Specter, Trunk, Fitzgerald obtain $30 million settlement for hurt worker

Shanin Specter, Michael Trunk and Patrick Fitzgerald obtained a $30 million settlement for a worker who was severely injured after he fell 50 feet from a telecommunications tower when a ladder rung he was anchored to dislodged. Thomas Jeglum was in a coma for months and suffered a permanent traumatic brain injury and fractures to his pelvis, spine, arm and legs in the June 15, 2013 incident in Allentown, Pa. He was 23 at the time. Jeglum, who is married and has two children, remains in a full-time neurorehabilitation facility in California. The tragedy occurred as Jeglum was ascending the tower and wearing proper personnel protective equipment and a climbing harness. But a ladder rung to which he was attached pulled out, causing the fall. The tower also lacked a permanent safety cable device that would have prevented his fall. Following announcement of the settlement, Specter told the news media: “The family of Tommy Jeglum and we are gratified that we were able to adequately compensate him and provide for first class care for the rest of his life.” The case was litigated with co-counsel Robert Buccola, Jason Sigel, and Marshall Way of the northern California firm of Dreyer Babich Buccola Wood Campora LLP. Among defendants in the case were AT&T Mobility LLC and NCW PCS LLC, both subsidiaries of AT&T, and BTE/BT Engineering entities. (Read the article)

Seventeen picked as Super Lawyers, Kline named No. 1 in PA

Tom Kline was named Pennsylvania’s No. 1 lawyer an unprecedented 15th straight time and 17 Kline & Specter lawyers in all were named as Pennsylvania Super Lawyers or "Rising Stars" for 2018 by the independent survey group. Kline’s No. 1 streak going back to 2004, when he was featured on the cover of Super Lawyers magazine (right), was not only a first for Pennsylvania but for any state in the nation for Super Lawyers, which bases its selections on peer voting and review by a blue ribbon panel among other factors. Shanin Specter was picked among the state’s Top 10 for his 15th year by Super Lawyers, which conveys the award on attorneys it considers among the best 5 percent or less of all lawyers in a state. Other Kline & Specter lawyers selected by Super Lawyers 2018 were Lee B. Balefsky, head of the firm's Mass Tort Department, who was chosen for the 15th year, Andrew J. Stern, a winner for his 14th consecutive year, Charles L. Becker, head of the firm’s Appellate Division, Michael A. Trunk, Dominic Guerrini, Nadeem Bezar and Christopher Gomez. Kline & Specter attorneys also were named as Pennsylvania Rising Stars for 2018, designating them as among the top 2.5 percent of attorneys in the state who are 40 or younger or practicing 10 years or less. They are Kila B. Baldwin, Priscilla Jimenez, David C. Williams, Braden Lepisto, Patrick Fitzgerald, Emily Marks, Tracie Palmer and Mark S. Polin, the last of whom is among Kline & Specter’s five doctor/lawyers.

Appellate Court upholds vaginal mesh verdict

Pennsylvania Superior Court has upheld the $12.5 million verdict won by Shanin Specter and Kila Baldwin in Hammons v. Ethicon, the first verdict to come out of the vaginal mesh mass tort program in Philadelphia. The case was argued before Superior Court by Charles “Chip” Becker, head of the firm’s appellate division. Becker and Andra Laidacker wrote the brief for Superior Court. The argument presented the state appellate court with its first chance to address the U.S. Supreme Court’s 2017 decision in Bristol-Myers Squibb. That ruling stated that out-of-state plaintiffs cannot sue companies in which defendants aren’t considered to be “at home” or have not conducted business directly linked to the claimed injury. A three-judge panel of the Pennsylvania court ruled unanimously to affirm the 2015 jury award (plus roughly $350,000 in delay damages approved afterward by a judge) for Patricia Hammons, who suffered permanent injury due to the medical device made by Johnson & Johnson subsidiary Ethicon. The company had contended that Philadelphia Common Pleas Court had been an improper jurisdiction for the trial since Hammons was from Indiana and that Ethicon’s principal place of business is New Jersey. But the Superior Court panel noted that the case differed from Bristol-Myers Squibb in that there were sufficient Pennsylvania ties, namely that Ethicon had worked with an Allentown doctor and Bucks County-based Secant Medical to develop the vaginal mesh with which Hammons was implanted in 2009. In response to the latest decision, Specter told The Legal Intelligencer: “We are gratified by Superior Court’s very thorough and deeply thoughtful analysis of Ethicon’s arguments for judgment or new trial.” 

