Guerrini, Burke win $11M verdict for wounded West Philly man

Dominic Guerrini and Colin Burke won an $11 million jury verdict against the Devereux Foundation for a man who was shot and catastrophically injured by a teenager who was permitted to escape from one of its behavioral rehabilitation centers. Eric Johnson, now 47, was shot near his West Philadelphia home as he returned from his job as a nursing assistant and technician at St. Christopher’s Hospital in the early morning hours of June 23, 2011. He was shot in a robbery attempt by Shykir Crew only hours after Crew walked out of a Devereux facility in Glenmoore, Chester County.  The bullet remains lodged in Johnson’s spine, causing incomplete paraplegia and paralysis. Almost six years after the incident, he still undergoes rehabilitation and can walk but only with great pain and he is often confined to a wheelchair. Guerrini told the news media after the verdict that he hoped the verdict sent “a message to Devereux that they need to do a better job supervising these vulnerable residents.” Crew is serving a lengthy prison sentence on aggravated assault and related offenses. At the time of the 2011 incident, he had had prior arrests for burglary and drug possession. The verdict was the second eight-figure jury award won by Guerrini in seven weeks, with the previous a $14.5 million verdict handed down by a jury in Johnstown, Pa., in a birth injury case. (Read article)

Firm files human trafficking lawsuit, first under PA law

Tom Kline, Nadeem Bezar and Emily Marks filed the first civil lawsuit under a Pennsylvania human trafficking statute against a motel owner and manager on behalf of a teenage girl who was enslaved and forced to perform sexual acts with men over a nearly two-year period. The girl, identified only as M.B. in the lawsuit, was 14 years old when she was forced into the illegal sex trade at the Roosevelt Inn, a motel in Northeast Philadelphia. “This landmark filing is a message to the hotel and motel industry that sex trafficking on your premises will not be tolerated,” Kline said at a news conference attended by ABC, CBS, NBC, Fox TV and others. The lawsuit, filed in Philadelphia Common Pleas Court, is the first known case to use a 2014 statute that allows for compensation for victims against those who profit directly or indirectly from human trafficking. The civil suit seeks compensatory and punitive damages against the proprietor of the motel and a management company that runs some 40 other properties mostly in New Jersey but also in Manhattan and Chicago. “She was sold into sexual slavery and there is no doubt this motel knew she was forced to do unspeakable things,” Bezar said about his client, now 17, adding, “She’ll never be the same from the horror she experienced at such a young and fragile age.” (See news coverage)


Appeals panel upholds $10.1 million verdict in delayed diagnosis case

Pennsylvania Superior Court upheld a $10.1 million verdict won in 2015 by Andy Stern and Elizabeth Crawford against Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia for a mother and her son, whose delayed diagnosis for meningitis resulted in deafness and developmental and learning delays. The appellate court panel unanimously disagreed with the defendant that the largest portion of the verdict -- $7.5 million for the child’s pain and suffering – was “grossly excessive” but instead found that because of his extensive injuries the verdict was “fair and reasonable compensation.” The verdict also included $1.5 million for future medical care, which CHOP argued was improperly based on projections that included inflation. But Superior Court, in rejecting that argument, cited a previous Pennsylvania Supreme Court decision noting that a plaintiff is “entitled to have defendant presently place in her hands the money necessary to meet her future medical expenses … so that she will have it ready to lay out when the service is rendered.” Additionally, the court upheld delay damages, interest for the time it took to get the case to trial, as well as interest for the time taken for post-verdict appeals. That interest so far brings the total compensation in the case (also including $1.1 million for potential lost earnings) to $12.1 million.

