Pandemic-related court closures meant the beginning of 2021 was rife with stalled litigation, but as courts brought back juries Pennsylvania’s attorneys were able to secure some big-ticket verdicts in the second half of the year.
Pandemic-related court closures meant the beginning of 2021 was rife with stalled litigation, but as courts brought back juries, Pennsylvania’s attorneys were able to secure some big-ticket verdicts in the second half of the year.
Below are the five highest verdicts covered by The Legal in 2021. All came out of one of the state’s two most populous counties—Allegheny and Philadelphia.
$19M Over Five-Car Pileup
This year’s biggest verdict went to the families of three people killed in a 2014 Berks County car crash as part of a consolidated case in Philadelphia. The family of a husband and wife killed in the accident were awarded $12.1 million, and the family of Robert Rosner, a Pennsylvania attorney general who also died, was awarded $7 million.
Bill Anskis Co. Inc., a PennDOT contractor, was found to be 90% liable in the case for allegedly failing to put up adequate warnings about a project underway at the site of the accident. The driver of the tractor-trailer that caused the crash settled out before trial and was found to be 10% liable.
Saltz Mongeluzzi & Bendesky’s David Kwass represented the deceased couple’s family, and John Dodig of Feldman Shepherd Wohlgelernter Tanner Weinstock Dodig represented Rosner’s family.
Attorneys with Bardsley, Benedict + Cholden and Marshall Dennehey Warner Coleman & Goggin defended Bill Anskis Co.
$15.6M Against SEPTA for On-the-Job Injury
McEldrew Young Purtell Merritt won a former SEPTA electrician the second-largest 2021 verdict of The Legal’s coverage. William Meszaros, who was pinned down by a reel of copper trolley wire in the course of his work, was awarded $15,556,000 in the Philadelphia Court of Common Pleas in August.
The Federal Employers’ Liability Act suit alleged that the accident caused Meszaros chronic nerve damage-related health issues, which prevented him from returning to his work. SEPTA said that the offending reel’s shipper and marketer was partially liable for not placing a warning on the product.
Hohn & Scheüerle defended SEPTA in the suit.
$12.8M for Chlorine Gas Damage
An Allegheny County jury in October issued chemical manufacturer Axiall Corp. a $12.8 million verdict for property damage caused by chlorine gas, though the company was found to be 40% negligent for the incident.
The chlorine gas was released when a tank car ruptured at a West Virginia plant owned by the company, also damaging a neighboring property. The jury found Axiall partially responsible for using a railroad car not recommended for transporting hazardous material and the companies responsible for repairing and inspecting the car to be 40% and 20% negligent, respectively.
Meyer, Unkovic & Scott and Porter Hedges represented Axiall, and Lewis, Brisbois & Smith and Babst, Calland, Clements and Zomnir represented Rescar and AllTranstek.
$11.5M for Injured Contractor
In a September retrial of an Allegheny County personal injury case, a jury awarded $11.5 million to a contractor who was injured by an electric shock.
The plaintiff had been awarded a half-million dollars for medical expenses in 2017, but after a 2020 state Supreme Court decision, the case was allowed to go before a jury again with the dispute limited to questions of how the plaintiff’s injuries affected his ability to work and his quality of life.
The earlier jury had already determined liability—60% for defendant Duquesne Light Co. and 40% for plaintiff Steven Mader.
Cohen, Placitella & Roth represented the plaintiff, and Tucker Arensberg represented Duquesne Light.
$9.7M Over Botched Brain Surgery
Kline & Specter’s Shanin Specter and Kila Baldwin secured a $9.7 million verdict in November for a man who sustained neurological damage from a mistake during brain surgery.
Thomas Jefferson University Hospital and a neurosurgeon with the hospital were found to be partially responsible for injuries that Michael Brassloff sustained when the tool the surgeon used malfunctioned. The device’s manufacturer was found to be liable as well and had settled out of the case earlier for $12.75 million.
Brassloff argued that he did not provide informed consent for the procedure, which was allegedly not the traditional treatment for his condition and not performed correctly.
O’Brien & Ryan represented the defendant.
Pennsylvania saw some noteworthy defense verdicts, too.
Philadelphia’s first Johnson & Johnson talc case to go to trial ended in favor of the pharmaceutical company. The win was J&J’s second victory related to its talc product following court reopenings and was an aberration from the company’s past losses in Philadelphia over products such as the medication Risperdal and pelvic mesh produced by J&J subsidiary Ethicon. Blank Rome led the defense against Beasley Allen in the case.
In October, Silvers, Langsam & Weitzman—known by the moniker MyPhillyLawyer—successfully defended a sexual harassment case in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania against a former paralegal, represented by Costello & Mains.
Also in the Eastern District, Tucker Law Group secured a win for the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia in an age-discrimination case filed by a doctor at the hospital. Console Mattiacci Law represented the doctor.
And in the Philadelphia Court of Common Pleas, Obermayer Rebmann Maxwell & Hippel represented Einstein Medical Center in a medical malpractice suit, where the defense successfully argued that a patient’s postoperative health issues were not something the doctor could have controlled. Morris Wilson represented the plaintiff.