Case Results

$300,000,000

Within hours of closing arguments, a Broward Circuit Court jury returned a verdict of $300 million against Philip Morris USA in favor of Cindy Naugle. Ms. Naugle, who quit smoking in 1993, picked up her first cigarette in 1968 at the age of 20 because she thought they would make her look more mature. She explained that had she known then what Philip Morris and other cigarette manufacturers already knew – that nicotine is a highly addictive drug and that cigarettes could cause serious health problems – she never would have started smoking.

After trying to quit without success for decades, Ms. Naugle, now 61, must travel in a wheelchair with 24-hour oxygen due to her emphysema. Although she accepted responsibility for her decision to start smoking in the first place, Philip Morris refused to admit its role in causing her illness.

Ms. Naugle was finally able to quit smoking in the early 1990s when the nicotine patch became available, but the damage was already done. “Cindy spends every minute of every day as if she were drowning,” said her attorney Robert W. Kelley. According to Attorney Todd Falzone, who also represented Ms. Naugle along with Attorney Todd McPharlin, “The jury saw her condition. We think that they felt it. She needed to rest for five minutes to catch her breath after making the 7 step walk to the witness stand.”

This lawsuit is one of many that have followed the 2000 verdict in the class action lawsuit Engle v. R.J. Reynolds Tobacco Co, in which the Florida Supreme Court de-certified the class, allowing individual plaintiffs to file lawsuits against Big Tobacco companies. Ms. Naugle’s verdict is by far the largest to date among these Engle Progeny cases.

According to Mr. Kelley, Americans are fed up with corporate misconduct and fraud. “The cigarette companies managed to hide the truth about their product for a long time, but the truth is out now. And when the jury finally hears the truth about what these companies knew and when they knew it, they almost always side with the addicted smokers, most of whom started smoking as teenagers before there were any warning labels on cigarette packs.” Kelley predicts the industry is in for a long series of losses because “most Americans are fed-up with corporate fraud and misconduct.”

The verdict included $56.6 million for Ms. Naugle’s pain and suffering and for her past and future medical expenses, as well as $244 million in punitive damages to punish the company and discourage future misconduct. The jury attributed 10% fault to Ms. Naugle.

$60,000,000

A jury found General Motors (GM) guilty of negligently designing the fuel tank in a family station wagon that exploded after a low-speed crash. Six people burned, and two died, including a young boy named Shane McGee.

The McGee family sued GM for their horrible burn injuries and for the death of Shane. During the six-month trial, attorney Bob Kelley questioned a former GM engineer named Ronald Elwell. Elwell testified that GM knew of the problem with this fuel tank, and knew how to solve it with a fuel tank shield that cost approximately $4.50. Elwell explained that GM decided not to fix the problem because even at only $4.50 the shield cost too much.

General Motors tried to exclude from evidence a study calculating how much it would be worth for GM to eliminate deaths from fuel-fed fires in GM vehicles. The study concluded that fuel-fed fires cost GM $2.20 per vehicle, and that it would only be worth $2.40 per new model vehicle to prevent all fuel-fed fires. Attorney John Uustal obtained secret documents about this study, which were revealed to the American public for the very first time during the trial. This evidence revealed a massive cover-up to hide GM’s decision to let people burn alive to increase profits.

The McGees’ attorneys fitted an exemplar station wagon with a fuel tank shield, and then ran a crash test at substantially higher speeds than the actual collision. The real automobile accident was so minor that the McGees initially thought they had been hit by a basketball. The crash test was run at 30 miles per hour, simulating a direct spear-like impact into the tank. The shield worked, even in that very severe test. The fuel system maintained its integrity. No fuel leaked out, and the fuel tank essentially undamaged, as shown in photographs taken immediately after the shield was removed.

The news media initially reported that the verdict was for $33 million, but the actual verdict was for $60 million. The appellate courts ordered GM to pay the full $60 million dollars, plus $31 million in interest.

The CBS program 60 Minutes ran a long segment on the case and on the ways the trial has affected this country.

Confidential

Baxter Healthcare introduced a medicine known as Gammagard in 1986. Gammagard was manufactured by pooling human blood plasma from thousands of donors, and then extracting certain parts of the plasma. Baxter chose not to utilize a viral inactivation process, and many of the Gammagard lots became contaminated with active Hepatitis C virus. Hepatitis C kills 10,000 Americans every year, and is a leading cause of liver failure.

Our client was infected with Hepatitis C after using contaminated Gammagard. She brought a lawsuit against Baxter for negligence. Bob Kelley, attorney for the client’s family, presented testimony from nationally recognized pharmaceutical experts. A former Baxter scientist testified about his futile efforts trying to pressure Baxter to introduce a solvent detergent process to protect against contamination. Baxter settled the case for a confidential amount during trial.

After many others were infected, Baxter finally introduced Gammagard S/D. The S/D marking reflects that the product was treated with solvents and detergents that kill viruses, including HIV and hepatitis.

Confidential

A local firefighter was conducting routine maintenance on the oxygen equipment used for medical treatment of injured people. The LSP oxygen regulator exploded, setting him on fire. He was airlifted to the Level I Burn Center at Jackson Memorial Hospital, and was hospitalized for over a week.

Our client had no way of knowing that these LSP oxygen regulators had exploded many times before June, 1998. He had no way of knowing that this oxygen regulator had ignited firefighters, paramedics, and patients from coast to coast.

He filed a lawsuit against Allied Healthcare and moved the Court to allow a claim for “punitive damages.” Punitive damages are intended to punish intentional misconduct. After multiple hearings and motions, the Court allowed him to assert a claim for punitive damages.

