Four recent verdicts and settlements of significance
All injury attorneys know that a verdict or settlement in a client’s favor is more than a monetary recovery. In many cases, these victories compensate victims for the lifelong costs of a serious injury, provide financial security to families who lose a loved one due to negligence and even bring some measure of justice in cases of wrongdoing.
We believe that it is important to highlight the successes of trial lawyers so injured victims know that they have legal recourse and that wrongdoers can’t act with impunity. Accordingly, this article discusses a few notable verdicts and settlements that attorneys and law firms throughout the United States have achieved in the last year.
$6.9 million verdict for delayed diagnosis of breast cancer
The law firm of Whetstone Perkins & Fulda achieved the largest verdict in South Carolina last year in a medical malpractice case against a radiologist who failed to diagnose a woman with breast cancer. Leanna Loud, nurse and U.S. Air Force reservist, developed terminal breast cancer after a radiologist failed to recognize an abnormality in her mammogram.
Partner attorneys Charles Whetstone, Cheryl Perkins and John Eric Fulda represented Loud and her husband in a claim against Charleston Radiologists and Dr. Jeffrey Short, the radiologist who read the mammogram. Loud underwent multiple chemotherapy sessions, treatment with experimental drugs, a mastectomy and a hysterectomy, but sadly none of these procedures turned back the tide on her cancer, which has since metastasized to her bones.
Loud is only expected to live an additional two to three years. The jury in the case awarded $4.8 million in economic damages and $1.4 million in non-economic damages, with her husband receiving $700,000 for loss of consortium.
Rulings in favor of the plaintiff in medical malpractice cases are generally uncommon in Charleston, which is home to several major hospitals.
$300 million settlement in Benicar litigation
National litigation against Daiichi Sankyo, the manufacturer of Benicar, started in 2015. Some patients taking this antihypertensive drug, including children over 6 as well as adults, experienced severe gastrointestinal side effects and sprue-like enteropathy.
The California law firm of Kirtland & Packard LLP had two of the bellwether dangerous drug cases worked up individually for trial. Two of the of-counsel attorneys at the firm, Ruth Rizkalla and Behram Parekh, were also involved in multi-district litigation in nationwide proceedings involving Benicar lawsuits.
Ms. Rizkalla argued for consolidation of cases before the Judicial Panel for Multi-District Litigation. Mr. Parekh was appointed to the plaintiffs’ steering committee of the Benicar multi-district litigation (MDL) and named co-chair of the ESI/e-discovery committee. Ms. Rizkalla handled all aspects of discovery and trial preparation for the bellwether cases, while Mr. Parekh oversaw all aspects of e-discovery for the MDL. A team of attorneys at Kirtland & Packard assisted with reviewing documents and researching legal issues.
In August 2017, Daiichi Sankyo reached a $300 million settlement agreement with attorneys representing more than 2,000 clients who suffered severe side effects after taking Benicar.
$6.08 million verdict against tobacco company
Mary Sheffield, the widow of Valton Sheffield, filed suit against the tobacco company R.J. Reynolds after her husband succumbed to lung cancer. Melvin Wright of the Florida law firm Colling Gilbert Wright & Carter represented Mrs. Sheffield in the wrongful death lawsuit, which claimed that R.J. Reynolds failed to disclose the dangers of smoking cigarettes.
Valton Sheffield quit smoking in 1985. He later developed lung cancer, undergoing surgery to remove the lobe of one lung in 1994 and additional surgeries in 2003 and 2006 when the cancer came back.
Attorneys for the plaintiff argued that Mr. Sheffield was an addicted smoker, not a forewarned-but-voluntary smoker. He also developed health problems related to smoking between 1990 and 1996, which qualified him for a class of plaintiffs originally included in a 2000 class-action lawsuit against R.J. Reynolds that resulted in a $145 billion punitive damages verdict. The Florida Supreme Court later reversed that judgment, but allowed eligible plaintiffs to pursue individual lawsuits.
In April 2017, the jury in the Sheffield case awarded $5 million in punitive damages and $1.8 million in compensatory damages. The latter was modified to $1.08 million to reflect apportioned liability.
$194,000 settlement for car accident resulting in traumatic brain injury
A 16-year-old girl suffered mild traumatic brain injury in a car accident when a driver took his eyes off the road and ran a red light. Although the negligent driver only had $100,000 in liability coverage, Cincinnati injury attorney Anthony Castelli was able to recover a total of $194,000 in settlement. He was able to do this by accessing auto coverage known as medical payments.
The plaintiff in the case had $100,000 in medical payments coverage available in her own auto policy, and Mr. Castelli was able to recover $94,000 of this coverage.
Medical payments coverage is normally required to be paid back by the injured party out of the liability settlement. However, Mr. Castelli was successfully able to advance the “made whole” legal theory to prevent the payback clause from having any effect. This means that since the injured young girl was not made whole by the $100,000 recovered from the at-fault party (her injuries merited more than $100,000), she could keep the additional $94,000