St. Clair County jurors awarded plaintiffs more than $25 million in jury trials last year.
There were 22 jury trials in 2019. Of those trials, only four ended in defense verdicts. Plaintiffs in the remaining 18 jury trials were awarded a total of $25,076,828.48.
Three of those verdicts resulted in multi-million awards, including one for more than $12 million.
By comparison, Madison County jurors awarded plaintiffs a total of $251,464.90 in verdicts last year.
Hodge v Beagle
In the first trial of the year, St. Clair County jurors awarded a motorist $8,000 on Jan. 9, 2019 in a suit involving a Freeburg collision.
Circuit Judge Chris Kolker presided over the trial (16-L-237).
Plaintiff Ernie Hodge was represented by Jeanne AuBuchon of AuBuchon & Lee in Belleville.
Beagle was represented by Jeffrey Reel of Zimmer & Associates in St. Louis.
Hodge filed the complaint on April 29, 2016, alleging that on May 3, 2014, he was driving his 2012 Jeep Laredo at approximately 2:53 p.m. on West Washington Street near the intersection of South Belleville Street in Freeburg. At the same time, Beagle was allegedly driving a 2013 Jeep Wrangler on South Belleville Street near the intersection with West Washington Street when she allegedly caused a crash.
According to a statement of the case, Beagle denied she was negligent and denied that her action caused injuries.
Hodge filed a motion for a judgment notwithstanding the verdict or for a new trial on Feb. 7, 2019, arguing that the defendant admitted liability but the jury was still instructed on the issues of liability.
Kolker granted the plaintiff’s motion for a new trial on damages only and set the case for Sept. 9. However, the parties filed a stipulation for dismissal with prejudice after the parties reached a settlement on Jan. 9, 2019. The case was dismissed Jan. 14, 2019.
Missey v Potts
On Feb. 5, a jury returned the first defense verdict in favor of David Potts in a car crash suit involving a Washington Park collision.
Kolker presided over the trial (16-L-223).
Plaintiff Ryan Missey was represented by Jeanne AuBuchon of AuBuchon & Lee LLC in Belleville.
Potts was represented by James DeFranco of DeFranco & Bradley PC in Fairview Heights.
In his April 2016 complaint, Missey alleged that on May 10, 2014 he was driving northbound on Route 111, entering the westbound ramp approaching Interstate 64 in Washington Park. At the same time, Potts was driving northbound and entering the westbound ramp when he allegedly caused a collision.
According to a statement of the case, Potts admitted that he failed to keep a proper lookout and failed to take sufficient evasive measures or reduce his speed to avoid colliding with Missey’s vehicle. However, he denied that Missey was injured as a result of the collision.
Yarber v Schwahn
Jurors awarded motorist Luann Yarber $6,170 on Feb. 5 in a suit involving a Belleville collision.
Associate Judge Julia Gomric presided over the trial (17-AR-128).
Yarber was represented by Chet Kelly.
Defendant Tina Schwahn was represented by Roger Wilson.
Yarber filed her complaint Feb. 17, 2017, alleging she was traveling northbound on Frank Scott Parkway West at the intersection of West Main Street in Belleville on March 3, 2015. At the same time, Schwahn was allegedly traveling in the opposite direction when she allegedly crashed into the plaintiff’s vehicle.
In her answer to the complaint, Schwahn denied liability and argued that the plaintiff contributed to her own injuries by driving carelessly.
On Dec. 7, 2017, arbitrators awarded Yarber $8,500.
Schwahn rejected the award on Jan. 3, 2018.
Eck v Novack
A jury entered another verdict in favor of a motorist who alleged injuries from an O’Fallon collision.
Plaintiff Lakiesha Eck was awarded $30,727.90 on Feb. 26 in Hoerner’s courtroom (17-AR-807).
Eck was represented by Bruce Cook Jr.
Defendant Virginia Novack was represented by John Skrabacz
Eck filed her complaint on Oct. 2, 2017, alleging she was traveling west on West Madison Street in O’Fallon on May 25, 2017 when Novack allegedly failed to stop at a stop sign and caused a collision.
According to a statement of the case, Novack admitted liability.
Witt v Wenneker
On March 5, jurors awarded motorist Teresa Witt $7,500 following a 2011 rear-end collision in Sauget.
