Kline & Specter wins $80 million verdict in vaginal mesh case

Tom Kline, Michael Trunk, Kila Baldwin, Christine Clarke and Phil Pasquarello won an $80 million verdict against pharmaceutical behemoth Johnson & Johnson for a Pennsylvania woman injured due to vaginal mesh. The verdict included $50 million in punitive damages and $30 million in compensatory damages, the largest compensatory award in the nation to date in a mesh device case. There have now been nine verdicts in vaginal mesh cases against J&J subsidiary Ethicon Inc. in Philadelphia Common Pleas Court, with awards totaling nearly $347 million. All nine cases were tried by Kline & Specter attorneys. At the end of the six-week trial, Kline told the jury in his closing argument that the case was “an epic tale of corporate misconduct by an American corporation to put profits before patient safety.” The verdict was for Patricia Mesigian, of Media, who had the mesh implanted in 2008 to treat organ prolapse. But the plastic-like product eroded, leaving her suffering with pelvic pain, infection, inflammation, scar tissue and painful sexual intercourse. A series of revision surgeries failed to help. The product in question was Ethicon’s Prolift mesh device, which was taken off the market in 2012. Thousands of women across the country have lawsuits pending against J&J and other makers of vaginal mesh both removed from the market and still being sold. Mesigian’s lawsuit claimed that not only was the mesh defective and had a high erosion rate – 15.6 percent in one study – but that J&J misrepresented the efficacy and safety of the device. Kline told The Legal Intelligencer following the verdict: “In this largest transvaginal compensatory jury verdict to date, this jury resoundingly found that Johnson & Johnson terribly injured another one of thousands of women implanted with its defective transvaginal mesh device, recognizing not only the severity of the injury but the abhorrence of the conduct.” Key witness testimony in the courtroom was handled by Trunk and Baldwin in this Kline & Specter team effort. (Read article)

Magen, Cavaliere win $3.38 million med-mal verdict in baby’s death

Barry Magen, one of the firm’s five doctor/lawyers, and Michael Cavaliere, won a $3.38 million jury verdict in the case of a baby girl who died from dehydration and shock caused by a strangulated small intestine after staff at Einstein Medical Center in Elkins Park failed to diagnose and treat the problem or transfer the child to a hospital with pediatric care. In addition to the mistakes made by doctors and staff, they also proved to the jury that medical records had been altered after the incident to remove mention of symptoms that were diagnostic of these illnesses. The verdict in Philadelphia Common Pleas Court was for the parents of 21-month-old Casey Lei, who on Sept. 29, 2014 began vomiting a green bilious fluid, which is a sign of a strangulated mesenteric hernia. Casey’s parents, of Dresher, Pa., initially brought their child to a doctor who recommended fluids and anti-nausea medicine and sent her home. But later that night she became unresponsive and her parents called for an ambulance, which took her to the Einstein Elkins Park emergency department, where there was no pediatrician or capability to treat pediatric patients. Casey was treated there by a doctor, Stewart Sanford, MD, and a physician’s assistant, Mendel Coupet. Evidence showed that Coupet initially documented bilious vomiting, a red flag for a bowel obstruction and a sign that emergency surgery was needed. Magen and Cavaliere showed at trial that Coupet later altered the records to remove mention of bilious vomiting. At the hospital, Casey was given small amounts of IV fluids. She was kept for two hours in the emergency room, where her heart rate became extremely elevated. When alarms went off, a nurse merely shut them off, according to evidence at trial. At one point, the child’s blood pressure dropped, she became pale and her lips turned blue. A code was called but attempts at resuscitation failed. “This was a preventable tragedy that was caused by the medical negligence of the defendants,” Magen told The Legal Intelligencer. “The jury clearly understood that and appropriately awarded significant compensation to the Lei family.” Defendants at trial were Sanford, Coupet and Einstein Medical Center on behalf of Theresa Ackerman, a registered nurse. (Read article)

Medical malpractice case settled for $29 million


David Inscho
and Gary Zakeosian achieved a $29 million settlement in a medical malpractice case against a Western Pennsylvania hospital. Other details are confidential. 

