IN THE HEADLINES
► Eisenberg Rothweiler Winkler Eisenberg & Jeck: Frederic S. Eisenberg (mass tort litigation / class actions – plaintiffs; medical malpractice law – plaintiffs; personal injury litigation – plaintiffs, 2013) and Daniel J. Sherry, Jr. (personal injury litigation – defendants, 2006), are representing Whitney Vanicky and Jeffrey Vanicky in a personal injury suit filed against Christmas Tree Shops, Inc., of Harrisburg. According to The Pennsylvania Record, the Vanickys purchased a jar from Christmas Tree Shops that Whitney Vanicky proceeded to paint, until it exploded in her hand, leaving her with permanent injuries “to the skin, bone, muscles, nerves, tendons, blood vessels, and other tissues in her right hand and wrist.” Considering strict liability, negligence, and loss of consortium, the plaintiffs are seeking compensation in excess of $50,000.
► Harry S. Cohen & Associates: Harry S. Cohen (medical malpractice law – plaintiffs, 2007) and Todd D. Bowlus are representing David Kelly and Catherine Kelly in a complaint against Juno E. Varghese, M.D., Absolute Primary Care UPMC, University of Pittsburgh Physicians, and UPMC, alleging that David Kelly suffered unnecessarily due to negligence in medical care after failure to properly interpret his liver biopsy that showed early signs of liver cancer.
► Pepper Hamilton: Vincent V. Carissimi (copyright law; litigation – intellectual property; litigation – trusts and estates; trademark law, 2013) and Noah S. Robbins are representing the music production companies Almo Music Corp., Bourne Co., Cromwell Music Inc., and Goo Eyed Music in a suit, citing alleged copyright infringement against a Bensalem restaurant operator.
► Ross Feller Casey: Robert Ross (medical malpractice law – plaintiffs; personal injury litigation – plaintiffs; product liability litigation – plaintiffs, 2013) and Joshua Van Naarden are representing a widower who attributes his wife’s death from a subarachnoid hemorrhage to the medical malpractice of a local facility and its doctors.
► Samuel J. Cordes & Associates: John E. Black III (employment law – individuals, 2010) and Samuel J. Cordes (employment law – individuals, 2001) are representing Andrew Voye against his former employer Ken Horn Plumbing for wrongful termination. Voye alleges that Ken Horn Plumbing terminated him as retaliation after he exercised his workers’ compensation rights to restricted duty following an injury.
ON THE MOVE
► Blank Rome: Jonathan A. Clark (employment benefits [ERISA] law, 2011) and Andrew J. Rudolph (employee benefits [ERISA] law, 1995) join the firm as partners in the tax, benefits, and private client practice group. Both attorneys were previously with Pepper Hamilton LLP.
► High Swartz: Eric B. Smith (litigation – land use and zoning, 2017) is the new president of the Montgomery Bar Association, the third largest bar association in Pennsylvania, comprised of more than 2,100 Montgomery County attorneys. Smith has been a member of the association since 1998 and has previously served as the organization’s vice president, treasurer, secretary, and director.
► Stradley Ronon Stevens & Young: Michael J. Engle (criminal defense: general practice, 2015) has joined the firm as a partner in the Philadelphia office, coming from Greenblatt, Pierce, Engle, Funt & Flores.
The Longest Civil Trial in Pennsylvania History Settles at $227 Million
After hearing more than four months of testimonies, Common Pleas Court Judge M. Teresa Sarmina relayed that the deadly Center City building collapse civil trial was the longest in Philadelphia court history. Plaintiff attorney Robert J. Mongeluzzi (personal injury litigation – plaintiffs, 2009) believes that the $227 million settlement may be the largest in Pennsylvania history, according to the Reading Eagle.
