A Word From John Patton

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					     P&              Patton & Ryan LLC
            R        Attorneys at Law


Issue 11       Pat t on’s Gener a l Tor t Ne ws                                                                                     Fall 2007


                                        SUCCESS THROUGH RELENTLESS DEFENSE!
                                        Sprenger vs. Waste Management
  A Word                                Patton & Ryan charted another success in de-         Doctors diagnosed her with bulging discs, loss
                                        fending Waste Management and its employee            of normal cervical lordosis, posterior osteo-

  From                                  in a difficult auto-collision case. On August 13,
                                        2002, the plaintiff, Tracy Sprenger was driving
                                                                                             phytic ridging, permanent chronic myofascial
                                                                                             pain, fibromyalgia and post-concussive syn-
                                        eastbound on North Avenue, when she was t-           drome. Plaintiff was prescribed various cours-
  John Patton                           boned by defendant’s garbage truck. The en-
                                        suing impact sent plaintiff’s car spinning off the
                                                                                             es of successively more aggressive treat-
                                                                                             ments by pain clinics, physical therapists and
                                        road and caused her to lose consciousness.           neurologists. Yet, despite ongoing care, doc-
  Patton & Ryan LLC, offers a va-       Ms. Sprenger was transported by ambulance            tors diagnosed Ms. Sprenger as permanently
  riety of legal services locally and   to the emergency room and treated for blunt          disabled—suffering from incurable chronic
  nationally. We are a firm of trial     trauma to the head and torso. Waste Manage-          myofascial pain. This debilitating syndrome
  lawyers.                              ment driver, Serjio Ramirez, was subsequently        was blamed for her inability to perform basic
                                        cited for the accident and eventually pled guilty    daily functions.
  We would be happy to visit your       to failing to yield the right of way.
  office to discuss our highly suc-                                                           At trial, the plaintiff called numerous physicians
  cessful and cost effective ap-        After the accident, Ms. Sprenger began seek-         who testified that Ms. Sprenger could never
                                        ing medical treatment for head, neck and back        work again. One after another, the plaintiff
  proach to litigation.
                                        pain and associated dizziness, headaches,            presented doctors who were convinced that
                                        chronic fatigue and memory loss. For the next        the injuries were permanent and directly re-
  Please refer all inquiries to John    five years, plaintiff treated with a multitude of     lated to the auto collision.
  Patton, Jr., at (312) 261-5166, or,   physicians within a range of specialties.            ...Continued on page 2
  via email at, jpatton@pattonryan.
  com.
                                        PATTON & RYAN RETAINED AS LEAD COUNSEL
                                        IN CATASTROPHIC TRAIN DERAILMENT CASE
                                        Patton & Ryan LLC of Chicago has been retained as principal trial counsel in the September
                                        17, 2005 accident involving a METRA commuter train that derailed on the Rock Island Line con-
                                        necting Joliet to Chicago. The accident caused two deaths and scores of severe injuries. John
                                        Patton was retained to defend the 70+ consolidated cases brought by virtually all of the most
                                        effective Chicago-area, plaintiff’s law firms. The accident was the subject of an intense NTSB
                                        investigation since it occurred at the same site where another METRA train had derailed two
                                        years earlier. The cases are pending in the Cook County Circuit Court.

                                        “Defending these catastrophic and large exposure transportation cases is what we do best,”
                                        said Patton. Patton & Ryan has dedicated a team of senior, aggressive attorneys and support
                                        staff to investigate and defend each of the claims presented. Many of the claims are thought to
                                        be suspect or inflated since there were in excess of 175 passengers on the train. Meticulous
                                        fact and medical investigation will be required to insure that only provable claims remain viable.
                                        The attorneys representing the passengers have pled that METRA’s conduct was willful and
                                        wanton, entitling the passengers to recover enhanced damages from the ultimate “deep pocket”
                                        defendant.

                                        The cases include FELA claims asserted by METRA employees who were injured while on the
                                        train at the time of the derailment as well as those who were injured while implementing pas-
                                        senger rescue operations. FELA permits railroad employees to sue their employer if injuries are
                                        caused as a result of the railroad’s negligence.

                                        Patton & Ryan has developed a national reputation as the “go to” law firm to defend cases of this
                                        type. Its retention demonstrates a continued confidence that each case will be analyzed, de-
                                        fended and tried on its merits by the best attorneys in the business – Patton & Ryan attorneys.




                                                   w w w. p a t t o n r y a n . c o m
    General Tort News (Cont.)

