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Firm Newsletter: October, 2017

Click here to download a printable pdf of this newsletter.

MOTOR VEHICLE ACCIDENT ISSUE
I-95 Crash Results in $800,000 Settlement During Trial

In a case that presented us with difficult liability facts, we obtained an $800,000 settlement for a client who struck the rear of a parked tow truck on I-95. The client, a senior in college, was driving home after a Phillies game. Another vehicle had broken down and a tow truck was called to the scene. The tow truck operator had his standard lights on but he did not engage his flashers or strobe light, and the truck was partially parked in the lane of travel. As a result of the accident, our client suffered broken ribs, a fractured clavicle and scarring on her abdomen and chest. We were able to recreate the accident using a variety of experts and computer aided graphics and video which showed that our client thought the vehicle was moving when, in fact, it was stopped on the highway. We were then able to prove that since the tow truck was parked partially on the highway, the driver and the towing company violated various codes and federal regulations regarding commercial vehicles.

$1 Million Settlement for Defective Airbag

We represented the estate of a woman who was killed when her airbag deployed in a very low speed crash – a one car accident in an empty parking lot. The woman, 60 years old at the time, had recently received her learner’s permit and went to the parking lot with her son-in-law to practice driving. She was a very slight woman, approximately 5’2″ and weighed less than 105 lbs. At the
time of the accident, the car was traveling less than 20 m.p.h., but due to the defective design of the vehicle, when the airbag was deployed it struck her head, breaking her neck and killing her instantly. Our discovery revealed that the automobile manufacturer did no testing to determine if it was safe for drivers who were small in stature, and several of our experts established that the airbag was unsafe as it was designed. After several rounds of mediation, the case was eventually settled.

Trucking Accident Yields Sizable Settlement

Shaffer & Gaier was able to secure a sizeable settlement for a driver who was rear-ended by a tractor trailer (the terms of the settlement require us to keep the amounts strictly confidential). Our client was traveling in New Jersey and was stopped in a traffic jam. The driver of an 18 wheel tractor trailer smashed into her vehicle, causing her significant injuries. Although our client had
neck and back injuries, her main complaint was to her hearing: due to the deployment of the air bags, our client had constant ringing in her ears and suffered hearing loss. Shaffer & Gaier provided expert testimony that proved that the ringing in her ears was caused by the auto accident. As a result of this, we secured a substantial settlement on her behalf.

THIS ONE TIME, IN COURT…
Incredible (and sometimes downright unbelievable) stories of things that happened with cases.
(Really, they did.)

“Not for nuttin’, but…”

We were in the fifth day of a jury trial in Philadelphia for a very serious and complicated motor vehicle accident. A commercial truck had crashed into our client’s car on I-95, shutting the highway down for six hours. The case was hotly contested on liability and damages. We had five experts; the defendant had four. We expected the trial to last at least two weeks.

Our last expert was an accident reconstructionist. He was on the stand explaining the mechanics of the accident and our theory of liability. Having lived and worked his entire life in New York, he had a thick Brooklyn accent.

During his testimony, we were called to sidebar on the far side of the courtroom from the witness stand. Suddenly, a court clerk ran to the stand and said something to the expert and a juror. Without knowing what, if anything, was discussed, the defendant’s lawyer demanded a mistrial, claiming the entire jury was now tainted by the personal interaction between witness and juror #6. The jury was then dismissed for the weekend.

On Monday, the trial judge questioned each juror if they heard or saw anything; they all said they had not. It turned out that juror #6 innocently asked our expert “How’s New York?”, to which our expert even more innocently replied “American League or National?” He was an avid Yankees fan.

The judge appropriately dismissed juror #6. The trial continued, and we settled a few days later while the jury was deliberating.

Firm Newsletter: August, 2017

Click here to download a printable pdf of this newsletter.

CONSTRUCTION ACCIDENT ISSUE
Construction Accident Settlement: 7th Largest in PA in 2016
Construction fall ends in $1.2 Million Settlement Before Jury Selection

Shaffer & Gaier represented a union shop iron worker severely hurt in a fall. Our client was working at a local university on an expansion project to construct a field house for the school. The university contracted with Sordoni Construction to act as the general contractor and construction manager. Sordoni then hired Rise Construction to fabricate and erect steel for the field house, who hired our client’s employer to erect the steel structure.

In early January of 2012, our client was assigned to work at the field house. He later shared in depositions that when he came to the site, he was shown a brief training video but was never given any fall protection training and never saw any safety personnel at the site from Rise or Sordoni. When he was instructed to climb a 15 foot wall to position steel joists that were to be welded the next day, he was not given fall protection equipment and there were no anchor points where he was working to tie off his harness. He was, in essence, walking a balance beam on a blustery January day. While he was walking the wall, he fell to the ground, shattering both feet and ankles.

