Largest Verdict in a Personal Injury case
in Pennsylvania history
Largest-ever compensatory verdict
Then-second largest Product
Liability verdict in U.S. history
Auto Accident Verdict
Largest single-victim fatality settlement
Civil Rights verdict
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- Andy Stern representing woman trapped in building collapse
- Tom Kline named No. 1 PA Super Lawyer record 10th straight year
- 14 at Kline & Specter named Super Lawyers, Specter in Top 10 again
- On TV ⇒ Kline & Specter files suit in unnecessary stent procedure case
- Suit filed in Seton Hill University bus crash
- Firm wins record $105 million settlement in power line death case
- On TV ⇒ Tom Kline comments on possible PSU victim settlements
- Tom Kline argues before appellate panel vs. cap on jury awards
- Specter, Baldwin, Guerrini $109 million verdict among U.S.Top 10
- On TV ⇒ Tom Kline comments on kidnap case
- Tom Kline named 2013 Best Philadelphia Medical Malpractice Lawyer
- Seven at Kline & Specter named "Best Lawyers in America"
- Specter sues city over captivity and torture of 10-year-old girl
- High Court refuses case, $8.75M verdict vs. Ford stands
- Kline & Specter files suit on behalf of Eagles' Jason Peters
- Kline & Specter Courtroom dedicated at Penn Law School
- Waldenberger wins $3M verdict in cancer case
- On TV ⇒The Kline & Specter Squash Center opens at Drexel University
- Kline, Caputo win $14M verdict in Pennsbury school bus accident case
- On TV ⇒ Tom Kline interviewed on Penn State case by CNN, MSNBC ...
- Kline & Specter named No. 1 Product Liability Firm in the United States
- Specter, Safier, Williams win $17.5M med-mal verdict
- On TV ⇒ Shanin Specter comments on the Ellison case, CBS3
- Guerrini wins $15M verdict in teen's death
- PA Superior Court panel upholds $8.75M Blumer verdict
- Kline & Specter wins largest-ever Erie personal injury verdict, $21.6M
- Michael Smerconish joins Kline & Specter
- On TV ⇒ Kline, Inscho, Baldwin obtain $1.8M in psychologist sex case
- Kline & Specter named among Best Law Firms in U.S.
- Trunk, Zakeosian win $11.7 million against PHA and property manager
- Kline, Specter named among nation's 500 "Leading Lawyers"
- On TV ⇒ ESPN features the Plevretes case, Shanin Specter
- Best Lawyers names Tom Kline No. 1 Phila. personal injury attorney
- See more Kline & Specter stories in the news
In 1937, Harry Specter, a peddler, was driving his Chevy pickup when a defective spindle bolt broke and caused the truck to flip over. His arm was crushed in the accident and he was left permanently disabled.
Harry got a $500 settlement for his injury. More than six decades later, his grandson, Shanin Specter, a nationally recognized trial attorney, would sue a major car company — also over a manufacturing defect in a pick-up truck - with a far different result.
Specter waged an epic battle against the Ford Motor Co. on behalf of the family of Walter White, a three-year-old boy who was run over and killed when the parking brake in his father's F-350 spontaneously disengaged. Specter won two verdicts in White v. Ford -- for $153 million and $52 million — and continued to litigate this case, which was settled weeks prior to its scheduled third trial in June 2008. Specter's efforts on this case have been chronicled in the book Bad Brake, published in November 2011.
Shanin Specter has obtained more than 100 verdicts and settlements in excess of $1 million, including 13 verdicts which were in eight or nine figures. Of those, six were medical malpractice cases, two involved a defective product, two arose from improperly maintained premises, one resulted from a motor vehicle accident, and two involved general negligence. In his most recent major case, Specter in December 2012 won a Pennsylvania record $109 million verdict for the family of a woman who was killed by a fallen electric line. (See The Goretzka Case) The verdict was among the top verdicts of 2012 in Pennsylvania. (Read The Legal Intelligencer article.) The case later settled for $105 million.
Specter earned his law degree from the University of Pennsylvania and an LL.M. with First Honors from Cambridge University and has compiled a lengthy record of professional accomplishments. In 2010 he was selected as a member of the Inner Circle of Advocates, a group of the best 100 trial lawyers in the country. In 2011 he was featured on the cover of Super Lawyers magazine, in which the independent rating service called him one of the most celebrated and respected catastrophic injury litigators in the country.
