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Kline & Specter wins three big appellate decisions

PA Supreme Court decides for plaintiffs in ruling that affects thousands

 
Kline & Specter won a decision by the Pennsylvania Supreme Court that affects thousands of plaintiffs who have filed suit against Johnson & Johnson claiming Risperdal caused gynecomastia, the growth of breasts in boys. In a ruling effectively reinstating thousands of Risperdal claims, the state’s highest court reversed decisions dismissing lawsuits in two cases on grounds that the statute of limitations had expired. J&J and subsidiary Janssen Pharmaceuticals had argued – and won decisions by the trial judge and Superior Court – that the statute began to run in 2006 when the company changed its warning label to include mention of the anti-psychotic drug’s risk. The Kline & Specter team effort on appeal included Tom Kline, Charles “Chip” Becker and Andra Laidacker. They contended the statute did not begin to run as a matter of law upon the 2006 label change as to all Risperdal plaintiffs on a global basis, nor did it begin running as a matter of law against the two plaintiffs at issue upon the label change, especially where those plaintiffs had stopped taking Risperdal before the label change occurred. Becker argued the case before the Supreme Court. In a 6-1 decision, the court sided with the plaintiffs, saying that neither the 2006 label change nor subsequent journal and news reports were sufficient to trigger the statute of limitations as a matter of law.  There are about 6,800 pending lawsuits in the Philadelphia Risperdal mass tort program. Kline and Becker were quoted by Law360 stating jointly: “Today’s ruling reinstates the legal rights of thousands of people with Risperdal claims. Combined with the affirmance of three jury verdicts and the [earlier] reinstatement of the right to punitive damages, this litigation now has all of the legal impediments resolved …” In October, Kline and Chris Gomez, along with Houston-based attorney Jason Itkin and co-counsel Stephen Sheller of Sheller PC, won an $8 billion punitive damages verdict against J&J in a Risperdal case. 

Federal appellate court reverses summary judgment
in medical device case

 
On the same day – within an hour, in fact -- as the Pennsylvania Supreme Court decided the Risperdal case, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit handed down a precedential ruling in another case involving the statute of limitations, this time in the context of implanted medical devices. Becker and Laidacker handled this appeal as well, with Becker arguing before the Court.  In Adams v. Zimmer, Inc. Marilyn Adams sued Zimmer in February 2017 over an allegedly defective hip implant. The manufacturer sought summary judgment on statute of limitations grounds, contending that she should have discovered her injury before January 2015 and no later than early February 2017 based on conversations with her physician. In response, Adams argued that the statute of limitations did not begin to run as a matter of law until Feb.12, 2017 when she had revision surgery during which her surgeon could directly visualize problems with the implant. She filed suit over the allegedly flawed device within two years of the revision surgery. The district court granted summary judgment. But the Third Circuit reversed and remanded the case for trial. The Court undertook a detailed review of the record evidence and concluded that whether suit was brought within the statute involved conflicting factual narratives and that under Pennsylvania law that matter required jury resolution. The Legal Intelligencer quoted Kline and Becker: “Today was an important day in Pennsylvania law concerning the discovery rule and the statute of limitations … The reversal of summary judgment allows Ms. Adams’ case to move to trial. She looks forward to her day in court.” This is the second recent loss by Zimmer to Kline & Specter. Last year, Zimmer paid nearly $22.7 million in Polett v .Zimmer, a case tried by Shanin Specter for a woman who suffered a devastating knee injury while taping a promotional video for Zimmer following implantation of a Zimmer knee. The Polett case also involved extensive appellate litigation for which Becker and Laidacker had responsibility.

