SSH on Top 10 Jury Verdicts of 2008


Jury verdicts for plaintiffs increase in average size

A few large verdicts awarded to plaintiffs in 2008 contributed to a total of more than $213.3 million from the 116 plaintiffs' awards, according to the Greater Kansas City Jury Verdict Service.

Although the percentage of verdicts awarded to plaintiffs was about the same as in previous years - 53 percent in 2008, 48 percent in 2007, 50 percent in 2006 and 52 percent in 2005 - the amount has continued to grow.

Although the average size of 2008 jury verdicts was buoyed by a few large awards, they have grown in consecutive years from $688,337 in 2006 to $1.3 million in 2007 and $1.8 million in 2008.

Last year saw 24 verdicts of $1 million or more, compared with 20 in 2007 and 14 in 2006.

Here are the top 10 jury verdicts of 2008, according to the Greater Kansas City Jury Verdict Service:

1. $104.1 million in a class-action suit against Residential Funding Co. LLC, Household Finance Corp., Wachovia Equity Servicing LLC and Homecomings Financial LLC for violating Missouri's Second Mortgage Loan Act.

Represented by R. Frederick Walters, Kip Richards, David Skeens, J. Michael Vaughan and Garrett Hodes of Walters Bender Strohbehn & Vaughan PC in Kansas City, the plaintiffs claimed that the defendants charged unauthorized and illegal fees and interest on second mortgages purchased from Mortgage Capital Resource Corp.

2. $16.88 million in a breach of contract claim against AT&T Inc.

A class-action suit was filed against AT&T, Sprint Nextel Corp. and MCI Worldcom Network Services Inc. alleging they conspired to fix prices and overcharge customers Universal Service Fund fees. MCI declared bankruptcy, and Sprint settled in September. A $400 million conspiracy claim was denied, but breach of contract was won. Plaintiffs were represented by lawyers from Susman Godfrey LLP's Dallas and Los Angeles offices; Freedman Boyd Holladner Goldberg & Ives PA in Albuquerque, N.M.; Heins Mills & Olson PLC in Minneapolis; and Sharp McQueen PA in Liberal, Kan.

3. $16 million for a violation of federal constitutional rights against Richard and Tina McKinley.

Theodore White Jr. spent five and a half years in prison after being accused of sexually molesting his stepdaughter. White claimed that during the investigation, his then-wife, Tina McKinley, and a detective on the case were having an affair that was kept a secret and that the detective neglected to seize a diary from his stepdaughter that contained information that would have cleared White of the charges. Representing White were Brian McCallister, Cyndy Short and Christopher Lawler of The McCallister Law Firm PC in Kansas City; Loevy & Loevy in Chicago; and Pettit & Pettit PC in Aurora, Mo.

4. $14 million in a liability complaint against Intex Recreation Corp., Target Stores Corp., and James and Connie Nickles.

Chad Stockbauer was intoxicated when he dove into an above-ground, 3-foot-tall pool in the Nickles' back yard, fracturing his neck. The plaintiff, represented by Louis Accurso, Burton Haigh and Ann Wright of The Accurso Law Firm PC in Kansas City, claimed defective design and failure to warn that the pool was too shallow. Stockbauer was found 96 percent at fault. Net recovery was $560,000. Defendants' attorneys included John Cowden of Baker Sterchi Cowden & Rice LLC and James Morrow of Morrow Willnauer & Klosterman LLC in Kansas City.

5. $12 million in a wrongful death suit against Vance Bros. Inc.

John Teuber was killed after a truck driven by an employee of Trotter Trucking Co., an independent contractor of Vance, ran a red light and hit Teuber's vehicle. The truck was carrying 18 tons of asphalt and found to have faulty brakes. The driver pled guilty to involuntary manslaughter. Plaintiff's lawyers included Michael Ketchmark, Brett Davis and Scott McCreight of Davis Ketchmark & McCreight in Kansas City.

6. $11.9 for defective repair, nuisance and trespass against Martin Marietta Materials Inc. and Hunt Martin Materials LLC.

The city of Greenwood, Mo., claimed that the defendants made unauthorized street repairs and that their trucks were not authorized to use residential streets for transport of limestone and rock. Plaintiff's attorneys were Steven Mauer, Megan Redmond and Heather Esau Zerger of Bryan Cave LLP.

7. $7.1 million for breach of contract and fraudulent and negligent misrepresentation against A.G. Edwards & Sons Inc.

Patrick Stueve and Eric Dirks of Stueve Siegel Hanson LLP argued that A.G. Edwards loaded software on unlicensed computers and offered the reports generated by the software to unlicensed brokers.

8. $4.95 million for tortuous interference and defamation against HCA Midwest Division Inc., HCA Physicians Services, Research Medical Center, Centerpoint Medical Center and Midwest Newborn Care.

Dr. William Topper claimed Research Medical Center and Centerpoint Medical Center interfered with his contract by wrongfully terminating him, that the defendants made false and misleading statements about him, and that he could not work for two years because of a noncompete agreement. Attorneys for the plaintiff were Bruce Keplinger and Melissa Hillman of Norris & Keplinger LLC in Overland Park.

9. $4.5 million in a medical malpractice claim against Medical Imaging Inc., et al.

Plaintiff Linda Reynolds claimed her doctor failed to arrange a mammogram in a timely manner, resulting in a one-year delay in a diagnosis of breast cancer. The doctor, who was found 85 percent at fault, had settled before the trial. Medical Imaging was dismissed. Net recovery was $675,000. Plaintiff's counsel included William "Dirk" Vandever of The Popham Law Firm PC in Kansas City and Rahm Rahm & McVay in Warrensburg, Mo.

10. $2.6 million in lost income and damages against United Parcel Service Inc.

Keith Jones claimed that the defendant fired him in retaliation for filing a workers' compensation claim against the company. Plaintiff's attorneys were George Barton and Phyllis Norman of the Law Offices of George A. Barton PC in Kansas City, and Overland Park lawyer Fredrick Deay.

Kansas City Business Journal - by Tammy Worth Contributing Writer

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