Shaffer & Gaier brought suit against the general contractor and subcontractor. Through one of the premier construction experts in the country, we established that both the contractor and subcontractor violated their respective duties in failing to provide a safe work environment. The general contractor filed a Motion for Summary Judgment, which was originally granted by the magistrate judge, however, Shaffer & Gaier successfully overturned that decision. Before jury selection, the case was settled for $1.2 million. Additionally, the firm negotiated that the workers’ compensation lien be waived, effectively awarding our client $1.5 million.

Fellow Subcontractor’s Negligence Results in $1 Million Settlement During Trial

Another client was a construction worker performing work at the University of Pennsylvania. As he was descending a stairway, another subcontractor’s workers negligently removed a plank of wood, creating a large hole. He fell into the hole and tore his biceps, resulting in multiple surgeries. Shaffer & Gaier retained several construction experts to establish that this was an unreasonably
dangerous work site created by the negligence of the other subcontractor. After 4 days of trial, the matter settled against the subcontractors that negligently created the dangerous job site.

“THIS ONE TIME, IN COURT…”
Incredible (and sometimes downright unbelievable) stories of things that happened with cases.
(Really, they did.)

Insurance Coverage Matters.

With all the debate about health care, let there be no doubt insurance coverage matters on the health care provided.

We represented “Richard W.” some years back. He was 35 years of age with a history of high blood pressure.

He went to a Montgomery County Hospital Emergency Room with excruciating head aches and exceptionally high blood pressure.

Unfortunately, Richard did not have health insurance, due to a recently layoff from his construction job. He was placed under the care of one of the staff neurologists.

The neurologist suspected that the symptoms might be caused by a clot in the brain but did not order a CT scan. As it turns out, Richard did, in fact have a clot in his brain that was causing the headaches.

The clot moved, causing Richard to have a massive stroke. He died weeks later.

Unbelievably, the doctor admitted during his deposition that he did not order the testing because of the lack of insurance. Soon after, the case settled for a confidential sum. Let there be no doubt, insurance coverage matters in the care you actually get!

Firm Newsletter: June, 2017

Click here to download a printable pdf of this newsletter.

CASE ALERTS
National Lab Pays for Genetic Testing Error
Michael Shaffer secured a settlement for the parents of a child who contracted a severe and rare disorder that was missed through genetic testing. The clients, residents of Sacramento, CA, sought genetic counseling before having children, as the father had a rare genetic condition called Ehlers-Danlos Syndrome (EDS) that ran in his family. EDS is a genetic disorder that causes severe vascular and connective tissue complications; it is often fatal.

The clients had sought genetic counseling to determine whether the father was a carrier; if so, they would opt for a pregnancy through in-vitro fertilization to ensure the gene did not pass to the child.

The father had bloodwork done which was sent to the defendant’s lab in Allentown, PA and the lab informed the father that the test was negative for EDS. The parents then had a child naturally. In 2012, the father developed severe complications that were similar to EDS. When new genetic testing was done it confirmed that he was, in fact, a carrier for EDS. Subsequently, testing was done on their son, which confirmed that he, too, had EDS. Had the initial test not been misread by the lab, their child would not be faced with the uncertainty of a future with EDS. However, a large settlement obtained before trial will provide for his future medical expenses.

Man Injured by Defective Paint Can at Work Turns to Shaffer & Gaier, Wins $1,000,000
A client of Michael Shaffer whom we’ll call “Matt” was employed by a concrete manufacturing plant. His responsibilities included inspecting the concrete molds for cracks and defects. When he would notice a crack or defect, he had been instructed by his employer to mark the defect with spray paint.

However, one day, as he shook a new can of spray paint, the bottom of the can flew off, creating a missile-like object that struck Matt in the face. The sheer force caused him to fracture his eye socket and lose sight in his left eye.

Shaffer & Gaier brought a product liability action against the manufacturer and seller of the spray paint can, alleging that the product was not properly tested during the manufacturing process and establishing during extensive discovery that the defendants had a history of similar incidents.

Shaffer & Gaier Saves Family Home from Major Mortgage Lender
Michael Gaier represented a son and daughter whose father was tricked into refinancing their Philadelphia home they grew up in and which had been in the family for 42 years. The clients’ father, who was 79 years of age, did not realize the negative extent of the mortgage loan terms during the refinancing process. When he died suddenly, his son and daughter were faced with the choice of paying the mortgage loan in full or lose the house.

