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December 2014 

Legislative Alert: 
Governor Approves Legislation

December 19, 2014

Over the objections of the IDC, today Governor Pat Quinn signed Senate Bill 2221 and Senate Bill 3075 into law, two pieces of legislation which will affect the practice of law in Illinois. 

Construction Statute of Repose - Public Act 098-1131 
Public Act 098-1131 (formerly Senate Bill 2221) eliminates claims for asbestos-related injury from the construction statute of repose. Follow this link to view the new law

The IDC is researching the constitutionality of the new law. There is Illinois Supreme Court authority for the proposition that once an action is time-barred, the legislature cannot revive the action without violating the Illinois Constitution. We will continue to keep you up to date on this issue. 

This new law takes effect June 1, 2015. 

Civil Trial Juries – Public Act 098-1132 
Public Act 098-1132 (formerly Senate Bill 3075) reduces the number of jurors in civil trials from 12 to 6 and increases the per diem for all jurors. Follow this link to view the new law

This new law also takes effect June 1, 2015. 

Legislative Alert:
Amendments to Construction Statute of Repose & Civil Trial Juries

December 2, 2014

The Illinois House of Representatives has passed two pieces of legislation today that will affect trial practice in Illinois. 

Construction Statute of Repose 

Senate Bill 2221, as amended, eliminates claims for asbestos-related injury from the construction statute of repose. 

Movement on the bill began just before the Thanksgiving holiday when an amendment was offered to remove toxic torts from the construction statute of repose. The amendment was heard in the House Judiciary Committee yesterday. IDC Past President Jeff Hebrank of HeplerBroom, LLC in Edwardsville testified on our behalf in committee. IDC was one of 40 opponents on record; however, the amendment passed Committee and the amended bill was presented to the full House today. 

The bill was further amended today to limit the bill to asbestos related claims only. After the amendment was approved, the full bill passed the House. The amended bill now returns to the Senate for concurrence. 

At this time, it is unclear when the bill will be heard in the Senate. Once again, the IDC will testify against the bill and will work to have it defeated. 

Following is a link to the bill: http://www.ilga.gov/legislation/billstatus.asp?DocNum=2221&GAID=12&GA=98&DocTypeID=SB&LegID=73806&SessionID=85

 

Follow this link to view the IDC letter to the Illinois Senate regarding our opposition to SB2221, as amended. 

Civil Trial Juries 
Senate Bill 3075, as amended, would reduce the number of jurors in civil trials from 12 to 6. The amended bill would also increase the per diem for jurors. 

This bill, like SB 2221, was also fast-tracked through the House, having been amended yesterday and then further amended and passed today. 

As with SB 2221, it is unclear at this time when the bill will be heard in the Senate. The IDC will oppose this legislation when it comes up for hearing the Senate. 

Following is a link to the bill: http://www.ilga.gov/legislation/billstatus.asp?DocNum=3075&GAID=12&GA=98&DocTypeID=SB&LegID=79471&SessionID=85 

Follow this link to view the IDC letter to the Illinois Senate regarding our opposition to SB3075, as amended. 

 

November 2014

Legislative Alert:
Removal of Toxic Torts from Construction Statute of Repose

November 26, 2014 

House Floor Amendment 2 (HFA0002) to Senate Bill 2221 was introduced in the Illinois General Assembly yesterday, November 25. This amendment seeks to remove toxic torts from the construction statute of limitations. The amendment is attached and is linked here for your reference: http://bit.ly/HFA2_SB2221

This amendment is scheduled to be heard in the House Judiciary Committee this Monday, December 1 at 3:00 p.m. The IDC will testify in opposition to the amendment at the Committee hearing and will work with the business community to defeat the proposal.

Defense Win

November 20, 2014
Donald Furrow v. BNSF was an FELA trial tried to an August 29, 2014 defense verdict in state court in Galesburg, Knox County, Illinois before Judge Scott Shipplett. BNSF was represented by IDC member and Past President Steve Heine of Heyl, Royster, Voelker & Allen in Peoria, Illinois and his partner, Tom Dluski.

Mr. Furrow was working as a machine operator with a welder, tasked with moving 20 to 30 pieces of rail from one side of the tracks to the other so that a contractor could pick up the rail. Furrow claims that while he was looking backwards and moving over the tracks, he felt his neck “pop”. He had a two level discectomy and fusion.

Plaintiff alleged he should have had another employee to help unhook the chain from the rail, he was rushed because of track time, a different machine should have been used such as an on-track crane or on track machine with a flat car, and that he should have been instructed to "step" the rail rather than drag it.

Furrow also claimed BNSF was on notice that his work activity was dangerous because in 2003 another former BNSF employee sustained a two level herniation of the C5-6 and C6-7 when he was using a speed swing to drag rail parallel to the tracks. He argued that BNSF did not change any of its operating procedures or instruct Furrow not to drag rail with the end loader after the earlier event.