The trial took place in Associate Judge Kevin Hoerner’s courtroom (12-L-683).
Witt was represented by Anthony Gilbreth of Crowder & Scoggins Ltd. in Columbia, Ill.
Defendant Ryan Wenneker was represented by Kevin Myers of the Law Offices of Rouse and Cary in St. Louis.
Witt, of Waterloo, filed her complaint on Dec. 31, 2012, alleging she was driving a 2002 Lincoln LS southbound on Illinois Route 3 in Sauget on Jan. 4, 2011, shortly after 6 p.m. Wenneker, of Fenton, was operating his 1997 Dodge Intrepid at the same location when he allegedly lost control of his vehicle and caused a rear-end collision.
Prior to the trial, arbitrators awarded Witt $12,500 plus costs. Wenneker rejected the award and requested a jury trial.
Goree v Odom
Plaintiff Renee Goree was awarded $7,500 on April 9 in a suit involving a collision on Jerome Lane.
Hoerner presided over the trial (16-AR-726).
Goree was represented by Earl Hubbs of the Law Firm of Reed and Bruhn PC in Belleville.
Defendant Iyana Odom was represented by Roger Wilson of the Law Firm of Zimmer & Associates in St. Louis.
Goree and Kendrick Hundly filed the complaint Sept. 2, 2016, alleging they were traveling in an easterly direction on Jerome Lane at approximately 2:14 p.m. on May 18, 2016. The plaintiffs claimed they were following Odom’s 2001 Pontiac Sunfire when she allegedly caused a collision.
According to a statement of the case, Odom admitted she was negligent but denied the plaintiff was injured to the extent claimed.
On Oct. 9, 2017, arbitrators awarded Goree $10,000 and Kendrick $6,000. Odom rejected the award on Nov. 6, 2017.
Kendrick was not a plaintiff when the case went to trial.
Nigeda v Reid
Jurors awarded a patient $600,000 in a suit alleging she suffered permanent injuries following a bilateral breast reduction surgery.
On April 25, jurors returned a verdict in favor of plaintiff Senayet Nigeda in Chief Judge Andrew Gleeson’s courtroom (14-L-485).
Nigeda was represented by Keith Short and Jack Daugherty of Short and Daugherty PC in Alton.
Defendants David S. Reid and HSHS Medical Group Inc. were represented by Kenneth M. Burke of Brown & James PC in Belleville.
Nigeda filed her original complaint on June 6, 2014, but filed an amended complaint during trial on April 24. She alleged she was admitted to St. Elizabeth’s Hospital in Belleville on July 23, 2012 with the preoperative principal diagnosis of bilateral symptomatic macromastia.
Reid performed a surgical bilateral breast reduction that was not recommended given her medical history, allegedly resulting in permanent injury. Nigeda claimed her medical history included a bilateral reduction mammoplasty in May 2004 and a history of Lupus, creating complications.
Nigeda claimed Reid then performed an in-office surgical debridement on Aug. 14, 2012 without proper anesthesia, causing severe emotional and mental anguish.
According to the defendants’ statement of the case, they denied they were negligent. They further denied that any claimed act or omission on their part was the cause of Nigeda’s claimed injuries and damages. They also denied that the plaintiff sustained damages to the extent claimed.
The defendants filed a motion for judgment notwithstanding the verdict or for a new trial on May 28, arguing that the evidence “overwhelmingly” favors that the plaintiff did not prove her case. They argue that Nigeda was informed of the risks for every complication she encountered and that she failed to show that the complications were caused by her alleged heightened risks.
Gleeson denied the motion on Aug. 15.
Buchanan v Mascoutah Community Unit School District
Jurors awarded a man more than $7.15 million in a suit alleging he was permanently injured when a Mascoutah Community Unit School District bus driver cross the center line and caused a head-on collision.
The trial ended in Kolker’s courtroom on May 9 when plaintiff George Buchanan was awarded a total of $7,151,058.38 (17-L-255).
Buchanan was represented by Tom Q. Keefe Jr. of Keefe, Keefe & Unsell PC in Belleville and James A. Borland of Quinn Johnston in Springfield.
The school district was represented by Brandon & Schmidt in Carbondale.
