Litchfield Cavo Obtains Defense Verdict in $25 Million Personal Injury Action in Cook County Circuit Court, Cook County, Illinois
Chicago Partner Alan M. Bernover and Associate Steven M. Brandstedt obtained a defense verdict in a personal injury action filed in the Circuit Court of Cook County, in Chicago, Illinois. The plaintiff, a forty-two year-old union carpenter, alleged that while performing his work in disassembling a trade show at a local hotel and convention center he sustained a career-ending low back injury as a result of slipping on carpet tiles that had been damaged because of a forklift. The plaintiff claimed that the negligent operation of a forklift, under the supervision of the defendant trade show general contractor, created an unreasonably dangerous condition of which he was unaware. Plaintiff claimed that at the time of his injury he was loading one of several heavy bookcases into a large shipping crate when he lost his footing and sustained an injury to his low back at the L4-5 level of his lumbar spine. Plaintiff alleged that the general contractor defendant’s failure to train forklift drivers, supervise their work, inspect the area at this location, failure to properly and safely operate the forklift, and warn of the unreasonably dangerous condition was the proximate cause of his claimed permanent injury.
The defendant maintained first, that the plaintiff was not injured in the manner complained of as there was no evidence of any forklift damage to the floor of the convention center other than the plaintiff’s own testimony and that of his coworker and long-time friend; secondly, that the plaintiff’s decision to lift and move the heavy bookcases by himself caused his own injuries; and finally that the plaintiff’s claimed injuries were not career-ending in nature and were ongoing because the plaintiff failed to follow the treatment recommendations of one or more of his treating physicians.
It became clear throughout this case that the plaintiff’s counsel was relying on the reputation of Cook County as a plaintiff-friendly forum with plaintiff-friendly jurors. Despite that reputation, the defendant successfully moved in pretrial motions to bar large portions of the testimony of the plaintiff’s expert economist and several key opinions based on speculation and conjecture, and further defeated pretrial motions of plaintiff seeking to bar critical evidence which ultimately established plaintiff’s own conduct caused his injuries.
The jury selected for this trial proved to be critical. Throughout jury selection and the trial, the defendant appealed to the hard-working nature of the prospective pool of jury members and ultimately those selected to serve on the jury, by focusing on trial themes of working safe and working hard as not being mutually exclusive. After eight days of trial testimony, the plaintiff requested more than $25 million from the jury to compensate him for his claimed loss of past and future earnings, loss of household services, loss of a normal life, and pain and suffering. After only just over an hour of deliberation, on March 23, 2017, the jury returned a verdict for the defense and an express finding that plaintiff was 100% at fault for his injuries.