Specter received the 2008 Michael A. Musmanno Award, the highest honor conferred by the Philadelphia Trial Lawyer's Association. In 2007 he received the Pennsylvania Trial Lawyers Association's (now the Pennsylvania Association for Justice) highest honor, the Milton D. Rosenberg Award "in recognition of those qualities of leadership, service and devotion to the Association's cause." The National Law Journal selected Specter as one of the top ten litigators in the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, while other organizations have named him as among the best attorneys in the state and in the nation. Specter has won a litany of major cases, including a nationally publicized $7.5 million settlement against La Salle University for a football player who suffered a concussion in practice and was prematurely cleared to play and later sustained a severe brain damage in a game. (See The Plevretes Case)
In 1995, six months after opening the firm with partner Tom Kline, he won a $24.25 million jury verdict for a little girl left severely brain damaged in a swimming pool accident. (See Weightman v. National Realty Corp.) At the time, it was the largest compensatory verdict ever awarded in Pennsylvania. Two years later, in Sparber v. DuPont, Specter won a Delaware-record $19.9 million verdict against a hospital after a 15-year-old patient was accosted by a visitor, the attack resulting in catastrophic nerve damage. In 1998 Specter won a $6.8 million verdict for a man injured in a motorcycle accident while wearing a defective helmet. (See Wandel v. Bell Sports, Inc.)
As the jury deliberates, Specter awaits the
verdict in White v. Ford in 2004.
Specter, known for his tenacity and an impeccable attention to detail, has set records in other medical-malpractice cases. In 2000, he won the then-largest medical malpractice verdict in Pennsylvania history for David Caruso, a 20-year-old who was left in a near-vegetative state after receiving negligent care at a Philadelphia hospital. Specter demonstrated his ability to captivate a courtroom in that case, giving a closing speech in which he spoke for Caruso in the first-person, as if he were the young man who would never be able to again enjoy life's simple pleasures. Many in the courtroom were moved to tears, including members of the jury, which awarded $49.6 million.
Among his most well known cases, Specter in 2001 won an unusually large settlement in a suit involving a defective BB gun that badly brain damaged and led to the death of a teenage boy. The Mahoney case, and Specter's investigation of the gun, resulted in an exposé on the ABC program 20/20 featuring Specter and led the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission to seek the recall of 7.4 million defective Daisy BB guns.
In another case, this one involving the death of a pedestrian run down by a speeding Philadelphia police car, Specter won not only monetary compensation for his client but also important reform for Philadelphia citizens. The Gillyard/Rich case resulted in a $2.45 million settlement against the city under the Civil Rights Act, sparking the police commissioner to mandate extensive training and make driving rule changes to improve police and civilian safety.
In 1997, Specter won a major monetary settlement and also important hospital reforms in a case involving the death of a baby following a cervical cone biopsy performed on his mother during pregnancy. The procedure was conducted at Graduate Hospital in Philadelphia even though it carried the risk of necessitating an emergency delivery that the hospital was not equipped to handle, having no department of obstetrics, adequate fetal monitoring devices or a neonatal unit. The baby, Brandon Molloy, suffered brain damage due to perinatal asphyxia and died seven months later. Under the settlement, Graduate Hospital agreed to halt procedures on pregnant women.
Among Specter's more recent cases:
In 2003, Specter, along with Andy Youman, won a $20 million compensatory verdict for 19-year-old Hugh Gallagher IV, who was catastrophically injured when nurses at Temple University Hospital failed to respond in time to his blocked airway. After the verdict, Specter prevailed in two appeals before Pennsylvania Superior Court, and the verdict was upheld finally — with interest — when the U.S. Supreme Court refused to hear the case in November 2007.
In 2004, Specter tried a case in Luzerne County in which he won a $19.1 million verdict for a Hazleton woman struck by a careless driver while she was working as a flagger at a construction site. Teresa McManamon suffered serious injuries that left her unable to care for herself or her three children. The verdict was paid in full in 2007 following appeal.