Williams elected to head Barristers’ Association for 2019-2020 term

David Williams was elected to become the next president of the Barristers’ Association of Philadelphia, an organization formed in 1950 to address the professional needs and development of black lawyers through programs such as seminars, cultural events and publications. His term in office will begin in September 2019. The Barristers’ Association takes a pro-active role in fighting injustices in society. In 1973, it joined other concerned groups in filing an action against the Philadelphia Registration Commission and thus helped get an additional 50,000 people to register to vote. More recently, the association has sponsored activities that promoted youth awareness and career opportunities in the legal profession and increased citizens’ awareness of their rights under the law. The Barristers each year award scholarships to minority law students to encourage their pursuit of law degrees. The association provides continuing legal education seminars and political education forums to its members to facilitate professional development and political awareness. The Barristers’ Association currently includes lawyers and jurists who serve society at the highest positions in both the private and public sectors of the legal profession. 

"Good Person – Great Lawyer" – Award-Winning Article

An article titled “Good Person - Great Lawyer” outlining the life and career of Tom Kline and written by Penn State student Alison Kuznitz won an award in the national Hearst Journalism Awards Program for best profile writing. The article, which appeared in The Lion’s Roar online publication at Penn State, traced Kline’s early days growing up in Hazleton, Pa., where, at 10 years old, he began working at the dress factory managed by his father, Isadore. The article notes a number of cases litigated by Kline, including his legal battles with major corporations, work on behalf of the victims of medical malpractice and his representation of victims of the Amtrak 188 derailment. It largely focuses on his work at Penn State, particularly on behalf of a child abused by the former football coach Jerry Sandusky and his current representation of the family of Timothy Piazza, who died as the result of a fraternity hazing incident. At one point in the story Kline talks about his decision to quit teaching 6th grade and go to law school. “I’ve always been attracted by the ability to do good and make change,” Kline said. “In a coarse and bitter and destructive world, it is still the fiber that holds the world together. At the core is the goodness of man.” The article by Kuznitz won third place from among 114 entries from 61 schools in the Hearst Personality/Profile Writing Competition. (Read the complete article)

Fifth anniversary of building collapse marked

The news media marked the five-year anniversary of the Center City building collapse with remembrances of the tragedy that killed seven people and injured 12 others, including Mariya Plekan, a Salvation Army Thrift Store shopper who was trapped beneath the rubble for 13 hours before she was rescued. Plekan lost both legs as a result and underwent 30 surgeries. But she has put her life back together and is able today to enjoy the comfort of her close-knit family. She also is able to receive any medical or other care she needs thanks to the $95.6 million award obtained for her by her attorneys, Andy Stern and Elizabeth Crawford, who have maintained a relationship with their client to this day. The Philadelphia Inquirer lauded Stern’s work in one of the longest-ever Philadelphia trials and for taking the lead in the case against the Salvation Army. Said the newspaper: “His argument convinced the jury, which found that the charity bore 75 percent of the liability to the victims …” The Inquirer noted that the first thing Plekan did with the money was to leave a nursing home and buy a new house with larger rooms and hallways. She also has room for a nurse and her daughter and son-in-law and their two children. In her first interview since the tragedy, the woman who became known as the “Miracle on Market Street” seems to be finally adjusting to life outside the hospital. “I’m very happy because I’m not in the nursing home anymore,” she said. “It feels like home. I can finally relax.” (Read the article)