Pa Superior Court upholds $70M verdict

 
Only a week after the two aforementioned appeals, the Pennsylvania Superior Court upheld a $70 million jury verdict against J&J and Janssen for a child a jury found was injured by Risperdal. Not only did the appellate court find unanimously that the verdict was not excessive, it further remanded the case for consideration of whether there should be a second trial for punitive damages. The court decided in A.Y. v. Janssen to uphold Philadelphia Common Pleas Judge Paula Patrick‘s judgment siding with the jury verdict for a child prescribed Risperdal at four years of age. He was 16 when the jury handed down its verdict in 2016 and was living with severe and permanent disfigurement, a condition that caused him to be teased and bullied for years in school. There is no cure for gynecomastia, only removal of the breast tissue through mastectomy. The case was tried by Kline & Specter litigation partners Jason and Cory Itkin from Arnold & Itkin. The case was primarily handled on appeal by Chip Becker and Andra Laidacker, with Becker arguing in the Superior Court. Following the court ruling, Kline, Becker and Itkin were quoted in the news media in a joint statement: “This jury verdict affirmance and rejection of Johnson & Johnson’s preemption arguments dovetails with the appellate rulings against Johnson & Johnson relating to the drug Risperdal, where similar verdicts have been upheld, punitive damages have been reinstated, and cases dismissed under the statute of limitations have been reinstated, all paving the way for continued progress and additional jury verdicts against a company whose misconduct toward children has been exposed in the courts of this commonwealth; we look forward to the punitive damages trial in this case.”
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Kline & Specter wins Top Med-Mal Verdict and Top Settlement for 2018

 
In 2018, Dominic Guerrini and Mark Polin, one of the firm’s five doctor/lawyers, won a $47 million jury verdict for a newborn child who suffered severe disfiguring injuries after a doctor inappropriately wrapped her head with an Ace bandage to treat swelling. The verdict would become No. 1 among medical malpractice verdicts in Pennsylvania for that year as reported recently by Verdict Search in its annual publication of top verdicts. The verdict in U.S. District Court in Johnstown was also believed to be the largest in history in a medical malpractice case in federal court in Pennsylvania. Shanin Specter, Michael Trunk and Patrick Fitzgerald obtained the year’s top settlement — $30 million from AT&T and other companies for a worker who suffered severe injuries when he fell nearly 50 feet from a cell tower in Allentown when a ladder rung to which he was tethered dislodged. Thomas Jeglum, 23 at the time and the father of two, was eventually moved to a full-time neurological rehabilitation facility in California. The case was litigated with co-counsel Robert Buccola, Jason Sigel, and Marshall Way of the northern California firm of Dreyer Babich Buccola Wood Campora LLP. Trunk also earned a spot in The New Jersey Law Journal’s Top 20 Personal Injury Awards publication, which tracked cases from August 2018-19 for his case that produced a $4.2 million settlement for the estate of a woman who died from routine neck surgery. In that incident, a doctor who was supposed to have been remotely monitoring the procedure was instead out driving his car and making phone calls. The case involved an investigation that spanned five years, including forensic analysis that showed the doctor had tried to purge his computer of evidence from the day of the surgery. Trunk was the only attorney to make both the Pennsylvania and New Jersey Top 20 lists.

Kline inducted into Duquesne Century Club

 
Tom Kline was inducted as a member of the Century Club of Distinguished Duquesne University Alumni, the highest honor bestowed on graduates of the school. A graduate of the Duquesne School of Law, Kline joined an elite list of the university’s most well-known and accomplished graduates from the fields of law, education, business, science and the arts. Among inductees are members of the Pennsylvania courts, including the Pennsylvania Superior and Supreme courts and the federal courts. Besides being one of the state’s most successful attorneys and a revered graduate of the Duquesne law school, Kline also is its largest benefactor, having made a gift that established The Thomas R. Kline Center for Judicial Education at Duquesne. The center supports the improvement of the administration of justice through continuing education for judges of the commonwealth. Attendees at an induction dinner were treated to a tribute video to Kline produced by Duquesne for the ceremonial event. (Watch Video)  

Parents push to change the culture of hazing

 
Thanks in large part to the relentless efforts of Evelyn and Jim Piazza, a “turning point” may finally have been reached in the battle to curtail injuries and deaths due to hazing. That is the opinion of Hank Nuwer, a professor at Franklin College in Indiana who has been studying the issue for more than 40 years, according to a lengthy article by The Washington Post that centers on the work of the Piazzas, whose son, Tim, died as the result of a fraternity hazing incident at Penn State in 2017. The Piazzas, sometimes with Tom Kline at their side, have appeared at numerous news conferences, meetings with lawmakers, television interviews and on college campuses telling the story of their son’s death and appealing for change. The turnaround in public sentiment is no small thing. The article notes that the first hazing death occurred at Cornell University in 1873, and there has been at least one such death every year over the past six decades. The Piazzas have helped change state law, particularly in Pennsylvania, where serious injury due to hazing is now a felony. But more importantly, perhaps, their speeches have helped reverse sentiment, making people understand that hazing is not just an innocent tradition but a practice that can have severe consequences. Their appearances have included small colleges and large ones alike, schools such as Kansas State, George Washington University, American University, LSU, the University of Florida, Duke, the University of North Carolina and Clemson, where they recently spoke before 5,000 people. While legislation may be a deterrent, the Piazzas know that cultural change may be more crucial, and that starts with educating people one by one. As Evelyn Piazza told students at one appearance: “Don’t be the person who does this to someone.”