Under questioning by Attorney John Uustal, Allied Healthcare’s representative admitted that Allied knew prior to the subject fire that LSP aluminum regulators were igniting firefighters and paramedics while they were trying to resuscitate patients. They also admitted that they knew that aluminum increased the risk of injury and was more dangerous than brass, that aluminum ignites with oxygen pressures as low as 25 psi, whereas it takes over 8000 psi to ignite brass, that brass improved the safety of the regulators, that all the post-fire aluminum LSP regulators examined had internal particle contamination including aluminum oxidation, that this “contamination” as Allied calls it cannot be prevented by the user and will occur without a doubt, and that this contamination causes fires.

Uustal hired Barry Newton, whom the FDA called the nation’s foremost forensic expert. He recreated the ignition and propagation of an LSP regulator. Newton testified that the regulator was defective. The case settled during trial and these oxygen regulators have all been recalled.

Confidential

A man was ejected from his vehicle in an automobile collision. When he hit the ground he broke his neck, causing permanent paralysis. Because he was ejected from the vehicle, the police reported that he was unrestrained and that he had not been wearing his seatbelt. He insisted that he had been wearing his seatbelt and brought suit against the automobile manufacturer.

Attorney John Uustal conducted his own investigation and discovered evidence and witnesses that the police had missed. He hired world-class scientists to reconstruct the accident, test the seatbelt and analyze the evidence. He discovered a defect in the design of the seatbelt which allowed it to unlatch when struck in a certain way during a collision. He proved that the vehicle was struck in that way during the collision. He discovered evidence and witnesses that confirmed that the belt was hanging out the window immediately after the collision, which would have been impossible if the belt had not been worn. The seatbelt had failed and that was why the man was unrestrained in the accident.

The case settled for an unprecedented amount before trial.

$50,000,000

A family man, football coach, and former United States Marine, had his neck broken in an automobile collision. He worked the night shift at the railroad for a friend, and was headed home early that morning for a Fourth of July Barbecue. He was hit by a car being driven by a man who had been out all night. The Defendant’s attorney argued that our client was speeding and ran a red light. Attorney John Uustal proved that our client had a green light, and asked the jury to recognize our client’s suffering in their verdict. The jury found the Defendant negligent. The verdict was for over fifty million dollars. It was one of the largest in the country, and the case was featured in national news.

$14,600,000

One May 31, 2007, a truck driver was severely injured when his 18-wheeler was overturned in an effort to avoid a collision with another vehicle. The accident was caused by a driver who ran a stop sign and cut off the 1998 freight truck that was transporting a load of sugar on State Road 80 in Florida. Sadly, the driver who ran the stop sign never stopped, so the accident was considered a hit-and-run.

Attorney Robert W. Kelley and Attorney Todd Falzone stated that the truck driver’s decision to swerve in order to avoid hitting the car was nothing short of a heroic effort. His sacrifice saved the other driver from death and left him paralyzed due the severity of injuries. Following the accident, the truck driver filed an insurance claim with his own insurance company, National Casualty Company. He was denied payment.

To deal with an excessive amount of medical bills, the truck driver had no choice but to seek legal action immediately. When the insurance company denied his claims, Attorneys Kelley and Falzone represented the client relentlessly and filed a lawsuit against the insurance company who had denied the truck driver coverage. Both lawyers state that the trial could have been avoided had the insurance company paid the truck driver for the benefits due.

For much of the trial, the truck driver was unable to attend since he was undergoing rehabilitation at the Florida Institute for Neurological Rehabilitation located in Wachula. On the day of his one-day trial testimony, the truck driver and his medical team were airlifted to the Broward County courthouse. He was joined by his wife and daughter.

Following the week-long trial and a two-day deliberation period, the driver of the 18-wheeler was awarded $14.6 million.

$7,000,000

Jill Grant cannot recall the morning six year ago, when a semi-trailer truck crushed her car like a cheap toy, critically injuring her and forever changing her life.

“I can’t even remember what happened yesterday, or what I had to eat,” Grant, 40, said on Friday, the day after a Broward Circuit Court jury decided she should receive $7 million from truck driver Denver Wayne Burtz of Plant City and his employer, Publix Super Markets.

Grant was driving south on Florida’s Turnpike near the Delray Beach toll plaza about 5 a.m. when she was hit from behind by Burtz’s truck, which was loaded with frozen pies. The truck hit her car a second time, pinning it against a guardrail.

There were no witnesses to the accident, so Grant’s lawyers, Scott Schlesinger and Robert Kelley, hired a physics professor, Arthur Paskin, to reconstruct the accident on a Cornell University computer.

Details about the crash, such as the damage to the vehicles and the location of paint chips, were entered into the computer, and a computer-graphic simulation of the crash was shown on a video screen to jurors.

“We know of no other time when a computer was used to actually show a jury what went on,” Schlesinger said.

“There’s no question it was persuasive,” Kelley said.

Rex Conrad, the attorney for Burtz and Publix, said, “It’s no better than the opinions of the people who program it.”

Paskin said the Cornell computer has been used in three other trials since 1984, when it debuted in a Bronx, N.Y., trial in which a man was acquitted of four manslaughter counts involving a car crash.

Conrad said he will ask for a new trial.

$4,600,000

On November 13, 1988 a woman from Tamarac was involved in a semitrailer accident located on University Drive and Interstate 595. However, this woman was not the only person injured in this area. Over 100 other motorists were involved in car accidents in this same area due to confusing pavement marking left by road contractors. While these accidents were completely avoidable, contractors had failed to post adequate warning signs that would steer motorists in a safe manner.

