Kline, Inscho reach largest-ever settlement with archdiocese
over sexual abuse case

After arduous and often contentious negotiations, Tom Kline and David Inscho obtained the largest-ever settlement with the Archdiocese of Philadelphia in a child sexual abuse case. The settlement – the exact monetary amount was confidential – came for the family of a child who was the victim of years-long abuse by a serial pedophile priest at Resurrection of Our Lord Parish in Northeast Philadelphia. Sean McIlmail, a former altar boy, had been abused over several years when he was 11 to 14 years old. The civil suit claimed that the archdiocese knew about more than a decade of allegations against the alleged attacker, Father Robert Brennan, who was twice removed from prior parishes. Brennan and the archdiocese were named as defendants as was Msgr. William Lynn, who allegedly transferred Brennan – purportedly for “treatment” -- to cover up the abuse. Lynn himself had previously been convicted of child endangerment in an unrelated case but his conviction was overturned and he is awaiting retrial. Brennan also had been charged with criminal sex abuse but the case was dropped when the chief witness against him, Sean McIlmail, tormented for more than a decade by his victimization, died of a drug overdose in 2013 before the criminal trial got underway. He was 26.

Firm joined attorney general in getting priest abuse report made public

Kline & Specter joined the state attorney general and the news media in successfully asking the Pennsylvania Supreme Court to unseal a statewide grand jury report into sexual abuse by members of the clergy. Led by Tom Kline, David InschoCharles Becker and Andra Laidacker, suit was filed on behalf of a child sexual abuse victim, now an adult, who had testified before the grand jury about being sexually abused by a priest in Harrisburg. The legal battle pitted the firm, Attorney General Josh Shapiro and the news media – including The Philadelphia Inquirer, the Daily News and The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, among others – against some two dozen petitioners, reportedly priests and former priests who sought to keep the report secret. The high court ruled in favor of releasing the report, which unveiled more than 1,000 victims who were abused by some 300 pedophile priests whose acts were covered up by the church hierarchy over several decades. In its suit, Kline & Specter represented Todd Frey, who was abused in the 1980s and believed that he and other alleged victims had a right to see the grand jury report, which detailed clergy sexual abuse in six of Pennsylvania’s eight Catholic dioceses. Kline told the news media after filing suit: “Mr. Frey is one of many victims whose voice must be heard in opposition to those who seek to keep this grand jury report secret. We hope that the court will act quickly to release the entire report.” In the legal filing, Frey quoted Pope Francis as saying: “I continue to be ashamed that persons charged with the tender care of those little ones abused them and caused them grave harm. I deeply regret this. God weeps. The crimes and sins of sexual abuse of minors may no longer be kept secret.” Kline & Specter has since filed a “friend of the court” brief seeking to have redacted portions of the grand jury report also made public.

Lepisto obtains settlement from group home for woman’s suffering, injuries

Braden Lepisto obtained a $3 million settlement for a mentally disabled woman who was left untreated in a community group home run by a large company. The Philadelphia woman, 34 years old at the time of the 2012 incident, unable to communicate and morbidly obese, had been found on the floor of the home. Rather than bring her to a hospital, staff at the home let her remain on the floor of the Ambler, Pa., area group home for a period of 48 hours over three days, including overnight for two nights. When she finally was hospitalized, she was diagnosed with a spinal cord compression due to a slipped disk and to be suffering lower paraplegia. The paraplegia eventually subsided but the woman was left with drop foot (a gait abnormality in which the dropping of the forefoot occurs due to weakness) that left her wheel-chair bound and suffering with incontinence and bed sores at the time the case settled. Her parents had filed suit in part to try to learn what had happened to their daughter after the group home refused to release information. Kline & Specter investigated the matter and learned what had occurred. The name of the plaintiff and defendant remain confidential as part of the settlement.

