Civil actions often end with jury verdicts or settlements that provide an injured party with monetary compensation. But in some cases they bring about change – such as safety improvements or revamped policies and regulations -- that helps ensure there won’t be future victims.
Plaintiffs in cases that result in a jury verdict in their favor are allowed to also collect “delay damages,” or interest that begins to accrue one year after a lawsuit is filed, a provision intended to reduce delays in cases reaching trial. Should a defendant appeal a verdict, plaintiffs are also entitled to post-judgment interest if they prevail and a jury award is upheld.
Lawsuit settlements that not only provide compensation for victims but also help improve society as a whole are the main objective for preeminent plaintiff attorneys. Such a result was achieved recently when it was announced that the City of Philadelphia will pay $4.4 million to a young man who was gunned down by two plainclothes police officers as he was delivering take-out food in West Philadelphia.
Tom Kline recently presented arguments before the Pennsylvania Supreme Court regarding the constitutionality of a statutory cap that limits civil damages owed by government institutions. The arguments presented by Kline stem from the case of Zauflik vs. Pennsbury school district in which a young woman lost her leg after being run over by a school bus on school property. Kline represented Zauflik in a 2011 trial that ended with a $14 million jury verdict.
Tom Kline announced he will file a civil rights lawsuit on behalf of a five-year-old girl who was abducted from her kindergarten classroom at a Philadelphia school and raped last year. Kline, who previously announced plans to sue the city school district, told the news media that the conduct of the district went far beyond ordinary negligence. He said that beyond compensation, he hopes the federal lawsuit will focus attention on the need for improved security in city schools. Kline said the suit will be filed within the next 30 days.
In yet another terrible car crash involving a police vehicle, the City of Lansing recently agreed to pay $1 million to settle a lawsuit filed by a man seriously injured in a 2009 accident. Christopher Morofsky, now 26, was a back-seat passenger in a car that was struck by a police cruiser that was racing to a fight at a city grocery store. The cruiser did not have its overhead emergency lights flashing, according to a news report of the case, which noted the vehicle was traveling 53 m.p.h. in a 35 m.p.h. zone.
The incident was caught on video. On June 7, 2011, a Chicago police officer fired three shots into the back of a man as he lay bleeding on a roadway. It turned out that the shooting, according to news reports, was the third by the officer in six months and the second that ended in death. The City Council’s finance committee recommended a $4.1 million settlement in a subsequent civil rights lawsuit that was expected to be approved.
Chicago police were on a high-speed car chase when their supervising sergeant radioed to tell them to call off pursuit. But the officers in the car did not hear the command. The reason: they were playing the vehicle’s commercial radio during the pursuit, according to news reports of one officer’s testimony, and their vehicle had not been in contact with police dispatch. The chase continued, with both cars weaving in and out of traffic, driving in the opposite lanes and through red lights, reaching speeds of up to 82 m.p.h. It ended when the car being pursued hit another vehicle head-on.
Injuries and fatalities caused by police vehicles occur with alarming frequency. Such was the case in the summer of 2010 when a speeding K-9 unit crashed into a motorcycle stopped at a light in Indianapolis. The rider, Eric Wells, 30, was killed. After nearly two years, the city settled a lawsuit filed by Wells’ family for $1.5 million. According to one media account, Eric’s father, Aaron Wells, said: “Does it make you feel better? No. But any time you can put something behind you in this whole matter helps. We don't have to be concerned about future court dates and further decisions.