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Case Notes: December 2016

On Behalf of | Dec 15, 2016 | Case Notes



Michael Jordan, et a; v. Dominick’s Finer Foods LLC, Safeway Inc.;
USDC Northern Dist. IL Case No. 2010 cv 00407

In 2009, Sports Illustrated published a commemorative issue extolling the career of Michael Jordan and also containing a grocery store ad that congratulated Jordan on his recent Hall of Fame induction and set out a food coupon printed below Jordan’s name and uniform number.  Problematically, Jordan has long held a trademark for his name’s use in regarding promotion of goods or services, and he never agreed to the use of his name in that ad.

In August 2016, Jordan’s claim for violation of the Illinois Right of Publicity Act (“IRPA”) proceeded with a damages-only trial.  Plaintiff’s expert testified the fair market value of the ad was $10 million given Jordan’s prior endorsement deals.  Defendant’s expert opined the fair market value was, at most, $126,900.  The jury for this matter, venued in Chicago, agreed with Jordan, and returned a verdict of $,8.9 Million.


Estate of Rufino H. Sanchez, deceased v. William Ingram, et al.;
Cook County Case No. 13 L 5241

An SUV being driven by the 65-year-old male Plaintiff was stopped in traffic on the highway when the 38-year-old Defendant driving a semi hit him from behind.  The SUV was thrust into the car in front of it and then into the air for over 90 feet before landing against a retaining wall. The Plaintiff died at the scene.

The truck driver, with an Indiana commercial drivers license (“CDL”), was using his mobile phone at the time, and was reportedly looking down just before the accident.  Also, the Defendant had prescriptions for medications that can cause drowsiness and dizziness – information he withheld when he was issued his CDL. Testimony showed he would not have been issued a CDL had the information been known. The driver’s employer allegedly knew he was taking the medications but still allowed him to operate the truck.

The estate sought $1,000,000 in lost lifetime wages. It also sought $7,000,000 for conscious pain and suffering, based on the Plaintiff allegedly surviving for five minutes, with extreme injuries, before dying, and as part of survivor actions brought by the unmarried Plaintiff’s girlfriend and four adult children.  All settlement offers were reportedly withdrawn before trial.

Prior to trial, the defense admitted liability and proximate causation of Plaintiff’s death.  Thus, the judge, over Plaintiffs’ objections, barred all evidence regarding the crash, and ordered trial to proceed on the damages issue only.  With all evidence regarding medication and licensing issues barred, the defense focused on arguing that the decedent was killed on impact; that his life expectancy was limited due to renal disease and diabetes; that he had no economic losses because of his limited income and age; and that his four adult children had abandoned him long ago and were thus not entitled to any damages.

The four adult children, living in abroad and across the, insisted they were actually very close with the decedent.  But the jury was apparently not convinced, awarding $1,000,000 for wrongful death and nothing on the survival actions.


Darlene Ziebel v. KR Schaumburg LLC, et al.;
Cook County Case No. 13 L 3674

Shortly before Christmas in 2011, the 62-year old female Plaintiff was in front of store at a large shopping center complex.  One of her high heels allegedly got caught in a contraction joint in the sidewalk, causing her to fall and break her leg, requiring surgery.  Plaintiff claimed that the joint was too wide and constituted a code violation, that the joints should have been filled in, and that patrons should have been warned about such allegedly large joints.  Plaintiff sought $100,000 in medical expenses and $85,000 in lost wages.

The Defendant shopping center owner contended there was no code violation, and that no fill-in or repairs were needed. It also argued the evidence and witnesses showed the Plaintiff’s heel was never caught in the joint.

Settlement offers were withdrawn before the trial at which Plaintiff sought $789,000.  The verdict returned was for $80,000 in medical costs only, with that then reduced by 50%.


Steven Allegretti, et al. v. Matt Dworakowski, et al.;
Cook County Case No. 14 L 5836 consolidated with Case No. 14 L 62026

A dog-owner Plaintiff brought his dog to the co-plaintiff’s house.  While in the backyard adjoining the Defendants’ backyard, separated by a wooden fence, the Defendants’ pit bull allegedly stuck his head under the fence and clamped his teeth onto Plaintiff’s dog’s paw.  This allegedly caused Plaintiff’s dog to go berserk bite both Plaintiffs as they tried to extricate their dog.  Plaintiffs both sustained severe bite wounds, with one Plaintiff’s injuries requiring surgery. Total medical bills were approximately $125,000 and alleged lost wages totaled $7,000.

Although the bites were from their own dog, the Plaintiffs sued the Defendants in negligence and under the Animal Control Act, based on the allegedly precipitating actions of Defendants’ dog.

The Defendants claimed it was actually the Plaintiff’s dog who stuck its paw under the fence onto their property, while growling at another of their dogs.  This, they claimed, the led their other dog to run over and bite the paw that Plaintiff’s dog had on their property.

At trial, the jury apparently believed the defense, finding that Plaintiff’s dog provoked the Defendants’ dog, and returning a not guilty verdict.


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