act or a public-nuisance law can serve as a basis for evading PLCAA immunity remains an open question that must, ultimately, be decided by the U.S. Supreme Court,” Timothy Lytton says.

According to Heidi Li Feldman of Georgetown Law, Soto also raises a more fundamental question: “What is the meaning of the Second Amendment, and what does that have to do, if anything, with holding gun manufacturers accountable for violating statutes that apply to other businesses?” She says that litigation is an integral part of regulating commerce and rejects the idea that the gun industry is somehow entitled to special treatment. “Sensible regulation of gun marketing and manufacturing has nothing to do with the Second Amendment,” Feldman says. But she acknowledges that federal courts are taking an “unprecedentedly expansive reading of the Second Amendment” and warns that Soto could end up boomeranging on gun-control advocates. Adam Winkler, of U.C.L.A., agrees. He notes that the current Supreme Court is “very pro-gun” and “likely to believe that firearms manufacturing is part of the Second Amendment.” He says this is a defensible proposition in itself — the right to bear arms is meaningless if you don’t have people producing arms. But he thinks that the Supreme Court could well decide that the firearms industry merits even more protection precisely because its existence is essential to the exercise of Second Amendment rights.

Nevertheless, a Supreme Court ruling on PLCAA and the predicate exception probably won’t be forthcoming anytime soon, and Winkler says that Soto has perhaps created a “backchannel way to encourage gun makers to be more responsible.” Ryan Busse, while deeply alarmed by the direction of American gun culture, also believes Soto could make a difference. He says the case didn’t prompt gun manufacturers to alter their conduct because it never went to trial and was only settled, in their view, because the timorous insurers didn’t have the stomach for a fight. But he thinks that if even just one lawsuit inspired by the Sandy Hook litigation reaches a jury and results in a sizable judgment against a gun company, it would force the entire industry to at least dial back its advertising. “It might be $74 million, it might be $740 million,” Busse says. “One case would stop all of it.” And more cases are coming, says Antonio Romanucci, a trial lawyer based in Chicago. “These lawsuits are only the beginning,” he told me. “I strongly believe the gun industry should be doing a deep self-analysis before the courts do it for them.”

Koskoff’s job often involves seeking compensation in matters for which no monetary award will ever be adequate. While he can put a price on a botched medical procedure that results in permanent injury, he can’t undo the damage. His work immerses him in other people’s grief, but he says that the anguish associated with mass shootings was beyond anything that he had experienced before. The deaths were so sudden and senseless, and the pain was compounded by the fact that these tragedies played out in the public eye and by the knowledge that the victims would probably still be alive but for choices that we have made as a country — the realization, Koskoff says, that “it didn’t have to happen, and that it doesn’t happen in other places.”

This was part of the reason Eduardo Uvaldo’s death strikes him as so outrageous. Uvaldo immigrated to the United States from Mexico as a teenager, and as Koskoff sees it, he embodied the American dream: a hard-working man who built a comfortable life for his family and who was full of gratitude for the blessings that the United States had conferred on him. He faithfully attended Highland Park’s Fourth of July parade, often in patriotic clothes — red, white and blue shorts were a particular favorite. In Koskoff’s view, his death wasn’t just a tragedy; it represented a kind of betrayal.

When Koskoff first decided to travel to Highland Park in late June to meet with the Uvaldo family, he was planning to file suit against Smith & Wesson, which manufactured the AR-15-style rifle used by Robert Crimo, soon thereafter. He and his colleagues had talked about bringing a case on or around the July 4 anniversary of the shooting. Crimo was known to be a Call of Duty enthusiast, and Smith & Wesson has run online ads that evoke the Call of Duty games. Illinois was a solid-blue state with strict gun laws, and it had a consumer-protection statute similar to the one in Connecticut. With Highland Park, the facts, the law and the jurisdiction all seemed favorably aligned. By late June, several lawsuits had already been filed against Smith & Wesson by other victims and their families. (Romanucci is one of the lawyers involved.)

But on the drive from the airport to meet with Brian Hogan, Koskoff told me that he had decided to hold off. He thought the complaint his team had drafted was strong but could be made even more compelling. Some of the information that he was seeking was not yet available because Crimo, who was taken alive by the police, was the subject of an ongoing criminal investigation. The Highland Park case had to be as meticulously framed as Soto, and Koskoff’s inclination was to take as long as necessary, within reason, to get it to that point. At the same time, he worried that the Uvaldos might be growing impatient. “There’s always some atmospheric pressure to do things earlier, sooner, now,” he said in a later conversation. “But you don’t get extra credit for filing early.”

After visiting the site of the shooting with Hogan, Koskoff went to Hogan’s house in Waukegan to meet with Eduardo Uvaldo’s widow, Maria, and his four daughters; Koskoff was joined by Matthew Sims, a lawyer with the local firm representing the Uvaldos. Everyone sat at the kitchen table, where the family had put out some fruit as well as water and soft drinks. Although Koskoff already knew a lot about Eduardo, he asked the sisters to share recollections of their father. They described him as a joyful man who was especially devoted to his 13 grandchildren and six great-grandchildren. He was always “clowning around” with the little ones, they said, and made sure to attend every ballgame and school event. “There are so many photos of him gazing adoringly at the kids,” said Nubia, Hogan’s wife. Koskoff asked her to send him some of the pictures. The family talked about the difficulty of marking Father’s Day in Eduardo’s absence and about the anxiety that they all felt now in public spaces.

While I was in the room, Koskoff didn’t tell them that he was still not ready to file, but he intimated as much. He referred to the lawsuits that had already been brought against Smith & Wesson. He said that one advantage to waiting was that he and his colleagues could track the progress of other cases and learn from any mistakes the lawyers might have made. But he also needed time to gather more evidence. “As in Sandy Hook, a criminal investigation locks up a lot of information that we would like to get,” Koskoff explained. “And it doesn’t seem fair. We should have access to that information, because it could impact your legal rights.”

Koskoff had told me in advance that there were things he planned to discuss that could not be shared with a journalist in the room, and after about 30 minutes, he politely said that it was time for me to excuse myself. A week later, I caught up with him at his Bridgeport office. According to Koskoff, the Uvaldos didn’t express any concern or frustration over the delay in filing; they understood that pursuing Smith & Wesson was going to be a long and arduous process. “What this trip established is that this family has the patience of several lifetimes,” Koskoff said. The same had been true of the Sandy Hook parents. Gun litigation was hard — tactically, emotionally — and Koskoff said that the determination of these families to pursue accountability despite a legal framework designed to prevent gun makers from being held liable stiffened his own resolve. “I draw strength from their strength,” he said.


Steve Yerrid: Hillsborough Schools Announce New Safety Measures One Year After Death Of Hezekiah Walters

Posted on June 15, 2020


On the first anniversary of the death of Hezekiah Walters, Hillsborough County Public Schools announced new training protocols and safety procedures aimed at preventing heat-related illnesses.

Walters, 14, collapsed and died June 11, 2019, after participating in summer football conditioning at Middleton High School

On Tuesday, the school board approved a $1 million settlement with the Walters family.

But their lawyer, Steve Yerrid, said this has always been about much more than money.

"They honor this family by establishing what is now Hezekiah's protocol," he said. "We're going to take care of the cardiac arrest and the heat stroke victims, we're going to take care of them before they become victims."

In the year since his death, Walters' family has been working with the district to create the Hezekiah Walters Sports Medicine Educational Plan on Hydration and Heat Illness.

"We are implementing this newly required training for all coaches and athletes to help us ensure that our students know the dangers of heat related illnesses," said Superintendent Addison Davis. "Our commitment to student safety is stronger today and remains our number one priority."

The plan requires that all football staff are certified in a national football coach certification program called "Heads Up Football" before the upcoming school year.

In addition, all high schools will be provided with a cold immersion tub, will have medically trained staff on campus during the hottest parts of the day, and offer mandatory water breaks every 30 minutes.

"Our school board developed this policy to ensure we have procedures like proper hydration, length of practice, access to cool areas, and other measurements that hold us as school district members and volunteers accountable," Davis said.

The policy aims to protect students in all extracurricular activities, including athletes in other sports, band members, and ROTC cadets.

Following the announcement, Walters' mother, Phyllis, presented Davis with a plaque commemorating her son and thanked Hillsborough County Schools for supporting her family throughout the past year.

“I felt like I was important, Hezekiah was important enough for you all to drop by just to make sure, (to) check (our) pulse, to make sure my family was okay. I appreciate that,” she said.

In a statement, the school district said "Hezekiah Walters' legacy will live on... by educating tens of thousands of student-athletes on how to prevent heat-related illnesses."

A number of Middleton administrators were disciplined in July 2019 because protocols concerning Walters' paperwork were not followed. Assistant Principal for Administration Mark Jones was demoted and head coach Fred Reid transferred to another school.

Former Middleton star Mike Williams took the head coaching job and led the team to a 5-5 record in the 2019 season before leaving for Wharton High School in January 2020.

[12klasdj-20adskj22lasjkd]384,2020-06-11,Phyllis Walters presents Hillsborough Co. School Supt. Addison Davis with a plaque commemorating her son, Hezekiah, who died after football conditioning drills in June 2019.,

Brian McKeen: Doctor accused of falsely diagnosing hundreds of kids with epilepsy loses medical license

Posted on May 20, 2020 Detroit ABC News, by Heather Catallo, 5/20/20


(WXYZ) — A doctor accused of falsely diagnosing hundreds of metro Detroit children with epilepsy will permanently surrender his medical license.

That means Dr. Yasser Awaad will never be able to practice medicine in Michigan again.

