Editor’s note: A previous version of the story mistakenly stated that only nine trials went to verdict in 2016. An August verdict for $9.4 million and a September verdict for $6 million were left off the original story.
St. Clair County juries awarded nearly $15.5 million to seven plaintiffs in 2016, with a total of 11 civil cases going to verdict last year.
Circuit Judge Vincent Lopinot was the only circuit judge to preside over a case, with three trials held in his court.
Associate Judge Heinz Rudolf presided over the most cases, with six lawsuits going to verdict in his courtroom.
Associate Judge Randall Kelley presided over two cases.
Of the 11verdicts, six involved civil cases in the law division, where the plaintiff sought more than $50,000 for damages. The remaining cases were in the arbitration division.
Two of the cases reached multi-million dollar plaintiff verdicts. Both were held in Lopinot's court.
One of the cases reached a plaintiff verdict for $30,883, but later settled for an undisclosed amount after the plaintiff sought more money.
On Jan. 27, 2015, a St. Clair County jury returned a verdict in favor of defendant Dahm & Schell, doing business as The Edge, after deliberating approximately 20 minutes (07-L-9).
The three-day trial was held in Kelley’s courtroom.
Plaintiff April Kassebaum was attending a birthday party at The Edge in Belleville on March 18, 2006. She had been drinking beer and was wearing heeled shoes when she got on a motorized rotating rock climbing wall around midnight.
Kassebaum jumped off the wall from about three feet onto a four-inch mat when she broke her kneecap. She accused The Edge and owners Keith Schell and Mary Dahm of negligence.
The plaintiff was represented by Patrick Foley of Foley & Kelly in Belleville.
The defendants were represented by John Cunningham of Brown & James in Belleville.
On Feb. 23, a St. Clair County jury entered a verdict for plaintiff Angela Taylor, awarding her $30,000 in the car accident suit (13-L-217).
The two-day trial was held in Kelley’s courtroom.
Taylor alleged that she was injured in a collision with defendant Ruthie McDonald on Sept. 6, 2011. McDonald admitted that her negligence caused the collision, but denied that Taylor suffered injuries and damages to the extent alleged.
McDonald filed a motion for a directed verdict at the close of the evidence, arguing that Taylor failed to prove her allegations. She argued that evidence shows her alleged negligence did not cause injuries or damage to Taylor.
The plaintiff was represented by Steve Katzman and Daniel Katzman of Katzman & Sugden LLC in Belleville.
The defendant was represented by Brent Salsbury of Boggs Evellino Lach & Boggs in St. Louis.
On March 11, a St. Clair County jury entered a verdict in favor of defendant Robert Bonner in a suit alleging breach of contract (13-AR-1153).
The three-day trial was held in Rudolf’s courtroom.
Plaintiff Little Egypt Golf Cars argued in its complaint that it leased golf cars to Bonner, who signed on behalf of Grand Maris Golf Course. However, Little Egypt alleged Bonner failed to return 14 golf cars and one utility golf car at the end of the lease term in April 2011. Bonner allegedly returned a utility vehicle in damaged condition.
Little Egypt filed a motion for judgment notwithstanding the verdict on April 8, arguing that the jury’s verdict was against the manifest weight of the evidence. The plaintiff requested the court enter a judgment for $31,500 for the missing golf cars and $2,787 for the unpaid rent and damage to the utility vehicle.
Bonner denied the allegations and denied Little Egypt was damaged to the extent claimed. He also alleged that he was personally shielded from liability by virtue of his limited liability company Bonrco, which was added as a defendant the day the trial began.
The plaintiff was represented by Troy Payne of Oldfield Myers Apke & Payne Law Group in Vandalia.
The defendant was represented by Kyle Oehmke and James Brodzik of Hinshaw & Culbertson in Edwardsville. Hinshaw & Culbertson was granted leave to withdraw as counsel on Aug. 25 after Bonner terminated his attorney-client relationship. Untress Quinn of Sandberg Phoenix & von Gontard in O’Fallon entered his appearance as defense attorney.
On April 19, a St. Clair County jury entered a verdict in favor of plaintiff Bruce Adams, awarding him $3,074.66 in a car accident suit (14-AR-645).
The three-day trial was held in Rudolf’s courtroom.
Adams alleged he was driving his vehicle on Frank Scott Parkway on June 6, 2012, when defendant Zachary Montgomery allegedly rear-ended the plaintiff.
Adams filed a motion for a new trial on damages or additur on May 18. He argued that the jury “ignored a proven element of damages, and the damages awarded are palpably inadequate. The jury ignored a proven element of damages when it only awarded partial medical expenses which were incurred as a result of Plaintiff’s neck and back and spine injuries, but failed to award any damages for pain and suffering.”
The plaintiff was represented by Blake Meinders of Sprague and Urban in Belleville.
The defendant was represented by Chery Callis and Demetra Sotiriou of Kortenhof McGlynn & Burns LLC in St. Louis.
On May 25, a St. Clair County jury ruled in favor of plaintiff Sharon Reed, awarding her $14,000 in a car accident suit (15-AR-311).
The one-day trial was held in Rudolf’s courtroom.
Reed alleged she was driving her vehicle on Oct. 27, 2014, when she was rear-ended by defendant Kayli VanHoutin, who admited liability for the accident.
The plaintiff was represented by Keith Short of Collinsville.