Newest Smerconish book published

The latest book by Michael Smerconish, of counsel at Kline & Specter, was published recently with the title “Clowns to the Left of Me, Jokers to the Right: American Life in Columns.” Published by Temple University Press, the book includes 100 of the most memorable columns written by Smerconish over the past 15 years for The Philadelphia Inquirer and Daily News on a variety of local, state and national subjects. Each column contains an “Afterword” with updated facts on subjects and Smerconish’s present-day views. “Clowns to the Left of Me, Jokers to the Right” covers the ascensions of Barack Obama and Donald Trump but also goes back to his meeting with Ronald Reagan, dinner with Fidel Castro and his exclusive pre-trial interview with Bill Cosby. But Smerconish does not forget the local angle, writing about Philadelphia culture, from Sid Mark to the Rizzo statue. As one publicity note puts it: “Smerconish’s outlook as expressed in these impassioned opinion pieces goes beyond ‘liberal’ or ‘conservative.’ His thought process continues to evolve and change, and as it does, he aims to provoke readers to do the same.” It also notes that all author proceeds from the book will benefit the Children’s Crisis Treatment Center, a Philadelphia-based, private, nonprofit agency that provides behavioral health services to children and their families.

Specter contributes to NEJM article on the ethics of informed consent

Shanin Specter contributed to an article in the June 2018 issue of The New England Journal of Medicine titled “Informed Consent and the Role of the Treating Physician.” Specter’s role, for which he was thanked by the authors in an acknowledgement at the end of the article, was to offer critical comments on the manuscript “from the perspective of an expert in personal injury law.” The article examined a doctor’s role in obtaining patient consent before a surgical procedure, namely the recent Shinal v. Toms decision. Megan Shinal underwent a surgical procedure in 2008 that, because of a perforated artery she suffered during the operation, left her with a permanent and severe neurological injury. While her doctor, Steven Toms, conducted an initial consultation with Shinal, he left further detailed discussions to a physician assistant. A jury found for the doctor in the case and its verdict was upheld by an appellate court, but the Pennsylvania Supreme Court voted 4-3 in favor of the patient. The high court ruled that a physician cannot fulfill his or her duty to obtain informed consent through an intermediary, that without a direct two-way dialogue between doctor and patient, the “physician cannot be confident that the patient comprehends” the necessary information. However, the authors of the NEJM article suggest that there should be a “middle ground,” that an assistant should be able to inform a patient and obtain consent if he or she has the training and expertise to do so and that before the actual procedure the doctor speaks to the patient to ensure that the proper discussion has indeed taken place, that all questions have been answered and that “the patient is secure with the ultimate treatment decision.” (Read the full article)        

Kline takes the stage with Clinton, Patterson

Tom Kline introduced former President Bill Clinton and best-selling novelist James Patterson in a discussion of the duo’s highly publicized new novel titled “The President Is Missing.” The event drew a big crowd to the Free Library of Philadelphia as Clinton and Patterson offered insights into their unique literary collaboration as well as issues their novel raises about today’s world. "The President is Missing” marks the first time a president and an author have gotten together to produce a work of fiction. As their publicity notes: “The result is a powerful, one-of-a-kind thriller filled with details only a president could know, and the kind of suspense only James Patterson can deliver.” Kline praised Clinton for establishing the Clinton Foundation, which, he noted, “improves lives across the United States and around the world by working with partners to create economic opportunity, improve public health and to inspire civic engagement and service.” He mentioned that Patterson has not only sold 375 million books over his career but that he is a “tireless champion of the power of books and reading, having donated more than one million books to students and soldiers and he funds over 400 teacher education scholarships at 24 colleges and universities.” Kline praised free libraries generally as “inclusive places where anyone can go, no matter what your age or your background or your economic status.” He commented: “This is a critical time in our lives. Bringing social and equal justice to all citizens is of paramount importance.”