Buchanan filed his original complaint on May 10, 2017 against Mascoutah Community Unit School District 19 and bus driver Alphonse Schlueter, who was dismissed without prejudice on Dec. 10, 2018.
Buchanan filed a first amended complaint on Oct. 1, 2018, arguing that Alphonse Schlueter was operating a school bus in the scope of his employment with Mascoutah Community Unit School District on April 25, 2017. Schlueter was driving the school bus on Illinois Route 161 when the bus allegedly crossed the center line and struck Buchanan’s vehicle head on.
Following the collision, Buchanan alleged the school district and its employees “misstated the cause of the crash to the press and the public, manipulating the cause of the crash so as to divert culpability from the driver and the school district and on to the students on the bus, including lying, misstating, and manipulating the cause of the crash after viewing a surveillance tape which belied said misstatements.”
In the defendant’s answer to the original complaint, the school district denied liability and argued that Buchanan caused his own injuries by driving at a speed that was greater than reasonable, operated his vehicle without keeping a careful lookout, failed to stop or decrease speed to avoid a collision, and failed to control his vehicle.
Spearman v McNeill
A McKendree University student was awarded $5,000 in a suit alleging she was forced to withdraw from classes following a collision.
Plaintiff Jada Spearman was originally awarded $10,000 for tuition loss on Aug. 7 in Circuit Judge Stephen McGlynn’s courtroom, but her award was reduced after she was found 50 percent liable (18-L-211).
The plaintiff was represented by Beverly Spearman of The Spearman Firm LLC in Chicago.
Defendant Grace McNeill was represented by David Bub, Brandon Copeland, and Robert Devereux of Brown & James PC in St. Louis.
According to Spearman’s complaint filed March 22, 2018, she was walking as a pedestrian at or near the intersection of North Alton and Summerfield Streets in Lebanon at approximately 9:35 p.m. She alleged that as she was walking, McNeill was operating a vehicle near the intersection and struck the plaintiff.
In her amended complaint, Spearman also alleged that she was enrolled as a student at McKendree University and was an active member of the McKendree University marching band. She claimed that she was responsible for paying tuition to the university with the help of her mother.
As a result of the collision, Spearman claimed she was forced to withdraw from the fall 2017 semester and the marching band. She claimed she lost tuition costs for the semester.
Spearman filed a motion for a new trial on damages on Sept. 17, arguing that the jury improperly awarded her nothing for her past and future pain and suffering. She added that the jury’s verdict was a result of passion and prejudice.
“The only explanation for the jury’s award in this case is that the jury was impassioned and prejudiced by defendant’s testimony insisting that she was a lonely, friendless, freshman in a new town far away from home,” the motion stated.
Helfrich v Poston
On Aug. 20, Taylor Helfrich was awarded $457,223.75 in a trial involving a Millstadt collision.
Kolker presided over the two-day trial (17-L-674).
Helfrich was represented by Bruce R. Cook of Cook Bartholomew Shevline Cook & Jones in Belleville.
Defendant Kaylee Poston was represented by Michael Schroer and Adam Johnson of Lewis Brisbois Bisgaard & Smith in Edwardsville.
Helfrich filed her original complaint on Nov. 15, 2017 against Kaylee and Jason Poston. She filed an amended complaint on July 10 against just Kaylee Poston.
In her complaint, Helfrich alleged she was driving northbound on South Jefferson Street at Elm Street in Millstadt on May 24, 2017, at approximately 1:50 p.m. South Jefferson Street does not have a stop sign while Elm Street does require motorists to stop for traffic, giving traffic on South Jefferson Street the right of way.
At the same time, Kaylee Poston was driving a 2008 Chevrolet Equinox owned by Jason Poston. She was allegedly driving east on Elm Street and was attempting to turn left from a stop sign when she proceeded into the intersection and struck Helfrich’s vehicle.
Helfrich claimed the force of the collision caused her to veer off the roadway, over a curb and into a utility pole.
Poston admitted fault but claimed a building was blocking her view at the stop sign, so she inched forward to get a better look at traffic when she collided with the plaintiff’s vehicle. She testified that she couldn’t see around the building and did not see the plaintiff’s vehicle approaching the intersection. She added that she believed Helfrich was speeding and “skidded” Poston's car before running into the pole.
Vinson v Kindhart
Another motorist was awarded compensation on April 24 in a suit involving a Belleville collision.