The injured woman sued the two companies, Triple R. Paving and DeLeuw, for negligence throughout the highway construction. Both companies were hired by the Department of Transportation. She was awarded $4.6 million by a Broward County jury in a civil lawsuit.

$3,470,000

After four days of deliberation, a Florida jury awarded our client $3.47 in an automobile rollover case represented by John Uustal of Kelley/Uustal.

The accident occurred when our client was driving home. As she rounded a gradual corner, her 1993 Nissan veered off the road. When she tried to regain control of the vehicle, it flipped over. Because of the accident, she suffered massive injuries to her arm, which was later amputated.

With the help of Attorney John Uustal, the plaintiff demonstrated that Nissan created an unsafe vehicle knowing it was possible to eliminate the unreasonable danger of a rollover accident.

$2,000,000

A Broward County jury awarded $2 million in a wrongful death verdict after a careless driver hit a pedestrian crossing the street.

The victim was a 53-year-old real estate agent from Fort Lauderdale with a passion for cooking and keeping youth safe through the YES program. According to Broward County records, the driver was cited for careless driver roughly one month before the accident.

Kelley/Uustal achieved a $2 million jury verdict in favor of the case.

$1,700,000

On October 17, 1997, a 35-year-old fifth-grade teacher was on her way home from work when she drove off Florida’s Sawgrass Expressway, also known as the Florida State Road 869. The woman explains that she was able to make the appropriate corrective maneuver but that her vehicle, a 1993 Nissan Pathfinder, continued to roll in the middle of the expressway lanes, landing on the driver’s side. Unfortunately, her arm was pinned between the vehicle and the road, which left the driver with a missing arm from the elbow area down.

Attorney Robert W. Kelley provided aggressive representation for the client and was able to prove that part of the accident was due to manufacturing problems by the Nissan Motor Company. Although the final verdict determined that the driver was accountable for 49% of the accident, Nissan was held responsible for 51% of the blame. With formidable evidence, Attorney Kelley was able to prove that the 1993 Pathfinder had the highest fatality rate in its class and was able to use this information to recover maximum compensation.

The Nissan Motor Company was apologetic for the woman’s injuries but was disappointed by the final verdict; the company believed that the driver was at fault for losing control of the vehicle. Although they argued that there was no apparent flaws with the vehicle, Kelley’s persistence and formidable evidence proved otherwise.

The woman was awarded $1.7 million as compensation for the accident.

$631,222.77

On his way to Home Depot, a hardworking hotel maintenance man was injured in a crash when we was rear ended by another driver. He was treated and released from the scene by paramedics, and went to the ER with his wife where he was treated and released with some back and neck pain. He returned to the ER the next day with back pain and rib pain. Over the next several days, he developed ankle pain and headaches, which have continued to this day. He was diagnosed with a sinus tarsi syndrome in the left ankle, has been advised that he needs surgery. He was also diagnosed with post traumatic headaches.

Allstate, the defendant driver’s liability carrier, originally only offered $11,000 of the $250,000 coverage prior to litigation. On the eve of trial they upped that to $34,520 when they realized their predicament. They are now required to pay this verdict plus Plaintiff’s attorney’s fees and costs. Todd McPharlin, the Kelley/Uustal Trial Attorney whose team brought this case to trial says that the final amount that Allstate will have to pay will exceed eight hundred thousand dollars.

“I guess that in this case Allstate gambled that if they kept saying ‘no’ that eventually we would just go away. But if you can get the case in front of a jury, which is what we do best, and they hear the truth, then that insurance company’s gamble is not a safe bet anymore,” said McPharlin.

$341,117.29

Our client and his family paid for uninsured motorist coverage (known as UM coverage) for over 20 years, without ever once making a claim. Since both of his parents were insurance brokers, they were aware that many drivers don’t carry any insurance, and they wanted to be safe, just in case. “That’s what insurance is for,” they thought.

Our client injured his back and neck in a car crash while on leave from his job as a wildlife preserve volunteer. The other driver was totally at fault, having run a red light, but had no insurance. “No problem”, thought the family, “that’s why we have uninsured motorist coverage, that’s why we’ve been paying the premium for 20 years, just in case.”

But his own insurance company, State Farm, refused to cover him under his UM policy for the injuries, including refusing to pay for his past and future medical bills. So the family was forced to take them to court and that’s where the Kelley/Uustal team came in.

At trial, attorney Todd McPharlin, supported by his paralegal team, showed the jury how the severity of the crash had totaled the client’s car. The jury heard about his epidural injections which doctors prescribed for the pain he was in. And the jury heard from doctors who testified that he would need surgery to correct the damage caused by the crash. They also heard that, after this crash, he wasn’t able to meet the physical requirements involved in his role with the wildlife preserve, which included taking care of Florida’s endangered panthers.

The jury awarded Jon $270,035.77 to cover his past and future medical expenses and to compensate him for his pain. Before trial, our client made very reasonable settlement offers which were rejected by his insurance. As a result, State Farm paid attorney’s fees and costs in addition to the verdict amount. With fees and costs added to the verdict, the total recovery was $342,117.29. The jury forced his own insurance company to pay.

“The insurance companies sometimes deny a claim just to make you fight, thinking they hold all the cards,” said attorney Todd McPharlin “But the jury shuffles those cards….if you can get a case to trial, which is what we are good at doing, then you have a fair fight.”