Kline picked for Business Journal’s Power 100

 
Who are the most powerful people in Greater Philadelphia? That was the question posed by the Philadelphia Business Journal … and one of the answers was Tom Kline. The newspaper noted that its editorial team spent hours debating and crafting its list of the area’s most influential people, the top “movers and shakers from across the region.” The list, which did not include people in the public sector, noted Kline’s accomplishments in a number of cases, focusing in particular on his leading role in the Amtrak 188 derailment and settlement of $265 million for victims of the crash and, most recently, his $8 billion punitive verdict against Johnson & Johnson over its drug Risperdal. The anti-psychotic medicine has been linked to gynecomastia, or the growth of breast tissue in boys and male adolescents. Also making the Power 100 were top executives of various organizations, colleges and corporations such as WaWa, Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia, Comcast, Campbell Soup Co., Fox Rothschild, the Rothman Institute and Vanguard.

Williams testifies for bill to provide help for poor in eviction cases
 

David Williams testified before the Philadelphia City Council Committee on Law and Government on “right to counsel” legislation that would provide access to free legal representation for low-income residents who are facing eviction in Landlord-Tenant Court. Speaking as president of the Barristers’ Association of Philadelphia, an organization representing African American attorneys, Williams told the committee: “Though this civil justice disproportionately affects black Philadelphians, all Philadelphians benefit from the right to counsel through the avoidance of disruptive displacement and cost savings to the city.” Williams went on to note that tenants are not represented by legal counsel in more than 80 percent of all eviction matters while landlords have an attorney in more than 90 percent of cases. “This disparity should shock everyone in this room,” Williams told the committee. “Having legal representation is often the difference between keeping one’s home or becoming homeless.” The committee passed the measure and City Council later unanimously approved Bill No. 190386. Mayor Jim Kenney was expected to sign the measure into law. The city has up to now guaranteed legal representation to low-income people in criminal matters, but not civil cases like eviction. This new law will provide legal help for single people earning less than $24,980 and for families of four with annual incomes of less than $51,500, including those living in Philadelphia Housing Authority properties. Philadelphia sees about 20,000 evictions filed each year.

Specter and Smerconish speak on media ethics

 
Shanin Specter and radio and TV journalist Michael Smerconish, who is also of-counsel at Kline & Specter, spoke before an overflow audience of more than 300 at the Institute for Jewish Ethics in Philadelphia during a seminar. The format had Specter and Smerconish, who has a once-weekly program on CNN TV and a daily show on SiriusXM radio, question one another about various topics related to the news media. Their presentation included issues such as freedom of speech, censorship, “fake news,” and libel and slander. Among other things, Specter spoke about major corporation’s strategy of trying to “exhaust plaintiffs” in matters such as vaginal mesh product liability cases in which some law firms have gathered thousands of plaintiffs cases they then are unable to litigate. The corporations under such circumstances are able to settle the cases for, as Specter put it, “peanuts” and “that is something of which we as professionals should not be proud.” Kline & Specter has, for its part, won nine vaginal mesh verdicts totaling nearly $347 million. But, Specter said, he is not a member of the legal profession only for the money or accolades. He told the audience: “I don’t need to have some other validation other than representing clients and knowing we are doing a good job to improve their lives and the lives of their neighbors.” (Watch the video)

Murderer sentenced to life, Kline to press civil case

 
The criminal trial may be over but the civil litigation is just beginning. Sean Kratz, 22, was convicted of first-degree murder and sentenced to life in prison without parole for the murder of 19-year-old Dean Finocchiaro in a killing spree at a Bucks County farm in 2017 by Kratz and his cousin, Cosmo DiNardo. Four men were found partially burned and buried at the farm owned by DiNardo’s parents in Solebury Township. The verdict and sentence for Kratz followed a 10-day trial after which prosecutors dropped their bid for the death penalty. Kratz was also convicted of two counts of manslaughter for serving as a lookout for DiNardo. The victims were lured to the farm for a supposed drug deal. Authorities reported that Kratz had confessed to shooting Finocchiaro. Tom Kline, who represents the Finocchiaro family, has filed a wrongful-death lawsuit against the DiNardo family on grounds DiNardo’s parents are accountable for providing the .357-caliber handgun, registered to DiNardo’s mother, that was used in the slaying. After Kratz’s sentencing, Kline told The New York Times that the Finocchiaros were sad over the loss of their son but satisfied with the verdict for Kratz. “They mourn for their son and the others who died, and are satisfied that now they have some closure knowing that both of their son’s killers will be punished.” DiNardo has been sentenced to four consecutive life sentences.