Jurors awarded plaintiff Antoinne Vinson $315,375.50 in a trial held in Circuit Judge Heinz Rudolf’s courtroom (17-L-689).
Vinson was represented by Kristina Cooksey and Michaelle Rich of Rich Rich & Cooksey PC in Fairview Heights.
Defendant Connie Kindhart was represented at trial by Michael Bedesky and Jennifer Wagner of Reed, Armstrong, Mudge & Morrissey PC in Edwardsville. However, they withdrew as counsel on Oct. 24. Heyl Royster Voelker & Allen PC In Edwardsville took over as counsel for Kindhart.
According to the complaint filed Nov. 21, 2017, Vinson claimed she was driving a vehicle eastbound on Lebanon Avenue in Belleville on Sept. 21, 2017. Kindhart was allegedly driving directly behind the plaintiff when she struck the rear of Vinson’s vehicle.
Kindhart denied that the plaintiff was injured to the extent claimed.
Kindhart filed a motion for a new trial on May 22 arguing that the court erred in denying her motion to continue the trial because they were unable to obtain an expert to opine on a doctor’s opinion that Vinson needed a disc replacement. Her motion was denied July 29.
Kindhart filed an appeal on Aug. 28.
However, a satisfaction of judgment order was entered Dec. 31.
Hunt v Benton
On June 12, jurors returned a verdict in favor of a motorist and passenger which was higher than what arbitrators had awarded before the defendant rejected the ruling.
Jurors awarded plaintiff Terence Hunt $20,851.50 and awarded Eugene Jackson $9,879.37 in Hoerner’s courtroom (16-L-519).
Hunt and Jackson were represented by Don Cary Collins of Belleville.
Defendant Donald Benton was represented by Roger Wilson of Zimmer & Associates in St. Louis.
Hunt and Jackson filed the complaint on Sept. 30, 2016, arguing that Hunt was driving a vehicle on West Boulevard in St. Clair Township on Oct. 2, 2014 with Jackson riding as a passenger. Benton was operating a vehicle directly behind the plaintiffs when he allegedly caused a collision.
Arbitrators awarded Hunt $19,250 plus costs and awarded Jackson $9,000 plus costs on Feb. 15, 2019.
Benton rejected the award on March 4.
Keener v Bisch
Jurors awarded a motorist $15,431.51 on June 24 in a suit involving a rear-end collision.
Kolker presided over the trial (18-L-34).
Plaintiff Dwight Keener was represented by Genavieve Fikes and Jake Thomeczek of Burger Law in St. Louis.
Defendant Thisha Bisch was represented by Victor Avellino of Boggs Avellino Lach & Boggs in Belleville.
According to the complaint filed Jan. 18, 2018, Bisch allegedly struck the rear or Keener’s vehicle at the intersection of State Street and 157 on April 27, 2017. Bisch disputed the extent of the damages.
Seibel v Williams
On July 24, jurors awarded a woman dining at the Gia’s Pizza restaurant $100,000 after a motorist drove through the brick wall of the O’Fallon establishment.
Rudolf presided over the trial (17-L-744).
Plaintiff Sara Seibel was represented by Ryan Keane and Nathaniel Carroll of Keane Law LLC in St. Louis.
Defendant Miltha Williams was represented by Michael Murphy and John Skrabarz of Freeark Harvey & Mendillo PC in Belleville.
Seibel and co-plaintiff Steven Oritz filed the complaint on Dec. 18, 2017, alleging they were sitting at a booth in Gia’s Pizza in O’Fallon on Oct. 18, 2016 at approximately 6:30 p.m. At that time, Williams, who was driving a 2011 Honda Accord, allegedly drove her vehicle into the restaurant.
The suit states that Williams was driving her vehicle westbound on East State Street, approaching a four-way stop sign at its intersection with South Lincoln Avenue in O’Fallon, when she failed to stop. She allegedly accelerated instead of slowing down. Williams crashed into a white Nissan Frontier pickup truck and continued to accelerate, causing her to crash into a Nissan Altima sedan. After striking the sedan, Williams allegedly continued to accelerate, pushing the sedan out of the way and smashing her Honda Accord into the side of the Gia’s Pizza restaurant.
