St. Clair County plaintiffs awarded nearly $3 million in 2018 jury trials

By Heather Isringhausen Gvillo | Jan 16, 2019

St. Clair County jurors awarded plaintiffs a total of $2,944,782 in 11 jury trials last year.

There were nine plaintiff verdicts, or 82 percent, and two defense verdicts, or 18 percent. Both defense verdicts were medical malpractice suits.

Several personal injury suits saw large awards with $1.2 million awarded to a man who fell from an apartment balcony, $845,542 to a Cahokia mechanic who was injured while working on a school bus, and $560,563 to a woman who was injured when a package of toilet paper fell on her head.

Zanger v Willow Park 

St. Clair County jurors awarded a man $1.2 million in a suit alleging he fell due to a faulty apartment balcony railing (15-L-688).

On April 2, the jury awarded plaintiff John Zanger a total of $1,205,921, with $1 awarded for disfigurement resulting from his injuries. Circuit Judge Heinz Rudolf presided over the trial.

Zanger was represented by Ellen Burford of the Burford Law Office in Granite City and Goldenberg Heller & Antognoli PC in Edwardsville.

Defendants Willow Park Apartments LLC, Willow Run Apartments LLC and Thiemann Real Estate LLC were represented by Brown & James PC in St. Louis.

Zanger filed his original complaint on May 18, 2015, before it was removed to federal court. The case was voluntarily dismissed in August 2015 and refiled in St. Clair County on Dec. 7, 2015.

Zanger alleged he was a tenant at the apartment complex located at 1241 Roger Ave. in Swansea when he fell due to a defective balcony railing on May 3, 2015. Zanger alleged he suffered injuries to his spine, head, left leg and left shoulder.

In their answer, the defendants argued that the plaintiff caused his own injuries when he negligently attempted to repair the balcony or directed others to repair the balcony by striking it with an object, which contributed to the collapse of the balcony’s railing.

Cox v Tady

Jurors awarded a motorist $100,000 in a suit involving a rear-end collision in Shiloh (13-L-379).

Plaintiff Janine Cox was awarded $100,000 on May 8 in Circuit Judge Vincent Lopinot’s courtroom.

However, the parties filed a joint motion to vacate the judgment and dismiss the case with prejudice following a post-verdict settlement on July 19.

Cox was represented by Gregory Shevlin and Leah Captain of Cook Bartholomew Sehvlin & Cook in Belleville.

Defendant Brett Tady was represented by James DeFranco of DeFranco & Bradley in Fairview Heights.

Cox filed her complaint on July 22, 2013, alleging she was driving her vehicle on Dec. 13, 2011 and was stopped on Green Mount Road in order to turn left onto Cascade Lake in Shiloh. Tady was driving behind Cox when he allegedly rear-ended the plaintiff’s vehicle.

Tady admitted to negligently causing the collision but denied the extent of the alleged injuries.

Selph v Bell

Jurors awarded a motorist $21,041.35 in a suit involving a rear-end collision in O’Fallon (17-AR-338).

Jurors reached a verdict in favor of plaintiff Jennifer Selph on May 22 in St. Clair County Associate Judge Julia Gomric’s courtroom.

Selph was represented by Hrant “Hud” Norsigian of Norsigian Law Office in O’Fallon.

Defendant Wesley J. Bell was represented by Tyler Beckerle of Zimmer & Associates in St. Louis.

Selph filed her complaint April 19, 2017, alleging she was driving her vehicle eastbound on West Highway 50 in O’Fallon on June 24, 2016. Bell was operating a vehicle directly behind Selph. The plaintiff allegedly began slowing her vehicle for stopped traffic when the defendant rear-ended her, causing Selph to strike the vehicle in front of her.

Bell answered the complaint on June 14, 2017, admitting he was negligent and that his negligence was the proximate cause of the plaintiff’s injuries.

The jury was only asked to decide on damages.

On Sept. 14, 2017, arbitrators found in favor of Selph and awarded her $26,300.

Bell rejected the award on Oct. 13, 2017, and requested a jury trial.

Lampe v Yazdi

Jurors returned a verdict in favor of St. Elizabeth’s Hospital and a neurosurgeon who argued that a patient missed the “critical” time period for maximum recovery by waiting to see them for his back injury (11-L-257).

Jurors reached the defense verdict on June 21 in Lopinot’s courtroom.

Plaintiff Randy Lampe was represented at trial by James R. Williams of Williams, Caponi & Associates in Belleville.

Defendant Dr. Joseph Yazdi was represented by Kenneth Burke of Brown & James in Belleville.

Defendant St. Elizabeth’s Hospital of the Hospital Sisters of the Third Order of St. Francis was represented by Donovan Rose Nester in Belleville.