After the verdict the insurance company paid.

$80,578.99

This action arose from a collision to the back of the plaintiff’s car by a vehicle driven by the defendant. The court directed a verdict against the defendant on liability and the case continued on the issues of damages and causation only. The defendant maintained that the plaintiff did not sustain a permanent injury as a result of the collision.

The plaintiff was a female in her 40s at the time of the accident which occurred in 2005. She was diagnosed with cervical and lumbar sprain and strain. The plaintiff underwent physical therapy, chiropractic treatment, orthopedic treatment and epidural injections. She complained of ongoing neck and back pain.

The defendant argued that the impact to the back of the plaintiff’s vehicle was light and caused minimal property damage to the vehicles involved. Evidence showed that the plaintiff did not seek medical treatment for several days post-accident.

The defense contended that the plaintiff’s neck and back symptoms were unrelated to the subject accident. Evidence showed that the plaintiff was involved in a prior motor vehicle accident and had made previous complaints of neck and back pain before the date of the subject collision.

The jury found that the plaintiff sustained a permanent injury as a result of the accident and awarded her $80,000 in damages.

References

Plaintiff’s orthopedic surgeon: Richard Simon from Plantation, FL.
Defendant’s orthopedic surgeon: Salvador Ramirez from Miami, FL.
Defendant’s radiologist: Steven Brown from Dania, FL

Dominguez vs. Vallarino. Case no. 08-80773; Judge Pedro Echarte, 12-15-10.

Attorneys

Attorneys for plaintiff: Todd R. McPharlin and Eric Rosen.

$23,000,000

Attorneys Eric S. Rosen, Michael A. Hersh, and Kimberly L. Wald of Kelley/Uustal represented Efrain Alamo-Cruz, and his wife, Maria Alamo in a case that received a victory in excess of $23 million.  In the suit, the plaintiffs alleged that Affordable Treemen, Inc. and Robin Croce’s negligence caused Alamo-Cruz, a tree trimmer, to fall while on the job, sustaining permanent and severe injuries.

We presented evidence of our client’s orthopedic injuries and traumatic brain injury, which were caused by the fall, supported by testimonies from several medical doctors. In addition to these powerful medical testimonies, we called upon witnesses who testified to the effects Alamo-Cruz’s injuries had on him and his wife, explaining the strain it put on their marriage. Our client is now unable to work due to the injuries he suffered, and continues to endure severe pain on a daily basis.

Read entire article here

$5,900,000

R.S. was injured on the job. He was working in Hollywood, Florida. He stepped on a forklift which jumped backward and crushed his left foot. He spent 10 days in the hospital, and his doctors were unable to save his foot, which had to be amputated. Worker’s compensation paid his medical bills.

His attorneys also sued Nationwide Lift Trucks, the company that serviced the forklift. Nationwide worked on the forklift the day before the accident. His attorneys found evidence that Nationwide’s repairs to the brake system caused the forklift to malfunction.

The jury found against Nationwide. The jury’s verdict ordered Nationwide to pay $5,900,000 to R.S.

$3,160,000

Settlement almost always means that the plaintiff compromises the full value of the case. However, thanks to the art of creative lawyering, sometimes a plaintiff can get full justice even when settling. This case, referred to us by one of our co-counsel referring attorneys, is the perfect example of how important it is to go past the traditional ways of litigating a case to find the course of action that will best serve our client.

The 28-year-old victim pulled her car into the garage of her Boca Raton townhome where her boyfriend was waiting for her. By the following morning, she was dead, and her boyfriend was unresponsive due to irreversible brain damage. The cause: carbon monoxide poisoning from the vehicle left running in the garage all night. Kelley/Uustal brought suit against the manufacturer of the vehicle. Our complaint alleged that the vehicle was defective in that it failed to provide an adequate warning when the driver exited the vehicle with the motor running, a scenario made possible due to the keyless ignition feature. After several years of litigation, the car company settled.

Even with this part of the case over, we always suspected a crucial fact was missing. The victim’s upstairs bedroom – two floors above the garage, had incredibly high levels of carbon monoxide, even by the time the investigators arrived. We obtained a court order to cut into the garage wall to explore how it was built, and why such high concentrations of the gas were able to travel several floors. We found that the safety wall had been built incorrectly, leaving a gap through which the gas filtered into the home.

With this new information, we sued the general contractor that built the townhome. Discovery revealed that the firewall, which was required to keep fire, gasses and fumes from entering the home from the garage, existed in the blueprints. However, the contractor and subcontractors made a change in the construction which led to the gap we found. The general contractor defended the lawsuit by claiming that the gap was an intentional and acceptable, yet unrecorded, change in the construction plan. We then moved the court for the right to seek punitive damages, and our motion was granted. The defendant settled, agreeing to assign all its rights to subrogation to us in a new case against the subcontractor. This third lawsuit is still pending.

Creative lawyering involves detective skills, new ways of thinking, and the commitment to follow every lead wherever it goes. By thoroughly exploring every aspect of the case and the events leading up to it, we were able to find three different ways to obtain full compensation for our clients.

$1,700,000

Still recovering from burns over most of her body, Mrs. V testified in deposition that her husband took an aerosol can of waterproofing spray and “ sprayed three times, three swings as I call it… All of a sudden, there was a big whoosh… It was fire. It came right at me, but it was also engulfing him.” After recovering enough to leave the hospital, this D.I.Y couple knew that this was something they couldn’t handle alone. They contacted a lawyer, who in turn, put them in touch with us. Although that attorney had never worked with us before, he did his research and knew we would be the best chance for his clients to obtain justice.