“Just before the collision, plaintiffs were enjoying an outing at Gia’s Pizza with family,” the suit states. “Suddenly, the brick wall exploded into the restaurant immediately adjacent to where plaintiffs were seated.
“Defendant’s vehicle, bricks from the wall, and other debris struck plaintiffs’ bodies. The impact of the collision of defendant’s vehicle into the wall of the pizzeria catapulted plaintiff Sara Seibel out of her seat and across the inside of the restaurant.”
McClelland v Marino
On Aug. 6, jurors reached a defense verdict in favor of a motorist accused of causing a collision while attempting to pass another vehicle.
Hoerner presided over the trial (18-L-679).
Plaintiffs Carlene Tucker and George McClelland represented by Taylor Sander of The Law Offices of Roderick White in St. Louis.
Defendant Shannon Marino represented by Daniel Lytle of HeplerBroom in St. Louis
Complaint filed Aug. 1, 2018, alleging Tucker was a passenger in a vehicle operated by McClelland on June 23, 2017. They were traveling northbound in the far right lane of US Route 50 in O’Fallon with Marino traveling behind them. The plaintiffs claimed the defendant’s vehicle entered the shoulder of the road in an attempt to pass the plaintiffs’ vehicle when she struck the passenger side of the vehicle.
In her answer, Marino argued that McClelland negligently changed lanes without first ascertaining that such movement could be made safely.
On March 14, 2019, arbitrators entered a judgment in favor of Marino. The plaintiffs rejected the award on April 10, 2019.
Thornton v Striegel
On Sept. 12, jurors reached a defense verdict in favor of a physician and his practice in a suit alleging a woman died when her blood was unable to clot after an unsuccessful needle “stick.”
Rudolf presided over the medical malpractice trial (08-L-446).
Plaintiffs Augustus Thornton, as special administrator of the estate of Charlene Thornton, were represented by Patrick Hagerty
Defendants Stephen Striegel, M.D. and SPS Surgical Services were represented by Ted Dennis
According to an amended complaint filed Jan. 6, 2016, the plaintiffs allege Charlene Thornton was in the defendants’ care from Sept. 20-22, 2006. The plaintiff alleged the defendants negligently performed a central venous access procedure by making an excessive number of unsuccessful, deeply penetrating needle “stick” attempts, increasing the risk of arterial puncture prior to surgery. The plaintiff claimed the decedent had a “weakened and vulnerable blood condition” at the time of surgery and was unable to clot once bleeding started. The plaintiff claimed that as a result of the negligent needle “sticks”, Charlene Thornton died Sept. 22, 2006.
According to a counterclaim for setoff filed March 10, 2010, the defendants deny liability.
St. Elizabeth’s Hospital had also been named a defendant but was dismissed in March 2018.
McKinney v Newgent
A jury reached another plaintiff verdict on Oct. 22 when plaintiff Tyree McKinney was awarded $129,510.60.
Gleeson presided over the collision suit (18-L-429).
McKinney was represented by Kristina Cooksey and Michelle Rich of Rich Rich Cooksey & Chappell PC.
Defendant Daniel Newgent was represented by Michael Murphy of Freeark Harvey & Mendillo PC in Belleville.
According to McKinney’s complaint filed June 19, 2018, McKinney claimed he was driving a vehicle eastbound on Interstate 64 in East St. Louis on Feb. 22, 2018 when Newgent allegedly caused a rear-end collision.
Newgent filed a motion for a new trial on Nov. 20, arguing that the court abused its discretion in barring defense expert Dr. Peter Anderson as a sanction for his responses to the plaintiff’s discovery requests. He also argues that the verdict was against the manifest weight of the evidence. Gleeson denied the defendant’s request for a new trial on Dec. 10.
On Jan. 7, Newgent filed an appeal. He also filed a motion to stay enforcement of judgment while the appeal is pending.
Keller v Petersen Health Care
On Oct. 25, a jury awarded plaintiffs Windsor Keller and Constance Keller $120,000 in a suit alleging the plaintiff fell while he was at an extended care facility.
Rudolf presided over the trial (18-L-561).
The plaintiffs were represented by Robert Schmieder II and Brad Lakin.