High court refuses to hear appeal, sexual abuse verdict stands

The Pennsylvania Supreme Court refused to hear the case of Nattiel v. Presbyterian Children's Village, meaning the $5.35 million verdict in the child sexual abuse case will stand. With delay damages, the award grew to nearly $6.7 million. The case was tried in Philadelphia Common Pleas Court in October 2016 by Nadeem Bezar and Emily Marks. The appeals were handled by Charles “Chip” Becker and Andra Laidacker. The plaintiffs claimed in the case that Presbyterian Children's Village (PCV), a child placement agency, had re-placed a girl into a foster home where she had been previously sexually abused. The girl, who was not named in the lawsuit, was only seven and a half years old when she was placed again in the foster home of Deborah and Walter Scott by PCV despite knowing the home was being investigated for child sexual abuse. The child was removed from the home but then returned there several months later despite allegations of abuse by another child. Walter Scott later pleaded guilty to criminal charges of sexually abusing the child and two other minors. The lawsuit against PCV claimed the agency violated reporting laws and the standard of care for foster care agencies and failed to heed numerous red flags about the Scotts. The Superior Court affirmed the verdict and later denied reargument. Bezar told The Legal Intelligencer: "We are gratified that the Supreme Court saw no reason to extend the case and that the litigation is finally over, with nothing remaining but for the defendant to accept responsibility by paying the judgment. At this point our focus is on helping the client continue to recover and move ahead with her life.” (Read article)

PA Superior Court keeps $13.5 million vaginal mesh verdict intact 

The full Pennsylvania Superior Court has refused Johnson & Johnson’s request to review the decision of a three-judge panel of Superior Court affirming the $13.5 million verdict in favor of Sharon and Chuck Carlino. Mrs. Carlino was implanted with J&J’s TVT vaginal mesh, which has caused severe pelvic pain. The case was tried by Kline & Specter attorneys Shanin SpecterKila Baldwin and Michael Trunk, along with Rich Freese, of the Dallas-Birmingham firm of Freese & Goss, and resulted in a $3.5 million verdict to compensate and a $10 million verdict to punish Johnson & Johnson.

Suit filed in D.C. against institution where children were allegedly abused

Shanin Specter and Patrick Fitzgerald filed suit against the Washington Hebrew Congregation in Washington, D.C., over the alleged sexual abuse of three preschool-aged children by a former assistant teacher at its Eldavitch-Tyser Early Childhood Center. The firm’s clients attended the pre-school between 2017 and 2018 when the abuse occurred. The lawsuit claims that Washington Hebrew Congregation enabled the former assistant teacher’s conduct through acts of neglect and violations of D.C. law and regulations regarding early childhood centers, including that there be at least two adults present with groups of children. The suit further alleges that the school was aware or should have been aware of the abuse, but failed to properly investigate and report those concerns to law enforcement authorities. According to a recent media report, D.C. officials investigating the abuse found the school dismissed staff members’ complaints about unusual activity with children by the former assistant teacher and failed to ensure the safety of the children. The Washington Hebrew Congregation is one of the oldest and most prominent synagogues in the District.

Becker argues Risperdal statute issue before PA Supreme Court 

One of the major legal issues in Risperdal litigation has been the question of when the statute of limitations begins to run on the claims of approximately 7,000 plaintiffs who have filed suit in the Philadelphia courts over harmful side effects of the anti-psychotic drug. The cases involve Risperdal’s link to gynecomastia, the growth of female-like breast tissue in male adolescents. Plaintiffs in the cases argue that the statute did not begin to run until victims had a reasonable basis to learn that Risperdal caused such damage and that this could only be determined on a case-by-case basis.  In many cases, that would be the first time the victims or their parents saw TV commercials aired by law firms about the dangers of Risperdal and possible legal recourse.  A trial court found that the two-year statute of limitations began to run in August 2009 as to all claims nationwide. The Pennsylvania Superior Court has set the timeline back to October 2006, when manufacturer Janssen changed its label to make oblique references to the link between Risperdal and gynecomastia.  This deadline would bar many if not most of the current pending lawsuits.  In arguments before the Supreme Court, Charles “Chip” Becker argued against any fixed deadline (of two years after a certain date) to file suit and instead to let juries decide based on the facts of each case. For one, he noted, the 2006 label change to Risperdal would not be known by plaintiffs who no longer were taking the drug at the time.  Nor would they be likely to have seen a label change intended not for them but for their doctors.  Becker also noted that compared to massive media coverage of problems with drugs such as Vioxx and Avandia that were the targets of litigation in the past, the problems now linked to Risperdal hardly reached critical media mass and were barely discussed at all—and not by local newspapers that might have been accessible to the plaintiffs whose cases were before the Supreme Court.  “The Vioxx story would have been covered by The Hazleton Standard-Speaker,” Becker said. “There was scattered scientific literature and news coverage [regarding Risperdal. But this is] not in the same state, to say nothing of the same ball park.” (Watch the proceedings)