Kline selected as one of 100 attorney “influencers” in US

Tom Kline was selected as one of 100 top attorneys considered “The Influencers” by The Business Journals’ network of 40 publications. From Albany to Wichita, the newspapers selected those lawyers who have had the greatest “impact on business and legal matters in communities across the nation.” The announcement from The Business Journals said the lawyers have had “an impact on matters of business and law in myriad areas.” The lawyers selected were from large, nationally recognized firms as well as those from smaller firms. Kline & Specter, with 41 attorneys, is the largest plaintiffs firm in Pennsylvania. Tom Kline co-founded the firm with Shanin Specter in 1995 with only four lawyers. “These are executives to know for entrepreneurs and companies that are looking to expand their businesses to new locations or to grow further in the cities in which they’re now operating,” the newspapers said. They spotlighted Kline for a number of major courtroom victories, including his leading role in the $4.85 billion Vioxx settlement, the Jerry Sandusky child sexual-abuse litigation at Penn State, and the $265 million Amtrak 188 settlement. Also mentioned was Kline’s $50 million donation to the Thomas R. Kline School of Law at Drexel University and his $7.5 million gift to his alma mater, Duquesne University School of Law, to create the Thomas R. Kline Center for Judicial Education.
Nine named to Best Lawyers 2019

Best Lawyers 2019 named nine Kline & Specters lawyers to its guide to legal excellence for 2019. Among those selected in a peer review process were Tom Kline and Shanin Specter, who each won the recognition for their 25th year. Also named were Lee Balefsky, head of the firm’s Mass Tort Department, and Andy Stern, who have each won for at least 10 years. Others selected were Charles L. Becker, head of the firms Appellate Division, Kila Baldwin, James Waldenberger, Priscilla Jimenez and Nadeem Bezar. Best Lawyers over the years has featured Tom Kline and Shanin Specter on the cover of its yearly magazine not only for their many legal victories but also for their charitable giving. (See Charities) Kline has also been selected as top medical malpractice lawyer in Philadelphia, including for 2019, while Specter and Stern have been acclaimed as the city’s top attorney for product liability. The firm as a whole has also won top classifications nationally in a number of categories, including medical malpractice, product liability and mass tort litigation.

Baldwin elevated to two attorney organization posts

Kila Baldwin was elected treasurer of the 2,000-member Pennsylvania Association for Justice (PAJ) and was named a board member with the Philadelphia Trial Lawyers Association (PTLA). The PAJ has spearheaded a number of landmark efforts to fight tort reform and other legislation aimed at weakening citizens’ constitutional rights. The organization, headquartered in Harrisburg, helps plaintiffs attorneys better represent clients and has fought measures that have seen courthouse doors close in other states for those who rely on the legal system as a last resort to obtain justice. PTLA works to preserve the constitutional guarantee of trial by jury and the right of access to the courts and seeks to prevent enactment of any law limiting the amount of recovery for injuries resulting "in death, or for injuries to persons or property." Baldwin was already on the board of the Attorneys Information Exchange Group, a national litigation group for attorneys handling vehicle defect and transportation-related accident cases.

Bezar named to help head groups that provide legal assistance to the poor

Nadeem Bezar was named to serve on the overlapping boards of directors for Community Legal Services (CLS) of Philadelphia and Philadelphia Legal Assistance (PLA). CLS provides free civil legal assistance to low-income Philadelphians, now helping about 10,000 people yearly and more than one million since its founding in 1966. CLS attorneys and staff provide individual representation, administrative advocacy and class action litigation assistance as well as community education and social work. CLS is nationally recognized as a model legal services program. The organization has legal units specializing in particular areas of civil poverty law – aging and disabilities, employment, energy, family advocacy, home ownership and consumer rights, housing, language access, and public benefits. PLA has worked for more than 20 years to provide free civil legal assistance to low-income people and families in the city. The group notes that for the roughly 30 percent of Philadelphians whose family incomes fall below the federal poverty level, legal assistance is often necessary for them to protect their homes, their children, their safety and their livelihood.

Specter to serve as ALI Adviser

Shanin Specter was invited to serve as an adviser on an important new project of the American Law Institute. ALI drafts, discusses, revises, and publishes restatements of the law, model codes, and principles of law that are influential in the courts and legislatures, as well as in legal scholarship and education. The organization uses attorneys, law professors and judges in seeking to shape the law in both existing and emerging areas and to give back to their profession while contributing to the public good. The project, titled “Restatement Third of Torts: Intentional Torts to Persons,” will address the torts of battery, assault, and false imprisonment, the topic of consent to such torts, and certain defenses, including self-defense. Advisers will address some areas of confusion, such as the various categories of consent -- apparent, express, and "implied" -- and some areas of controversy, such as whether the intent for battery simply requires actual physical contact or also an intent to cause harm or to cause offense.