In a retrial of the punitive damages only in the White v. Ford case, Specter in 2004 again won a major verdict against Ford following a two-week trial in Reno, Nev. The jury awarded $52 million. The verdict was again appealed and the case was settled in 2008.
Later in 2004, Specter won a jury verdict for Nicholas Woolfolk, a two-year-old boy who fell from a window at his Philadelphia apartment complex after a screen popped out of its casing. The child suffered brain damage and blindness in one eye. Because of a pre-verdict agreement, the child received $12.25 million.
And a few months later, Specter, along with Youman and Lisa Dagostino, won a $7.8 million jury verdict for the family of a baby who suffered brain damage after being improperly resuscitated after birth, going nine minutes without a breath or a heartbeat. The verdict was paid in full. The medical malpractice verdict in Briggs v. UPMC Shadyside Hospital set a record for a medical malpractice case in Allegheny County. This record was broken by Specter in 2007.
In a defamation case, Specter, with partner Tom Kline, represented noted Philadelphia criminal defense attorney Richard Sprague in a suit filed against radio personality Howard Eskin. Eskin alleged that Sprague had paid off a witness to change his testimony in the Allan Iverson prosecution. The case was settled in 2004 with Eskin making a public apology and being suspended from the radio show for 30 days. His employer, Infinity Broadcasting, also agreed to pay "substantial" compensation to Sprague. (Click here for more on the story.)
The withdrawal from the market of the prescription painkiller Vioxx led to a major role for Specter in this national litigation. In 2005, Specter was selected to take the depositions of Merck CEO Ray Gilmartin, Merck Research Laboratories President Peter Kim, Merck former Senior Vice-President Alan Neis and Merck Senior Biostatistician Deborah Shapiro. Specter's examination of Shapiro was held by New Jersey Superior Court Judge Carol Higbee to be the only evidence sufficient to support a punitive damages verdict against Merck. (View Kim deposition excerpts  . View Shapiro deposition excerpts  .)
In 2006, Specter was lead counsel in representing a 14-year-old Philadelphian who was rendered a quadriplegic as a result of being restrained in a rear center seat lap belt, instead of what should have been a lap-shoulder belt, during a head-on collision. The case was settled during trial for $30 million, the most ever paid by this major automaker to settle a personal injury lawsuit.
Also in 2006, Specter, along with Kline & Specter lawyer Don Matusow tried Lee/Egan v. Abington Memorial Hospital. This case concerned a newborn with a highly treatable eye condition (Retinopathy of Prematurity) that went untreated because the hospital and several physicians failed to give the newborn, Emmitt Lee, a follow-up eye exam. The missed exam led to Emmitt's total blindness. The jury awarded $20 million to compensate Emmitt, which was the highest personal injury award in Montgomery County history and the largest medical malpractice award in the history of the Philadelphia suburbs (See The Lee Case.) The verdict was appealed but paid in full in 2007.
In 2007, Specter and Youman tried a case for five days, resulting in a very substantial settlement against the University of Pittsburgh (see Pratt). In this case, campus police failed to timely revive a student who had collapsed in class, resulting in her suffering severe brain damage. In addition to a confidential monetary settlement, the university agreed to hire a medical director for their police department, provide their police officers with quarterly refresher courses on CPR and the use of automatic external defibrillators (AED) and twice annually test their officers' proficiency in CPR and AED use. After the case was settled, Specter made a presentation to a symposium at the University of Pennsylvania School of Law on the use of video in the courtroom. He played the videotape of the day-in-the-life of Erica Pratt, which was narrated live at the symposium by her mother, Diane Pratt, as part of a mock direct examination. (View the presentation)
Also in 2007, Specter obtained a $57 million verdict on behalf of a young man catastrophically injured at a Pennsylvania hospital during the birth process. Pursuant to an agreement entered into toward the close of the trial, the case was settled on a confidential high-low basis, where the payment amount was controlled by the verdict amount, subject to an agreed-upon upper limit.