According to his June 2011 complaint, Lampe alleged he injured his back in March 2009 when he attempted to roll a log while working as a tree trimmer. Lampe was eventually referred to Yazdi, who did not see the plaintiff until roughly three months after the accident occurred.

Yazdi performed a laminotomy, a foraminotomy and a discectomy on the plaintiff’s spinal L4 to repair a herniated disc.

However, Lampe alleged the defendants failed to conduct proper testing, which would have determined that he suffered from Cauda Equina Syndrome, and failed to properly diagnose his severe back injury.

Lampe later saw Dr. Donald DeGrange about three weeks after his last visit with Yazdi, who diagnosed him with Cauda Equina Syndrome.

DeGrange performed another back surgery that allowed the plaintiff to regain control of his bladder and bowel movements, among other improvements.

During closing arguments, the plaintiff had asked jurors for more than $1.27 million in damages.

Pearson v Pilot Travel Centers

Jurors awarded a woman $560,563.68 in a suit alleging she was injured when a package of toilet paper fell on her head (16-L-558).

The jury entered a verdict in favor of plaintiff Reona Pearson on July 25 in Circuit Judge Chris Kolker’s courtroom. Pearson was also awarded $1,637.20 in court costs.

Pearson was represented by Thomas Rich, Kristina Cooksey and Michelle Rich of Rich, Rich & Cooksey in Fairview Heights.

Defendant Pilot Travel Centers was represented by John Cooney and Justin Zimmerman of Lewis Brisbois Bisgaard & Smith in Edwardsville.

Pearson filed her original complaint on Oct. 20, 2016, alleging she was entering a restroom stall on the defendant’s property on April 7, 2016, when a package of toilet paper fell from the top of the door ledge and struck the plaintiff’s head.

Pilot Travel Centers denies the allegations, arguing that if the toilet paper was on top of the door, that it was an open and obvious condition which Pearson should have noticed before opening the door.

Gagliano v Spiguzza

A motorist was awarded $14,273.81 after Associate Judge Julia Gomric granted the plaintiff’s motion for a mistrial and then granted the defendant’s motion to reconsider in a suit involving a Fairview Heights crash (17-AR-511).

Jurors reached a verdict in favor of plaintiff Robert Gagliano on Aug. 7.

On Aug. 9, Gomric granted the plaintiff’s motion for a mistrial after the alternate juror was mistakenly included in jury deliberations.

Then on Aug. 30, Gomric granted Spiguzza’s motion to reconsider, entering a judgment of $14,273.81 plus $337 in costs for the plaintiff.

The defendant had argued that the motion was untimely because the parties had already become aware of the mistake with the alternate juror, but the motion for a mistrial was made after the verdict was read in open court. 

Gagliano was represented by Alvin Paulson of Belleville.

Defendant Tori Spiguzza was represented by the DeFranco & Bradley firm in Fairview Heights.

Gagliano filed his complaint on June 14, 2017, alleging that on Jan. 19, 2016 at approximately 5:38 p.m., he was driving his 2015 Nissan Versa westbound from Shoppes at St. Clair towards the Fairview City Centre entrance in Fairview Heights. Spiguzza was driving her 2014 Chevrolet Sonic southbound on Illinois Route 159 approaching the intersection with the Shoppes at St. Clair entrance when she allegedly ran a red light and caused a collision.

Spiguzza denied liability in her answer to the complaint.

On March 20, the arbitrators entered an award in favor of Gagliano for $30,000 plus costs.

Spiguzza rejected the award of the arbitrators on April 2.

Giles v Serot

After more than 12 years of litigation, a St. Clair County jury returned a defense verdict in favor of Dr. Donald Serot in a patient’s medical malpractice suit (06-L-496).

The jury reached the defense verdict on Sept. 28 in Chief Judge Andrew Gleeson’s courtroom.

Plaintiff Karen Giles, administrator of the estate of Richard E. Giles, was represented by William Berry of William Berry & Associates LLC in Collinsville.

Serot and The Center for Orthopaedics were represented by Ted Dennis of Freeark Harvey & Mendillo PC in Belleville.

Prior to his death, Richard Giles filed the complaint in August 2006, alleging he was Serot’s patient on Aug. 10, 2004. Giles alleged Serot performed a left total knee replacement. Giles complained of ongoing pain and increasing neurological problems, and was ultimately diagnosed with left foot drop.

Serot denied he was negligent and denied the plaintiff was injured to the degree claimed.

Giles died from unrelated causes on March 17, 2018. Karen Giles is the decedent’s wife.

Bieri v Bach

A motorist was awarded $5,900 for past medical expenses following a St. Clair County rear-end collision (16-L-371).

