This year we welcomed attorney Genavieve Fikes to the firm. She has nearly a decade of litigation experience, and is not afraid to go to trial on any case, large or small. Although the majority of our cases settle, sometimes they do not. Then, we are forced to go to trial to prove to the insurance companies that we are willing to fight to obtain verdicts above their insufficient, low-ball offers.
She recently battled Allstate at trial in St. Clair County, Illinois, and obtained a jury verdict in favor of our client, Dwight Keener. The defendant rear-ended Mr. Keener, but after two years, still had not accepted responsibility for the accident. As a result of the crash,
More about Genavieve, click here.
Mr. Keener went to the emergency room, attended 15 chiropractic visits, and incurred $7,431.51 in medical charges. By the end of his two month chiropractic treatment, Mr. Keener had fully recovered.
This was a smaller, soft-tissue injury case, with very little property damage:
Nevertheless, the Friday before trial, Allstate was still only offering $10,000. With an offer like that, Genavieve and Mr. Keener did not think there was much to lose by going to trial. Judge Kolker presided over the case, which only took one day to try.
The week before trial, defense counsel expressed that he wanted to “admit liability” and just have a trial on damages. This is a common defense tactic used to take the heat off the defendant and make the plaintiff look greedy.
Other times, it is used when they have a defendant who makes a very poor witness. Typically, when a defendant admits liability, they seek to keep the plaintiff from presenting evidence on how the accident happened or testimony of the defendant altogether.
Genavieve had already taken the defendant’s deposition, and knew she made a poor witness. In her deposition, the defendant did not admit fault, but rather, pointed the blame at Mr. Keener. Genavieve thought that the defendant’s demeanor and testimony would help plaintiff’s case, so she filed a Rule 237 Notice, compelling the defendant to appear.
Since defense counsel was not going to have her testify, Genavieve put her on the stand in her case-in-chief as a hostile witness. As expected, she continued to blame Mr. Keener and made a very poor witness at trial.
The jury found in favor of Mr. Keener against defendant, and awarded $15,431.51 ($7,431.51 in medical bills, and $8,000 in pain and suffering). We also were awarded $1,000 in taxable costs.
Judge Kolker told Mr. Keener that that was the highest verdict he had gotten on a soft-tissue injury case in the past year, explaining that jurors rarely award 2x medical. We were satisfied with the result, and hope that Allstate will take notice that we aren’t afraid to go to trial, even in small cases, in the face of low-ball offers.
Prior to trial, Genavieve successfully argued a Motion in Limine to exclude certain evidence. The judge ruled in her favor, and held that the defendant could not present evidence of Mr. Keener’s prior injuries to the same body parts at issue, prior lawsuits, unrelated health conditions and the fact that Mr. Keener was on social security disability, among other things.
These rulings really undermined defendant’s strategy to blame plaintiff’s pain on pre-existing conditions. Genavieve argued that in Illinois, a defendant must have expert medical testimony if he wants to claim prior injuries are relevant, even if they are to the same body parts.
The judge agreed, which is consistent with the Illinois Supreme Court’s ruling in Voykin v. Estate of DeBoer, 192 Ill. 2d 49, 733 N.E.2d 1275 (2000) (holding, “if a defendant wishes to introduce evidence that the plaintiff has suffered a prior injury, whether to the ‘same parts of the body’ or not, the defendant must introduce expert evidence demonstrating why the prior injury is relevant to causation, damages, or some other issue of consequence.”)
Here at Burger Law, I am happy to be working with another lawyer who has the experience to take cases to trial and obtain great results for our clients.