In April 2008, Specter obtained a $35 million settlement with 16 defendants in the Bridgeport Fire case. Along with colleagues at the firm including Jason L. Pearlman and Kila B. Baldwin, Specter represented more than 100 businesses and individuals in the class action for losses suffered in the massive fire that destroyed the Continental Business Center in Bridgeport, Pa. in 2001. A five-week trial was in the midst of jury deliberations when the final defendant agreed to settle. (See Bridgeport)
Also in 2008, Specter, along with Charles Becker, established important Pennsylvania law. Now, minors may pursue claims for their medical expenses even if their parents failed to timely file such claims. (Read more)
Specter stands outside the Allegheny County
Courthouse during the Blumer trial. Next to
him is the statute of the late Pittsburgh
Mayor Richard S. Caliguiri.
In January and February of 2009, Specter teamed with Andy Youman and Gary Zakeosian to try the case of Greg Volutza, a 37-year-old Reading pharmacist. Volutza had seen his internist complaining of chest tightness, a feeling of thickening in his throat, jaw pain, lightheadness and anxiousness. Instead of diagnosing possible acute coronary syndrome and sending Volutza to the emergency room, the internist diagnosed him with apparent non-cardiac chest pain. Four days later, Volutza suffered a fatal heart attack. A Berks County jury concluded a two-week trial with an award of $4 million for Volutza's wife and daughter. (See Volutza) The verdict was paid in full.
In March of 2009, Specter, along with Kila Baldwin and Dominic Guerrini, tried the wrongful death case of Joseph Blumer, 43. Blumer was killed when the parking brake on the 2002 Ford F-350 tow truck he was operating spontaneously disengaged, trapping him under the truck. An Allegheny County jury awarded his wife and two daughters $8.75 million. The defective parking brake was manufactured by Dura, the successor corporation to the parking brake manufacturer in White v Ford. Specter is seeking review of by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration of the safety of these successor brakes, which were installed in the 1999-2004 F-Series trucks. (See Blumer) The Blumer case was also profiled in Bad Brake. The verdict was upheld by the appellate courts and was paid in full in 2012.
Also in 2009, Shanin Specter obtained a seven-figure financial settlement against the private operator of a Philadelphia public middle school where a child was sodomized by another student. The school, according to the complaint in that case, had an environment that was "prone to sexual assaults on children" and supervisors who failed in their duty to protect children.
In 2010, Specter negotiated the settlement of McKinney v. Philadelphia Housing Authority for $11.9 million, one of the largest civil rights suit recoveries on record, on behalf of a child catastrophically injured due to mold exposure in public-subsidized housing. (See news coverage)
In October 2010, Specter filed what was believed to be the first lawsuit for a victim of the crash of a Megabus near Syracuse, N.Y. (See news stories)
In November 2010, Specter secured a $27.6 million verdict for Margo and Dan Polett arising from the negligence of a medical device manufacturer and a public relations company. The defendants placed Mrs. Polett on an exercise bike for a promotional video following knee surgery, resulting in a catastrophic injury. (News coverage)
In April 2011, Specter obtained a $21.6 million verdict, including periodic payments, against Hamot Medical Center in Erie, Pa., in the Graham case. Specter proved that Hamot’s nurses failed to alert the obstetrician of variable decelerations in a twin birth, leading to a delay in childbirth and severe brain damage in Ja'Kareon Graham. The verdict was believed to be the largest personal injury verdict in the history of Erie County. The verdict was paid in full by the defendant.
In September 2011, Specter won a $17.5 million verdict, including periodic payments, for a former U.S. Marine in a medical malpractice case against the Philadelphia Veterans Administration Medical Center. The case was tried in federal court in Philadelphia to Judge William H. Yohn Jr., non-jury. Christopher Ellison suffered a massive and debilitating stroke after a dental procedure in which his blood pressure had dropped precipitously several times. The verdict was paid in full in 2012 when the government dropped its appeal. (See Ellison)
In May 2012, Specter settled for $5 million a case involving the death of a citizen of Mexico whose vehicle was stopped at a red light when it was rear-ended by a vending company truck. The settlement, said Specter, “stands for the important proposition that the Pennsylvania courts apply the same law regardless of nationality."