Sprenger vs. Waste Management                                  PATTON & RYAN DEFEAT WRONGFUL
...continued from page 1                                       DEATH CASE ON DISPOSITIVE MOTION
Plaintiff’s counsel retained a renowned economist              Estate of Neill v Steel Master Transfer, Inc. et al
who estimated that Ms. Sprenger’s lost wages would             Macomb County Circuit Court, Michigan
surpass $2 million. Demand at trial was in excess of
                                                               “He defends what you plead, not what you guess…” so ob-
$4.6 million. Lead trial counsel, John W. Patton, Jr.,         served the trial judge to plaintiff’s counsel on Patton & Ryan
and second-chair associate, Michael M. Fenwick, be-            partner, Chip Boyle’s, Motion for Summary Disposition in
gan dismantling plaintiff’s damages theory even be-            a Michigan, product liability, wrongful death case. The trial
fore the jury was selected. In chambers, the defense           judge thereafter issued a written opinion granting the product
won successive motions allowing them to assert that            manufacturer’s motion, and, in a later ruling on entry of Judg-
Ms. Sprenger suffered from pre-existing injuries. The          ment for the defense, taxed costs and sanctions in excess of
most striking of these was a chronic fatigue syndrome          $53,000.00 against the Plaintiff Estate.
that predated the auto accident by some fifteen years.
This syndrome encapsulated many of plaintiff’s most            The case arose out of a workplace injury. The decedent, an
                                                               experienced Ford Motor Company millwright, was supervis-
debilitating symptoms that were alleged to have been
                                                               ing the unloading of a curtainside, flat bed trailer containing
causally related to the accident itself. Supplementing
                                                               a quantity of conveyor sections manufactured by Mr. Boyle’s
this attack was a document uncovered by the defense            client. In the process of unloading, one piece toppled off of
in which Ms. Sprenger demanded that she remain in              the trailer bed and crushed Mr. Neill. His death was instan-
physical therapy due to the fact she had a case in             taneous. His Estate brought suit against the product manu-
litigation.                                                    facturer and the trucking company, alleging negligence in
                                                               packaging, loading, transporting and delivery of the machin-
The thrust of the defense’s liability argument focused         ery. In order to avoid the product liability tort reform caps in
on plaintiff’s overwhelming contributory negligence.           Michigan, the Estate’s attorney was less than specific as to
Through tireless hours of examining physical evi-              pleading the claims asserted.
dence and hours of deposition testimony, it became
                                                               Once extended discovery had closed, Mr. Boyle filed a dis-
clear that the plaintiff was struck while traveling in an
                                                               positive motion citing the absence of testimony on the criti-
incorrect lane. Witness after witness was asked to
                                                               cally important issues as framed by the pleadings of record.
come off the jury stand and mark on photographic ex-           Plaintiff responded with the usual “notice pleading” arguments
hibits just where the impact occurred. And with each           and requested an opportunity to amend. After reviewing the
successive mark, the jury saw just what Ms. Sprenger           testimony meticulously cited by the defense, and after noting
was actually doing on the day of the collision. In an          that Mr. Boyle had continuously objected to taking testimony
attempt to position herself in a left-hand turn lane, the      on issues not within the pleadings, the trial judge found no
plaintiff pulled out of stopped traffic and jetted up an        support for the allegations within the testimonial record, and
empty on-bound traffic lane. However, in doing so,              since discovery had closed, denied the request to amend.
she was struck by Mr. Ramirez, who was already in              Since the Estate had rejected a legitimate Offer of Judgment
the middle of the intersection.                                filed early in the case, and upon Mr. Boyle’s request, the trial
                                                               judge also implemented the sanctions section of the court
                                                               rule and taxed all costs as well as an actual and reasonable
Five years of discovery culminated in a three week
                                                               hourly attorney fee.
trial. What plaintiff’s counsel thought was a “clear li-
ability” case resulted in a jury finding of 40% com-            Trial and preparation of large exposure, complex cases re-
parative negligence. The jury found plaintiff’s lifetime       quire aggressive attention to detail, as well as the ability to
disability ended at the moment John Patton’s closing           compare pleadings to proofs in the most discerning way. Pat-
argument was in the record. Patton & Ryan attributes           ton & Ryan trial lawyers exercise and implement these skills
that produce successful results and grateful clients           daily – and the proof of that proposition is another exoner-
were on display with relentless preparation, skillful          ated, high-profile client.
cross-examination and cogent argument.