The Michigan Board of Medicine Disciplinary Subcommittee voted unanimously Wednesday morning to accept the settlement and consent order reached with Awaad and the Attorney General.

Awaad will also have to pay a $5,000 fine. The permanent surrender of the medical license will officially take effect in 30 days.

Last year, the 7 Investigators exposed how Awaad was facing 267 lawsuits. Lawyers say hundreds of kids were forced to endure grueling medical tests multiple times, including forcing kids to stay awake all night so they could be sleep deprived. But they never actually needed them.

Mariah Martinez was just 9 years old when she said she was referred to Awaad for headaches. At the time, he worked for Oakwood Healthcare, which is now owned by Beaumont.

Martinez said she was surprised when Awaad diagnosed her with epilepsy, since she had never had a seizure. It wasn’t until Awaad suddenly left his practice four years later and she saw a new doctor that Martinez says she found out she never had epilepsy.

"I feel like it shouldn’t be this hard to go see a doctor," Martinez said. "Shouldn’t be this hard to get up in the morning."

A jury awarded Martinez $3 million last June. Another jury awarded Claire Linzell $2.77 million last October.

"As a pediatric neurologist Yasser Awaad was entrusted with the health and welfare of his patients. Awaad abused that trust and victimized hundreds of children over an eight-year period by systematically misdiagnosing them with epilepsy.

"It is particularly appalling that he harmed so many innocent children so that he could enrich himself. It is unfathomable that he is not prison,” said Brian McKeen, a medical malpractice lawyer who is suing Awaad.

McKeen also released the following statement:

Brian McKeen, managing partner of McKeen & Associates, which represents the victims, has released this statement regarding today's events:

"Yasser Awaad betrayed the trust his patients and their families placed in him. To satisfy his lust for money he preyed upon hundreds of innocent children by falsely claiming that they had epilepsy when he knew that they did not. He abused these children and their families and subjected them to years of unnecessary emotional distress and harmful medications.

Knowing that his actions are indefensible he has cowered and chosen to surrender his license rather than face the sanctions he so justly deserves. While it is gratifying to know that he will never again be in a position to victimize any other Michigan families under the guise of
“medical treatment,” it is disappointing that to date Dr Awaad has not been subjected to criminal prosecution. On behalf of his hundreds of victims we sincerely hope that state and federal authorities will finally take action against Awaad.

Awaad enriched himself through a scheme of misdiagnosing epilepsy to convince patients to return to him for “treatment,” performing unnecessary tests at frequent intervals and billing for test analysis he never even performed. This scheme cost families, insurance companies and taxpayers millions of dollars in the process. For those actions he needs to be held accountable in the criminal justice system.

After six weeks of trial, two Wayne County juries have now found that Awaad committed medical malpractice and caused unnecessary harms and losses. Sadly there are approximately 270 more victims who still await justice in the civil system.

Awaad and his former employer Oakwood Hospital, now part of Beaumont Health, inexplicably refuse to accept responsibility for their actions. Will they finally do the right thing and accept responsibility or will they burden our court system with another 270 jury trials?

Regardless of their decision justice must prevail."

The 7 Investigators have reached out to Beaumont Health System for comment on the Board of Medicine’s decision. We have not heard back yet.


Judith Livingston: Lawdragon Lawyer Limelight: Judy Livingston and Tom Moore

Posted on April 23, 2020

Photo by Laura Barisonzi. 

Tom Moore and Judy Livingston have worked alongside each other for over three decades, achieving personal injury verdicts for clients and their families that have reshaped the standards of medical practice in this country. Their cases have led to limits in the number of hours medical students can work as residents to avoid the exhaustion that can lead to errors, and better standards for administering anesthesia. This powerhouse duo also happen to be married with three children, two of whom are pursuing careers in the law. They are two of the named partners at Kramer Dillof Livingston & Moore, based in New York.

Lawdragon: Your firm is very busy and well-respected in the medical malpractice and personal injury field. Will you talk a bit about your selection process when it comes to taking on new clients?

Tom Moore: Our firm long ago decided it would never get too big to give personal attention to all clients. As a result, the selection of cases we choose to spend our energies on is paramount. The severity of the injury is always an overriding consideration. We look for cases that challenge us. We don’t care how tough the case is, as long as it is significant and valid. 

Lawdragon: How did you each make the decision to focus your practice on plaintiff-side, personal injury cases?

TM: Growing up in Ireland, I developed a deep compassion for the plight of those in need. I supported myself through Fordham Law School at night by working days for an insurance company. Immediately, I realized that my heart was always with the injured. On the day I was admitted to the bar, I tried my first case, and haven’t stopped since. I quickly gravitated to the plaintiff’s side, identifying with those who were most injured, with a strong desire to champion their cause. 

Judy Livingston: I realized in my first year of law school, upon reading the seminal decision of Palsgraff v. Long Island Railroad, that the law is fraught with technicalities that can deprive victims of justice. I decided then to spend my career representing those victims and overcoming the deck that was stacked against them. Having raised three children and being constantly aware of the importance of family, my particular sympathies always lie with children who lose a parent or families torn apart by negligence. 

LD: Judy, you became a trial lawyer at a time when that was still quite uncommon for women. Do you have any advice for anyone currently feeling underrepresented in this already-adversarial field? 

JL: When I first started trying cases it didn’t even dawn on me that the fact that I was a woman should be any impediment to being in the courtroom. I always felt that jurors are intrigued by people who take on non-traditional roles. I pass on the advice I was given long ago, to never be intimidated by your adversaries. People who try to take advantage of you because of your differences are often exposed for their prejudices. It might be the gruff man who tries to bully a woman or the racist who uses “dog-whistles” in the hope of sending messages to like-minded jurors. While, unfortunately those tactics might work occasionally, the smart adversary can often use them to her advantage. 

LD: In what ways does your firm train and mentor younger lawyers? 

JL: Recognizing the very long and difficult learning curve to become a good plaintiff’s lawyer, we encourage great participation by younger lawyers in the exciting aspects of a personal injury practice. Mentoring isn’t just an “in office” event, but occurs at arguments of appeals, depositions and all aspects of trials. To subject young lawyers to only the drudgery of the paper practice without exposure to the real life drama of the courtroom would not encourage or lead young talented lawyers to the real heart of the practice. 

LD: Over your 30+ years each doing this type of work, are there any particular cases that stand out as having a broad or profound effect on the medical industry as a whole? 

JL: We are quite proud about how we have not just helped the individuals we have represented, but the very broad impact to society at large as a result of many of our cases. 

One case we tried together was on behalf of Libby Zion against New York Hospital and treating doctors. She was 18 years old when she was brought into New York Hospital and treated by overworked, sleep deprived, unsupervised residents. These young, inexperienced physicians were working 36-hour shifts, and that lack of sleep and supervision resulted in a litany of errors causing Libby’s death. Her tragedy, made public by the lawsuit, lead to nationwide rules limiting the number of hours doctors in training were allowed to work.

TM: The case of Emma McDougald, a mother about to give birth, who suffered severe brain damage as a result of bad anesthesia care, was, along with similar cases, the compelling motivation in the field of anesthesiology developing technology that largely eliminated the ability for human error in anesthesia delivery.

Lauren Sclafani was severely burned when a bartender poured 151 proof rum on the bar and lit the bar on fire. Not long after this lawsuit was concluded, this 151 proof rum was taken off the shelves and no longer produced, saving many from the stupid antics of bartenders and the inebriated. 

JL: In Lee v. New York Hospital Queens, a man walked into the emergency room, requiring surgery to remove his gallbladder. After admission, he languished for 3 ½ days, without having the operation, and as a result, developed sepsis and died a painful death. Because Mr. Lee was in 60’s, with very low earnings and adult children, the defense tried to get away with paying a pittance for his pain and suffering and death. As a result of the verdict, instead, they paid record numbers for a plaintiff in these circumstances.

LD: What trends are you seeing in medical malpractice or personal injury law these days, in terms of the type of work keeping you busy?

TM: A very positive trend we have witnessed is the general, though not universal improvement in the quality of breast cancer diagnosis. Gone are the days of doctors thinking they could tell by palpation whether a breast lump is cancer or not. Now, by a combination of lawsuits and better education of the public and medical profession, generally patients are being diagnosed earlier, the quality of care has improved and the cases are fewer. 

A growing negative trend is the increasing frequency of distracted driving, leading to huge increases in the cases involving pedestrians and bicyclists, who are severely injured.

JL: The lack of humanism by physicians towards their patients, shocks us to this day. If doctors would only read and follow the great work of the late Dr. Arnold Gold, of Columbia Presbyterian Medical School and his wife Dr. Sandra Gold, founders of the White Coat ceremony, the Gold Foundation, and champions of humanism in medicine, care would be far superior and medical negligence less common. 

LD: How would you describe each other’s styles as lawyers? 

JL: Tom’s unique style has set the standard in personal injury trials for nearly 3 decades. He has achieved a record of 92 verdicts in excess of one million dollars, most of which are in excess of ten million dollars and 4 verdicts over $100 million dollars, everyone on behalf of individual plaintiffs. This extraordinary success is owing to his total belief in the justice of his cause and his deep compassion for his client. His passion is the foundation of both his withering cross-examinations and mesmerizing summations. 

TM: Judy learned a long time ago that being thoroughly prepared is the cornerstone to success in the courtroom. While the long hours and hard work are necessary, the fruits of that labor bring about the exciting, spontaneous moments that fascinate jurors. Judy has the unique talent of being able to pull together the subtle pieces of evidence in a way that leads witnesses down the road to confessing the truth. 

LD: Does it look like any of your three children might follow your footsteps and get into the law?