The defendant was represented by Gary Wiseman of Rouse & Cary in St. Louis
On July 12, a St. Clair County jury entered a verdict in favor of plaintiff Shirley Cooper, awarding her $30,883.08 in a car accident suit (15-AR-484).
The two-day trial was held in Rudolf’s courtroom.
Cooper alleged she was driving her vehicle on 10th Street on Nov. 7, 2013, when defendant Daniel Gessford allegedly ran a red light and collided with her vehicle. The defendant denied liability and argued that the collision was a result of Cooper’s negligence.
Cooer filed a motion for additur, arguing both parties agreed that her medical bills amounted to $27,958, but she was awarded $26, 656 in medical expenses.
“[T]he jury’s failure to award that undisputed amount is clear error, and the only appropriate correction is additur,” the motion states. The case was later settled for an undisclosed amount and dismissed on Oct. 27.
The plaintiff was represented by Andrew Toennies of Lashly & Baer in St. Louis.
The defendant was represented by Paul Travous of Zimmer & Associates in St. Louis.
On Aug. 4, a St. Clair County jury returned a verdict in favor of defendants California Casualty Insurance and Exchange and California Casualty Management Company in a case alleging insurance fraud (11-L-597).
The four-day trial was held in Rudolf’s courtroom.
Plaintiffs Jarvia and Nickey Bryant alleged their two-story home caught fire after Christmas in 2009 as a result of a faulty space heater in the basement. They alleged the insurance company failed to pay them in full for the damages. The defendants argued that the plaintiffs filed fraudulent reimbursement requests, including claims for tanning salon use and Rams tickets.
The plaintiffs were represented by Kenneth Brennan of KenBrennan Law in Collinsville
The defendants were represented by John Cunningham of Belleville.
On Aug. 4, a St. Clair County jury entered a verdict in favor of defendant Dr. Donald Serot in a medical malpractice suit (06-L-708).
The trial was held in Lopinot’s courtroom.
Plaintiff Robert Thompson alleged Serot treated him for knee problems between 2002 and 2005, and eventually performed a left knee replacement surgery on April 5, 2005. Thompson claimed Serot improperly positioned the tibial component and improperly performed the tibial cut during his knee replacement.
Thompson filed a motion for a new trial on Sept. 2. He argued that he was prejudiced when he was denied his offered jury instruction regarding an advance inference for Serot’s failure to produce a complete surgical record that documented the unsuccessful knee replacement surgery. He also argued that the court granted his motion in limine restricting comment, argument or mention of the medical condition of Serot or his spouse, which was allegedly violated when Serot’s counsel made specific mention of the defendant’s wife’s cancer diagnosis during opening statements. Finally, he argued that the evidence of Serot’s alleged negligence was substantial, making the jury’s verdict against the manifest weight of the evidence.
Lopinot denied the motion for a new trial on Nov. 1. Thompson appealed on Dec. 1.
The plaintiffs were represented by John Papa of Callis, Papa & Szewezyk in Granite City.
The defendant was represented by Ted Dennis of Freeark, Harvey & Mendillo in Belleville.
On Aug. 19, a St. Clair County jury ruled in favor of plaintiffs Craig and Yvonne Spencer, awarding them $9.4 million in a workplace injury suit (13-L-293).
The one-week trial was held in Lopinot’s courtroom.
Spencer alleged he was injured in October 2010 when co-workers were descending a ladder and landed on his head at the Prairie State Energy Campus in Marissa. As a result, Spencer suffered two broken discs. Spencer was employed with Bechtel Corp. Defendant API Construction provided insulation and lagging services during the project’s construction.
The Spencers were represented by Thomas Q. Keefe, Jr of Keefe, Keefe & Unsell in Belleville.
API was represented by Douglas Heise of Heyl Royster in Edwardsville.
On Sept. 19, a St. Clair County jury returned a verdict in favor of plaintiff Edward Kimme, awarding him $6 million in a suit alleging he was injured while riding in the back of a work truck (11-L-30).
The six-day trial was held in Lopinot’s court.
Kimme alleged defendant Danny Shannon was operating a construction truck and was rear-ended when he pulled in front of another vehicle while driving on I-255 near the junction with I-64.
Kimme filed his claims with co-plaintiff Dennis Knutt, who was also injured in the accident, in a joint 2011 lawsuit against defendants Highway Technologies and Shannon. The two cases were litigated together until trial, when they were tried separately. Knutt’s case settled on Sept. 1 for an undisclosed “significant” amount.
Kimme was represented by Gregory Shevlin of Belleville.
Highway Technologies and Shannon were represented by Sanchez Daniels and Hoffman in Chicago.
On Dec. 14, a St. Clair County jury ruled in favor of plaintiff Shalawn Chambers, awarding her $13,588 in a car accident suit (15-AR-448).
The one-day trial was held in Rudolf’s courtroom.
Chambers alleged her son Ernest Chambers was a passenger in her vehicle while traveling on Sherman Street in Belleville on June 4, 2013. She claimed Ernest Chambers was injured when defendant Yelana Moton rear-ended her vehicle. Moton admitted she was negligent in the operation of her vehicle but denied Chambes was injured to the extent claimed.
The plaintiff was represented by Chet Kelly of Foley & Kelly in Belleville.
The defendant was represented by Roger Wilson of St. Louis.