Category Archives: Wrongful Death

Illinois Supreme Court Declines to Hear Case of Blogging Juror

As the world continues to move into the blagoshpere, attorneys continue to face unique issues.  One involved the case of the blogging juror.  In 2009, a Cook County jury returned a $4.75 million verdict in a wrongful death involving a Metra train which struck and killed Scott Eskew.  His widow sued the common carrier and BNSF Railway Co. alleging negligence.  Post-trial, the Defendants contended that a juror committed misconduct by blogging about the case during the trial.  The Defendants asked the trial judge to conduct an investigation, but the court declined the request.  The Defendants then appealed, but in October, 2011, the reviewing court upheld the verdict.  The appellate court held that nothing in the juror's blog demonstrated that the jury was influenced by outside influences.  The Defendants then filed a Petition for Leave to Appeal with the Illinois Supreme Court, but the high court refused to take the case.  Jurors are now instructed not to write about their jury service on the Internet as long as they are involved in the case.

Cook County Jury Returns $10 Million Verdict for Murdered Woman’s Family

In late March, a jury in the Circuit Court of Cook County returned a $10 million verdict in favor of the family of Melissa Dorner.  Roberto Ramirez murdered Dorner on January 23, 2005 in her apartment on North Winthrop in Chicago.  Ramirez lived there also.  Ramirez was charged with Dorner's murder, but he fled to Mexico.  He was later extradited to the United States.  In 2007, Dorner's mother filed a wrongful death lawsuit against the apartment building's management company and its owner, claiming that they were negligent in failing to screen tenants.  The jury found Ramirez 90% at fault and the management company 10% at fault.  Ramirez is likely judgment proof, meaning that Dorner's family will only be able to recover $1 million.  The evidence at trial showed that another female tenant complained about Ramirez two months before the murder - Ramirez chased her up the stairs.  The management company intends to file post-trial motions with the court seeking to set aside the verdict.  Those motions, however, are rarely granted.  Negligence cases involving third party criminal attacks are usually difficult to win.

Family of Truck Driver Awarded One Million Dollars Against City of Chicago

On Tuesday, April 10, 2012, a federal jury in Chicago awarded the family of a deceased truck driver $1 million in a wrongful death lawsuit.  In April, 2008, Donald Wells careened off of the Dan Ryan Expressway and crashed into a crowded escalator at a CTA station in Chinatown.  The accident killed two people and injured 21 others.  Wells was taken to Stroger Hospital and then the police station. Attorneys and family members claimed that Wells appeared disoriented and acted abnormally.  Wells died in custody.  His attorneys claimed that he suffered organ damage and other fatal complications because he was not properly treated.  The estate's lawyers maintained that the jail keepers were negligent in detaining him for too long.  Litigating this case presented significant hurdles to the estate's lawyers in light of Well's earlier actions.

Settlement reached in railroad crossing death

On,  April 16, 2010, Katie Ann Lunn was driving over railroad tracks in University Park when she was struck and killed by an Amtrak train.  Her father filed a wrongful death lawsuit against Illinois Central Railroad Co. and Wisconsin Central Ltd.  The estate alleged that the company failed to maintain warning signals for the oncoming trains.  A $6 million settlement was reached between the parties one day after trial commenced in the Circuit Court of Cook County.  An independent investigation by the Federal Railroad Administration revealed that certain warning lights and bells had been deactivated.  Lunn, age 26, was a dance instructor.

Wrongful Death Lawsuit Filed Against High Rise

The mother of a woman who was killed in a fire filed a wrongful death lawsuit against the companies that manage the building.  Shantel McCoy died on January 9 during a fire.  Ms. McCoy died when she arrived on the 12th floor by elevator.  According to the lawsuit, the Plaintiff claims that building lacked a sprinkler system.  The mother further claimed that the companies failed to warn her daughter of the fire, and allowed her to use the elevators when the companies knew it was not safe to do so.  Eugene K. Hollander handled a similar negligence matter.  In that case, the issue was whether there were operable smoke detectors to alert the residents of a fire.  My office retained an expert concerning how much time the smoke detectors would have afforded the residents of impending danger.  The evidence showed that the safety devices would have allowed the residents plenty of time to exit the burning building.  The case settled for a substantial sum before trial.