Another verdict upheld, delay damages tacked on 

Charles “Chip” Becker and Andra Laidacker successfully defended a post-trial challenge to a $5.35 million verdict won late last year by Nadeem Bezar and Emily Marks against Presbyterian Children’s Village. PCV twice placed a young girl in the home of a temporary foster family where she was sexually molested, the last incident occurring in 2013. Philadelphia Common Pleas Judge Idee C. Fox also allowed delay damages of $411,713, bringing the total award to more than $5.76 million. Fox decided the defendant’s post-trial motion in place of the presiding judge at trial, Victor J. DiNubile. Jr., who has since retired. Fox ruled there was ample evidence that PCV was both negligent and “reckless,” a threshold necessary for finding punitive damages. She rejected a defense contention that the girl suffered only “mental injuries.” Fox wrote: “To the contrary, the vicious sexual acts perpetrated upon (the victim) constituted an assault to and invasion of her person resulting in physical pain. These acts most certainly were injurious to her body which in turn may very well have caused her permanent psychological harm from which she may never recover.” The girl, now 11, was adopted by an aunt with whom she is living.

Bezar voted as winner of diversity award

Nadeem Bezar was presented the Thomas R. Kline School of Law Diversity Champion Award by Dean Daniel M. Filler, who cited the importance of “building communities that include rather than divide.” He noted that Bezar has been teaching at the law school since 2006. “Nadeem has been teaching our students how to be ‘people lawyers’ … He is an advocate for people with disabilities, for children, for people who need to be lifted a little bit. We are so lucky that Nadeem is a part of our community.” Bezar, who with Kline & Specter represents children who have been the victims of abuse, told his audience that his parents were both doctors who treated the poor in Brooklyn and Harlem, often minorities who had been abused, and taught him that "broad inclusion should not be applauded but expected." He added: "My father and mother taught me the value of taking care of people who couldn't take care of themselves."

Fitzgerald article debunks Amtrak 188 derailment theory as “junk science”

The National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) and other government agencies more and more are blaming transportation incidents on “loss of situational awareness (SA),” writes Patrick Fitzgerald in the February issue of Trial magazine. His article notes that such a claim can hurt a civil case by foreclosing theories of liability and limiting types of damages. In debunking this theory, Fitzgerald cites human factors psychologists and academics as condemning the use of loss of SA in causal analysis as “pseudoscience” and lacking scientific legitimacy. He writes: “These experts criticize the theory as impossible to test or validate, and they argue that any conclusions derived from it are the result of hindsight bias and circular reasoning, rather than scientific analysis.” The article argues the NTSB’s “loss of SA” conclusion in the Amtrak 188 derailment and other transportation accidents is simply a coded term for the real culprit:  human error. (Read the complete article)

Lawyer magazine reviews Danger Above

The March issue of Trial magazine features a review of the book Danger Above, the story of the legal case Goretzka v. West Penn Power and the five-week trial to win justice for the family of Carrie Goretzka, who was killed by a fallen power line on her property. The case, litigated by Shanin Specter, Kila Baldwin and Dominic Guerrini, resulted in a $109 million verdict and, ultimately, a $105 million settlement. The review notes in part: “Danger Above chronicles Philadelphia attorney Shanin Specter’s successful quest not only to secure justice for the Goretzka family, but to overcome the utility’s blame-the-victim defense. His efforts resulted in industry-wide safety reforms. The book will leave any impassioned litigator ready to take up arms.” The review mentions that among those reforms were remedial measures ordered by the Pennsylvania Public Utility Commission, including stepped-up power line inspections and employee training “that resulted in systemic safety improvements across the industry.” The book review, titled “Inspiration, Bravery, and a Quest for Justice,” was written by Rachel E. Gusman, a partner at the Tulsa law firm Graves McLain. Read the full review (Order the book from Amazon or Barnes and Noble)  


Nadeem Bezar and daughter Mia won the Merion Mixed Doubles Group C Tournament held at the Merion Cricket Club in late February.

Kaboom … Kerplunk

A beaming Mark Cuban photobombs Tom Kline and Brittney Schoenbeck courtside at a Dallas v. 76ers game. The Mavericks owner has a change of mood after the Sixers win in a 116-74 blowout, the team’s largest victory margin in more than in nine years.


Married, Colin Burke and Theresa Cirino, on April 1, 2017

Google Plus
Kline & Specter
Copyright © 2016 Kline & Specter PC, All rights reserved.

If you know someone who would want to receive our Eletter, simply forward this email and they can click here to complete the E-letter form.

Want to change how you receive these emails?
You can update your preferences or unsubscribe from this list