Kline, Becker, Fitzgerald play key roles in massive Amtrak settlement

Tom Kline along with Chip Becker and Patrick Fitzgerald have emerged  as key players in formulating the agreement under which Amtrak will pay $265 million to settle claims from the horrific Philadelphia train derailment that killed eight passengers and injured hundreds in May 2015. Kline was the chairperson of the seven-member court-appointed Plaintiffs Management Committee of the Amtrak 188 multidistrict litigation (MDL) consolidating all cases in the federal court in Philadelphia. The settlement is believed to be the largest-ever resulting from a U.S. railroad disaster, according to The Wall Street Journal. The settlement program, approved in an order by U.S. District Court Judge Legrome Davis, is expected to get payments to victims in the summer of 2017 rather than having them wait years for litigation to be completed. Following the accident, Congress raised the federal damages cap for railway accidents from $200 million to $295 million. The $265 million settlement is the present value of $295 million over two and a half years, the minimum estimated time to litigate all claims. (Watch TV news clip). Becker has been instrumental in developing the compensation program.  Fitzgerald is working along with Kline and Becker in a project which, according to Kline, has "assembled tremendous talent among many firms to achieve the best measure of justice for all the victims and families who lost loved ones." Fitzgerald is the author of an upcoming article in AAJ's Trial magazine relating to the Amtrak disaster.

Bezar, Marks win $5.35 million verdict in child sexual abuse case

Nadeem Bezar and Emily Marks won a $5.35 million verdict -- $5 million in compensatory and $350,000 in punitive damages -- against Presbyterian Children’s Village for twice placing a young girl in the home of a temporary foster family where she was sexually molested. PCV, a foster care agency, had placed the child, M.N., with Deborah and Walter Scott for three days. She was then moved to another foster home, where her new foster mother reported suspicions that she had been sexually abused. Despite this report, Presbyterian Children’s Village continued to place children in the Scott home. Another child then reported being sexually molested at the Scott home but M.N. was still placed there a second time. After only another week at the Scott home, M.N. came forward and said she had again been abused, a disclosure that eventually resulted in other victims being identified. Walter Scott pleaded guilty to criminal charges of sexually abusing M.N. as well as to sex crimes against two other victims.

Safier settles case for stroke victim for $5 million

Regan Safier partially settled a medical malpractice case for $5 million for a woman in her thirties who suffered devastating strokes. The problem occurred when the woman, a migraine sufferer, noted a change in the severity, frequency and type of her headaches. The standard of care requires that patients with such a change in their migraines be taken off birth control pills, which are contraindicated in those who notice such a change in migraine symptoms. But despite being examined by several doctors, the woman was kept on birth control medication. As a result, she developed a large sinus venous thrombosis and subsequently suffered multiple strokes. The woman has muscle weakness in one side that left her with no use of her arm or hand. She must walk with a cane and cognitive impairment rendered her no longer able to work or care for herself. The $5 million settlement was only a partial resolution of the case, with litigation continuing against a remaining defendant being conducted through arbitration. Further details of the case were confidential.

