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Case Notes: January 2017

CASE NOTES

Summaries of recent legal matters in and around Chicago

ESTATE OF ELDERLY PEDESTRIAN HIT BY SUCCESSIVE VEHICLES RECOVERS AGAINST SECOND DRIVER

Estate of Carmello Anzalone v. T.H. Ryan Cartage Co., et al.

Cook County Case No. 14 L 4425

An 89-year-old man was hit, by a left-turning van driven by Defendant Hill, in an intersection crosswalk. The man landed in the street, outside the crosswalk. About 10 seconds later, a truck driven by Defendant Delavergne approached. Not realizing it was a man in the street, and unable to move over, due traffic in the next lane, Delavergne could not totally avoid the man whose jacket caught on part of the trailer. He was dragged for almost two miles and was dead at the scene.

The estate sued both drivers. The first driver, with settled for policy limits of $20,000 before trial. The second driver argued he acted appropriately because he did not know what was in the roadway and had neither the time nor space to totally avoid it. He also argued contributory negligence by the deceased for crossing against the traffic signal. The defense expert opined that the man died on impact with the first vehicle. Plaintiff's expert opined that he was still alive and conscious when he was hit and dragged.

Plaintiff demanded $2 Million in settlement, and sought $9 Million at trial. The Defendant offered $400,000. The jury returned a verdict of $900,000, with $225,000 then deducted for 25% contributory negligence.

JURY CLOSES DOOR ON LARGE VERDICT SOUGHT BY CYCLIST IN COLLISION WITH CAR DOOR.

Gabriel Pablo v. City of Chicago,

Cook County Case No. 14 L 7274

As Chicago works to increase space on the City's roadways for bicycles, collisions of vehicles and bike collisions continue. When litigation follows, results continue to range from very high to zero recovery, with some moderate outcomes in between. The City recently received one of the latter.

The 38-year old Plaintiff was bicycling in a designated bike lane bicycle when a working City of Chicago employee opened his parked vehicle's door, and a collision with the bike ensued. Plaintiff suffered various injuries to the back, neck and shoulders, with the most significant leading to surgery to repair left labrum and rotator cuff tears, and $112,000 in medical costs. Plaintiff thereafter still complained of ongoing pain and limitations in his shoulder and back.

Although the driver was cited and pleaded guilty to failure to yield, the City argued that Plaintiff had caused the collision because the car door was already fully ajar before the he hit it and that he was not paying attention when he rode his bike into the open door. The City also disputed the alleged injuries and medical expenses.

At trial, the Plaintiff sought in excess of $500,000, having rejected the City's last settlement offer of $100,000. A verdict was returned for $65,000 awarding only $30,000 for medical expenses and $30,000 for pain and suffering. $5000 was allotted to loss of normal life but nothing was awarded for Plaintiff's alleged disfigurement.

LARGE PUNITIVE DAMAGE AWARD IN INSURANCE COVERAGE CASE

Alizabeth Hana, et al v. ISMIE Mutual

Insurance Company,

Cook County Case No. 15 L 5975

Plaintiffs child was born with severe brain damage. They filed a medical malpractice lawsuit against parties including the doctors and the medical center. Before trial, Plaintiffs tendered a policy-limits demand to these Defendants' insurance carrier, who refused to partake in settlement negotiations, despite Defendants' demands that the case settle within policy limits. Certain defendants settled before trial for $1,500,000. The case went to trial as to the remaining Defendants, with a verdict returned against them that was $1,350,000 in excess of the policy limits, after all set-offs.

Plaintiffs subsequently received an assignment of claim from the doctors and filed a bad faith coverage action against the carrier for the verdict amount in excess of the policy limits. Plaintiffs contended, inter alia, that the carrier: had misrepresented the amount of coverage; had misrepresented to Defendants that the case was winnable despite analysis by the carrier's analysts to the contrary; had appealed the trial verdict even though the odds of success were very low and Defendants were liable for post-judgment interest, of more than $300 per day, on the $6,300,000 verdict while the appeal was pending; and had refused to settle the bad faith claim for the excess verdict amount of $1.35 million. The carrier denied every allegation and took the Plaintiffs' bad faith insurance coverage case to trial.

Before trial, the Plaintiffs' settlement demand was $3,500,000, and the carrier offered $1,000,000, after five years of litigation. The jury awarded the Plaintiffs the full $1,350,000 sought for compensatory damages, and $13,000,000 in punitive damages. The Court also granted Plaintiff's request for attorneys fees.

DISGRACED FORMER BANK PRESIDENT FOUND LIABLE IN SUIT FOR HIS GUARANTY OF BANK'S DEFAULTED LOAN OBLIGATION

Arun Patel, et al. v. Amrish K. Mahajan,

Cook County Case No. 14 L 6924

Problems continue for disgraced Chicago banking and political finance figure Amrish Mahajan.

In 2009, Mutual Bank of Harvey, of which

Mahajan was then president, failed with losses of more than $915 Million at the time of its takeover by the FDIC. Prior to that time, Mahajan was a well-known name in Illinois real estate lending and finance and political fundraising for individuals including former Governor Rod Blagojevich. Since then, Mahajan has been the target of various actions and lawsuits around the country, with headline grabbing revelations including the Bank reportedly spending $250,000 on the wedding of a family member, spending $300,000 on a board meeting in Monte Carlo and paying more than $10 Million in dividends to the owners' family members while the Bank was in financial straits. Proceedings have resulted, among other things, in an FDIC order barring Mahajan from any future participation in the banking industry.

This most recent result for Mahajan stems from transactions that started as his time at the Bank was nearing an end. With the Bank facing FDIC scrutiny for allegedly being insufficiently capitalized, Plaintiffs loaned the Bank $2 million and Mahajan personally guaranteed repayment. The Bank was unable to pay when, months later, it was closed and dissolved by the FDIC.

Mahajan insisted that Plaintiffs had waived their claim to repayment when they allegedly entered into an agreement with Mahajan by which he would help them seek recovery of their money from alternative sources. Plaintiffs denied the existence of any such agreement and that they waived anything. The Court apparently agreed, delivering a verdict for $3,310,959.

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