TM: My how time flies! Our youngest son, long ago, let us know that his many and varied interests lay far from the law.  

JL: Our daughter, one year out of Fordham law school, is an associate at Boies Schiller Flexner LLP, loving their exciting and varied litigation practice.

TM: Our son, James, joined our firm after working as an Assistant District Attorney in Brooklyn. So far, he has tried two cases. One started trial as a “no pay” case, but settled at the close of the plaintiff’s evidence. The other, also a “no pay” case, resulted in a verdict in the sum of $3,590,000, more than he asked for on summation!

LD: What do you two do for fun outside of the office?

TM: Fun covers a range of activities. It’s dinners and weekends with the family, playing with the dog on the beach, an occasional round of golf…

JL: And for Tom, hours of exercise, including running and occasional biking. 

By Alison Preece April 22, 2020 Lawyer Limelights

[12klasdj-20adskj22lasjkd]308,2020-04-22,Photo by Laura Barisonzi. ,

Randi McGinn: Dozens of lawyers volunteer to help prosecute rape kit backlog cases

Posted on March 4, 2020

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (KRQE) – The Bernalillo County District Attorney’s office is rolling out a new initiative to prevent another devastating and dangerous backlog in the court system.

“I heard through the grapevine that they didn’t have enough prosecutors to prosecute the 155 rape cases they had developed. That’s a huge amount to dump on an already overloaded DA’s office,” said Randi McGinn, the Senior Partner at McGinn, Montoya, Love and Curry.

Two years ago, the shelves at the Albuquerque Police Department’s crime lab were full of 5,000 untested rape kits dating back to the 1980s. Now, there are only 28 kits left to test. “They started getting hits and they got about 155 hits through CODIS which is the criminal database,” said McGinn.

The DA’s office only has four prosecutors set aside to try cases stemming from the testing of the rape kit backlog. McGinn, who began her career prosecuting violent crimes including rape, wanted to help.

“So, I thought about, who are the best trial lawyers I know,” said McGinn. She emailed the New Mexico Trial Lawyers Association, asking for volunteers to help prosecute the backlog pro bono.

“We got a huge response. Over 40 trial lawyers said I’d be glad to volunteer and help out,” said McGinn. About 45 civil lawyers spent a Saturday learning how to prosecute difficult criminal cases.

“Huge challenges. Some of the victims are dead, and, how heartbreaking is that? That this woman got raped and nobody was ever brought to justice in her case. I mean that’s horrible. She died without this person ever being prosecuted,” said McGinn.

McGinn’s firm took four cases. In one, McGinn says the rape suspect had been killed by a rival. She says they were both, allegedly, in the human trafficking business. “I guess there’s some poetic justice in that case. So some of the guys are dead, some of the women are dead,” said McGinn.

The DA’s office also expects there will be issues regarding the statute of limitations. First-degree rape doesn’t have a statute of limitations. However, second and third-degree rape cases, which are much more common, do.

While this work won’t be easy, McGinn believes working together to prosecute a growing number of cases is worthwhile work. “We’re serving notice on these predators this is not going to be tolerated in Albuquerque. If you rape somebody, we’re going to find you and put you away,” said McGinn.

Bernalillo County District Attorney Raul Torrez is expected to hold a press conference Wednesday morning, where more details of this initiative will be revealed.

KRQE Albuquerque, Posted: Mar 3, 2020 / Updated: Mar 4, 2020 / by: Brittany Bade


Thomas Kline: Tim Piazza Hazing Case Settlement to Change the Future of Fraternity Hazing

Posted on September 6, 2018

Thomas R. Kline


Thomas Kline: Anti-hazing law named after Penn State fraternity pledge goes into effect in Pennsylvania

Posted on April 23, 2018

  • By Susan Snyder and Liz Navratil The Philadelphia Inquirer. 
  •  Apr 18, 2018

The Pennsylvania Senate Wednesday unanimously approved harsher penalties for hazing that, if passed by the House and signed by Gov. Tom Wolf, would give the state one of the most comprehensive and toughest laws against the crime in the nation.

Known as the Timothy J Piazza  law,” the legislation was put forth by Senate Majority leader Jake Corman, a Centre County Republican, in response to the death of Pennsylvania State University student Tim Piazza, who died in 2017 following a booze-fueled fraternity party where hazing is alleged. Eight fraternity members initially were charged with felony aggravated assault and misdemeanor involuntary manslaughter in his death, but a Centre County judge dismissed those charges.

The new legislation would make hazing a third-degree felony in the case of serious bodily injury or death, punishable by up to seven years in prison. It also would pave the way for fraternity houses used in hazing to be seized.

No other state has such a forfeiture provision for hazing, according to Hank Nuwer, a hazing expert and professor at Franklin College, and few states call the crime a felony.

“In my opinion, it’s trying to overcome the loopholes that have seen the harshest charges in the death of Tim Piazza dropped,” Nuwer said of the legislation. “And I agree with that.”

Both Wolf and House leadership this week signaled they also are supportive.

“Honestly what happened up there is a travesty,” Steve Miskin, spokesman for House Majority Leader Dave Reed, a Republican from Indiana County, said of the Piazza legal case. “And if that legislation does come here, we absolutely will be taking a look at it. We want to make sure what happened up there does not happen anywhere else on any other campus in the Commonwealth.”

Reed controls the House calendar, and his support signals the bill is likely to get a vote.

Wolf issued a statement, praising the bill, shortly after it passed.

“We must give law enforcement the tools that they need to hold people accountable and we must ensure schools have proper safeguards to protect students and curb these practices,” the governor said. “I urge the House to swiftly pass this bill and get it to my desk for my signature.”

The attorney general’s office, which has taken over prosecution of the Piazza case, also expressed support.

“The Corman bill gives law enforcement the tools we need to hold students accountable when they engage in hazing that results in the death or serious bodily injury of a fellow classmate, as tragically happened in the death of Tim Piazza last year,” the office said in a statement.

Piazza, a sophomore engineering major from New Jersey, was pledging the Beta Theta Pi fraternity at Penn State. He drank copious amounts of alcohol during an alleged hazing ritual and later fell down the stairs. No one called for help for nearly 12 hours, and Piazza later died of head, lung and spleen injuries.

Eighteen members were charged in Piazza’s death, with offenses including hazing, reckless endangerment and furnishing alcohol to minors. Fourteen have been bound over for trial. More students were charged last fall and could face a preliminary hearing later this spring.

The case has drawn national attention and resulted in a crackdown on Greek life at Pennsylvania’s flagship university. Corman announced the hazing legislation during a break in a preliminary hearing in the Piazza case, held in Bellefonte in March.

On the Senate floor Wednesday, Corman said he introduced the bill because the state’s current hazing laws are “inflexible” and don’t give prosecutors the ability to tailor their cases to account for a variety of crimes, some of which are minor and others which could warrant felonies. He said he also hopes the new bill would encourage more people to seek help, noting that no one called for help immediately after Piazza fell.

“This would offer a safe harbor for someone to make that call,” he said.

He also thanked Piazza’s parents, Jim and Evelyn Piazza, for their input and support.

“They have channeled their pain and anguish … into a cause to make sure that other parents such as myself, or anyone else sending their child to college, will never have to go through what they had to go through,” Corman said.

The legislator noted that he was part of Greek life when he attended Temple University and while it “can do wondrous things…hazing, particularly this type of hazing, is something that we need to take a stand on.”

The legislation also has the support of the university. Eric Barron, president of Penn State, had attended Corman’s news conference announcing the legislation.

“From the beginning, we thought this was very important,” Barron said in an interview last week. “If it leads to severe outcomes … we need to have some kind of deterrent that is there that causes people to think twice. I wish that law had been in place for decades.”

Tom Kline, a lawyer who represents the Piazzas, said he hopes the bill serves as a model for other states. According to’s website, only about 10 states currently call hazing a felony in cases where serious injury or death occur.

“We believe that this will put every appropriate stakeholder at risk for bad behavior which causes bodily injury,” Kline said.

If the law had been in effect when Piazza died, prosecutors would not have had to charge involuntary manslaughter and aggravated assault, he said. The hazing itself would have been a serious felony. Under current Pennsylvania law, hazing is a summary offense, resulting in a fine.

Nuwer questioned whether the forfeiture piece of the law would hold up in court, noting a University of Virginia case from 1991 where drugs were seized from three fraternities but the houses were owned by alumni not involved in the crime.

The North American Interfraternity Conference issued a statement in support of the “spirit” of the law, but planned to “provide critical recommendations” to enhance it. Asked about those recommendations, the conference did not elaborate.

The law’s deterrent effect shouldn’t be discounted, Kline said.

“This is also designed for college administrators, who will be able to go to orientations,” he said, “and be able to say if you haze, there are serious penalties to be paid if something goes badly wrong.”


©2018 The Philadelphia Inquirer


Robert Michael: Nursing Home Makes Improvements to Resident Care in Response to Lawsuit

Posted on December 21, 2017

As a result of a recent lawsuit brought by Inner Circle member Robert Michael, the following improvements were made by the nursing home facility:   

  • All Hoyer buckets seats were replaced with new seats on the actual lifts to a different styled safer more secure seat.