In December 2012, Specter won a $109 million jury verdict in Goretzka v. West Penn Power, along with Kline & Specter attorneys Kila Baldwin and Dominic Guerrini. The verdict, a Pennsylvania record, was comprised of $48 million in compensatory damages and $61 million in punitive damages. Some 10 weeks later, in February 2013, Specter settled the case for $105 million, believed to be the largest-ever settement for such a case in commonwealth history. (See news coverage) The firm's work has led to an enforcement action by the Pennsylvania Utility Commission against the power company, to force remedial measures.
Also in 2012, Specter filed suit in the Philadelphia "House of Horrors" case on behalf of the child victim. (See The Weston Case)
In 2013, Specter, along with Kline & Specter attorneys Michael Trunk and Lisa Dagostino, achieved a $19 million settlement in a birth injury case for the family of a newborn who suffered a severe brain injury following a uterine rupture caused by overmedication involving Pitocin, which is used to stimulate contractions.
Specter recently has been sought for his analysis of the Penn State child sexual abuse matter. (See news coverage)
He has been listed in Best Lawyers in America since 1995 (including the latest 2013 edition) and is AV-rated in Martindale-Hubbell. Specter also has been singled out or selected for inclusion by the following organizations:
- Inner Circle of Advocates: the top 100 trial lawyers in the United States. (See Inner Circle profile)
- Super Lawyers, which for 10 straight years named Specter as among the best lawyers in Pennsylvania based on ballots sent to some 40,000 attorneys in the state and review by a special committee. In 2013, Specter for the eighth time was named among the Top 10 attorneys in Pennsylvania by Super Lawyers.
- The International Academy of Trial Lawyers, an organization that limits U.S. membership to 500 attorneys recommended by their peers and trial judges for outstanding skills and ability as well as excellent character and integrity.
- Lawdragon, the legal services information firm, which in 2010 and 2011 named Specter as among the best 500 attorneys in the nation from a list of nominees that included trial lawyers, academics, prosecutors, defense attorneys and judges.
- The American College of Trial Lawyers, which selects the top 1 percent of trial lawyers from the United States and Canada based on mastery of trial advocacy and careers marked by the highest standards of ethical conduct and professionalism.
- The World's Leading Product Liability Lawyers, which selects "only the best individuals" from more than 60 jurisdictions worldwide, naming Specter a "pre-eminent practitioner."
Specter served as a member of a hearing committee on the Disciplinary Board of the Supreme Court of Pennsylvania from 1989 to 1994 and as a chairman from 1994 to 1995. He was a member of the Civil Procedural Rules Committee of the Supreme Court of Pennsylvania from 1995 to 2001. Specter was the Governor's appointee to the Pennsylvania Medical Professional Liability Insurance Catastrophe Loss Fund Advisory Board, a position he held from 1997 to 2002. He is currently a member of the Philadelphia Trial Lawyers Association, the Pennsylvania Association for Justice, and the American Association for Justice.
Specter graduated with honors in political science from Haverford College in 1980. While at Haverford he won the Harry S Truman Scholarship Award, a national scholarship awarded to one sophomore from each state who is regarded to have the best potential for a career in public service. Specter was profiled on the cover of Parade magazine in connection with this award. (Read the article) Specter earned his law degree at the University of Pennsylvania Law School, where he now teaches "Introduction to Trial Advocacy" and "Practice of Law." He earned his Masters in Law at Cambridge University (First Honors).
Specter is admitted to practice in the U. S. Supreme Court, the Third and Ninth Circuit Courts of Appeal, the U.S. District Courts for the Eastern, Middle and Western Districts of Pennsylvania and the Supreme Court of Pennsylvania.
Specter is an avid squash player. In July 2005 he played for the United States team in the Maccabiah Games, the Olympic-style event held in Israel every four years. He won a gold medal at the games, along with other members of the United States' 45-49 team.
Specter and other lawyers at Kline & Specter are very active in the community (See Charities), with 2012 marking the opening of two major facilities made possible thanks to donations by the law firm. The Kline & Specter Squash Center at Drexel University features seven courts and seating and hosts the Dragons’ 18th and newest interscholastic sport, while The Kline & Specter Courtroom at the University of Pennsylvania Law School is used to teach trial and appellate advocacy, conduct mock trials and arguments and hear Pennsylvania Superior Court arguments.
Specter is also a baseball fan and is interested in the intersection of baseball and the law.