Specter on podcast questioned about questioning

 
Shanin Specter was a guest on the Good Law/Bad Law weekly podcast hosted by attorney Aaron Freiwald on the subject of “How to Ask a Question” – a topic taught by Specter at law schools at Penn, Stanford, Hastings and Berkeley. Specter noted the importance —  whether in a courtroom or one’s daily life – of properly asking questions. For instance, he said, if you were at Starbucks and you wanted to make sure the coffee you got was decaffeinated, don’t ask if the coffee is decaffeinated. “The problem with that is that the question is likely to result in an incorrect answer because it’s a leading question and to someone who is busy. The correct question is: ‘Is this regular or decaf?’” Specter teaches that, first, a good questioner must master the relevant subject matter. Then he or she has to formulate a question, a “single, short question using short words and old words.” And then, one must listen carefully to the answer. “If you get an answer that’s not responsive,” he said, “then you have to ask it again, and use exactly the same words and the same tone.” Don’t sound angry. If the witness is still not responsive, a jury is likely to get annoyed at the witness. Another tip for the courtroom: If you get an answer that is damaging to your opponent, wait a few beats. Let there be silence for a while. Allow the damaging answer to linger. “Let it sink in for the jury,” Specter said. He tells his students that when questioning a witness they should start strong – letting the jury quickly forget your opponent’s previous performance – and end strong. And if you’ve suffered a poor performance, never let a jury see that you’ve been wounded. On this point, Specter quoted another attorney from years past: “Never let your face show how hard your ass has been kicked.” (Listen to the entire podcast)

Becker comments on Amtrak ticket clause barring lawsuits 

 
Charles “Chip” Becker was quoted in an NBC interview aired from coast to coast about a new clause placed in Amtrak tickets that prohibits passengers injured in crashes from suing the rail line. Instead, under the new rules, which passengers must agree to in order to get a ticket, disputes would go to arbitration. Currently, total damages for Amtrak per incident are limited at $294.3 million. Kline & Specter, with Tom Kline as chairman of the plaintiffs committee, led the way to obtaining a $265 million settlement in the 2015 Amtrak 188 derailment that killed eight people and injured hundreds more. “It is hard enough for average consumers to seek redress against corporations like Amtrak when it comes to something like a lost bag or what I’ll call a minor injury, but this is a company that in recent years has had not just one train but multiple trains derail,” Becker told NBC. Becker’s comments were aired by a number of affiliates, including those In Philadelphia, New York and Los Angeles. He added, “For Amtrak to insert so quietly in tiny little print on the back of their tickets this arbitration clause that deprives people of their opportunity to have their day in court is not only terrible it is anti-consumer in the worst possible way.” The move by Amtrak has raised criticism from consumer advocates and may lead to action by Congress. (Watch the news clip)

Specter pens article after Cuba trip
 

Shanin Specter wrote an article about a recent mission to Cuba, where his journey took him along the backroads of the island nation. He proclaimed Cuba a study in the failure of two governments — theirs and ours. He reported that while beauty remains in Cuba beyond its landscape, notably loyalty to family and the artistic talents of its people, the country lacks basic necessities such as functioning electrical outlets, running water, serving utensils and telephone service. Nonexistent too are basic safety measures such as seat belts, speed limits, a real drinking age, child-proof lighters and bike helmets. The old 1950s automobiles of the United States still cruise Cuban streets. Poverty is rampant and Cubans don’t enjoy Western freedoms. As one guide told Specter: “Americans and Cubans are equally free to criticize the president, so long as it’s your president.” Yet, opines Specter, things could turn around. “… There was a glimmer of hope four years ago,” he noted, “when the United States temporarily loosened its mindless embargo and the Cuban government signaled an interest in reform. If that could happen again, the potential for gigantic American investment and Cuban advancement is limitless.” (Read the article)