In addition, the following changes were made in the facility’s staff, policies and procedures: 

  • Facility wide in-services on transferring a resident with the use of the Hoyer lift were done recently.  A representative of the manufacturer for the lift device conducted a demonstration on the proper use of the Hoyer lift which was attended by nursing, maintenance and rehabilitation staff.
  • All current licensed staff (Nurses, GNAs, CMAs and Rehab) will be tested for competency on the use of     the Hoyer lift.  Competencies will be repeated-twice yearly.  All   new nursing staff will be   tested on competency prior to using the lift on a resident. Policy has been revised to include   a licensed staff member (Nurse, PT or OT) to supervise when transferring a resident with a Hoyer lift in addition to two GNAs. One staff member is to have their hands on the resident at all times during the transfer.
  • Maintenance personnel are now checking the Hoyer lifts on a daily basis. The facility has an agreement with an outside company to conduct preventative maintenance on the Hoyer lifts twice yearly. 
  • The Director of Quality Assurance and or Assistant Director of Nursing (ADON) will randomly monitor Hoyer lift transfers to ensure they are being done properly.  A report will be presented to the QAPI committee monthly for a period of at least 12 months to ensure compliance with the new policies.




Charla Aldous: Hospital Psychiatric Ward Forced to Change Supervision and Patient Care Policies

Posted on December 21, 2017

Parkland to pay $700K to family of patient who died after being pinned down in psych ER

12/6/17 – Miles Moffeit, Investigative Reporter, Dallas News

Parkland Memorial Hospital will pay $695,000 to the family of a psychiatric patient who died in 2011 after mental health aides wrestled him to the floor in what regulators later called an illegal and dangerous maneuver.

The settlement ends a civil rights lawsuit brought by the estate of George Cornell six years ago against the public hospital that serves as a medical safety net in Dallas.

Parkland officials struck the deal in recent weeks after a Dallas judge rejected their request to withhold dozens of internal documents, including notes of the hospital’s investigation into Cornell’s death.

“This felt like a long battle, but we accomplished what we wanted: to bring attention to the dangers at the hospital,’’ said Jane Pena, Cornell’s mother. “I try not to dwell on how George died. I just hope that no one else has to go what he went through.’’

Cornell’s death was the flashpoint in a series of patient-care failures that threatened to shut down the hospital earlier this decade. The Dallas Morning News found that Parkland mismanaged patient care, including for the mentally ill, for years through breakdowns in supervision, prompting federal and state investigations.

Officials with the federal Medicare program installed safety monitors; top executives were swept out of office; and the hospital spent at least $60 million to improve supervision and care.

Parkland has maintained a clean compliance record under Medicare safety regulations for at least two years, records show. In a statement, the hospital said that its psychiatric emergency room also “meets all regulatory standards as set by The Joint Commission,’’ an organization that helps the government determine whether a hospital should receive federal funding.

In February 2011, Cornell, a 49-year-old Oak Cliff man who suffered from schizophrenia and heart ailments, ran to a fire station late one evening, winded and apparently complaining of chest pain. Cornell also said he feared he was being watched.

He was taken to Parkland’s psych ER. But Cornell was soon refusing treatment and struggled with staffers. He was pumped with a combination of powerful sedatives and anti-psychotics that experts later told The News posed cardiac risks. He was placed in solitary confinement, another dangerous practice.

Psych technicians twice restrained Cornell face down for as long as 25 minutes total before he stopped breathing, records showed. Texas health regulations generally prohibit that “prone’’ hold, which can restrict air flow; it isn’t supposed to be used for longer than a minute.

Federal officials said Cornell’s patient rights were violated. As a result, Parkland revamped its practices and hired new managers for the unit.

His family filed a federal suit in 2012, alleging “gross violations’’ of his civil rights; the defendants included Parkland, a dozen employees, and UT Southwestern Medical Center, the medical school that supervises medical care throughout the hospital.

Parkland resisted efforts by The News and Cornell’s family to release internal documents about Cornell’s treatment, citing laws designed to keep evaluations of clinical care confidential.

Parkland and the medical school asserted that the hospital and its employees were immune from liability and repeatedly tried to get the suit tossed. The medical school and the staffers eventually were dropped,  but a Dallas judge ruled the suit could proceed against Parkland.

Just days before it was scheduled to go to trial last month, a judge said Parkland couldn’t shield internal records any longer, and ordered them turned over to the Aldous Walker law firm representing the family. Settlement talks were soon under way.

[12klasdj-20adskj22lasjkd]195,Jane Pena looks at photos of her son, George Cornell, shortly after his death in Parkland Memorial Hospital's psychiatric ward. (Staff/2011 File Photo),

Josh Koskoff: Appeal Offers Hope for Newtown Families in Suit Against Gun Companies

Posted on November 13, 2017

The New York Times - By RICK ROJAS and KRISTIN HUSSEY NOV. 12, 2017

NEWTOWN, Conn. — In the years since his 6-year-old son, Benjamin, was fatally shot at Sandy Hook Elementary School, David Wheeler has testified before state legislatures, lobbied members of Congress and sat beside his wife, Francine, as she delivered a speech during one of President Obama’s weekly addresses, pleading for changes to the nation’s gun laws.

This week, the families of the victims plan to be in Hartford, listening as lawyers lay out in state Supreme Court their case that the companies that manufactured and sold the military-style assault rifle used by the gunman bear responsibility for the attack in which 26 people, including 20 children, were killed.

They are deploying a novel strategy that the families and their lawyers say could pierce the sweeping shield created by federal law that protects gun companies from litigation and has thwarted countless lawsuits after their weapons were used to commit crimes.

Supporters believe that if the court clears the way for a jury trial, the gun companies’ internal communications — which the companies have fought fiercely to keep private — would surface in discovery, a potentially revealing and damaging glimpse into the industry and how it operates. It could also chart a legal road map for the survivors and relatives of victims in other mass shootings as they pursue accountability.

“It doesn’t make any sense at all that these products are free of liability,” Mr. Wheeler said in a recent interview. “It’s not a level playing field. It’s not American capitalistic business practice as we know it. It’s just not right.”

The high stakes the case represents have drawn widespread interest and an intense response from both sides of the gun debate. The court has been inundated with amicus briefs — from gun control advocates and emergency doctors who have treated patients wounded by assault rifle fire as well as from many gun-rights groups. In its brief, the National Rifle Association argued that allowing the case to move forward threatened to “eviscerate” the gun companies’ legal protections.

The Supreme Court hearing, after years of back-and-forth in other courts, comes as the fifth anniversary of the Newtown massacre approaches next month, and falls in the shadow of recurring episodes of deadly mass violence that have reinvigorated the national debate over the sale of weapons like the AR-15 style Bushmaster rifle used in Newtown. A week ago, 26 people were fatally shot in a church in Sutherland Springs, Tex., and a month earlier, a gunman sprayed gunfire over a crowd attending an outdoor music festival in Las Vegas, killing 59 people.

Some argue that the recent massacres, serving as a reminder of the toll weapons like the one used in Newtown can have, could lend credence to the lawsuit’s claims. “It’s like the world has thrown up Exhibit A for the plaintiffs’ argument,” said Heidi Li Feldman, a Georgetown University law professor and tort law expert who has followed the case.

But those opposing the Newtown families argue that the lawsuit is specifically the kind of legal challenge the federal protections were designed to block and that the litigation is simply an effort to use the courts as a forum to regulate gun laws.

The lawsuit, brought by the families of nine people who were killed and one teacher who was shot and survived, faces significant legal hurdles. It was elevated to the Connecticut Supreme Court after a lower court judge dismissed the lawsuit last year after she found that the claims it raised fell “squarely within the broad immunity” provided by federal law.

Mass shootings across the country have been followed by a flurry of legal action, but lawsuits brought against gun companies have failed after running headfirst into the high bar established by federal law.

In 2005, Congress passed the Protection of Lawful Commerce in Arms Act, which sharply restricted lawsuits against gun sellers and makers by granting industrywide immunity from blame when one of their products is used in a crime. Lawmakers behind the measure cited a need to foil what they described as predatory and politically driven litigation. But the law does allow exceptions for sale and marketing practices that violate state or federal laws and instances of so-called negligent entrustment, in which a gun is carelessly given or sold to a person posing a high risk of misusing it.

Legal experts said negligent entrustment has been cited with some success in lawsuits against gun dealers, but the Newtown families are for the first time broadening the scope to include a weapon’s manufacturer, in this case, Remington, which, along with a wholesaler and a local retailer, are all named in the suit. The companies’ lawyers declined to comment.

On Dec. 14, 2012, Adam Lanza, a troubled 20-year-old, stormed into Sandy Hook Elementary School armed with an AR-15 style Bushmaster rifle, firing 154 rounds in less than five minutes. The weapon had been legally purchased by his mother, Nancy Lanza, whom he also killed.

The lawsuit argues that because the AR-15 was designed for the United States military as a battlefield weapon to maximize fatalities, gun companies should never have entrusted the rifle to an untrained civilian public. The suit also claims that the companies deliberately promoted the weapon with product placement in video games and macho militaristic marketing slogans that appealed to a population of mentally unstable young men — the same population that has used the gun to kill innocent people in theaters, malls, schools and churches.

The families’ lawyers argue that the drumbeat of violence has only solidified their position. “That’s what happens when you market to a high-risk population,” said Joshua D. Koskoff, one of the lawyers representing the families.

The case has already advanced beyond what many had initially expected. The lawsuit was originally filed in state court in 2014, then it was moved to federal court, where a judge ordered that the case be returned to the state level. The families saw a glimmer of hope, and were even surprised, after the State Superior Court judge, Barbara N. Bellis, allowed the case to move closer to trial before dismissing it.

Lawyers for the families argue that, in a strictly legal sense, the outcome of the case would set little precedent outside of Connecticut. But a successful appeal could have symbolic influence, pointing out a weakness in the law that could represent a serious threat to gun companies, and as a result it has prompted a flood of legal fillings. “All the key players are getting in there,” Professor Feldman said.