In keeping with the SWAT team directive, we descended upon this case with our full force. During intensive investigation and discovery, we learned of numerous other similar incidents across the country from this same product. Just short of two years later, we were able to reach a $ 1.7 million settlement.

The nature of the settlement prevents us from revealing the name of the product. However, we can say that it’s very popular, heavily advertised, and that they used it exactly as the directions read. Despite having an open window and a fan for added ventilation, within a few sprays they found themselves in a literal inferno. Unfortunately, the product has yet to be recalled and continues to be sold.

There’s no telling how many more will be hurt simply for trusting a company and following their instructions, but this is why we do what we do every day. We were able to help this couple find some justice, and we will continue to fight for those who have been hurt and wronged, and have nowhere else to turn.

$876,771

A jury awarded $876,771 to a man who fell after stepping on a shifting tile.

In 2008, our client, then 65, was walking past a fountain in a lobby at the Diplomat Resort Country Club when he fell. He claimed the tile was improperly installed over a drainage device for the fountain, creating a dangerous seesaw effect. He fractured his right hip, requiring a full hip replacement. He also claimed he will require another more difficult surgery.

Defense counsel argued our client was to blame. The country club also claimed Titan Stone failed to reinstall the tile properly after waterproofing the area. Titan claimed the country club knew of the tile problem. The jury found the country club 65 percent liable and Titan 35 percent liable.

Case: Coffman v. Diplomat Properties LP
Case No.: 062008CA024907
Plaintiff’s Personal Injury Attorney: Todd R. Falzone and Eric S. Rosen, Kelley/Uustal, Fort Lauderdale
Defense lawyers: Scott D. Rembold, Bogert & Rembold, Coral Gables; Robert Squire, Houck Anderson, Miami

1.4M Cars Repaired

Ford Motor Company has agreed to settle a nationwide class action lawsuit in which up to one million Ford Explorer owners have claimed that exhaust was able to leak into their vehicles through the air conditioning vent in the passenger compartment. The plaintiffs were represented by Attorneys John Uustal and Michael Hersh of Kelley/Uustal together with Jordan Lewis of Jordan Lewis P.A. of Fort Lauderdale.

Full article here

$300,000,000

Within hours of closing arguments, a Broward Circuit Court jury returned a verdict of $300 million against Philip Morris USA in favor of Cindy Naugle. Ms. Naugle, who quit smoking in 1993, picked up her first cigarette in 1968 at the age of 20 because she thought they would make her look more mature. She explained that had she known then what Philip Morris and other cigarette manufacturers already knew – that nicotine is a highly addictive drug and that cigarettes could cause serious health problems – she never would have started smoking.

After trying to quit without success for decades, Ms. Naugle, now 61, must travel in a wheelchair with 24-hour oxygen due to her emphysema. Although she accepted responsibility for her decision to start smoking in the first place, Philip Morris refused to admit its role in causing her illness.

Ms. Naugle was finally able to quit smoking in the early 1990s when the nicotine patch became available, but the damage was already done. “Cindy spends every minute of every day as if she were drowning,” said her attorney Robert W. Kelley. According to Attorney Todd Falzone, who also represented Ms. Naugle along with Attorney Todd McPharlin, “The jury saw her condition. We think that they felt it. She needed to rest for five minutes to catch her breath after making the 7 step walk to the witness stand.”

This lawsuit is one of many that have followed the 2000 verdict in the class action lawsuit Engle v. R.J. Reynolds Tobacco Co, in which the Florida Supreme Court de-certified the class, allowing individual plaintiffs to file lawsuits against Big Tobacco companies. Ms. Naugle’s verdict is by far the largest to date among these Engle Progeny cases.

According to Mr. Kelley, Americans are fed up with corporate misconduct and fraud. “The cigarette companies managed to hide the truth about their product for a long time, but the truth is out now. And when the jury finally hears the truth about what these companies knew and when they knew it, they almost always side with the addicted smokers, most of whom started smoking as teenagers before there were any warning labels on cigarette packs.” Kelley predicts the industry is in for a long series of losses because “most Americans are fed-up with corporate fraud and misconduct.”

The verdict included $56.6 million for Ms. Naugle’s pain and suffering and for her past and future medical expenses, as well as $244 million in punitive damages to punish the company and discourage future misconduct. The jury attributed 10% fault to Ms. Naugle.

$28,795,000

Attorneys Eric Rosen and Kim Wald of Kelley/Uustal have obtained a verdict of $28.795 million on behalf of a widower whose wife died as a result of COPD after smoking R.J. Reynolds cigarettes for over 40 years. His late wife, who was 79 at the time of her death, had been on a ventilator because of the disease.

Compensatory damages from Phase 1 of the trial included $8.5 million plus an additional $295,000 in past medical expenses. Phase 2 of the trial returned a punitive damage verdict of $20 million – far exceeding the $14 million originally sought by Mr. Rosen.

Read the full article here

$17,400,000

A Florida jury awarded our client $17.4 million in a lawsuit against Philip Morris USA Inc. after her husband died of obstructive pulmonary disease and lung cancer. The verdict included $3.5 million in damages for the husband’s pain and suffering, $11.6 million in punitive damages, and $2 million in damages caused to our client for the loss of her husband’s comfort, society, and attention.

According to court documents, our client’s husband was only 40% liable for these damages. After he began smoking penny cigarettes at the age of 13, he switched to Marlboro cigarettes, filtered cigarettes, and eventually Marlboro Lights.