BNSF’s defense demonstrated to the jury that the work Furrow was doing using this equipment was safe and did not cause his injury.

BNSF called as part of its defense a Caterpillar employee to testify about the equipment and refute Plaintiff’s claims that using this piece of equipment for the assigned task was unsafe. A retired BNSF employee expert testified that the work Furrow was doing was safe and that the front end loader was appropriate for the work conditions. BNSF called Dr. Elaine Serina, a biomechanical engineer, to dispel the mechanism of claimed injury. BNSF called a former Director of Maintenance for another railroad to testify that the machine choices were in accordance with the practice in the industry.

Defense Win

November 20, 2014
Shannon Brown v BNSF, was decided by the United States Circuit Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit August 29, 2014. The Seventh Circuit affirmed the grant of Summary Judgment to BNSF on all claims. The Court affirmed the exclusion of the testimony of the plaintiff’s expert, Dr. David Fletcher pursuant to FRE 702 and 703, finding that the methods employed were unreliable. The Court affirmed the exclusion of Dr. Fletcher’s testimony regarding differential etiology because he failed, pursuant to Daubert and Kuhmo Tire, to follow any reliable methodology in making a determination regarding causation. Since his proposed expert testimony was excluded, summary judgment on all claims for BNSF was appropriate. IDC Member and Past President Steve Heine of Heyl, Royster, Voelker & Allen in Peoria represented BNSF along with his firm colleagues IDC Member Shari Berry at trial and IDC Member Craig Unrath on the appeal.

 

Stacy D. Fulco Publishes Article in Chicago Lawyer Magazine

November 6, 2014
IDC member Stacy D. Fulco of Cremer Spina in Chicago published an article in the November 2014 edition of Chicago Lawyer magazine. The article, "How to scrub personal-injury fraud clean: Both plaintiff and defense bars will have to end this blight" discusses how all attorneys can stop fraudulent personal injury claims. To view the article, follow this link.

 

Defense Win

November 5, 2014
Michael Reda and Matthew Champlin Win Summary Judgment for Client United States Steel 
On October 29, 2014, HeplerBroom attorneys Michael Reda and Matthew Champlin received summary judgment for United States Steel Corporation and one of its employees. In Charles Martin v. United States Steel Corporation and Keith Smith, the plaintiff sought recovery for the alleged negligence of an United States Steel emergency medical technician (EMT) in responding to an emergency call. The EMT was operating an emergency vehicle, with its lights and sirens activated, when the vehicle entered an intersection. The emergency vehicle and the vehicle driven by the plaintiff collided.

Mr. Reda and Mr. Champlin successfully argued that because the EMT was providing “emergency or non-emergency medical services . . . in the normal course of conducting [his] duties, or in an emergency” both the EMT and United States Steel were entitled to immunity under the Illinois Emergency Medical Services Systems Act, 210 ILCS 50/3.150. The summary judgment motion was based largely upon the Illinois Supreme Court’s recent interpretation of the Act in Wilkins v. Williams, 2013 IL 114310. The Madison County, Illinois Circuit Court agreed with the defendants’ arguments, and granted summary judgment in favor of the defendants. 
 

Defense Win

November 4, 2014
Jack Batten of Bruce Farrel Dorn & Associates in Chicago recently received a defense verdict on behalf of his client in a pedestrian fatality accident. The plaintiff-decedent had just left a bar and was attempting to cross the roadway when the accident occurred. The plaintiff-decedent had crossed the roadway from the south side to the north side and stumbled into the passenger side of the defendant’s vehicle. All of the damage to the car was on the passenger side; there was absolutely no front end damage to the vehicle.

The plaintiff died immediately due to massive head trauma. The plaintiff had been in a bar directly across the street from the accident site for 10 hours. Defendant’s toxicology expert testified that the blood alcohol level was twice the legal limit for driving. The Chicago police major accident investigator testified that the lack of front end damage and blood on the passenger windshield area indicated that the point of contact was the passenger side of the car, giving the opinion that the pedestrian hit the vehicle. The defendant testified as well and while offering his condolences to the widow, denied any fault on his part.

Plaintiff asked the jury for an award of $2.5M; the verdict was Not Guilty.  

 

IDC Submits "Letter to the Editor" Regarding Supreme Court Retention Election

October 29, 2014

In response to the recent reports and negative ads in Southern Illinois regarding the retention of Supreme Court Justice Lloyd A. Karmeier, today IDC President David H. Levitt of Hinshaw & Culbertson, LLP submitted this letter on behalf of the members of the Illinois Association of Defense Trial Counsel to members of the media. 

As you may know, Supreme Court Justice Lloyd Karmeier is running for retention; the election is November 4. You may also be aware that a group of plaintiff attorneys, many of whom with substantial personal stakes in cases pending before the Supreme Court, have been funding attack ads designed to convince voters not to retain Justice Karmeier. IDC has sent the letter to the editors of local newspapers in the Fifth District, but this is an issue that affects the entire State, since it will determine who will be sitting on the Supreme Court.