The state attorney general, gun violence prevention groups and a statewide association of school superintendents were among those writing in support of the families’ case, as well as a group of trauma surgeons and emergency room doctors who had treated patients after shootings in Newtown; San Bernardino, Calif.; and Aurora, Colo.

In one of the briefs backing the gun companies, the National Shooting Sports Foundation, which happens to be headquartered in Newtown, acknowledged that the case centered on “a tragedy of unimaginable proportions,” but it also argued that the lawsuit sought to achieve “regulation through litigation.” The National Rifle Association said the “plaintiffs cannot shoehorn their claims” into the federal law’s narrow definition of negligent entrustment.

Yet another group, Gun Owners of America, offered a much more forceful response. The group, deploying a mix of “Star Wars” and “Star Trek” references, challenged the way the lawsuit depicts the AR-15, saying, “the AR-15 rifle is not a Galactic Empire Death Star equipped with a Romulan Cloaking Device.”

“Plaintiffs’ brief illustrates the views of those who may never have even laid eyes on the weapons they vilify,” the group wrote, “much less squeezed off a few rounds at the range, like millions of peaceful, law-abiding Americans regularly do.”

In a case that has been drawn out over three years, the families involved are acutely aware of the consequences of what may be their last legal avenue. But Katie Mesner-Hage, a lawyer for the families, said they had taken a “long view,” realizing that they are “raising important, complicated issues — and important, complicated issues take time and there’s a longer trajectory to get to the end.”

Mr. Wheeler said that he has been frustrated by his lobbying efforts, testifying about his personal experience and pushing for reforms. But he and his wife never hesitated to join the lawsuit. “It wasn’t a difficult decision at all,” he said. “The landscape that is described in this suit is a grievous wrong.”

Mr. Koskoff added that, in many ways, his clients were more “battle-tested” than their lawyers.

“They have to face hostility and derision and threats sometimes, simply because they want to make something sensible out of the senselessness and the loss they feel,” Mr. Koskoff said. “And that’s a very cruel thing.”

[12klasdj-20adskj22lasjkd]524,David and Francine Wheeler, whose 6-year-old son Benjamin was killed in the Sandy Hook Elementary School massacre, are plaintiffs in a lawsuit against the manufacturer of the weapon used in the mass killing. Credit Jessica Hill/Associated Press,

Mark Mandell: Hospital changes policies and procedures that will save lives of children born there in the future.

Posted on July 18, 2017

Inner Circle member Mark Mandell  of Providence, Rhode Island, recently represented the family of a seven day-old boy who died due to unnecessary and preventable injuries which occurred at the time of his birth.  The settlement involved non-economic relief that will be provided by the defendant Hospital which will save lives and injuries to all children born there in the future:

1.  The hospital will conduct annual seminars for at least the next 20 years that address proper labor and delivery technique. All physicians, nurses and other hospital professionals treating women in labor will be required to attend.  Mr. Mandell's  clients will be allowed to attend and present the details of what happened to cause the death of their son and the lessons to be learned from his death.

2.  The hospital will change its website to inform the public that physicians may not be present in the hospital at all times during active labor, and that physicians are required to be able to arrive within 30 minutes of being called. This information is vital to inform the public that an obstetrician may not be present at the Hospital when their assistance is needed.

Mr. Mandell's clients will be given the opportunity to tell their story to the Hospital's Patient Quality Care committee of their Board of Directors.  An ongoing dialogue has been established between his clients and the hospital on quality care issues which will save lives and injury to all children born at the Hospital.

In addition, Mr. Mandell and his firm has drafted state legislation that was passed this year that limits the ability of all hospitals in Rhode Island to hide incident reports. 

[12klasdj-20adskj22lasjkd]486,--,6/7/22 Email received from one of the RN’s who attended the seminar,,Outline - Proposal for Annual Safety Training Program,

Thomas Demetrio: United Airlines settles with victim of dragging incident

Posted on April 29, 2017

April 27, 2017

By John Pletz  -

United took another big step toward putting the April 9 passenger-dragging nightmare behind it, settling with the passenger, Dr. David Dao, before a lawsuit was filed.

The airline settled with the Kentucky doctor, who suffered a concussion, broken nose and two lost teeth when he was dragged off a United plane April 9.

"Dao reached an amicable settlement with United Airlines for the injuries he received in his ordeal, which was captured on video worldwide," his attorneys, Thomas Demetrio of Corboy & Demetrio and Stephen Golan of Golan Christie Taglia, said in a statement.


The settlement also covers the city of Chicago, whose security officers at O'Hare International Airport were the ones who dragged Dao off the airplane, resulting in his injuries.

"We are not proceeding against the city," Demetrio said. "United Airlines accepted full responsibility for what occurred. The city is not going to be pursued by us. We'll be releasing the city. There's no need for Dr. Dao to look to anyone else. The city is the beneficiary of United stepping up to the plate."

Of course, there was some self-interest at work, too. Any settlement involving the city likely would have come from the Dept. of Aviation, which has a separate budget, most of which comes from the airlines. Based on its market share at O’Hare, United would have shouldered a big chunk of those costs.

Demetrio said, however, "I'm sure good, positive changes in policy and training will be made to make sure passengers coming in and out of our city's airports will be made to feel safe."

Terms of the settlement were not disclosed.

The case was settled remarkably fast—before a suit was filed—but such a pace is not unheard of.

"Somewhere between 5 and 10 percent of civil settlements we see are pre-suit," said John Kirkton, editor of Jury Verdict Report, a unit of Chicago-based Law Bulletin Publishing. "It's obviously a situation where there's strong liability and an incentive to settle."

In an interview, Demetrio added: "We don't see this in our world of civil litigation. It's a life lesson in how corporations should react when it's appropriate. Litigation is costly and time-consuming."


In their statement, the attorneys praised United CEO Oscar Munoz, who was vilified on social media for his initial response to the incident in which he blamed Dao for being belligerent. Munoz made another round of public apologies with national media outlets today after United released its own report on the incident and promised numerous changes in procedure.

"Mr. Munoz said he was going to do the right thing, and he has," Demetrio added. "In addition, United has taken full responsibility for what happened on Flight 3411, without attempting to blame others, including the city of Chicago. For this acceptance of corporate accountability, United is to be applauded."

United issued its own statement, saying: "We are pleased to report that United and Dr. Dao have reached an amicable resolution of the unfortunate incident that occurred aboard Flight 3411. We look forward to implementing the improvements we have announced, which will put our customers at the center of everything we do."

Munoz's mea culpa tour isn't over yet: He is set to appear next week before a U.S. House committee hearing.


Thomas Kline: Inquirer Editorial: Shouldn't be up to a plaintiff's lawyer whose client was shot to press for police reforms

Posted on January 16, 2017

Published: January 16, 2017 — 3:01 AM EST The Philadelphia Inquirer — Opinion


The city of Philadelphia paid a record $4.4 million to an unarmed man that police officers mistakenly shot in the face and leg.

As part of the settlement, the Police Department agreed to implement some common-sense reforms. But more than two years after the incident, questions remain about the shooting and handling of the investigation.

For starters, the department's Use of Force Review Board concluded the officers violated department policy, but they have never been punished. District Attorney Seth Williams took a pass on prosecuting the officers, which has left it to plaintiffs' attorney Thomas R. Kline to seek justice and push the Police Department to implement the reforms.

Something is wrong with this picture when a local attorney does more to look out for the safety of citizens and improve the quality of policing than the city's highest law enforcement official. Mayor Kenney's office called the shooting "an unfortunate, regrettable series of events." Talk about an understatement.

Philippe Holland, a community college student who was working nights as a delivery man for a pizza shop, had just delivered a cheeseburger to a house in West Philadelphia in April 2014 when he heard gunshots ring out. Sensing trouble as an unmarked car swerved down the street, Holland quickly slid into the passenger-side door of his Ford Taurus.

Two men approached Holland's car. As one shined a flashlight into his face, Holland saw the other had a gun.

Holland, then 20, panicked and tried to pull away. The two men - who were plainclothes police officers - began spraying bullets at Holland's car. Fourteen shots were fired in all. Two bullets hit Holland in the leg. Another bullet struck him in the face. The officers put Holland in handcuffs and patted him down for weapons. No weapons were found, but he was still taken to the hospital in handcuffs.

The officers said they yelled "Stop! Police!" several times. But Holland and a witness said they never heard the officers identify themselves.

The subsequent investigation was shoddy. A sergeant transported the two officers involved to the station together - rather than separately - which allowed them time to discuss the shooting before offering their individual versions of the event. Three eyewitnesses offered to give statements, but were told by a police officer to leave the scene.

As part of the settlement, the city rightly agreed to implement a new protocol that includes a training video for plainclothes officers.

Meanwhile, a bullet remains lodged in Holland's jaw, while fragments are in his brain. He suffers from seizures, which prevent him from driving a car. And the taxpayers are out $4.4 million. An innocent man was shot. But sadly it took a civil lawyer to bring about some accountability.


[12klasdj-20adskj22lasjkd]295,Philippe Holland,

Tom Rhodes: Sandra Bland Act signed into law to address mental health of prisoners

Posted on October 29, 2016

6:36 p.m Thursday, June 15, 2017  Texas News & Politics by Julie Chang American-Statesman Staff

Sandra Bland Act signed into law to address mental health of prisoners

Gov. Greg Abbott has signed into law the  Sandra Bland Act  which, among several provisions, requires more training for jailers on mental health issues of prisoners.

“It is time that we make progress in criminal justice reform that will keep both law enforcement and the public safe and prevent future tragedies like Sandra Bland’s,” said state Rep. Garnet Coleman, D-Houston, who authored the House version of the law. “The Sandra Bland Act will act as a building block to build upon in the future.