When the lender filed a foreclosure action against the father’s estate, Shaffer & Gaier filed a counterclaim right back against the bank seeking money damages for the fraud inflicted upon the father and, in effect, the entire family. After discovery was exchanged between the parties, a confidential settlement was reached which not only included cash and reduction of the loan balance, but more importantly, the right for the clients to purchase the family home at a reduced value with excellent interest rates.

Firm Challenges Big Bank, Gets Significant Principal Reduction for Local Hero
Michael Gaier worked with a client, a fireman in Camden, NJ, after he bought a house for $252,000 and encountered fraud upon settlement. He had been promised a 6% interest rate, but at closing, the rate jumped to 10.5% with the potential to reach 16.5%.At closing, the mortgage broker advised that the man would need to obtain a second mortgage in order to qualify: an additional $60,000 in financing. Sensing his apprehension, the lender advised him that he could refinance in one year. However, when he tried refinancing later, the mortgage company refused to answer his calls or emails; they subsequently went out of business.

A large bank acquired the loan and filed a foreclosure lawsuit. However, upon Shaffer & Gaier’s sign-on as the man’s law firm, the bank withdrew its lawsuit one day before the trial. Shaffer & Gaier then brought a parallel action against the bank for predatory lending, fraud and misrepresentation of important terms of the mortgage, which resulted in a settlement that lowered the principal balance by $166,000 and negotiated a 3.5% interest rate for the remaining balance. In addition, the firm secured a 90% reduction in the principal balance of the second mortgage

AWARDS & ACCOLADES
Michael Shaffer Named President Elect of Temple American Inn of Court
Michael Shaffer has been named the president elect of the Temple American Inn of Court. The American Inns of Court, a national organization, was formed in the late 1970s by a group of judges. Wishing to reinforce polished skills, professionalism and ethics of the bench and bar, they based the principles of the organization on the traditional English model of legal apprenticeship, modified to fit the needs of the American legal system. Now, hundreds of chapters across the United States offer members the opportunity to come together and learn from one another, especially the more experienced individuals in the group. Members include judges, lawyers, law professors and third-year legal students.

Michael Gaier Presents Educational Program to NJ Homeowners
Michael Gaier recently presented a foreclosure defense seminar to homeowners at the Voorhees Camden County library. In his presentation, Gaier provided in-depth insight into how homeowners who have become delinquent in their mortgage payments have numerous legal options to save their home, either in conjunction with a foreclosure action or with other remedies. Gaier is a recognized mortgage foreclosure defense authority who has represented thousands of homeowners in matters involving loan reduction, foreclosure and predatory lending.

“THIS ONE TIME, IN COURT…”
Incredible (and sometimes downright unbelievable) stories of things that happened with cases.
(Really, they did.)

“WHAT DO YOU MEAN WE’RE NOT MARRIED?”

Shaffer & Gaier was contacted by the mother of two children whose husband, “Omar,” was killed in a car accident in Delaware County, Pennsylvania.

Omar had been performing maintenance work on water lines in Chester and was checking the line pressure while standing in a manhole. His body was positioned partially inside the manhole and partially above street level. A Chester Water Authority vehicle was parked – illegally – behind Omar. Suddenly, a vehicle lost control and struck the Chester Water Authority vehicle. The impact pushed the vehicle forward and over the manhole, striking and killing Omar.

Our client, “Victoria,” though separated from Omar, had been sharing custody of their two sons. As a matter of course, Victoria requested a copy of the death certificate through the funeral home,
where she was shockingly informed that they were divorced.

Apparently, two weeks before his death, Omar had filed for divorce in Cambria County in upstate Pennsylvania. As Victoria had never signed the paperwork, it was determined that her signature had been forged by someone.

Shaffer & Gaier mobilized investigators and legal personnel in Cambria County to have the divorce decree voided. Victoria has since brought suit on behalf of Omar’s estate so her two children
can attempt to recover damages for their father’s tragic and untimely death.

“Suit: If they did their job, kids’d be alive”

The following is the text of an article printed today in the Philadelphia Daily News and Philadelphia Inquirer newspapers.
Click here for a pdf of the Daily News article; for the Inquirer article, click here.

By Julia Terruso
Staff Writer

Anthony Singleton lies awake most nights haunted by questions of what he could have done to prevent the death of his infant son and 3-year-old stepdaughter. He searches for signs he might have
missed in the behavior of his wife, who is charged with killing them.

“I thought she was all right,” Singleton said last week. “This would be the last thing I thought she would do.The very last thing.”

Singleton, 59, is suing the child welfare agency Turning Points for Children, a DHS contractor, that facilitated the reunification of his son, St. Leo, and stepdaughter, Ariel, with their mother, Sophia Hines. Hines is charged with smothering the children with a bedsheet in June 2016. She was ruled mentally incompetent to stand trial and is being held in a psychiatric facility in Florida.

