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Case Notes: May 2017

CASE NOTES

Summaries of recent legal matters in and around Chicago

PLAINTIFF FALLS FLAT AT TRIAL

Michael Gassman v. Nano's Pizza Inc.

Cook County Case No. 15 L 1414

The 61-year-old male Plaintiff allegedly slipped and fell, landing on his elbow, as he entered Defendant's restaurant. He suffered ulnar neuritis and cubital tunnel syndrome, leading to surgery with a relatively large scar. He had $35,346 in medical expenses.

Plaintiff claimed a floor mat slipped, causing him to fall. His expert witness testified that Defendant had violated local Safety and Fire Code sections in failing to provide safe ingress to the restaurant.

Defendant denied Plaintiff's claims in total. It contended that the accident did not happen on the date alleged because Plaintiff did not report his fall on that date, and the injury date that Plaintiff reported to his doctors was for a date in the following month. Further, an initial demand letter from Plaintiff's counsel, set forth a different alleged accident date (ascribed to a scriveners error) that was also in the following month, but which was an impossible date because the restaurant was closed. Defendant further noted the lack of any citation for any alleged code violations. Defendant also contested the damage claims, arguing that Plaintiff's cubital tunnel syndrome was a pre-existing condition.

Plaintiff's settlement demand was for the full amount of his alleged $106,000 in damages. Defendant offered nothing. This proved to be a successful strategy for the defense who obtained a complete not-guilty verdict.

FURIOUS LITIGANTS GET NOWHERE FAST

Danny Dankha, et al. v. Joseph Reis

Cook County Case No. 16 L 2091

Undisputed were the facts that: the car being driven by a 27-year-old male Plaintiff, with a 24-year-old male Plaintiff as a passenger, was hit from behind by the car being driven by Defendant; and both Plaintiffs were taken by ambulance to the hospital. All else was disputed.

Plaintiffs claimed that Defendant was weaving in and out of traffic before rear-ending Plaintiffs' car and then trying to flee the scene. Plaintiff driver allegedly got out of his car to try to stop Defendant from leaving, which reportedly led to Defendant angrily exiting his car and shoving Plaintiff.

Plaintiff driver claimed resulting soft tissue neck/back injuries and right thigh pain, requiring an MRI and 35 chiropractic visits, resulting in $44,844 in medical costs. Plaintiff passenger allegedly his head and lost consciousness for a couple minutes and claimed soft tissue neck/back and shoulder injuries, bulging C4-5 and lumbar discs, and mild left shoulder bursitis, requiring x-rays MRIs and 26 chiropractic treatments, resulting in $48,451 in medical costs.

The 38-year-old Defendant contended that, at an intersection a few blocks before the accident scene, he was stopped at a red light. Reportedly, when he tried to back up to allow another car to make a turn, Plaintiff driver behind him began honking and ended up pulling alongside his car, yelling at him and swerving repeatedly at his car. Then Plaintiff allegedly pulled in front and slammed on the brakes, causing the collision. Both Plaintiffs then allegedly jumped out of their car and came at Defendant's vehicle, yelling and cursing at him. Two Jehovah's Witnesses going door-to-door, testified in support of Defendant's version of events immediately before and after the accident. Defendant denied any liability, asserting that Plaintiff driver was completely at fault, and further denied either Plaintiff was injured in the crash.

Plaintiffs' total settlement demand was for $50,000 and they sought $100,000 at trial. Defendant offered nothing in settlement and obtained full defense verdicts at trial.

BUTCHER LOSES AN ARM TO UNGUARDED MEAT GRINDER AND NARROWLY RECOVERS AT TRIAL

Sergio Nogales v. Manau Cutlery Inc., et al

Cook County Case No. 13 L 8371

The 27-year-old male Plaintiff was working as a butcher when his right hand and arm were pulled into a meat grinding machine, leading to amputation of the arm above the elbow.

Plaintiff sued Defendants who were allegedly responsible for service and maintenance work on the machine. He claimed Defendants' failures to install a protective guard on the machine, and to warn the store where Plaintiff worked that such a guard was needed, caused Plaintiff's injury.

The defense admitted repairing the machine 20 years ago but denied having anything to do with it since that time. They claimed they had only provided other knife and blade sharpening services over the past 20 years, which required no contact with the machine at issue. The Defendants further argued that they had no obligation to install a guard on the machine unless asked by the owner which did not happen. They further argued that Plaintiff's negligence caused his injury.

The parties reportedly entered into a $350,000 - $950,000 high/low agreement. This proved to be a wise move by Plaintiff, given that the jury returned a full defense verdict.

CLUB OWNER ALL WET IN TRIAL AGAINST FIRE SPRINKLER INSTALLER

Society Insurance Co. as subrogee of

West Loop Management 1 LLC

v. Systems Piping Inc.

Cook County Case No. 14 L 6649

Plaintiff operates a nightclub at which Defendant retrofitted a fire suppression sprinkler system, during remodeling. A month after Defendant's work, a sprinkler head malfunctioned and discharged, causing property damage of $38,736.

Plaintiff claimed Defendant had damaged the sprinkler head during the retrofitting, allegedly leading to the subsequent sprinkler malfunction and damages.

Defendant denied causing the sprinkler malfunction, and argued that Plaintiff could not exclude other possible causes for the sprinkler malfunction such as manufacturing defect or faulty work or damage done by other workers.

Plaintiff's settlement demand was for $15,000. Defendant offered $5,000. The case went to trial, where Defendant received a full not guilty verdict.

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