In 2015, Bland was found hanged in a Waller County Jail cell three days after a routine traffic stop escalated into a confrontation with a Department of Public Safety trooper and led to her arrest.

Under Senate Bill 1849, law enforcement will have to complete training in de-escalating confrontations with members of the public, “including techniques for limiting the use of force resulting in bodily injury.”

Jailers also must learn de-escalation tactics and complete eight hours of training on how to deal with mental health issues of prisoners.

County jails also will have to provide prisoners with access to mental health professionals, in person or through electronic means, and a medical professional would have to review “as soon as possible” any prescription medication that a prisoner was taking when placed in custody.

Under the bill, police would have to make a “good faith effort” to divert those arrested for nonviolent misdemeanors to needed mental health or substance abuse treatment.

All jail deaths will have to be investigated by an outside law enforcement agency instead of the agency in charge of the jail where the death occurred.



Sandra Bland's legacy of jail and law enforcement reform 

The suicide of Sandra Bland in a Waller County jail last July was an unmistakable and very likely a preventable tragedy.

But it’s not one that need have occurred in vain.

Bland’s family, friends and advocates have been relentless in working to ensure that is not the case.

The 28-year-old African-American woman was found hanged in her jail cell last July, three days after she was arrested during a routine traffic stop northwest of Houston.

While dashcam footage showed a contentious exchange between Bland and the arresting officer, the incident and Bland’s death revealed a series of law enforcement failures and jail conditions that made her suicide possible.

This week, the Waller County Court of Commissioners approved a $1.8 million settlement to resolve a wrongful death lawsuit filed by Bland’s family.

But the meaningful legacy of the suit is that it also includes an agreement by Waller County to initiate changes in jailing and law enforcement practices that could help prevent future tragedies, including a requirement that a nurse or emergency medical technician be at the county jail during all shifts.

For its part, the Texas Department of Public Safety (which was not a party to the suit) will pay $100,000 and according to Tom Rhodes, the Bland family attorney, also agreed to implement statewide de-escalation training for all current and incoming troopers.

Such training was a point of contention during a hearing before the Texas House Committee in County Affairs Tuesday, when DPS Director Steve McCraw testified that 76 hours of de-escalation training is already required for recruits.

Regardless, DPS would be well-served to review its training protocols and recruitment requirements.

The Legislature has a role to play, too, which will include legislation to be introduced next session that addresses how mental health issues are handled by the criminal justice system.

In the case of Bland, much-needed changes may result from tragedy.

Read more here:




Thomas Kline: Psychotherapist who assaulted patient is banned from practicing, legislature urged to adopt stricter regulations

Posted on July 9, 2015

Tom Kline put an unlicensed psychotherapist who had sexual contact with a teenage patient out of business for good. Under the terms of a settlement which also included as much as $3.8 million in monetary remuneration, the therapist agreed to never practice again anywhere in the United States. The psychotherapist also was required to read a public statement that he was ashamed of his actions. He also noted in his statement that Pennsylvania law allowed him to practice without a license and he urged the state legislature to adopt stricter regulations of therapists.


Shanin Specter: Broadcaster suspended and company fined after defamation against attorney

Posted on July 9, 2015

Tom Kline and Shanin Specter forced a public apology and 30-day suspension from a sports radio personality who defamed noted Philadelphia criminal defense attorney Richard Sprague. The suit followed allegations by Howard Eskin that Sprague attempted to interfere with a criminal case involving Philadelphia 76ers basketball star Allen Iverson and might have even paid off a witness to change his testimony in his prosecution. None of the accusations was true and all charges against Iverson were eventually dropped. In addition to his apology and suspension, Eskin’s employer, Infinity Broadcasting, also had to pay "substantial" compensation to Sprague.


Shanin Specter: Ill-equipped hospital halts procedures on pregnant women

Posted on July 9, 2015

Shanin Specter won important reforms at Graduate Hospital in Philadelphia in a case involving the death of a baby following a cervical cone biopsy performed on his mother despite the risk of necessitating an emergency delivery. The hospital was not equipped to handle such a delivery since it lacked an obstetrics department, adequate fetal monitoring devices and a neonatal unit. The result was that the baby suffered brain damage due to asphyxia and died seven months later. Specter won a large monetary settlement and also an agreement that the hospital would cease procedures on pregnant women.


Shanin Specter: Automaker agrees to equip all vehicles with rear seatbelts

Posted on July 9, 2015

Shanin Specter’s lawsuit against an automaker for not equipping all of its vehicles with rear passenger seat belts resulted in the company agreeing to never again sell a vehicle of any kind without belts for all seats. The genesis of the case was a trip to Africa by Specter, his wife, Tracey, and several friends. Driving over a mountain pass, one of three sport utility vehicles in their convoy went off the road and down a steep embankment. The vehicle rolled over several times and the wife of a dear Specter friend was ejected and killed. Specter sued the automaker for not equipping all of its vehicles with rear passenger seat belts, including SUVs shipped to Africa to be assembled from kits. Monetary terms of the eventual settlement and the automaker’s name were confidential.


Shanin Specter: CPSC acts against BB gun manufacturer, alerts consumers about deadly defect

Posted on July 9, 2015

As a result of action by Shanin Specter following a large settlement, the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission brought legal action to force a recall of 7.4 million defective Daisy BB rifles from store shelves and general circulation, based on evidence developed by Kline & Specter of defects in the BB guns.  At a news conference, CPSC Commissioner Ann Brown made a national appeal to get the defective high-powered air rifles out of the hands and houses of children. Many news outlets carried the story and warned parents about the guns, which could fire a BB when the user believed the gun to be empty. After a change in commissioners, the CPSC withdrew the lawsuit. In Specter’s case, a Pennsylvania teenager was shot in the head, suffered brain damaged and eventually died from his injuries.


Shanin Specter: University hires medical director, boosts CPR training

Posted on July 9, 2015

Shanin Specter obtained an agreement from the University of Pittsburgh to improve its emergency medical response after securing a settlement during trial involving student Erica Lynne Pratt, who suffered severe brain damage after experiencing cardiac arrest while in math class. Campus police were summoned to the scene, but instead of administering aid, the first officer who responded decided instead to wait. He also prevented two fellow students trained in CPR from trying to resuscitate the 19-year-old student. Pratt’s injury left her unable to walk and with difficulty speaking. In the aftermath of the litigation, the university pledged to hire a qualified medical director and begin quarterly refresher courses for campus police on CPR and the use of automatic external defibrillators along with twice yearly testing of their skills.


Thomas Kline: Hospital improves protocols, communication

Posted on July 9, 2015

 A Philadelphia-area Hospital, after paying a client a large confidential settlement, agreed to hold grand rounds to educate staff on how important it is to carefully review files and inform patients of the nature of their illnesses. The patient in this case was Lawrence Strange. His cancer progressed after he was never told about a nodule discovered on a lung. The reason was a case of gross miscommunication -- various doctors wrongly thought that one another had told the patient. Nineteen months went by before Strange was diagnosed with advanced lung cancer. He died six weeks later. On a day in May 2013, the hospital held a formal lecture with some 40 doctors in attendance in honor of Strange and stressed the importance of various hospital protocols, including proper communication among doctors and staff, documentation and follow-up of test results. The case was litigated by Tom Kline.


Shanin Specter: Philadelphia police change driving rules, improve training

Posted on July 9, 2015

After a man and his infant son were run down by an out-of-control police car, Shanin Specter held lengthy talks with the Philadelphia police commissioner and won a series of reforms designed the reduce the number of fatal accidents involving speeding police cars. Among new policies was a requirement that officers log 60 hours behind the wheel with a veteran before driving alone and a new rule that squad cars responding to emergencies must stop (rather than slow) at red lights and stop signs. Specter also obtained a $2.2 million settlement from the city for the victims’ estates.


Thomas Kline: Transit agency inspects, fixes escalators and revamps legal department

Posted on July 9, 2015

After Tom Kline secured a $51 million verdict in the case of a little boy whose foot was torn off in a subway station escalator, the Philadelphia mass transit agency approved a $30 million program to revamp its entire escalator system. Inspections were stepped up, preventive maintenance improved and the agency hired an outside firm to inspect all of its 38 escalators. The result was that 10 escalators were completely replaced and new safety features were added to others. The transit agency, which had been fined after trial by the presiding judge for concealing documents, also revamped its entire legal department and pledged to create an improved system to investigate accidents as well as to enhance its handling of legal claims.


Mark Davis: President Obama signs 'Talia's law' aimed at protecting children on military bases

Posted on June 17, 2015

Five Year Old Talia Williams was brutally abused for seven months by her father, an active-duty infantryman stationed in Hawaii. Army officials had been warned that Talia was being abused, but either downplayed the evidence or ignored it.  Talia slipped through that loophole in the Army's child abuse safety net and on July 16, 2005, was dealt a final, murderous, blow - which left the imprint of her father’s knuckles on her small chest.

After her death, Talia's mother worked with her civil litigation attorney, Inner Circle member Mark Davis  of   Honolulu, Hawaii, and a panel of experts to draft "Talia's Law" which will require military officials to immediately report any instance of child abuse to state child protective services.  (Currently military personnel who suspect child abuse are only required to report it to their supervisor.)  During his investigation into the facts of the case, Mr. Davis discovered that the Army had evidence of 29,000 cases of child abuse between 2003 and 2013, and knowledge of the deaths of 118 children of soldiers during that time period.  Mr. Davis became aware that unless this loophole in the federal system is changed by Congress, other children will be forced to suffer from the same lack of protection that failed Talia.  "Talia's Law" was designed to force all federal mandatory reporters  of  abuse to notify the state child protective service agencies.