Jurors returned the verdict in favor of plaintiff Steve Bieri on Oct. 9 in Kolker’s courtroom. However, Bieri was found to be 10 percent liable for his injuries.

Bieri was represented by Alvin Paulson of Belleville.

Defendant Tracey Bach was represented by Rebecca VanCourt of DeFranco & Bradley PC in Fairview Heights.

Bieri filed his complaint on July 15, 2016, alleging he was driving his 2000 Ford F-150 pick-up truck on Green Mount Crossing Drive at the intersection of Frank Scott Parkway East on Oct. 23, 2015. Back was driving a 1989 Jeep when she allegedly rear-ended the plaintiff’s vehicle.

In her answer, Bach argued that Bieri’s alleged injuries were the result of his own negligent conduct in operating his vehicle in an unsafe manner.

McDaniel v McCormick 

A St. Clair County jury awarded a man $9,000 in a suit alleging he was injured when he was hit in the arm with a fire poker while at a Collinsville party (11-L-569).

Jurors entered a verdict in favor of plaintiff James McDaniel for pain and suffering on Nov. 14 in Lopinot’s courtroom. McDaniel was found to be 5 percent liable for his injuries.

McDaniel was represented by Timothy Gutknecht of Stumpf and Gutknecht PC in Columbia, Ill.

Defendants Kevin and Lillian McCormick were represented at trial by Seth Gausnell and Josh Breithaupt of Pitzer Snodgrass PC in St. Louis.

McDaniel filed his complaint on Oct. 7, 2011, against Chad Crank and the McCormicks, alleging he was at a party at 919 Caseyville Road in Collinsville on Oct. 10, 2010. During the social gathering, Crank allegedly “violently” assaulted another guest with a fire poker and struck the plaintiff by mistake. McDaniel claimed bones in his arm were shattered.

A default judgment for $235,583.65 against Crank was awarded in February 2012 after the defendant failed to appear or answer the complaint.

The McCormicks denied liability, arguing they did not have a duty to control Crank’s conduct in order to prevent the attack.

Phillips v Gale 

Jurors awarded a passenger $182,540.08 in a suit involving a rear-end collision in Belleville (14-L-339).

The jury entered a verdict in favor of plaintiff Marcia Phillips on Dec. 18 in Kolker’s courtroom.

Phillips was represented at trial by Thomas Rich, Kristina Cooksey and Michelle Rich of Rich, Rich & Cooksey PC in Fairview Heights.

Defendant Jane Gale was represented at trial by Michael Schroer and Justin Zimmerman of Lewis Brisbois Bisgaard & Smith LLP in Edwardsville.

Phillips filed her original complaint Aug. 14, 2015. She amended her complaint several times to assert claims from three separate St. Clair County collisions. Gale was the only remaining defendant at trial.

Phillips alleged she was a passenger in a vehicle operated by Gale on June 30, 2016, when the defendant allegedly struck the rear of another vehicle on South Green Mount Road in Belleville.

Gale denied that Phillips was injured to the extent claimed and denied the amount of damages sought by the plaintiff.

Crouch v Harris 

A mechanic for the Cahokia School District was awarded $845,542.08 after he allegedly suffered injuries in a Cahokia crash in 2015 and again when he was hit by a bus hood in 2017 (17-L-138).

Jurors entered a verdict in favor of plaintiff Thomas Crouch on Dec. 19 in Gleeson’s courtroom. Crouch was awarded $843,672.08 against defendant First Student Inc. and $1,870 against defendant Tamara Harris.

Crouch was represented at trial by Thomas Rich, Kristina Cooksey and Michelle Rich of Rich, Rich & Cooksey PC in Fairview Heights.

First Student was represented by David Ryan, Whitney Burkett and Hayley Ryan of Patton & Ryan LLC in Chicago.

Harris was represented by Tori Walls of Reed Armstrong Mudge & Morrissey PC in Edwardsville.

Crouch filed his complaint against Harris on March 20, 2017, and amended his complaint to add First Student on April 19, 2017.

Crouch alleged he was driving southbound on Range Lane in Cahokia on May 15, 2015, when Harris allegedly caused a rear-end collision. He allegedly suffered injuries to his neck and soft tissues of the cervical, shoulder and lumbar area.

Crouch also alleged he suffered injuries on Nov. 4, 2016 while working as a mechanic for the Cahokia School District. First Student employee Gregory Bender was allegedly opening the hood of a bus to check the engine when Crouch walked in front of the bus and was struck on the side of his head by the bus mirror.

Harris admitted she was negligent in the operation of her vehicle but denied that Crouch was injured to the extent he alleged.

First Student denied liability, arguing that Crouch contributed to his own injuries.

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