Super Lawyers names 20 Kline & Specter lawyers to 2019 PA lists

Twenty Kline & Specter lawyers were named as 2019 Pennsylvania Super Lawyers or "Rising Stars," with Tom Kline selected as the state’s No. 1 attorney a nationally unprecedented 16th straight years and Shanin Specter selected for the 16th year among the state's Top 10. The independent attorney rating service includes the best 5 percent or less of all lawyers in a state. Kline was the top point getter for the 16th straight year, which was a first for any lawyer in any state. Other Kline & Specter lawyers selected by Super Lawyers 2019 are Lee B. Balefsky, head of the firm's Mass Tort Department and also a 16-year selection, Andrew J. Stern, named for 15 straight years, Charles L. Becker, Michael A. Trunk, Dominic Guerrini, Nadeem Bezar, Christopher Gomez and Kila B. Baldwin. Becker, head of the firm’s Appellate Division, was a Top 100 selection. Additionally, Jordan Merson, head of the firm’s New York office was named to New York Super Lawyers and Gilbert Shelsby was named to Delaware Super Lawyers. Super Lawyers uses attorney voting and review by a blue-ribbon panel to determine winners. Super Lawyers is an independent service that rates outstanding lawyers from more than 70 practice areas who "have attained a high degree of peer recognition and professional achievement.” Kline & Specter attorneys also were named as Pennsylvania Rising Stars for 2019, designating them as among the top 2.5 percent of attorneys in the state who are 40 or younger or practicing 10 years or less. They are Priscilla Jimenez, David C. Williams, Braden Lepisto, Patrick Fitzgerald, Emily Marks, Tracie Palmer, Mark S. Polin, Christine Clarke, Elizabeth Crawford and Elia Robertson. (Read more)

Sara Thomson latest attorney with firm

Kline & Specter welcomes Sara Thomson as its latest attorney, bringing the number at Pennsylvania’s largest plaintiffs firm to 43. Thomson, who focuses on medical malpractice and product liability litigation, has worked with Michael Trunk on some of the firm’s major cases, including vaginal mesh cases that resulted in jury verdicts of $13.5 million and, most recently, $80 million against Johnson & Johnson. Her prior background was as a litigation associate for 24 years with two Philadelphia-area law firms – McKissock & Hoffman and Post & Post — that concentrated on the legal defense of medical malpractice lawsuits. Thomson has done research and legal writing for trial and appellate courts as well as evaluated written discovery responses, analyzed medical records, worked on case development and  handled arbitrations and assisted at trial. Thomson earned her bachelor’s degree from Hofstra University, where she was on the Dean’s List four straight years, and her law degree from Villanova University School of Law, where she graduated in the top fifth of her class. She is also talented on the clarinet, having been named the best clarinet player in New York state while she was in middle school and continuing on the instrument through high school. (Her father, Robert McGinnis, was the principal clarinetist with the Philadelphia Orchestra under the direction of Leopold Stokowski and later for the New York Philharmonic.) In her earlier years, Thomson also worked as a groom for polo ponies.

Kline addresses graduates of the Thomas R. Kline School of Law

In his annual commencement remarks to the graduating class of the Thomas R. Kline School of Law at Drexel University, Tom Kline spoke of the school’s rise in just 12 years from an unaccredited institution to a law school recognized nationally and one ranked particularly high for health care law, legal writing, trial advocacy and trial team performance (No. 3 nationally). “We are in the forefront of American legal education — co-ops, pro bono, on-line learning, the strongest of academics and scholarship in many areas.  We influence the national discourse in American law every day,” Kline said at the Kimmel Center ceremony. He went on to praise the school’s faculty and especially its students. “Now, more than ever, we need lawyers to defend and protect our Constitution, our country, our institutions, and our values. You are it,” he told the graduates, adding a quote from William Faulkner: “Never be afraid to raise your voice for honesty and truth and compassion against injustice.” He urged the 132 members of the Class of 2019 to keep focused on their objectives, not obstacles. “I have often summed up our mission in a simple Chinese proverb: ‘The person who says it cannot be done should not interrupt the people doing it,’” he said.