"Talia's Law" was introduced as an amendment to the National Defense Authorization Act by Senator Mazie K. Hirono on July 16, 2015.  In the coming weeks, Senator Hirono plans to introduce a standalone version of Talia's Law.


12/13/13:  Congress passes Talia’s Law to protect children of military families:


12/27/16 Hawaii News Now - President Obama signs 'Talia's law,' aimed at protecting children on military bases -

[12klasdj-20adskj22lasjkd]232,Talia Williams,12/27/16 Hawaii News Now - President Obama signs 'Talia's law,' aimed at protecting children on military bases,

Lawrence Grassini: Rental Car Companies Pledge to Correct Recall Defects to their Vehicles Before Renting them to the Public

Posted on September 5, 2014

Inner Circle member Larry Grassini of Woodland Hills, California represented the parents of two beautiful daughters, Raechel (24) and Jackie (20), who had been killed in a head on collision with a tractor trailer after the car Raechel was driving lost control and went across the median on a freeway. The girls had rented the car from Enterprise Rent-A-Car and were returning home to Northern California after a visit with their parents. When they rented the car, a 2004 Chrysler PTCruiser, they were told that they were being given a free upgrade.

Larry Grassinis investigation proved that this PTCruiser was the subject of a safety recall from Chrysler because a power steering hose would rub against the engine and spray power steering fluid on the catalytic converter leading to underhood fires, which is exactly what happened to Raechel and Jackie and led to their deaths. Discovery further proved that Enterprise had received the recall notice one month before they rented the car to the girls and they did not have a standard policy regarding renting vehicles subject to recalls.

Raechel and Jackies parents did not file the wrongful death cases for their kids' deaths for the money. They filed it and persevered through some very tough years in order to try to bring Enterprise's actions to the attention of the public and perhaps force a change so that no other parent would have to get that terrible phone call. Although they were offered a substantial confidential settlement to remain quiet about the facts of the case, the parents remained steadfast in their desire to get this information out to the public and proceeded to trial. Their philosophy was that all the money in the world couldn't make up for the risk this could happen again to somebody else's children. The parents believed that if they remained true to their principles, that something good would come from these unnecessary deaths.

After deliberating two hours, the jury returned a $15 million verdict which has served to get the attention of all rental car companies across the nation. The public outrage that followed the trial caused the NHTSB to launch an investigation into how all rental companies handle recalls. The mother of the girls spearheaded an attempt to force the rental companies to standardize their procedures and the Raechel and Jacqueline Houck Safe Rental Car Act of 2012 (HR 6094) was introduced in Congresswith a simple premise: Require rental car companies to conduct recall repairs before they can rent or sell a car, and if the car is already in use when the recall notice is received, the company would be required to notify the consumer. Big business continues to fight the bill but a pledge was received from all the major rental companies that they will not rent a recalled vehicle until it is fixed. There has recently been some continuing coverage documenting the pledge and seeking more public support for this bill. (see belowJuly 29, 2014 USA Today article How safe is your rental car?) Even if the bill continues to flounder in Congress, the Houck trial (as opposed to a confidential settlement) has raised the publics awareness of this terrible hole in consumer safety and the pledge from the Rental Car Companies is far better than their former pledge to rent every car on the lot, whether recalled or not.

Update: In December, 2015, President Obama signed into law (effective June 1 2016) the Raechel and Jackie Houck Safe Rental Car Act of 2015, making it illegal for a rental car company to rent a vehicle that is subject to a safety recall.

[12klasdj-20adskj22lasjkd]266,Recalled Rented PT Cruiser,Raechel & Jackie Houck,July 29, 2014 USA TODAY article "How safe is your rental car?" by Bill McGee,

Scott Segal: Helicopter manufacturer corrects defects

Posted on December 4, 2013

After a helicopter crash involving fatalities, Inner Circle member Scott Segal of Charleston, West Virginia, insisted that the manufacturer of helicopter tail booms correct the design of all the tail booms of like configured helicopters.  This correction of the defects undoubtedly saved the lives of others, both in the air and on the ground.


Robert Michael: Teaching hospital changes policies regarding chemotherapy drugs

Posted on October 2, 2013

Inner Circle member Robert Michael, Rockville, Maryland, represented the family of a man who died as a result of a hospital resident's administration of the wrong chemotherapy agents during his treatment for cancer.  An impatient resident picked up the chemotherapy bag intended for intravenous administration and administered it into the spinal canal causing a fatal stroke.  At the conclusion of his case, Mr. Michael convinced the hospital to implement two new policies:  the nursing cabinet is to be locked with only the nursing supervisor having access to the key, and the pharmacy will not deliver chemotherapy medication to the hospital floor more than two hours before their intended use.  These policy changes will help to insure the safety of their future patients.  


Robert Michael: Hospital nursing policies changes regarding portable oxygen containers

Posted on October 2, 2013

Inner Circle member Robert Michael, Rockville, Maryland, represented the family of a female resident of a rehabilitation hospital who required oxygen.  While being transferred to physical rehabilitation, the nurse switched her to a portable oxygen tank without checking its oxygen gauge.  After her rehabilitation session, the woman was returned to her room and left in her wheelchair while the nurse went to find an assistant to help put her back into her bed.  While the nurse was away the woman's oxygen ran out and she died sitting in her wheelchair.  As a part of the resolution of the case, the hospital instituted a nursing policy change requiring the reading and recording of portable oxygen containers on any patient being transported within the hospital.  The hospital also agreed to set up a nursing program in the name of the deceased woman where each year a CME course for the floor nurses would be conducted covering patient safety issues, including the need to check portable oxygen tank level gauges.  


Theodore Babbitt: Manufacturer forced to notify all purchasers of their product of defect

Posted on October 2, 2013

Inner Circle member Ted Babbitt of West Palm Beach, Florida, represented a man who was paralyzed when the basket of the crane-like machine he was using fell to the ground.  The manufacturer of the machine was aware of the defect and notified only their direct suppliers regarding the simple fix to their product.  As a result of the lawsuit brought by Mr. Babbitt, the company sent notices "printed in red" to everyone who had purchased their equipment regarding the safety fix.  These notices undoubtedly called attention to the defect as well as the simple remedy, and saved many others users of their product from injury or death.  


Randi McGinn: NM convenience stores required to have two workers present or bullet-resistent enclosure for clerk

Posted on September 23, 2013

Inner Circle member Randi McGinn of Albuquerque, New Mexico, represented the family of a 26 year-old woman who was kidnapped from a convenience store in Hobbs, NM.  It was her 2nd night on the job where she was scheduled to work alone.  She was raped and stabbed 56 times before being dumped in a field.  At the conclusion of her case, Ms. McGinn organized the family to attend and lobby at hearings with state OSHA that eventually resulted in the most stringent rules for convenience stores in nation: either have two workers present at all times, or bullet-resistant enclosure for a single clerk.  There have been no deaths of convenience store clerks in New Mexico since these simple rules went into effect.  


Randi McGinn: SWAT team changes to avoid shooting suicidal citizens

Posted on September 23, 2013

Inner Circle member Randi McGinn, Albuquerque, New Mexico, represented the family of Larry Harper, a suicidal man who was shot and killed late one night in the mountains near Albuquerque by a SWAT Team.  The resolution of this case included: 

1)    Reorganizing the SWAT team and creating a Crisis Intervention Team, trained in mental illness and depression to respond to suicidal citizens;

2)    Tape recording all encounters with suicidal citizens;

3)    Fingerprinting all weapons found at the scene;

4)    Disciplining officers for violating SOPs;

5)    Informing families of a shooting death of a loved one and providing counseling to them (rather than the previous policy of just providing counseling to the police officer who shot the person)

[12klasdj-20adskj22lasjkd]315,Shooting victim Larry Harper,,

Richard Friedman: Generator installation manual corrected to warn of dangers of carbon monoxide poisoning

Posted on September 23, 2013

Inner Circle member Richard Friedman, Bremerton, Washington, represented the family of an 11 year-old boy who died from carbon monoxide poisoning when the generator exhaust on a houseboat wasn't properly vented.  As a part of the resolution of the suit, Mr. Friedman convinced the generator manufacturer to add more precise language in their generator installation/exhaust venting safety manual as well as to add the following quote from NIOSH: “Numerous studies have concluded that when properly designed and installed, the exhaust stack is a viable, low-cost, engineering control that can dramatically improve the safety of houseboat users.”  These changes are certain to add an additional layer of safety for consumers.

[12klasdj-20adskj22lasjkd]255,HELP PREVENT CARBON MONOXIDE DEATHS. Avoid side and rear exhaust for houseboat generators. In Memory of Joshua Murphy - Age 11 (4/25/98-8/20/09) "All organizations concerned with boating safety should immediately endorse the vertical stack, as evaluated in this study and by NIOSH, as the only technique which provides adequate protection against carbon monoxide poisonings associated with houseboat gasoline generator exhaust."- Milligan, M. and Tennant, J., "Carbon Monoxide Exposure from Houseboat Generators," SAE Technical Paper 2003-32-0012k2003. "NIOSH investigators recommend that all U.S. houseboats, using gasoline powered generators, should be retrofitted with an exhaust stack that extends well above the upper deck, in order to reduce the hazard of CO poisoning and death to individuals on or near the houseboat."- "An Evaluation of an engineering control to Prevent Carbon Monoxide Poisoning of Individuals on Houseboats," NIOSH Report EPHB 171-25a, March 2001.,

Shanin Specter: Pennsylvania public utility compelled to retrain linemen and replace defective power lines

Posted on September 23, 2013

Inner Circle member Shanin Specter of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, represented the family of a woman who was electrocuted by a falling power line in the yard of their home.  As a result of his lawsuit, regulators at the Pennsylvania Public Utility Commission Enforcement Bureau decreed that West Penn Power be compelled to retrain their linemen, inspect their power lines, and replace their defective power lines.  These improvements will undoubtedly contribute to the safety of the people of Pennsylvania.  