Defendant Peterson Health Care was represented by Andrew Corkery and Robert Yellen
According to the complaint, Windsor Keller was allegedly injured on Jan. 20, 2018 while he was a resident at a long-term care facility. He was treated for injuries suffered at a fall at Four Fountains, including a hip fracture and brain bleed.
The plaintiffs filed a motion for a new trial on Nov. 14, after jurors did not award any damages for pain and suffering, disability, future medical expenses, or loss of society and companionship.
Hawk Properties v Allstate Insurance Company
On Nov. 19, jurors returned a defense verdict in favor of an insurer in a dispute over a damaged East St. Louis property.
Kolker presided over the insurance dispute (17-L-626).
Plaintiff Hawk Properties was represented by Alvin Paulson.
Defendant Allstate Insurance Company was represented by John Morrow.
Hawk Properties filed the complaint Oct. 25, 2017, alleging an East St. Louis property sustained damage due to a collapse on June 27, 2017. The plaintiff claimed the defendant denied the plaintiff’s claim for payment for the damage. The defendant had argued that the damages were not covered by the policy.
Almefleh v Armstrong
Producing the largest verdict of the year, jurors awarded a patient $12,050,000 on Nov. 26 in a suit alleging the plaintiff’s cauda equine syndrome was not timely diagnosed.
Rudolf presided over the trial (16-L-249).
Plaintiffs Ali Almefleh and Nadia Sabrah were represented by Tom Q. Keefe Jr. and Samantha Unsell of Keefe Keefe & Unsell PC in Belleville.
Defendant HSHS Medical Group was represented by Ben Patterson and Stephen Kauffman.
Defendant St. Elizabeth’s Hospital was represented by Chi-Yong Throckmartin and Michael Nester.
The plaintiffs filed their complaint on May 6, 2016, alleging Almefleh was treated in the emergency room at St. Elizabeth’s Hospital on April 23, 2015 by physician assistant Stephanie Armstrong. He was later treated by Dr. Kristina Naseer, a pain management doctor. He alleged the defendants failed to diagnose cauda equine syndrome, which requires emergency surgery, and failed to obtain a neurosurgery consultation and immediately order an MRI. As a result, surgery was delayed, causing the patient to suffer injuries, he alleged.
According to a statement of the case, the defendants denied liability and denied Almefleh was injured to the extent claimed.
McCarthy v Union Pacific Railroad
On Dec. 5, jurors reached another multi-million verdict in favor of plaintiff John McCarthy in a suit alleging he was being harassed at work.
Jurors awarded McCarthy $3.14 million against defendant Union Pacific Railroad and $10,000 against defendant and co-worker Glen Elliot. Rudolf presided over the trial (17-L-67).
McCarthy was represented by Charles Armbruster, Michael Blotevogel and Shaun Lieser.
The defendants were represented by Thomas Jones and Harlan Harla.
McCarthy filed the complaint Feb. 14, 2017, alleging he was working as a locomotive inspector when he was involved in a motor vehicle crash and suffered injuries to his neck and back. He claimed Elliot became aware of McCarthy’s injuries and began physically harassing the plaintiff by grabbing him by the neck and head. McCarthy claimed Union Pacific was aware of Elliot’s conduct but took no action to prevent or stop the alleged harassment.
Flynn v Langley
In the last verdict of 2019, jurors awarded plaintiff Jeff Flynn $892,600 in a wrongful termination suit on Dec. 19.
Jurors held defendant Beelman Truck Co. liable but did not find defendants Langley Film Service Inc. or William Langley liable. Rudolf presided over the trial (17-L-413).
Flynn filed the complaint on Aug. 1, 2017. He alleged he was employed by Beelman between June 23, 2016 and Aug. 8, 2016. Prior to his termination from Beelman, the defendant allegedly sent Langley a request for information pertaining to his previous employment in East St. Louis. On Aug. 2, 2016, Langley allegedly told Beelman that Flynn filed a “bogus” workers’ compensation claim, which Flynn claimed is false.
Flynn was then terminated from Beelman on Aug. 8, 2016 based on reports that the plaintiff had filed workers’ compensation claims with two former employers, according to a statement of the case.
Beelman denied the claim, arguing that it fired Flynn for allegedly filing a “bogus” workers’ compensation claim, for stealing, and for complaining about his job. However, Langley and Langley Film denied that they told Beelman Flynn committed theft.