Richard Basciano, a New York real estate speculator, had hired Plato A. Marinakos Jr., a Center City architect who lacked extensive experience monitoring large commercial demolitions, to oversee the demolition of an empty Hoagie City building. Per Marinakos’ recommendation, Basciano also hired Griffin Campbell, an inexperienced and unlicensed contractor, and Campbell’s excavator operator, Sean Benschop. Trial testimony reveals that Basciano and his top aide, Thomas Simmonds, did not exercise due diligence when researching Marinakos, Benschop, and Campbell.
Despite receiving emails from Simmonds warning that the four-story Hoagie City building being demolished adjacent to the Salvation Army thrift store at 22nd and Market Streets posed "a threat to life and limb" of those in the area, the Salvation Army continued to keep its store open at that location. After the building’s collapse, the Salvation Army was sued for ignoring the warnings and for not informing workers and customers of potential peril. When questioned as to why the email from Simmonds went unheeded, Salvation Army officers testified that they did not believe Simmonds because of his history of hyperbolizing.
The unheeded warnings proved prophetic and the result catastrophic; on June 5, 2013, the Salvation Army store was crushed, killing seven people and severely injuring 12.
Mariya Plekan, a Ukrainian immigrant, was one of the 12 survivors and the one most likely to receive the most from the settlement, as she remained trapped under the rubble for 13 hours. According to NewsWorks, Plekan’s legs were amputated at the hip. "I still have trouble breathing," said Plekan who has had more than 30 surgeries as a result of the collapse. "I still need a lot of rehabilitation. There’s very little I can do for myself."
Plekan, who was 52 at the time of the building collapse, will need 24-hour nursing care for the rest of her life. The estimated cost for future medical expenses falls at $50 million.
The jury determined that the Salvation Army and Basciano would pay the $227 million settlement. With the Salvation Army’s liability insurance capped at $100 million, the balance of the settlement will come from the charity’s coffers. Campbell and Benschop each received prison sentences for their involvement: Campbell was sentenced to 15 to 30 years for involuntary manslaughter while Benschop received seven and a half to 15 years, pleading guilty to the same charges. Marinakos, who is believed to have exhausted his liability insurance, will pay none of the settlement despite also being found responsible. Neither Marinakos nor Basciano were criminally charged.
The settlement is to be divvied up among the 19 plaintiffs, family members of loved ones lost during the building’s collapse, and the injured. The attorneys representing the plaintiffs include Mongeluzzi, Larry Bendesky (personal injury litigation – plaintiffs; product liability litigation – plaintiffs, 2009), Andrew R. Duffy, and Jeffrey P. Goodman from Saltz Mongeluzzi Barrett & Bendesky; Steven G. Wigrizer (medical malpractice law – plaintiffs; product liability litigation – plaintiffs, 2014) and Jason S. Weiss (personal injury litigation – plaintiffs, 2017) from Wapner, Newman, Wigrizer, Brecher & Miller; Andrew J. Stern (medical malpractice law – plaintiffs; personal injury litigation – plaintiffs; product liability litigation – plaintiffs, 2008) and Elizabeth Crawford from Kline & Specter; Harry M. Roth (personal injury litigation – plaintiffs, 2008) and James G. Begley from Cohen, Placitella & Roth; Joseph M. Marrone (medical malpractice law – plaintiffs; personal injury litigation – plaintiffs, 2016), Brian M. Marchese (medical malpractice – plaintiffs, 2016), Michael D. Pomerantz, and Keith West of the Marrone Law Firm; Adam E. Grutzmacher of Clearfield, Gaber & Kofsky; Jonathan M. Cohen (personal injury litigation – plaintiffs, 2015); James D. Golkow of Golkow Hessel, LLC; and Bernard Smalley Sr. and Jasmine Johnson of Tucker Law Group. Richard A. Sprague (arbitration; criminal defense: general practice; First Amendment law; legal malpractice law – defendants; legal malpractice law – plaintiffs, 1983) and his son Thomas A. Sprague from Sprague & Sprague were among the attorneys for the defendants.