[12klasdj-20adskj22lasjkd]366,Carrie Goretzka died in UPMC Mercy Hospital in Pittsburgh of burn injuries three days after being shocked. She is shown here with husband Michael and children Chloe and Carlie at Disney World days before her electrocution - Tribune-Review photo,

Craig McClellan: Honda required to make safety changes to their ATVs

Posted on September 23, 2013

Inner Circle member Craig McClellan of San Diego, California, was instrumental in providing evidence to the United States Justice Department which enabled them to bring a civil lawsuit against Honda which resulted in a consent decree banning their dangerous three-wheel All Terrain Vehicles (ATVs).  As with other dangerous products, the defects of ATVs were hidden from the public through the manufacturer’s use of Protective Orders.  Mr. McClellan's evidence also assisted the San Diego Superior Court in adopting a local rule expressing its policy against secrecy:  

Rule 2.5.5 - Confidentiality Agreements, Protective Orders, Sealed Documents - It is the policy of the court that confidentiality agreements and protective orders are disfavored and should be recognized and approved by the court only when there is a genuine trade secret or privilege to be protected.  

The new local Rule raised nationwide debate, and was the subject of a segment on 20/20. This rule applies to all cases, including Medical Malpractice cases.  


Robert Michael: Hospital corrects nursing policy regarding pre-operative practices

Posted on September 23, 2013

Inner Circle member Robert Michael, Rockville, Maryland, represented a woman who was severely burned during tracheotomy surgery.  She had been prepped with an alcohol-based surgical sterilization solution and tented with surgical drapes.  When the electrical surgery instruments were turned on, the solution ignited causing a colorless flame that remained unnoticed until the surgery team noticed the smell of burning flesh.  The woman awoke from the anesthesia with 2nd and 3rd degree burns on her face, neck, and head.  As part of the case resolution, the hospital agreed to implement a new nursing policy requiring that the patient be checked for pooling of the surgical prep in skins folds and that the bedding be checked for any run-off accumulation prior to the onset of surgery.


Steve Yerrid: Armored car manufacturer corrected vehicle design

Posted on September 23, 2013

Inner Circle member Steve Yerrid of Tampa, Florida, represented a guard who suffered a severe back injury rendering him paraplegic due to design and manufacturing defects of an armored vehicle.  The vehicle had been equiped with a coin barricade that was intended to separate the coins from the guard and driver seated in the front of the armored vehicle.  But during a collision, the coins moved forward through the barrier and broke the back of the guard.  Resolution of the lawsut was achieved when the CEO of the armored vehicle company sent a meaningful letter of apology to Mr. Yerrid's client and shut down their production line in order to manufacture a state-of-the-art handicapped vehicle for him.  Further, the manufacturer agreed to an immediate change in the design and strength of their coin barricades to prevent this tragedy from happening to other guards who have the job of riding with the cargo in their armoured vehicles. 


Charla Aldous: Nurses required to attend classes on the recognition of adverse drug reactions in patients

Posted on September 23, 2013

Inner Circle member Charla Aldous, Dallas, Texas, represented the family of a little girl who had been born with Cerebral Palsy and, nonetheless, had been living an amazine life.  During a routine surgical procedure, she was given the drug propofol for conscious sedation even though the drug was not recommended for children.  She went into kidney failure which was undiagnosed and untreated, and died from rhabdomyolysis.  As a result of the lawsuit, Ms. Aldous forced Astra Zeneca to include rhabdomyolysis as a potential adverse effect of propofol on its package insert to alert health care providers of the need to monitor a patient's kidneys when they were prescribed the drug for an extended period of time.  Ms. Aldous also forced the hospital to commit to a program for their nurses and other hospital personnel requiring them to attend a one day seminar every six months on the ways to recognize adverse reactions to drugs.  In addition, the hospital CEO was required to visit the girl's parents at their home and discuss with them ways the hospital can keep tradgedies like their from happening to others.


Jason Itkin: Transport company institutes nationwide background checks on its drivers

Posted on September 23, 2013

Inner Circle member Jacon Itkin, Houston, Texas, represented a mentally challenged woman.  This young woman lived with her parents because she was unable to care for herself.  A local clothing store agreed to hire this young woman to do very basic tasks around the store.  This job provided a tremendous sense of self-worth for this young woman.  The young woman was transported to and from work by a taxicab service that “specialized” in transporting disabled individuals.  The service was funded by the local government and administered by a private nationwide transport service.  The private company did not run background checks or have other safety policies in place to ensure that its drivers were qualified to ensure the safety of their passengers.  When Mr. Itkin's client was picked up for work one day, the driver diverted from his route, took her to a local park, and raped her.  After the sexual assault, the driver then dropped Mr. Itkin’s client off at work and acted as if nothing had happened. 

After filing suit against the transport company, it was discovered that the driver had an earlier conviction for sexual assault.  If a background check had been performed, this tragedy would have been avoided.  As part of a settlement for his client, Mr. Itkin arranged for the transport company to institute nationwide background checks on its drivers. They also set up an advisory board that his client was invited to participate on to ensure that the company reviewed and improved its safety procedures.  These changes greatly reduced the chances of another driver taking advantage of another vulnerable person.


Randall Kinnard: Stroke signs and symptoms diagnosis policy corrected at large teaching hospital in Nashville

Posted on September 23, 2013

Inner Circle member Randy Kinnard of Nashville, Tennessee, represented a 32 year-old woman who was taken to the emergency room of a large teaching hospital suffering from slurred speech.  She had a prior history of conversion disorder and was given that label again, and again on a repeat visit.  On her third visit to the ER she was correctly diagnosed with a large ischemic stroke.  As a result of the medical malpractice suit brought by Mr. Kinnard the hospital changed its procedure so that any (sober) patient who now presents to their emergency room with new slurred speech symptoms MUST receive a neurological consultation, and on repeat visit the nursing staff MUST bring in a doctor to see the patient.  This change in procedure has undoubtedly helped protect other stroke sufferers who present to this hospital for treatment.


Scott Segal: West Virginia University Medical School now teaches residents how to diagnose and treat ectopic pregnancy

Posted on September 23, 2013

Inner Circle member Scott Segal, Charleston, West Virginia, represented the parents of a young woman who presented to the emergency room of her local hospital with classic signs of ectopic pregnancy.  An ultrasound was ordered, but the results could not rule out the ectopic pregnancy.  She was discharged with the suggestion that a repeat ultrasound be performed.  She presented back to the ER three more times and was discharged each time without the repeat ultrasound.  She was found dead at her home having bled to death from the ectopic pregnancy.  As a part of the resolution of this case, Mr. Segal convinced the Dean and the Chair of the Department of the Women's and Children's Division of the medical school to adopt this case as one which would be taught to every group of residents into the future in an attempt to ensure these mistakes are not repeated.


Scott Segal: School Board changed policy after sexual battery charges

Posted on September 23, 2013

Inner Circle member Scott Segal, Charleston, West Virginia, represented a teenager in a sexual battery case which resulted in much needed changes in their school board policies and procedures.  As a result of this case, the school board agreed to enter into a Federal Consent Decree revamping their policies and procedures to be in line with what Mr. Segal's expert witness recommended.  These updates and improvements are still in force and continue to protect the children of Kanawha County West Virginia. 


William Artz: Hospital agrees to develop training program regarding proper insertion of swan ganz catheters

Posted on September 23, 2013

Inner Circle member Bill Artz of Arlington, VA, represented the wife and children of a 68 year old man who died of a hemorrhage as a result of medical malpractice when hospital personnel misdirected a swan ganz catheter which perforated his pulmonary artery.  Rather than filing suit against the hospital, the family agreed with Mr. Artz' suggestion that they write a risk management protocol for the hospital and request a meeting with the physicians, administrator, hospital attorney, and risk management to discuss ways to prevent this malpractice from happening to others.  The protocol included taking an x-ray to verify the location of the catheter before inflating the balloon to measure pressures.  Nurses and residents had been permitted to manipulate the catheter, but with the effected changes in protocol, only credentialed physicians were authorized to manipulate the catheters.  The hospital named a training program for cardiology residents in the decedent's name and purchased a simulation device to be used in their newly instituted training program.  The hospital also invited the wife of the deceased to serve on their advisory committee on patient care.  Although no suit was filed, the hospital allocated $25,000 for their newly instituted training program to help ensure their mistakes would be corrected and the safety of their future patients would be secure.


Alexander (Zander) Blewett, III: Railroad forced to reroute road/railroad tracks

Posted on September 23, 2013

Inner Circle member Zander Blewett of Great Falls, Montana, represented the wife and daughter of a young man who was killed at a railroad crossing south of Hardin, Montana.  Instead of the road crossing the railroad tracks at 90 degrees, this crossing was at a 45 degree angle.  The deceased husband was delivering grain to an elevator and as he reached the crossing could not see the approaching train because of the crossing angle which obstructed his view.  As a result of this case, the Chief Operatiing Officer of Burlington Northern Santa Fe Railroad provided a written apology to Mr. Blewett's clients, tore up the existing crossing, and reconstructed it at a 90 degree angle.  Since then, no one has been struck by a train at that grain elevator railroad crossing.


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