Rave review for Kline Institute renovation

Philadelphia Inquirer architecture critic Inga Saffron did not spare the plaudits in her column about the transformation of the former Beneficial Bank Building at 12th and Chestnut streets into the Thomas R. Kline Institute of Trial Advocacy or, as the headline called it, “a shrine to democracy.” The Pulitzer Prize-winning writer noted: “After sitting empty for a dozen years, the handsome, white granite building has been brought back to life by Drexel’s Thomas R. Kline School of Law,” which will use the five-story structure to teach courtroom skills. It contains five classroom/courtrooms, including one with 80 seats for spectators. Saffron wrote that the renovation, overseen and funded by Tom Kline, who she described as a “crusading litigator,” and “meticulously executed” by architect Jay Tackett of Tackett & Co., has “restored its dazzling brightness.” The 100-yeard-old building designed by Horace Trumbauer also will contain an archive of articles and exhibits of Kline’s career and famous cases. “Solid, neoclassical banks like Trumbauer’s are often seen as architectural expressions of America’s democratic values,” wrote Saffron. “In its new life as a law school, the renovated bank has become more than a symbol of those beliefs. It now plays a role in defending them.” While open to the public now, work on the 20,000-square-foot institute is still ongoing and it is set to have its official grand opening in September. (read article)

Tom Kline gives graduation remarks

Tom Kline addressed the 2018 graduating class of the Thomas R. Kline School of Law at a commencement held at the Kimmel Center for the Performing Arts. He mentioned his lengthy career and noted: “There have been challenges in all generations, but none greater than the assault upon the rule of law and upon our political institutions and civic norms than we are experiencing today.  You are coming to the bar at a crucial and important moment in American history.” He discussed the differences in practicing law today – “we all walk around with super-computers in our pockets and purses” – but said that core values and principles remain a constant. “Kindness and decency are still important. Courtesy and respect for others is still essential. Hard work is still necessary. And, honesty is still paramount,” he said. He urged the graduates to always remember that even when they may be opponents in the courtroom they remain colleagues and that trustworthiness and credibility are the foundation of their practice. Said Kline: “What also has remained constant is the importance of upholding our legal institutions and civic values. Our constitutional system is an inheritance -- but not a guarantee.  So, we must protect the rule of law.  We must support and strengthen the institutions that make our society function.  We must seek improvements where improvements are necessary.” Kline welcomed the graduates to the profession of law, noting that despite the fact they are part of a new era, “part of what binds us together is our collective concept of what is right and wrong, good and bad, just and unjust.  That is the rock and foundation of our society and our democracy and you are now a part of it.” The keynote speaker was Cornell W. Brooks, JD, MDiv, the former president of the NAACP and currently a senior fellow at the New York University School of Law’s Brennan Center for Justice and Visiting Professor of Social Ethics, Law and Justice Movements at Boston University’s School of Law and School of Theology. Brooks also was given an honorary degree during the ceremonies.

Specter talks about cases, to callers on Court Radio

Shanin Specter was the featured guest on Court Radio, the weekly program hosted by attorney Dean Weitzman and broadcast on three Philadelphia-area stations (100.3 FM, 103.9 FM and 107.9 FM). The two discussed Specter’s settlement in the Jeglum case (see above). Specter mentioned challenges of the case, such as the fact there were no witnesses to the worker’s fall from the cell tower. He also discussed dangers of the profession, noting that cell tower climbers have the highest injury rate of any occupation in the United States. Weitzman also asked about Specter’s $109 million verdict (and subsequent $105 million settlement) in a case involving a fallen power line. The two also discussed statutory caps on verdicts against governmental entities and answered listeners phone calls. (Hear the entire broadcast)


Tom Kline, a member of the Board of Trustees at Drexel University, helped preside over the 2018 grand commencement for some 20,000 – 25,000 graduates and family held at Citizen’s Bank Park. He entered the stadium in front of keynote speaker M. Night Shyamalan.
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