Attorney Todd McPharlin of Kelley/Uustal represented the case, and explained that our client’s husband switched to Marlboro Lights because he believed they were a safer alternative to normal cigarettes.

During the course of the trial, McPharlin demonstrated that Philip Morris USA Inc. concealed information from consumers, and that our client’s husband relied on this information, which led to his illness and eventual death. The jury also determined that, prior to 1982, Philip Morris USA Inc. made misleading statements regarding the addictive nature of its products.

“The jury agreed that Philip Morris was responsible for the suffering endured as a result of his COPD and the lung cancer caused by Philip Morris’ cigarettes” McPharlin said.

Read more about the case here.

$13,000,000

Vivian Wilkinson was a former bartender who passed away from chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) after smoking cigarettes for more than 40 years. Kelley/Uustal attorney Eric Rosen has been representing Ms. Wilkinson’s children, who claim that her fatal disease resulted from an addiction to cigarettes containing nicotine manufactured by R.J. Reynolds Tobacco Company and other cigarette manufacturers. The Plaintiff also claimed that R.J. Reynolds engaged in a decade’s long conspiracy to conceal critical information about the health effects and addictive nature of their products.

After a two and a half week trial starting on April 6, 2016, jurors awarded her two children $1.5 million each. The jury also found that R.J. Reynolds fraud and conspiracy were both a legal cause of Ms. Wilkinson’s death and concluded that punitive damages were warranted against the cigarette manufacturer. On April 22, jurors imposed a $10 million punitive damage verdict on R.J. Reynolds for its role in Vivian Wilkinson’s death, boosting the total award to $13 million.

Read the full article here

$11,650,000

The attorneys of Kelley / Uustal have a long record of success in and out of the courtroom, fighting for justice on behalf of the clients we represent. Many times, these cases have captured the attention of local and national media. Below are media accounts of some of our more noteworthy cases.

See the article here:

$7,123,085

Fort Lauderdale attorneys won a rare $5.3 million wrongful death verdict for the family of a smoker who picked up her first cigarette in the 1970s — decades after most tobacco plaintiffs in Florida.

More information coming soon.

Download the Case Ruling

$6,061,120.47

An 81-year-old Florida man has been awarded $6,061,120.47 in compensatory damages from cigarette makers Philip Morris USA and R.J. Reynolds for the loss of his wife, Carole, from smoking-related disease. Stanley Martin, represented by Kelley/Uustal attorneys Eric RosenTodd McPharlinRobert Kelley, and Kimberly Wald, lost his wife in 2004 after a battle with coronary heart disease and lung cancer caused by more than five decades of heavy cigarette smoking. She was 64 years old and had smoked two packs of cigarettes a day since she was 12 years old.

The lawsuit alleged that both tobacco companies were guilty of a decades-long conspiracy to hide the health risks and addictiveness of smoking from the public.

Read the full article here

$4,000,000

Fort Lauderdale attorneys won a $2.2 million verdict in an unusually fast-paced tobacco wrongful-death trial.

More information coming soon

$780,000

A Florida jury awarded $1.3 million last week to the widow of a lifelong smoker who died of lung cancer in 2004. Her husband smoked cigarettes for 65 years before being diagnosed with lung cancer in March 2003, his lawyer, Todd McPharlin, a partner at Kelley Uustal in Ft. Lauderdale, Fla., told Lawyers USA. He died the next year at age 81.

This case was filed as a solo personal injury case but at one point was joined with the Engle litigation, McPharlin said, after the Florida Supreme Court reinstated the class of plaintiffs. But the case was tried on its own merits as a traditional personal injury suit without including the findings from Engle.

For the majority of his life, our client smoked Chesterfield cigarettes manufactured by the defendant, Liggett Group. A spokesperson for the company had no comment on the case.

During the three-week trial, causation was not the primary issue, McPharlin noted. Instead, the case turned on the issue of addiction.

“The defense did not contest medical causation but argued that it was his choice to smoke and that he chose to do so,” McPharlin said.

Both sides had experts testify on addiction.

“The defense essentially admitted that he was addicted, but the question was whether or not he could quit, and how difficult it would have been for him to quit – really, it was a question of the degree of his addiction that was contested,” McPharlin explained.

From the beginning of the trial, McPharlin said the plaintiff took some responsibility for our client’s choice to smoke, and suggested to the jury that he be apportioned some fault, “in the range of 5 percent.”

Instead, over the course of an eight-hour deliberation period, the jury apportioned 60 percent of the fault to Liggett Group, the maker of Chesterfields, and 40 percent to our client.

McPharlin had asked jurors to award $1.5 million and they came close, awarding $1.3 million – netting the plaintiff $780,000 after apportionment.

The verdict did not include punitive damages.

The victory comes on the heels of the plaintiff’s win in the first of the individual Engle cases to be tried, where plaintiff Elaine Hess was awarded $8 million, including $5 million in punitive damages.

McPharlin’s firm, which is handling about 90 Engle cases, has a few slated for trial later this year.

$33,000,000

General Motors Corporation was ordered by a jury to pay $33 million to Robert and Constance McGee, whose 13-year-old son, Shane, was burned to death in their 1983 Oldsmobile Cutlass Cruiser after a gasoline tank fire. The jury agreed with the allegations set forth by the boy’s parents, who claimed that the absence of a protective shield over the gas tank made their vehicle a potentially explosive lethal hazard.

The McGees alleged that GM knew for more than two decades about the defects and that it failed to act to protect the safety of drivers. It was later revealed that GM engineers did in fact perform a cost-benefit analysis to determine whether it would be worth the expense for the company to invest in fuel shields for certain vehicles with rear-mounted gas tanks.