The lawsuit, filed Monday, alleges that Turning Points, which was providing services to the family, failed to consult with Department of Human Services psychologists or review Hines’ medical information before recommending that the court release the children back into her custody. Hines was on medication for an underlying psychiatric condition and suffering from postpartum depression, according to an agency review of the deaths.

“If they did their job, these kids would be alive today,” said attorney Michael Shaffer,who is representing Singleton with his law partner Michael Gaier. “Anthony is not an expert.He’s not a psychiatrist. He does not have the ability to evaluate what’s appropriate for reunification.That’s their job.”

The suit alleges negligence and wrongful death, and seeks damages for Singleton on behalf of his son and for four relatives of Hines’ on behalf of her daughter. Turning Points CEO Michael
Vogel said Monday he could not comment on pending litigation. A review of the deaths found Hines had not signed consent to enable the agency to obtain her medical records.

“Turning Points for Children is deeply saddened by the tragic deaths of these children last year,” Vogel said. “Our work in caring for and supporting children and families is challenging and complex, and while we cannot comment on open litigation or specific case details,we continue to stay focused on working closely with DHS to ensure the safety of all children and families
in our community.”

Singleton, a former Marine who works as a traffic flagger, met Hines, who emigrated from Jamaica, in 2015. Hines already had her then-2-year-old daughter, Ariel,whom Singleton called “the
smartest little girl in the world.”

“I’ve never seen a kid so young that remembers that much,” Singleton said. “She was like a tape recorder. You told her you were going to do something, she remembered.”

When Hines got pregnant with St.Leo, something shifted, Singleton said. She moved out of Singleton’s home and into a shelter. Ten days after giving birth, she brought both of her children to
Einstein Medical Center, saying she was depressed and overwhelmed.

The children were placed in foster care for six months, during which Hines and Singleton reunited and got married at a small ceremony at their home in Frankford. Singleton said that he wanted
Hines to know he was fully committed to his new son and stepdaughter, and that he accompanied her to scheduled visits with the kids. Things seemed to be better between them, he said.

“I loved her, and I thought that was the right thing to do,” he said. “I learned the hard way that you can’t get married for anything other than love.”

In April 2016, Turning Points recommended to Family Court that Hines regain custody. It was later revealed in a review of the case that the agency did so without conducting a parenting-capacity
evaluation and thus without knowledge of Hines’ mental health status. The reunification was based in part on a letter from a social work intern who knew Hines for less than a month.

Singleton said that if Hines was exhibiting signs of distress at the time, he missed them. He was working 12-hour days, and the couple were living together off and on.

Shaffer said his case will show the children were returned too soon.

“She tried to do the best she could when she took the kids back to Einstein initially. She told them, ‘I’m in over my head here, help me,’ ” Shaffer said. “Then it’s their job to appropriately reunify.
I wish I could say they did a bad job. They didn’t do anything on the checklist they were supposed to do, and it’s very clear reunification never should have happened —she was clearly not ready.”

In mid-May, Hines told Singleton she was going to visit her brother in Queens, New York City. Instead, she took the children, via bus, to Miramar, Fla., where she stayed with a cousin. When she didn’t answer Singleton’s calls, he became alarmed.

On June 9, police responded to Hines’ cousin’s home and found both children unresponsive, lying side by side on a bed. Hines admitted to killing the children in an interview with police in which she answered few questions and appeared catatonic, according to police reports. The report said Hines had scratches on her face, which indicate Ariel, whom she said she killed second, fought back.

After finding out about his son’s death, Singleton flew to Florida to identify the bodies and bring them home.

He said he couldn’t work for nearly a year because of the shock. Now he regularly visits a psychiatrist at the Department of Veterans Affairs, and relies on his West Philadelphia church community
and the distraction of his job.

He said he hopes the lawsuit promotes more diligence on the part of the agencies charged with protecting children.

“I just wanted justice for the kids. It wasn’t any more than that. I felt really that they were wrong, and I said if somebody’s responsible for that, make them know they were wrong so this
won’t happen to anyone else.”

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Our Latest Blog Posts

Firm Newsletter: October, 2017

Click here to download a printable pdf of this newsletter. MOTOR VEHICLE ACCIDENT ISSUE I-95 Crash Results in $800,000 Settlement During Trial In a case that presented us with difficult liability facts, we obtained an $800,000 settlement for … [Read More...]

Firm Newsletter: August, 2017

Click here to download a printable pdf of this newsletter. CONSTRUCTION ACCIDENT ISSUE Construction Accident Settlement: 7th Largest in PA in 2016 Construction fall ends in $1.2 Million Settlement Before Jury Selection Shaffer & Gaier … [Read More...]