Caputo, Williams win $2.7M whistleblower settlement
David Caputo and David Williams represented a whistleblower whose allegations resulted in an aerospace parts manufacturer paying the federal government $2.7 million over charges it falsely certified performing required inspections. The bolts, screws and aerospace fasteners made by Air Industries Corporation (AIC), of Garden Grove, were used in military aircraft, spacecraft and missiles. “Every company that does business with the United States has a duty and responsibility to honor its contracts, especially in ensuring equipment produced is safe and suitable for use,” said U.S. Attorney Eileen M. Decker following the Nov. 4 announcement of the settlement. The whistleblower lawsuit was filed in 2012 by a company employee under the qui tam provisions of the False Claims Act, which permit private individuals to sue on behalf of the government for false claims and to share in any recovery. The whistleblower in the AIC case was to receive a reward of $621,000. The AIC settlement follows by a few months another settlement in which Caputo and Williams aided a whistleblower whose actions resulted in a $5.85 million payment by an Arizona health system over alleged fraudulent Medicare billings.
Kline Law wins national trial advocacy title
A team from the Thomas R. Kline School of Law at Drexel University won the Tournament Of Champions trial advocacy competition, an elite national  contest among top trial advocacy law school programs. Rachel Holt and Philip Pasquarello were the team’s advocates and were joined by Brittany Green and Rachel Greenberg, who served as witnesses. Pasquarello won top honors as Best Advocate in the Final Round of the competition sponsored by the National Board of Trial Advocacy and hosted by the University of California, Berkeley School of Law at the Phillip Burton Federal Building in San Francisco. The Kline School of Law team was coached by alumna Abbie Heller, Professor Jared Rosenblatt, associate director of the Trial Advocacy program, and Professor Gwen Roseman Stern, director of the Trial Advocacy program. The competition is considered among the most prestigious in the United States with the nation’s 16 teams with the strongest track records in trial advocacy invited to participate. Among the other schools invited this year were Yale Law School, Syracuse University College of Law, Wake Forest University School of Law, Baylor Law School, Washington University College of Law and Harvard University School of Law. Last April, the Kline School of Law also won the American Association for Justice Student Trial Advocacy Competition held in New Orleans.
Specter named to “Power 76” by Business Journal
What do a famous chef, the head of Comcast, the president of Drexel University and Shanin Specter have in common? They were all named to the Philadelphia Business Journal’s Power 76, a listing of the region’s most influential people. The list was compiled by the newspaper’s editorial team, which noted: “It's the job of our reporters and editors to know who the true leaders are in our community. We narrowed in on those wielding the most influence, either through their position, their connections or their money. These are the people with the most impact in shaping the future of Greater Philadelphia.” The Business Journal noted Specter’s legal successes, including more than 200 verdicts and settlements of more than $1 million. Among others on the list were chef Stephen Starr, Comcast CEO Brian Roberts, University of Pennsylvania President Amy Gutman and Drexel President John Fry, Philadelphia Inquirer and Daily News owner H.F. “Jerry” Lenfest, Phillies executive Howie Roseman, U.S. Attorney Zane Memeger, Vanguard CEO Frederick William McNabb, Philadelphia Police Commissioner Richard Ross, New Jersey Senate President Steve Sweeney and William Sasso, chairman of the Stradley Ronon law firm.
Kline School of Law begins Year 10
The Thomas R. Kline School of Law began its 10th year with the 2016-2017 academic year, marking a milestone anniversary that will be observed throughout the year at Drexel University. Since opening in 2006, the Kline School of Law has been a pioneering force in the legal community. In addition to the professional accomplishments of its graduates, Kline students have completed more than 125,000 hours of pro bono service, providing legal assistance to those who often struggle to find able advocates. Founding Law School Dean Roger Dennis noted: “The transformative $50 million gift from Thomas R. Kline, who is noted among the nation’s most respected trial lawyers, serves as an affirmation of the school’s success as well as an inspiration for future growth.” Opening soon will be the Thomas R. Kline Institute of Trial Advocacy in the former Beneficial Bank Building in Center City that will enhance the law school’s activities with advanced courtroom simulation and also provide support for the post-graduate LLM and continuing legal education trial and appellate advocacy programs. Since its launch in 2006, the Kline School of Law has expanded program offerings to provide an accelerated two-year JD, a global JD for internationally trained law graduates, an LLM in American Legal Practice for internationally trained law graduates, a Master of Legal Studies, and a Master of Science in Biomedicine and Law.