Bezar on child abuse on the David Oh show

Nadeem Bezar appeared on the radio/podcast program “In the Know with David Oh” aired on WWDB-AM 860 and hosted by City Councilman David Oh. Bezar spoke on the “epidemic” of physical and sexual abuse of children, particularly when they are removed from their parents and placed by city agencies in other settings. “DHS [Department of Human Services] tries to do the best they can but often they fall woefully short,” he said. Bezar, who represents children who are the victims of assault, said that often children are taken from bad environments and then placed in worse situations in which they are assaulted. “Once the system gets a hold of you it just doesn’t let go of you,” Bezar said, adding, “Give parents a chance.” He said parents need to be asked: “What do I need to do to show you (how to be) a better parent. Take classes, have supervised visits … whatever you have to do.” Bezar has obtained large verdicts and settlements against public and private agencies that have placed children in unsafe environments. Late last year, Bezar won a $4.5 million jury verdict against the Defender Association of Philadelphia, a foster care agency and the foster parents of young Philadelphia twins who were abused after being placed in a Lancaster, Pa., home. Earlier, he won an $11 million verdict against a child placement agency and the adoptive parents of a girl who was physically and sexually abused in their home over several years. “We believe that through the civil system, reform will come. When agencies are made to pay for the mistakes they make and children are harmed, correction will come,” he said, adding, “And we are not afraid to take every single case to trial. We believe that through civil verdicts and civil accountability and monetary accountability, reform will happen.” (Listen to show)

Charity and Volunteering:

Kline & Specter is proud to have made a substantial donation to Project HOME, a Philadelphia non-profit organization empowering people to break the cycle of poverty and homelessness through affordable housing, employment, health care and education. Project HOME was started in 1989 and has become a leader in providing services to the chronically homeless. With innovation, leadership, and a commitment to the dignity of each person, the organization has developed nationally recognized programs that have proven that homelessness can be solved. It has also been a leader in Philadelphia in responding to the root causes of homelessness through street outreach, helping to rebuild low-income neighborhoods and by engaging in political advocacy to bring about positive public policies for low-income and homeless people.

Williams volunteers at Life Planning Clinic

The Barristers’ Association of Philadelphia, Inc. partnered with the Senior Law Center to help low-income Philadelphia seniors prepare empowering decision-making documents, enabling elders to retain control over their lives when they are most vulnerable and cannot speak for themselves. About 25 attorneys, including Kline & Specter’s David Williams, and two law students volunteered at Life Planning Clinic at Center In the Park in Germantown, where they helped prepare simple wills, living wills, health care powers of attorney and financial powers of attorney. The Barristers’ Association has served scores of seniors since the clinic’s inception in 2015. Williams has been elected to become the organization’s next president in September 2019. The Barristers’ Association, formed in 1950, addresses the professional needs and development of black lawyers through seminars, cultural events and publications and it takes a pro-active role in fighting injustices in society.



Tom Kline
, with Colin Burke to his right, cheers on Joel Embiid as the 76ers dominate in most home games during the 2018-2019 NBA season. Unfortunately, the Sixers season ended in the second round of the playoffs on a buzzer beater in Game 7 against the Toronto Raptors, the eventual NBA champions. 


Jason Kelly, son of Kline & Specter’s Kim Kelly, and Erik Grady, son of Susan Grady, were both named to the All Catholic (3rd team) for pitching and shortstop, respectively, in the Philadelphia Catholic League. Jason and Erik, who attend Roman Catholic High School, were also selected for the Carpenter Cup, a high school all-star tournament team with an affiliation to the Philadelphia Phillies. Jason (left) had a 1-0 record with six saves and a 2.45 ERA in helping lead Roman to an 11-2 record. Erik had a .380 batting average.

“What is the essence of life? To serve others and to do good.”
— Aristotle
 See our website page on Volunteerism 

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