Page 2
                                              w w w. p a t t o n r y a n . c o m
                                                             In either case, plaintiffs’ attorneys believe that the ar-
ILLINOIS APPROVES SWEEPING INCREASE IN                       gument entitles them to suggest seven- or eight-figure
POTENTIAL WRONGFUL DEATH DAMAGES                             awards to the jury in death cases, and the ceiling on such
Illinois Governor Rod Blagojevich (D) signed into            “soft” or non-economic awards has always had more to
law this term an amendment to the Wrongful Death             do with how much the jury empathizes with the plaintiff
Act, 740 ILCS 180/2, to allow recovery of dam-               than it does with how the plaintiff’s attorney labels the
ages for “grief, sorrow, and mental suffering.” The          damages.
bill, Public Act 95-3, was sponsored by Rep. John
Fritchey (D-11th) and Sen. John Cullerton (D-6th),           Nonetheless, this act will have some measurable effect.
both of Chicago.                                             For one thing, depending on court interpretation it may
                                                             open the category of “hard” (measurable) damages for
Prior to adoption of this plaintiff-oriented amend-          grief, such as the costs of grief counseling, treatment for
ment, damages in wrongful death cases had been               the survivors’ PTSD, etc., to the jury for award. Previ-
limited by the statute to “pecuniary damages.” Al-           ously, this category had been clearly contrary to law in
though long-standing court interpretation had ex-            death cases. Since juries tend to award “soft” damages
tended the definition of that term to embrace loss            in proportion to the “hard” damages, an extra category
of consortium, in all other respects wrongful death          of economically measurable damages will undoubtedly
damages had been restricted to include only those            increase the awards. More generally, this change in
damages that could be measured economically.                 the law adds another blank line to the verdict form. The
Wrongful Death Act cases are usually accompanied             conventional wisdom is that the more lines there are on
by an action under the Survival Act, in which non-           the form, the more likely a jury is to place a substantial
economic damages have always been generally                  number on each one. In any case, this act is clearly a
available; however, these damages are measured               major setback for those defending tort claims in Illinois
only from the time between the decedent’s injury             and its effect must be considered in the case evaluation
and his or her demise. On the surface, at least, this        process.
new act therefore provides a major new category
of damages that plaintiffs’ attorneys can seek. Not          The act affects only cases where the injury occurred after
surprisingly, the bill received strong support from          May 31, 2007, the act’s effective date.
the Illinois plaintiffs’ bar. They argued to the legis-
lature that widows and orphans are hurt, saddened,                      MEET OUR NEWEST ASSOCIATES
and shocked when they discover that the law does
not allow them any compensation for the grief they
feel over the loss of a loved one.

As a practical matter, however, it is unclear how
great an effect this change in the law will have on
the gross size of verdicts. The plaintiff’s bar long
ago learned how to argue that a large loss of con-
sortium or Survival Act award should be given to
compensate for the grief that the survivors feel,
without actually couching the argument in terms of
grief. For example, plaintiff’s attorneys would ar-
gue that a deceased father will never be able to go
to his son’s baseball games and help that son with
his homework assignments, and therefore the son
deserves compensation; this is a loss of society or
loss of services argument and has long been per-                     (L to R): Zach Vaughn, Patrick Eckler, Michael Fenwick
mitted. But this is qualitatively no different from the
argument that the son grieves for his lost father.

                                                                                                                      Page 3
                                              w w w. p a t t o n r y a n . c o m
Other News Spotlight

PATTON & RYAN ADDS ANOTHER PARTNER TO SENIOR TRIAL STAFF

Our clients demand that we be on constant call to try catastrophic cases na-
tionwide. We have added another partner to serve our clients in this capac-
ity. Our newest partner, R. W. “Dick” Schumacher, brings over 25 years of trial
experience to assist our trial teams and mentor our associate attorneys so that
tradition of quality and aggressive representation can continue. Dick is licensed
to practice in all state and Federal courts in Illinois. He has litigated and tried
hundreds of personal injury and death cases throughout the various circuits in
Illinois and has managed those cases through the appellate process in both the
Appellate Court and Supreme Court. Dick has tried virtually every type of tort
case to verdict, but specializes in those involving transportation, construction,
premises and product liability and medical malpractice law.

Dick has tried cases country-wide for a large, commercial equipment manu-
facturer, and acts as coverage counsel for a number of insurance clients. His
peers in the trial Bar have recognized his superior skills by admitting him to the
respected and prestigious Illinois Society of Trial Lawyers. He also devotes
substantial time to the Bar and public-at-large as an investigator and member of
the Judicial Evaluation Committee.

Dick has joined Patton & Ryan as a partner in order to represent and serve Firm clients who demand and deserve the best,
aggressive lawyers in the business. At the same time, he will pass on those qualities to the next generation of Patton &
Ryan lawyers. Dick welcomes your calls and can be reached at direct dial 312.261.5379 or at rschumacher@pattonryan.
com.


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Patton & Ryan LLC
330 N. Wabash Ave.
Chicago, IL 60611

Telephone: (312) 261-5160
Facsimile: (312) 261-5161
www.pattonryan.com

Areas of Practice:
Catastrophic Loss
Trucking and Transportation
Products and Construction Law
Professional Liability
Medical Malpractice
Insurance Coverage
Employment Law
Workers Compensation

				
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