The boy’s parents received $60 million in damages for the wrongful death of their son. No punitive damages were levied against GM.

$7,000,000

A young girl’s mother brought her to the doctor. The mother knew that something was wrong. Her pediatrician suspected a brain tumor and ordered a CT scan of the brain. Her HMO overruled that decision and denied the CT scan. The HMO had set up a pre-approval process that required HMO doctors to approve any requests for CT scans. The HMO intended to reduce the amount of money spent on CT scans and similar diagnostic tests. The HMO sent a letter saying the test was not needed. Several months later, the little girl collapsed and died.

John Uustal, who represented the family, moved the Court for an order allowing a claim for “punitive damages.” Punitive damages are intended to punish intentional misconduct. The Court granted the motion and allowed the family to assert a claim for punitive damages.

The family settled with the HMO and other defendants prior to trial. The HMO no longer requires pre-approval by the HMO for CT scans.

$4,290,622.72

On Friday, July 29, 2016, an arbitration panel unanimously awarded nearly $4.3 million to the family of a young mother who lost her life due to a medical error at a Florida hospital. The young woman visited the hospital when she was 33 weeks pregnant complaining of shortness of breath. She was given oxygen when she arrived in the emergency room, but hospital staff removed it. Her doctors failed to recognize her increasing oxygen loss, and after eight hours, she had so much trouble breathing that she began spitting up blood. An ER doctor finally decided that it was time to intubate, but by that time, she had suffered a serious brain injury that left her in a vegetative state for three months.

Read full article here

$2,400,000

A Broward County jury in a medical malpractice case last week awarded $2.85 million to the family of a former Margate police officer who died in the hospital of a treatable illness physicians failed to fully diagnose and later treat properly…

Read the entire article here

$1,300,000

Fort Lauderdale (March 31, 2017) – This week, a Fort Lauderdale judge issued an order holding a local psychiatrist 100% liable for a $1.3 million dollar verdict returned by a jury against him last December, after the jury found that he had failed to properly supervise a nurse practitioner at a drug detox facility, resulting in the death of a man who went to the facility for help.

The man was admitted to Oasis International in Pompano Beach for treatment of addiction to prescription painkillers. Within 12 hours of his admission, he’d died as a result of bacterial endocarditis – an infection in his heart. Attorneys for his surviving children revealed in trial last November that psychiatrist Antonio F. De Filippo, M.D., completely failed to supervise Denise Canchola, a nurse practitioner who was essentially operating the facility on her own despite laws which required supervision by a medical doctor.

“He was clearly in obvious, critical physical distress when he appeared at the Oasis that night,” said Todd Falzone, partner with law firm Kelley/Uustal representing the victim’s adult children. “The nurse practitioner in charge of admissions assumed he was intoxicated and ‘needed to sleep it off.’ Had this nurse been properly supervised by the doctor, it would have been patently obvious that he needed to go the emergency room rather than be admitted to this non-medical facility, and left in a room to die. Florida law requires a doctor who agrees to supervise a nurse practitioner, to actually direct the care rendered by the nurse. In this case, Dr. DeFilippo did nothing to supervise her and it is clear that Nurse Canchola was simply not competent.”

“This is one example of a systemic problem in the detox industry in Florida: doctors, like Dr. DeFilippo, agree to ‘supervise’ multiple nurse practitioners at multiple facilities. This basically allows the nurses to act as if they are doctors, and do things that normally only doctors can do. The doctors then receive payment for admissions to facilities like this one, even though they don’t ever supervise or direct the nurses who are making the decision to admit these patients, and often times don’t even know of or see the patients before they are admitted.”

“The evidence at trial indicated that Dr. DeFilippo was allegedly supervising 8 different nurse practitioners at 7 different facilities, all at the same time,” noted Kelley/Uustal attorney Karina Rodrigues who assisted at the trial.

Our clients’ father was a successful Coral Springs insurance executive who began to struggle with an addiction to painkillers in December 2011, after years of chronic back pain and escalating pain killer prescriptions to treat the pain. By February 2012, he was injecting the pain killers into his body. Unfortunately, as is common with this type of drug use, bacteria can enter the bloodstream through the injection sites, and sometimes it can lead to an infection around the heart. Unfortunately, he developed this condition and in late February became acutely ill. Suspicious of drug abuse and worried for his well-being, his family went to his Parkland home on February 21, 2012, and convinced him to enter treatment at the Oasis.

Nurse practitioner Denise A. Canchola, A.R.N.P., oversaw the admission. In violation of the laws regulating the relationship between medical doctors and nurse practitioners, Dr. DeFilippo essentially let Nurse Canchola oversee medical operations at the facility without any supervision from him. Unfortunately, Nurse Canchola, who insisted people refer to her as “Doctor Canchola,” had insufficient training and experience and failed to recognize the clear medical signs that our clients’ father needed emergency medical care. This included the fact that upon admission, his blood pressure was 77/52 and his heart rate was 150. He was unable to walk or speak clearly even hours later. These classic signs of medical distress where simply written off as “intoxication” and ignored by Nurse Canchola, even though the patient had been in the facility for 5 hours when she first interacted with him, and other staff members at the facility implored her to send him to the hospital.

Evidence revealed that Nurse Canchola never conducted any physical examination of the patient, ordered the staff to let him sleep it off, signed out for the evening and went home to bed. Left alone in his room, he died during the night and was not discovered until 8:00 a.m. the next morning when he was already cold to the touch.