Jimenez appointed/elected to executive positions with attorney groups

Priscilla Jimenez was honored with two posts, first named diversity chair of the Philadelphia Bar Association and also elected by the Pennsylvania Association for Justice (PAJ) to be its Pennsylvania minority governor to the American Association for Justice, whose convention she attended in Denver. The 12,000-member Philadelphia Bar, founded in 1802, is the oldest association of lawyers in the country and helps provide legal guidance for lawyers as well as judges and politicians. The PAJ, originally founded as the Pennsylvania Trial Lawyers Association, opposes legislation aimed at “capping” plaintiff recoveries while helping trial lawyers better represent clients.

Specter talks about Trump, Michael Cohen on CNN

Shanin Specter appeared on CNN’s “Smerconish” to discuss legal ramifications of the tape recording made by Michael Cohen, former attorney to Donald Trump, and the president before his election. The conversation was about one-time Playboy model Karen McDougal. Specter discussed the issue of client-attorney privilege and how the tape could fit the narrow exception of “when a communication takes place in furtherance of a crime or a fraud.” He called it “shocking” that Trump would suggest in a tweet that his ex-lawyer had committed a crime in making the tape. “Michael Cohen may well have the goods on Donald Trump and the president doubtlessly knows that and for the president to accuse Michael Cohen of committing a crime seems to me to be senseless,” said Specter. Michael Smerconish, who is of counsel at Kline & Specter, asked why Cohen might release the tape. Specter answered that, for one, Cohen may have wanted to show that he was cooperating with the government investigation of Trump. The other: “If he still entertains the thought that the president may pardon him, putting this tape into the public domain is a pressure point on the president that he can do the president great damage.” (Watch the two-segment interview) Specter also appeared on three episodes of the Smerconish radio show on SiriusXM (POTUS124) where he was asked why Trump personal attorney Rudy Guliani would not challenge release of the tape. “I have to believe that Rudy is being overwhelmed by his client,” Specter said. (Hear audio one and two) In a later interview, Specter opined that a Trump tweet saying the trial of Paul Manafort was a hoax could be tantamount to obstructing justice and jury tampering. (Hear that interview)   

Marks, Bezar take to the airwaves on topic of child abuse

Emily Marks and Nadeem Bezar discussed the widespread problem of child abuse on the Legal Eagles radio program on 1210 Talk Radio. “The topic is about an epidemic that has spread not just across our Philadelphia area but across the country, across the world” and one that victimizes “the most vulnerable members of society,” said Bezar. He and Marks have successfully litigated a number of civil cases on the behalf of victims of child abuse, including two that recently ended in large settlements with welfare and placement agencies. Bezar said that because of the Internet, which some predators use to contact children, “Bad people have gotten better at being bad.” He estimated that 1,000 children are currently the victims of abuse in metropolitan Philadelphia. “The signs and symptoms of an abused child can be missed … and it’s not attributed to what’s going on but the physical abuse or sexual abuse is sometimes deemed to be that ‘This kid is just a bad child,’” said Marks. Bezar and Marks said there are places for abused children to turn for help. “If you’re listening,” Bezar told the radio audience, “I would tell you that there is help out there for you. There is someone who can take care of you.” He urged foster children who feel abused to talk to their social workers privately and also for social workers to take the children aside for honest discussions. He said abused children in Philadelphia can call the Department of Human Services hotline at 215-683-6100. Across Pennsylvania, the Pennsylvania Childline can be reached 24/7 at 800-923-0313. The show was hosted by Jerry Lehocky filling in for partner Sam Pond of Pond Lehocky Stern Giordano. Legal Eagles airs on Sundays at 6 p.m.

Becker, Laidacker pen Supreme Court book chapter

Charles “Chip” Becker and Andra Laidacker co-authored the first chapter of the recently published book tracing the history of the state’s highest court, titled “The Supreme Court of Pennsylvania – Life and Law in the Commonwealth, 1684-2017.” In their chapter, “(S)electing Judges in Pennsylvania,” Becker and Laidacker, who both practice appellate law at Kline & Specter, examine the initial formation of the commonwealth’s court system, from William Penn’s authority granted by King Charles II of England to appoint all judicial officers to the current-day popular election of judges, including members of the state Supreme Court. Pennsylvania has experimented with several systems for (s)electing the Court’s justices since Penn’s days, from four members appointed by the governor in 1710 to election of seven justices by the general public today. Changes were tried along the way, some lasting – such as increasing the number of Supreme Court justices from five to seven in 1909 -- and some not, such as the idea of listing candidates on ballots without party affiliation, an idea repealed in 1921 after only eight years. The length of term for the justices was also altered over the years, from single terms of 21 years to 15 years to the current 10-year term followed by a yes-or-no retention election (but with mandatory retirement at age 75).  The most recent attempts to curtail the election of judges and revert to an appointment system have failed several times in the legislature and once in a close popular vote in 1969 -- 643,960 to 624,453. The chapter concludes that debate continues to this day over financing, judicial independence, and the role of partisan politics in judicial campaigns. (Read the full chapter)