Voting is always important, but for those of you who live in the Fifth District, it is especially important on this occasion. Please be sure to get out and vote "Yes" in favor of retention - and to get your families, friends, and neighbors to do the same. It is looking like every vote will count, so please assist us in acting proactively.

 

IDC First Vice President R. Mark Mifflin Featured in Leading Lawyers Magazine

October 15, 2014

R. Mark Mifflin of Giffin, Winning, Cohen & Bodewes, P.C. in Springfield was recently featured in Leading Lawyers magazine. The article, "Mark Mifflin - Perfect Chemistry of Lawyer and Lobbyist" was written by Jason Nevel. To view the article in its entirety, follow this link.

 

Rich Lenkov Named One of 50 Most Influential People in Workers' Compensation

October 1, 2014

Rich Lenkov, a capital member of Bryce Downey & Lenkov, LLC in Chicagowas named one of the “50 Most Influential People in Workers’ Compensation” by SEAK, Inc., a continuing education, publishing and consulting company. The national list was assembled with input from thousands of active professionals in the fields of workers’ compensation and occupational medicine.

 

 

IDC President David H. Levitt Featured in Chicago Lawyer Magazine

October 1, 2014

IDC President David H. Levitt of Hinshaw & Culbertson, LLP in Chicago is featured on the cover of Chicago Lawyer magazine in their October 2014 issue. The article, "Defense's Plan to 'level the playing field'" was written by Roy Strom. To view the article, follow this link.

 

IDC Board Member William K. McVisk and President David H. Levitt featured in Chicago Lawyer Magazine

October 1, 2014

IDC Board Member William K. McVisk of Johnson & Bell, Ltd. in Chicago and President David H. Levitt of Hinshaw & Culbertson, LLP in Chicago are featured in an October 2013 story in Chicago Lawyer Magazine on settlement agreements. The article, "It's their money, and they want it now", was written by Mark Karlinsky. Follow this link to view the article.

 

Defense Win

October 1, 2014

Stacy D. Fulco of Cremer Spina, LLC in Chicago recently had a summary judgment ruling upheld by the First District Appellate Court of Illinois on behalf of her client, a national retailer. A store customer brought suit against the retailer alleging premises liability after the customer allegedly tripped and fell on a floor mat near the store entrance. The appellate court determined that summary judgment was proper for the retailer defendant because there was insufficient evidence to create a genuine issue of material fact that the customer’s fall was attributable to any defect in the floor mat at the entrance of the store. Summary judgment was also granted by the trial court as to the store manager who was individually named, but the customer did not appeal that ruling. 

Video surveillance footage from the store showed the entire incident. As the customer was walking toward the exit, she walked over a carpet runner that had a rubber bottom. The video did not show any obvious buckles or defects in the mat. Once she was on the mat, the customer fell forward and her face collided with a nearby shopping cart. The plaintiff alleged that she sustained significant facial and closed-head injuries. Several years after the incident, the plaintiff had an expert examine the mat and he opined that there were permanent buckles in the floor mat that caused the fall. 

The trial court granted summary judgment because it found that neither the plaintiff nor her expert identified the location on the mat where the plaintiff caught her foot and there was no evidence that provided a nexus between an alleged defect and the fall. The court noted that there was no evidence that a buckle existed in the mat prior to the incident. In addition, even if the retailer negligently placed the mat on the floor with a buckle in it, there was no evidence to show that a buckle actually caused the plaintiff to fall.

 

HeplerBroom, LLC Continues Support for Relay for Life®, American Cancer Society

September 16, 2014

HeplerBroom LLC has supported Relay for Life®, American Cancer Society for over 10 years. Recently, the HeplerBroom Relay Team, "HB Firm Believers," raised over $6,500 for the 2014 Glen Carbon/Edwardsville Relay for Life®, American Cancer Society. Since the inception of the HB Firm Believers team in 2004, the team has raised over $76,000 for the American Cancer Society. The funds were not raised by just a dollar donation, but through many exciting events at the firm including jeans day and numerous raffles.

The HeplerBroom relay team started as a small group of employees who wanted to raise money for a cause that is near and dear to their heart. There is now a strong firm wide support system that is adamant about achieving the following goals: raising awareness and money to support the cause. Cancer is a disease that can affect everyone, young or old, and nearly everyone knows an individual who has been diagnosed. This staggering fact is what drives the firm to vigorously support the cause. Relay for Life is much more than a walk around a track. Relay is a time to celebrate those who have battled cancer, remember those lost, and get inspired to fight back. Those who have shared the same experience find common ground, hope, and healing at Relay. This event gives the opportunity to honor cancer survivors, pay tribute to the lives lost to the disease, and raise money to help fight it – all right in your community.

 

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