Jimenez wins two honors
Priscilla Jimenez got doubly good news in October. One was her selection for Drexel University’s “40 Under 40” for 2017 and the other placing her among the "Delaware Valley's Most Influential Latinos." The latter was bestowed by the Latino newspaper Impacto, which held a 500-guest black-tie gala to recognize the honorees at the National Museum of American Jewish History. The Drexel award annually recognizes the school’s 40 “most innovative, impressive and inspiring young alumni.” Among her previous accolades, Jimenez has been selected by The Legal Intellligencer as a “Lawyer on the Fast Track” and as a “Rising Star” by the independent rating service Super Lawyers. Jimenez, a graduate of the Thomas R. Kline School of Law at Drexel, is president of the Hispanic Bar Association of Pennsylvania. Others honored as “40 Under 40” winners this year were John Kuehn, Deputy Attorney General, New Jersey Office of the Attorney General; Katherine McNamara, 20, actor/singer who has appeared in the TV series “Shadowhunters” and the movie “The Maze Runner”; five-time Emmy Award winner Tom Louden, executive producer at NBC Universal; Joseph Anton, vice president of clinical and support services at Thomas Jefferson University Hospitals; and Victoria Napolitano, mayor of Moorestown, N.J.
Burke helps lead record-cleansing program
Colin Burke was the site leader at one of six locations in Philadelphia for a volunteer project to seal criminal records for people convicted of misdemeanors. The program, run by the Young Lawyers Division of the Philadelphia Bar Association, was held Saturday, Nov. 11, with 175 lawyers, law students and paralegals helping people get their criminal records sealed, expunged or redacted. Participation was huge, with 1,853 signed up for the free clinics. About 1,200 were expected to have their criminal records wiped clean. According to an article about the event in The Philadelphia Inquirer, research shows that setting aside some criminal records reduces recidivism and improves past offenders’ ability to get and hold jobs. The completed applications were submitted the following Monday, when new amendments to a state law took effect changing Pennsylvania's Act 5 to allow those who committed certain misdemeanors to ask the courts to have records made available only to law enforcement, and not to the general public. Burke, a former city prosecutor, was the site leader for southwest Philadelphia. “This program helps people who had trouble in the past move on with their lives,” said Burke. “It helps them get and keep jobs and, ultimately, from committing crimes in the future.”
Firm welcomes D’yal McAllister
D’yal K. McAllister spent most of her professional background in education before joining Kline & Specter. Like Tom Kline, who was a sixth grade teacher before going to law school, McAllister’s first job after earning her bachelor’s degree from the University of Michigan was in the classroom. She taught mathematics and geometry to New Orleans high school students as part of Teach for America, the highly competitive program that requires a two-year commitment in an under-resourced urban area. While there, she also designed an after-school program for “at-risk” students and helped boost standardized test scores by 40 percent. McAllister also coached a girls track and field team that won both regional and state championships. She then moved back home to the Detroit area, where for three years she taught literacy and comprehension to fourth grade students. McAllister later earned her law degree from the Temple University Beasley School of Law, where she won the Outstanding Oral Advocate Award. But her heart was still in education, so for six years before joining Kline & Specter she served as the dean of students of the Mastery Charter Schools in Philadelphia, where she was in charge of academic progress, school safety, and serving as liaison among students, parents and teachers.
Specter conducts “50 Shades of Gray” CLE
Shanin Specter held his popular CLE titled “50 Shades of Gray: Conventional and Unconventional Wisdom” at Del Frisco's Steakhouse to a highly focused audience. In the session, Specter shared much of what he’s learned in his 33 years practicing law, much of which defies conventional thought. One example: many plaintiff attorneys believe that when picking a jury they should strike professionals and try to populate the panel with blue-collar folks. But Specter disagrees. He opines: “Pick well-educated people. The trial bar has lost the hearts and minds of many blue-collar, socially conservative ‘Reagan/Trump Democrats.’ More highly educated jurors, while perhaps slightly right of center on tort issues, will be less likely to decide cases based upon collateral issues such as the insurance/defense industry propaganda about runaway verdicts and the like. More highly educated jurors can help sustain the plaintiff’s burden of proof and may have a better sense of the value of a dollar, especially in a big case.”
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