City of Chicago Approves $4 Million in Police Misconduct Cases

The City of Chicago approved payment of $4 million to settle several civil rights and wrongful death cases.  One case involved the Estate of Patricia Cobige.  Cobige was charged with heroin possession in 2006.  She was locked up at the Grand Central District police station.  Cobige requested that the police provide her with her medication for a heart condition, and the police allegedly refused.  Cobige was taken back to the lock-up, instead of being taken to a hospital.  She died in police custody.  A jury awarded her family $5 million.  The County approved a payment of $2.02 million to the family.  The County also approved a $1 million settlement to the family of Rafe McMullan, Jr.  McMullan was arrested for the offense of criminal trespass to property in November, 2008, only to be found dead in his cell at the Chicago Police Department's central detention unit.  If the case proceeded to trial, the Plaintiff's evidence would have been that several inmates would have testified that McMullan had been screaming in pain for some time.  Two other cases approved for settlement, included a claim that a quadriplegic was beaten up by police, and that an Iraqi war veteran was wrongfully imprisoned for two months for an armed robbery that he did not commit.

State Appeals Court Refuses to Overturn Verdict On Basis of Blogging Juror

The Illinois Appellate Court refused to overturn a $4.75 million verdict against defendants Metra and BNSF Railway Co. in a 2009 trial involving a wrongful death claim.  The victim was struck and killed by a Metra train at a Metra stop in Berwyn.  During the trial, one of the jurors blogged about her jury experience online.  The defense contended that the juror discussed the matter with her spouse and had already made up her mind before the jury returned a verdict.  The appeals court rejected the argument, ruling that the defendants needed to show specific prejudice, which they failed to do.

Family Sues in Death of Firefighter

The children of a Chicago firefighter filed a wrongful death lawsuit accusing the owners of an abandoned building for negligence when the roof collapsed during a firefight.  The incident happened on December 22, 2010.  Edward Stringer responded to the fire at the site of the former Sing Way Cleaners.  Notably, the owner of the building had received numerous building code citations since 1987.

Illinois Supreme Court Overturns $43 Million Judgment in Wrongful Death Case

On November 22, 2011, the state high court reversed a $43 million jury verdict which was returned in Madison County, Illinois.  in 2003, John and Dora Jablonski weere driving a 1993 Lincoln Town car when they came to a stop on Interstate 270 in a construction zone in Madison County.  They were rear ended by another driver, and the Jablonski's vehicle burst into flames.  John Jablonski died, and his wife suffered burns on one third of her body.  Dora Jablonski and the Estate of John Jablonski filed a product liability suit against Ford Motor Company, arguing that the manufacturer was negligent in the positioning of the gas tank.  A jury awared $5 million to the estate, $23.1 million to Dora Jablonski and $15 million in punitive damages.  The high court reversed, reasoning that the plaintiffs did not provide sufficient evidence for the jury to conclude that Ford was negligent.

Family Sues Over Asthmatic Boy Being Transferred to 3 Hospitals

The Pointer family was looking for answers over the death of their asthmatic son, who died after being transferred to three different hospitals in an 11 hour period.  On the morning of September 13, 2010, seven year old Aaron Pointer suffered from an asthmatic attack.  In a tragic set of circumstances, the boy was shuttled to three facilities because the first two could allegedly not meet his needs.  By the time that Aaron was taken to St. Joseph Medical Center in Joliet, his brain was "starved for oxygen."  The boy later died.  The family filed suit alleging that the three hospitals and various doctors were negligent in the care of their son.

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