Tis the Season for Slip and Falls

With the holiday season upon us, and the weather changing, people are more likely to slip and fall on ice and snow and injure themselves.  Many people assume that if you slip and fall on someone's property that the homeowner is automatically liable.  That is not the case; rather, a property owner is only liable for injuries on snow and ice if there is an unnatural accumulation, or if the homeowner was negligent in removing the snow.  Thus, for example, a business owner can be held liable if there is runoff from a downspout which pools somewhere on the land.  Alternatively, the property owner can be held accountable if it removed the snow haphazardly.  First, and foremost, please take care this holiday season.  If, however, you fall and injure yourself on another's property, be sure to take pictures of the condition immediately which caused your injury.

Rape Claim Yields 1,283 Allegations of Sexual Assault Against Match.Com

In a personal injury lawsuit pending in the Circuit Court of Cook County, a woman claims that she was raped by a man she met through the popular website ,  In the discovery phase of the case, the woman sought information concerning other sexual assaults reported to the website.  The plaintiff's attorney sought ten years of records.  Match, however, produced two years of records, or 1,283 allegations of sexual assault.  The website claims that prior to that two year period, it did not separately track the incidents.  The discovery request arises out of a claim that in 2009, the woman was sexually assaulted by Ryan Logan, who met her through the website.  The lawsuit was filed in 2011.  The issue has not yet been fully resolved by the Court.

Appellate Court Holds Contract Bars Claim for Paralyzed Gym Member

In a recent opinion, the Illinois Appellate Court has held that a man who was paralyzed while using exercise equipment at a health club is barred from suing the club because of the language in his contract with that entity.  In 2009, the Plaintiff was severely injured while suing a weight assisted dip and chin-up machine at L.A. Fitness.  His injuries led him to became a quadriplegic.  The Plaintiff joined the club five months before, but language in his contract exempted the club "from all liability" to members.  The Circuit Court of Cook County dismissed his negligence suit.  The Plaintiff appealed, contending that the language was confusing and inconsistent with Minnesota law, where he resided when he joined the club.  The appellate court rejected his argument, reasoning that the club had no duty to explain the contract to him before he signed it.  Results like this, unfortunately, are not uncommon.  If a disclaimer is clear and conspicuous, it will usually bar a claim if the Plaintiff signs it in advance.

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.

Jury Awards $23 Million In Accident Case

In an unusual twist in a personal injury trial in the Circuit Court of Cook County, a victim will actually receive $2 million more than the jury awarded him. In 2008, Juan Diaz was rear-ended by a flatbed trailer truck while driving on Interstate 94 in Northbrook, Cook County, Illinois. The accident left Diaz with no use of his lower extremities and limited use of his upper extremities. Diaz rejected multiple settlement offers prior to trial. The defense admitted liability, so the trial proceeded solely on the issue of damages. The parties entered into a $25 million to $50 million high-low agreement, insuring that Diaz would receive a minimum of the lower bracket and a maximum of $50 million post-verdict. The jury returned a verdict of $23 million, so Diaz will receive $25 million pursuant to the parties' pre-verdict agreement.

Estate of Porch Victim Death Settles for $975,000

The mother of Sean Heflin, who died as a result of a fall from a porch, has settled her wrongful death case against the owner of the property and the management company for $975,000. Heflin, then aged 24, fell from a second floor porch in July, 2007. He initially suffered brain damage and died about six months later. Heflin's mother alleged that the defendants were negligent in that the railings were ten inches lower than what the building code of the City of Chicago required. We often use deviations from municipal ordinances or violations of building codes to prove negligence claims.

City Settles Wrongful Death Case

The City of Chicago just approved the settlement of a wrongful death case for $1.3 million.  According to the allegations of the lawsuit, the Chicago police failed to get an inmate immediate medical help after he swallowed drugs.  In July, 2010, John Coleman, Jr. was allegedly taking part in a drug sale.  Once the police saw him, he ran, and the police gave chase.  Coleman struggled with the officers who then subdued him and placed him in a vehicle.  Coleman was in distress, but the officers failed to seek medical attention.  According to a city attorney, jury verdicts of up to $5 million have been awarded in similar cases of denial of medical care.  The Hollander Law Offices recently settled a wrongful death and civil rights lawsuit involving a jail suicide case against jail personnel and Shelby County.

Yale University Sued for Wrongful Death

On September 6, 2011, the parents of a murdered student filed a wrongful death lawsuit against Yale University, accusing the college of failing to protect their daughter, Annie Le, against a laboratory co-worker, who pled guilty to her murder.  According to the family's attorney, the university knew or should have known that the attacker, Raymond Clark, had demonstrated aggressive behavior and a violent propensity toward women.  The university denied the allegations, and stated that no reasonable security measures could have presented the tragedy from happening.  Le's body was found in a research lab on the day she was to be married.  Le's family contended that the college was negligent in hiring and retaining Clark for a job that gave him unsupervised access to students and staff and for negligently monitoring his activities in the lab building.  The Hollander Law Offices litigates similar claims.  Currently, we are litigating a claim of sexual abuse against Cultural Care, Inc. in federal court in Boston for failing to properly a monitor an au pair who sexually abused a host family's child.