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Compiling the top Pennsylvania injury verdicts of 2010 is an interesting, sobering and inspiring process. These verdicts remind us of the tragic losses suffered by so many Pennsylvania families every year; of the limitations inherent in a civil justice system; and of the extraordinary results that can be achieved when a case is well-prepared and tried to a jury of 12 Pennsylvanians who care about helping the injured.
Here is a list of the top verdicts of 2010. It bears reminding readers that these descriptions are summaries only and that the results are in no way predictive of the outcome of any other case.
1. Bohning v. Cullen - Lehigh County - $95 Million
This Pennsylvania wrongful death verdict stems from horrific facts. Charles Cullen worked as a nurse at St. Luke's Hospital in Bethlehem from 2000 to 2002. He has told authorities that he killed as many as 40 patients by administering medication overdoses and he is currently serving a life sentence in New Jersey after admitting to 29 deaths there and in Pennsylvania.
The jury was not asked to determine whether Mr. Cullen was responsible for the deaths of the plaintiffs in this case. This fact was determined as a matter of law prior to trial. Instead, the jury was asked only to determine how much money was appropriate to compensate the victims for their losses and to punish Mr. Cullen for his conduct.
The jury was instructed on the Pennsylvania Survival and Wrongful Death Act and determined that the families of Daniel Bohning, 37; Debra Schachter, 41; Jose Viscoso, 79; Samuel Muschlitz, 90; Henry Shimer, 81; Joseph Gostony, 83; Walter Mock, Jr., 74 and Shirley Fish, 67 were entitled to $95 million.
2. Pridgen v. Avco Corp. - Philadelphia County - $88.7 Million
This products liability action stemmed from a plane crash in 1999 that killed four people and badly injured another. The plaintiffs alleged (and the jury found) that the manufacturer had installed a faulty carburetor that caused the plane to lose power on takeoff, forcing an emergency landing attempt that ended with the crash.
The defendant sought protection under the General Aviation Revitalization Act which protects manufacturers from claims like the one brought in this case unless the injured people can prove that the defendant made willful and material misrepresentations to the Federal Aviation Administration.
The jury determined that the manufacturer's product was defective; that the manufacturer's conduct had been malicious, willful, wanton or oppressive; that the pilot was not responsible for the crash; and that damages were necessary both to compensate the injured and the estates of the dead and to punish the manufacturer. The Jury's verdict was $24.7 million in compensatory damages and $64 million in punitive damages in favor of the survivor, Tyler Johnson and the estates of Anthony Cipparone, Karen Pridgen and Dan Diggen.
3. Estate of Baumener v. A. W. Chesterton Co. - Allegheny County - $50 Million
This asbestos product liability action stemmed from the death of Barry Baumener, who worked with asbestos containing products most of his adult life. Mr. Baumener was diagnosed with mesothelioma in April of 2009 at age 62 and lost his battle with the disease prior to trial.
As is common in cases like this one, multiple defendants were named, essentially every asbestos product manufacturer whose products were exposed to Mr. Baumener in his lifetime and, like most asbestos cases, the cases were settled out of court. In fact, all of the defendants involved settled confidentially prior to trial except for Oglebay Norton Co.
The remaining defendant argued that plaintiff could not prove conclusively that he was exposed to their asbestos containing products during his lifetime. The jury found differently and awarded damages, to be allocated appropriately among all the responsible parties, of $50 million.
4. Estate of Torres v. Wachovia Bank, N.A. - Berks County - $46,168,000
This case arose of the violent death of Barbara Torres, 32. Ms. Torres, who worked as a teller for Wachovia Bank, was shot and killed by her estranged husband in a parking lot as she left work. The bank and parking lot owners were sued for their careless security practices and they settled out of court.
The remaining defendant was the estranged husband, Miguel Torres. Mr. Torres is a fugitive from justice who is believed to be residing in the Dominican Republic. The jury heard testimony that Ms. Torres would have earned $981,000 had she worked an additional 50 years and they awarded damages under the Wrongful Death Act of $168,000 and an additional $46 million in compensatory and punitive damages.
5. Russell v. A.W. Chesterton, Inc. - Philadelphia County - $17 Million
This case was another mesothelioma case resulting from exposure to asbestos. In this case, there were two plaintiffs, Martin Russell and Dale Schroeder, both of whom were diagnosed and died prior to trial. Again, there were confidential settlements reached prior to or during trial with at least some of the defendants but the identities of the settling and/or dismissed defendants was not disclosed. However, it is known that there was only defendant that remained, Melrath Gasket, Inc.
Melrath had failed to respond to discovery requests and, consequently, its defenses were stricken by the Court. Moreover, Melrath was not represented by counsel at trial. The plaintiffs waived their right to trial by jury and presented the case to Judge Sheldon Jelin.
Judge Jelin determined the proper measure of compensation for each defendant, awarding $7 million to Mr. Russell's estate and $10 million to Mr. Schroeder's estate.
Continued... See Part 2 of the 2010 Top Verdicts HERE)
Contact An Experienced Pennsylvania Trial Lawyer
The lawyers at Purchase & George have an established track record of trying civil cases. To meet with Tim George or Eric Purchase and discuss your Erie injury case, call today: 814-580-5017/toll free 877-505-9548. The consult is free and we won't charge a fee in your injury case unless we recover money for you.