And Aldous makes 45

 
Eleanor O. Aldous became the 45th attorney at the state’s largest plaintiffs firm, a firm that started in 1995 with just four attorneys. Aldous joined Kline & Specter following a highly successful academic career and a background that comports with the firm’s philosophy of volunteerism. Aldous, who worked previously as a law clerk at Kline & Specter, attended the University of Pennsylvania Law School. Before that, she was a member of AmeriCorps with City Year New York, a program that seeks to improve the school performance of students with poor grades, poor attendance and disruptive behavior. Aldous also worked at The Posse Foundation, another New York organization that aids students who exhibit extraordinary leadership potential. As an undergraduate at The George Washington University, where she graduated summa cum laude and as a member of Phi Beta Kappa, Aldous also kept up a busy volunteer career that included leading student volunteers and fundraising efforts for a community infrastructure program in Ecuador. Her volunteer work also took her to Honduras, where she helped first- and second-grade pupils improve their English verbal and writing skills. At Penn Law, Aldous worked as a Certified Legal Intern at the Penn Legal Assistance Office, which offers free legal services to indigent clients living in the Philadelphia area. Aldous was also a co-leader and member of an a cappella group named The Vibes that performed at, among other places, Blair House and the White House.

Upcoming Event
 

  • Jan. 16 - Kila Baldwin will speak at the Pennsylvania Association for Justice Winter Member Meeting Mass Torts CLE, Wind Creek Bethlehem, 77 Wind Creek Blvd, Bethlehem, Pa.
     




Photo Gallery:

 
David Williams participated in a Service Academy Interview Panel for U. S. Rep. Madeleine Dean. Fourteen candidates were interviewed seeking admission to all five service academies. The congresswoman may nominate candidates on behalf of her district. The panelists with Dean were, from left, State Rep. Joseph G. Webster, (Air Force), Williams (Army), Robert Bender (Navy), Terrence Fenningham (Navy), and William Holt (Army). Williams, a graduate of West Point, served in Iraq, Bosnia and Germany. He was awarded the Army Commendation for Meritorious Service for duty during Operation Iraqi Freedom II.







First she was a cheerleader for the New England Patriots – and they won a Super Bowl. Now Vanessa Fattizzo, daughter of Kline & Specter’s Angela Fattizzo, is on the dance team for the Boston Celtics. If the Celtics end up in a parade this year, the Sixers might consider a trade next season -- for Vanessa.














Tom Kline celebrates Sixers win with center Joel Embiid. 
 

Charity and Volunteering:

 




Priscilla Jimenez
and David Williams participated in Diversity DiveIN Day held at the Kline School of Law. Jimenez served as moderator for the event, which also included attorneys Amber Racine and J.P. Faunes as presenters. The event provided a range of services and activities for college sophomores, juniors and seniors, especially for minority students, who are planning to apply to law school. Among the focus of the event was helping students prepare for the Law School Admissions Test, developing strategies for the overall admissions process and to help build skills the students will need once they enter law school.






With David Williams leading the effort, the Barristers’ Association of Philadelphia held its 35th Annual Thanksgiving Turkey Drive to help Philadelphia-area families on Thanksgiving. Williams, who became Barristers’ president a few months ago, reported that 70 volunteers worked at the Strawberry Mansion PAL Center unloading, preparing, and distributing 700 “turkey baskets” consisting of a turkey, canned goods, and stuffing.


Kline & Specter employees volunteered at Cradles to Crayons, the organization that helps to provide essential items to more than 70,000 children in the Philadelphia area. Angela Fattizzo organized the firm’s C2C “Gear Up for Winter” program, which helped distribute children’s hats, gloves, boots or other winter clothing. Pictured in the photo are, from left: Miguel Matheus, Rubye Evans, Jody Chance, Kim Kelly, Jen Pinto, Jean Thatcher, Courtney Johnson, Veronica Wehle and Lashaunda Winston.



Theresa Reed organized a donation drive for new and used items for the Philadelphia Animal Welfare Society (PAWS) and the SPCA. “Please don’t be embarrassed about the condition of your items, the animals will not judge,” she said. Among items being sought – and it’s still not too late to donate — are dog and cat toys, blankets, towels, dog treats, dog and cat food, medications, collars and harnesses, cat litter, paper towels, laundry and dishwasher detergent, pet beds and carriers and peanut butter (creamy only, please). Cash and gift cards are also OK.

Kline & Specter proudly supports the Timothy J. Piazza Memorial Foundation.

 

 See our website page on Volunteerism 

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