- Shanin Specter files suit in unnecessary stent procedure case, CBS 3 5/1/13
- Specter interviewed on unnecessary stent procedures, CBS 3 4/3/11-11PM
- TV COVERAGE: Specter comments on "House of Horrors" case, ABC 6 News 2/28/13-11PM (see all Weston Coverage)
- NEWSPAPER COVERAGE: Pa. Utility Will Pay $105M In Power Line Death Settlement, Law360 2/20/13
- Specter wins RECORD $109 MILLION VERDICT in power line case. See all Goretzka Case coverage, 12/6/12
- Specter sues city over captivity and torture of 10-year-old girl, ABC 6 8/20/12; CBS 3 8/20/12; Fox 29 8/20/12
- Specter lauds government dropping appeal of $17.5M Ellison verdict, The Legal Intelligencer, 7/23/12
- Specter comments on PUC complaint against utility, The Post-Gazette, 6/6/12
- Based on Specter complaint, PUC acts vs. utility, WTAE-TV 6/5/12 (Watch Video)
- Based on Specter complaint, PUC sues to make utility fix power lines, Pittsburgh Tribune-Review 6/5/12, York Daily Record 6/5/12
- Shanin Specter interviewed on suit over power line death, 1/19/12 (Watch Video)
- Specter comments on PSU investigation, Fox News 11/22/11
- Shanin Specter discusses civil exposure in PSU case, law.com, 11/15/11
- TV COVERAGE: Specter comments on Penn State matter, Fox News 11/16/11; ESPN, 11/14/11; ABC6, 11/13/11
- Specter wins $17.5M med-mal verdict for ex-Marine, 9/15/11 (The Ellison Case)
- Specter comments on the Ellison case, CBS3, 9/15/11 (Watch Video)
- $27.6 M verdict upheld in promo video case, The Legal Intelligencer 9/12/11
- Specter pens Op-Ed on religion/baseball, The Philadelphia Inquirer, 8/28/11
- Pa. Superior Court upholds $5.2M Volutza verdict, Reading Eagle 8/20/11
- Specter wins $21.6M med-mal verdict, Erie Times-News, 4/21/11
- Specter wins $27.6M verdict against device maker, PR firm, 11/23/10 (The Polett case)
- Specter files suit in Megabus crash, 10/15/10 (see coverage)
- ESPN features the Plevretes case, Shanin Specter (Watch Video)
- Plane, paper-mache elk parts, used to impress jury, The Philadelphia Inquirer 3/1/10
- Specter comments on $7.5M settlement in football concussion case, 11/30/09
- Specter, Becker, author article on products liability law, 11/16/09
- Specter wins $8.75M verdict in Blumer vs. Ford product liability case, The Legal Intelligencer 3/23/09
- Specter, Becker author op-ed: The Exxon Decision: Another Bad Call on Punitve Damages, The Legal Intelligencer 11/18/2008; A Response and Rebuttal, PA Justice News 1/09
- Specter chosen for Musmanno Award, Verdict 10/08
- Shanin Specter profiled in "Lawyers and Settlements," 7/7/08
- Damages reach $35 million in '01 Bridgeport fire, The Philadelphia Inquirer 4/25/08
- Montco Fire Class Action Settles for $35 Million, The Legal Intelligencer 4/25/08
- U.S. Supreme Court refuses to hear appeal, case concluded, The Legal Intelligencer 11/28/2007
- Shanin Specter profiled in The Philadelphia Inquirer, 12/25/05
- Shanin Specter on ABC’s 20/20 (Watch Video)
- Dallas Morning News quotes Shanin Specter in White v. Ford 9/28/04
- Shanin Specter in NY Times about defective Daisy BB guns 3/17/2001
- Shanin Specter on TV, the Mahoney case 3/13/01(Watch Video)
- National Law Journal cites “The Big Numbers” 2/22/99
- Shanin Specter quoted in Lawyers Weekly USA 1/11/99
- Shanin Specter quoted in Daily News in the Caruso Case 8/24/00
- Shanin Specter in police safety case 10/07/97 (Watch Video)
- Kline & Specter donates $50,000 to AIDS Law Project
More about Shanin Specter’s notable cases:
The McKinney settlement