Cook County jury awards highest jury verdict in Illinois history
Horwitz, Horwitz and Associates, Ltd. (after five years of fighting AIG insurance and the “defense lawyer of the year”) obtained what was the largest personal injury individual jury verdict in Illinois history; $64 million dollars. Only one jury verdict for an individual in United States history (in New York for $66 million) was higher at the time. This record-setting verdict was $13 million dollars higher than the previous record verdict in Illinois of $51 million dollars.
After five years of litigation and a one-month long jury trial, a Cook County jury awarded local 393 IronWorker, Ron Bayer, $64 million dollars. The jury actually awarded Ron $80 million dollars, but found that he was 20% at fault and therefore, reduced the verdict to $64 million dollars. The case was captioned Ronald Bayer vs. Panduit Corporation 07 L 9877.
In Depth Look
One of the keys to the success of this trial was the unusual experiences of the Horwitz trial team. The case was tried by Clifford Horwitz, who has 30 years of trial experience, Jay Luchsinger, a third generation local 1 IronWorker, and 25-year trial lawyer Michael Carter, a former pipefitter. Jay Luchsinger had worked 14 years as an IronWorker and went to law school at night during his last four years of in the iron industry. His experience as an IronWorker was invaluable since no witness who rendered an opinion regarding construction techniques, methods or safety could slip a lie past him. And, in this case, some Rockford IronWorkers joined with the defense team and tried to do just that and failed. Michael Carter is a former local 157 pipefitter and 15-year trial lawyer. Jay and Michael’s experiences in the construction industry provided Ron Bayer with unique advantages. Combining their talents with Clifford Horwitz’s record of record-setting jury verdicts, lead to the ultimate record-setting jury verdict for Ron Bayer. Defendant Panduit Corporation was represented by John W. Patton and Michael Vranicar of Patton & Ryan. John Patton was identified by Martindale Hubble and the Jury Verdict Reporter as the top defense attorney of the year.
Bayer was a union IronWorker from local 393 who fell head first 15-20 feet from a beam. Bayer suffered a C1 burst fracture, C7 dislocation fracture, and C6 spinal cord injury. Bayer requires non-stop nursing care and lives with chronic pain. Bayer lost the functional use of his hands and complete use of his body from the chest- down.
Clifford Horwitz, stated, “It was an honor and a privilege to represent Ron Bayer. Ron was known to his friends and co-workers as a hardworking, diligent and cautious union IronWorker before his life was shattered as a result of Panduit’s alleged carelessness.”
Defendants argued that Ron Bayer should never have fallen. They claimed he fell because he chose to exit his man basket, placing himself at great risk. The jury rejected the defendant’s argument and adopted Horwitz and Luchsinger’s argument that the man basket was not designed to do this type of work. Horwitz proved that work from the man basket violated the tip-over warnings on the basket, thereby placing everyone at risk.
Defendants further argued that the plaintiff fell because he improperly disconnected from the man basket. They claim he should have kept his retractable lanyard attached to at least some part of the basket or some other object. Horwitz and Luchsinger demonstrated the fallacy of their argument by calling the manufacturer of the retractable lanyard to the stand. He testified that the horizontal use of this retractable lanyard was a misuse of their product. Using the product in this fashion created swing hazards and hazards of lanyard fracture. Furthermore, the load imparted on the basket based on the angle of the basket could result in a tip over of the basket. Horwitz and Luchsinger utilized products liability theory in order to justify the conduct of Mr. Bayer.
Horwitz and Luchsinger further presented evidence that the defendant, Panduit, ignored its job site safety rules which required stanchions and cables to be placed on the beams so that the ironworkers could tie off while walking the beams. The jury agreed with Horwitz and Luchsinger.
Finally, the defendant argued that they were just an owner and not in charge of the work. Horwitz and Luchsinger demonstrated that they maintained substantial control over the work but then ignored safety.
“Panduit was represented by one of the largest insurance carriers in the country, with virtually unlimited resources and highly skilled attorneys. But after carefully reviewing all the evidence, the jury recognized that Panduit maintained an unsafe jobsite in violation of OSHA regulations, ANSI safety standards, and internal safety rules. As a result, Ron suffered horrifying injuries, including quadriplegia and a traumatic brain injury with many complications.”
Michael Carter demonstrated the fallacy of defendant’s attempt to minimize Ron’s injury. The defendant argued that Carter was asking for too much medical care. They claimed Ron had a good recovery and was self-sufficient in many areas. The jury rejected that argument also.
Trial attorney Michael Carter explained, “The jury heard four weeks worth of evidence and heard from seven different doctors and two Ph.D.’s about Ron’s up to $30 million dollars’ worth of care, which he will need throughout his life. He suffered severe spinal cord and brain injuries and the results of this case prove that the system works. Twelve people from different walks of life came to a determination that this man should be fully taken care of and he should receive complete compensation for his injury.”
“No amount of money could possibly compensate this man for what he has been through and what is in store for him over the remainder of his life. Ron’s past and future medical bills alone could reach approximately $30 million. The defendant argued that these would cost no more than $8 million.”