Nurse Canchola and Oasis settled during the litigation, but Dr. DeFilippo refused to acknowledge his responsibility, even though he had clearly violated the law by failing to properly supervise the nurse, and attempting to supervise nurse practitioners at more than 2 other facilities at one time.

“Hopefully this verdict will not only help our clients to better come to grips with the devastating loss of their father, but it will also shine a light on a very dangerous practice that is unfortunately happening time and time again in South Florida,” said Falzone.

Confidential

The North Broward Hospital District settled a medical malpractice lawsuit after losing its defenses due to discovery violations about the death of a Fort Lauderdale attorney’s father.

The North Broward Hospital District settled a wrongful death lawsuit after a trial judge sanctioned the hospital operator for gross discovery violations by throwing out its defenses during jury selection.

Fort Lauderdale attorney Robert W. Kelley of Kelley Uustal filed suit almost five years ago on behalf of his mother, Mary Kelley, in the death of his father, the Rev. Robert P. Kelley. Terms of the settlement reached Wednesday were confidential.

Kelley’s late father suffered a knee fracture and was discharged from Broward General Medical Center in November 2008. The lawsuit which also alleged medical malpractice claimed he was sent home without a required blood thinner and soon after died from blood clots that caused an embolism.

“North Broward Hospital District failed to disclose material information to the plaintiff regarding this incident. The defendant failed to disclose the results of its internal investigation … and failed to disclose that peer review proceedings were under way with respect to Dr. Matthew Wells and the Broward General Medical Center nursing staff,” Circuit Judge Carlos Rodriguez said Tuesday in an order granting a motion to strike the hospital’s pleadings.

It was not until Rodriguez conducted a two-day evidentiary hearing after starting jury selection a week ago that the documents the hospital had for years denied existed came to light, Kelley said.

Wells, who was accused of being the most responsible of the three physicians sued in Kelley’s death, settled the week before trial confidentially.

Rodriguez noted withholding material information adversely affected the plaintiff’s case because Kelley was preparing for trial under an erroneous theory.

He was given the impression there was a miscommunication between Wells and the nursing staff. It turned out Wells did not order the blood thinner Arixtra be dispensed for Kelley’s father because he was taking aspirin.

Just before Rodriguez threw out the hospital’s case, the public hospital district tried to add Wells and another doctor who settled as Fabre defendants.

In turn, Kelley alleged a conspiracy to avoid liability by shifting blame to Wells after he settled. Had Kelley known the extent of Wells’ potential liability, he said he would not have settled for what he did.

Rodriguez said a conspiracy would be very hard to prove, but the number of alleged mistakes “lead the court to conclude this was no mistake but a willful, intentional attempt to conceal the information constitutionally required and discovery required to be disclosed: compartmentalizing the information in the claim file and quality assurance department, and then not asking those departments for the information is hiding the ball.”

Hospital attorney Jonathan P. Lynn of Chimpoulis, Hunter & Lynn in Davie, said, “The judge’s conclusions seem exceedingly harsh and unfairly critical of hardworking and dedicated employees of the district and the hospital.”

He said there was no evidence the defendants knowingly withheld information, but the sanctions “left us with virtually no alternative but to negotiate a settlement.”

Confidential

In the Broward Circuit courtroom of Judge J. Cail Lee, a panel of six jurors viewed a videotape of the 1985 shooting death of 47-year-old Herber Harris III. The video showed a member of the Broward Sheriff´s Office SWAT team approaching Harris´ home. Moments later, there was a gunshot, and the video showed the dying man take his last breaths on his kitchen floor.

Seven weeks prior, a team of deputies, including Hoffman, found several loaded weapons in a search of his house and charged Harris with trafficking cocaine.

Harris died from a shotgun blast to his back. In 1986, a county grand jury determined that the officer who shot him, Deputy Joseph Hoffman, would not be held responsible because he thought Harris was running into his house to retrieve a gun.

Herber’s wife, Janice Harris, filed suit against Hoffman and Sheriff Nick Navarro, alleging that Hoffman was guilty of gross negligence and that the Sheriff’s office was negligent in hiring him. She additionally charged them with violating her husband’s right to protection from unwarranted search and seizure.

After investigating the case, Harris´ attorney, Robert Kelley of Kelley/Uustal, showed that Hoffman received pre-employment psychological evaluation twice in 1979. The tests revealed that Hoffman had great difficulty with impulse control, a great amount of repressed anger, and a tendency to “lash out at people.” The company responsible for overseeing the tests concluded that Hoffman was not recommended for service with the Plantation Police Department, but could be allowed to work for the Sheriff’s Office providing he underwent psychotherapy. This condition was never met.

Two pictures of Hoffman emerged in opening arguments: one of a volatile and emotionally unstable policeman, another of a much-decorated, competent officer.

In light of this evidence that Hoffman was an emotional unstable and volatile person, Hoffman and Navarro’s attorney, Bruce Jolly, maintained that Hoffman was “as a highly skilled, highly motivated sophisticated, controlled and controllable police officer.”

Lt. Robert Freeman accompanied the SWAT team in the final, fatal search to videotape the raid for training purposes. When Hoffman saw Harris in the backyard, he could be heard shouting in the video: “Hold it. Freeze.” immediately followed by a gunshot. As Harris lay mortally wounded and gasping for air, Hoffman was heard saying, “Look, it don’t look too good for you. Do you want to make a statement?”

Harris died soon afterwards. After a lengthy legal battle, the jury ruled in favor of Harris’ survivors.