Pasquarello joins Kline & Specter

Philip M. Pasquarello, former Kline & Specter law clerk and national mock trial champion, has joined the firm and will become its 42nd attorney upon passing the bar. Pasquarello is a recent graduate (seventh in his class) from the Thomas R. Kline School of Law at Drexel University, where he had an amazingly successful record for winning mock trial competitions. He helped win the national team competition two straight years against some of the nation’s top law schools. In 2018 he was selected as winner of the prestigious “Top Gun” award given to the nation’s best individual mock trial advocate. Pasquarello also worked with Kline & Specter’s Andy Stern and his wife, Gwen Stern, a professor at the Kline Law School, in authoring a 130-page case study book for the National Institute for Trial Advocacy. Pasquarello won several awards at Kline Law, including the Kline & Specter Award for Exceptional Advocacy and the Rising Advocate Scholarship. He won Best Student Performance awards for several classes: Criminal Law, Introduction to Trial Advocacy, Evidence and Advanced Trial Advocacy, Civil. Pasquarello earned his bachelor’s degree at the University of Delaware.

Experiences from the 2013 Boston Marathon helps understand
clients’ suffering

Nadeem Bezar gave a first-person account in the latest issue of Super Lawyers magazine of running in the tragic 2013 Boston Marathon in which bombs detonated near the finish line killed three people and injured several hundred others. While not physically injured, Bezar related: “I staggered around in a half daze, not being able to contemplate what just happened.” Within a week, he signed up for the 2014 race. “I could’ve just curled up, but then I would’ve let the terrorists win,” he said. He described the following year’s marathon as “solemn, but mostly upbeat.” Bezar uses the experience in his practice of law in which he represents children who have been the victims of physical and sexual abuse. The marathon tragedy, he said, “carved out a piece of my soul.” In the same manner, while abused children may not suffer permanent or observable physical injury, they are often left with the mental scars of their ordeals. Because of his memories of the 2013 Boston Marathon, Bezar said, “Now I think I understand that vulnerability a little better, and that impacts upon how I connect with them.”



The All Out Baseball team from New Jersey, featuring shortstop and pitcher Vincent Davis, 13, son of Kline & Specter’s Michelle Zasada, beat the all-star Saginaw Bay Riverdawgs of Michigan 5-3 to win the Cooperstown Tournament of Champions. The Jersey boys went 10-0 during the tournament during which Vincent hit six home runs and made the final out in the championship game. Michelle is pictured with her son and daughter, Aria, 4.



 Special Deliveries ...                

Born to Barry and Amanda Magen, Ella Grace Magen. 

Born to Dominic and Andrea Guerrini, identical twins Nicholas and Christopher. That’s Nick on the left (we think).

Born to Christine Clarke and Steven Teterus, Ethan Patrick Teterus. 


Upcoming events:
  • Sept. 18   Braden Lepisto will be among the featured presenters at a Continuing Legal Education program titled “Trying Complex Cases as a Young Lawyer: Tips and Strategy for Second Chair, Co-and lead Counsel,” 1 PM to 4:15 PM with a reception to follow, Kline Institute of Trial Advocacy, 12th and Chestnut streets. For more information, contact Mary McGovern at [email protected]
  • Sept. 26 – 1L “Dinner with Tom Kline” from 5:30 p.m. – 7:00 p.m., Thomas R. Kline School of Law at Drexel University
  • Oct. 13 – "Old and New Ideas:  A Recipe for the Future Based Upon Experience of the Past" presented by keynote speaker Tom Kline to the Philadelphia Bar Association 2018 Bench Bar, 11 a.m. at The Borgata in Atlantic City, N.J.
  • Dec. 11 – “A Conversation with Tom Kline and Robert Mongeluzzi” moderated by Michael Smerconish, KITA, noon


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