Firm Newsletter: April 2019

Click here to download a printable pdf of this newsletter.

Supreme Court Victory Leads to Arbitration Award

It certainly seemed like a long-time coming, but our firm was successful in taking our client’s case all the way to the Pennsylvania Supreme Court and finally securing a substantial award on her behalf.

In 2012, our client, Omar F., was employed by Metra Industries.  Metra Industries was hired by the Chester Water Authority (“CWA”) to perform rehabilitation work on its water system in the City of Chester.  On the date of the accident, a worker employed by CWA illegally parked his truck in front of a ditch where Omar was working.  A third party struck the illegally parked truck, pushing it into the ditch, and sticking Omar and literally cutting Omar in half and killing him.

Defendants filed Motions for Summary Judgment based upon Sovereign Immunity, asserting that the accident did not “arise from the operation of a motor vehicle” as required by Pennsylvania Sovereign Immunity Statue since CWA was a governmental agency.  The Trial Court originally granted Summary Judgment and the Commonwealth Court affirmed the Lower Court’s decision.

Shaffer & Gaier took this matter up to the Supreme Court of Pennsylvania and we were successful in overturning 40 years of confusing and conflicting law on the issue.  We changed the law in Pennsylvania because any person injured by a governmental vehicle may now bring a claim.  This is a major victory for all citizens across the Commonwealth.

After the matter was finally remanded back to Trial Court, the parties agreed to submit the matter to binding Arbitration.  We are happy to report that we are able to successfully achieve a confidential Arbitration Award on behalf of our client’s family.  Although it took almost 7 years – justice certainly did prevail not just for our clients but we changed the law for all injured people in Pennsylvania.

Michael Shaffer honored by the United States Supreme Court

IMG_0127Michael Shaffer, Immediate Past President of the Temple American Inn of Court, was honored at the United States Supreme Court Award of Excellence Dinner in Washington, DC.  The American Inn of Court is a national organization designed to improve the skills, professionalism and ethics of the Bench and Bar.  Shaffer was the President of the American Inn of Court last year and the Temple American Inn of Court was awarded Platinum Status.  Shaffer went to the United States Supreme Court for their annual Dinner where the Temple Inn was recognized for the its outstanding work.

Fall Off Rooftop Results in Settlement Pre-Suit

Shaffer & Gaier represented Jesse G. who was renting an art studio/apartment in Olde City Philadelphia.  Jesse rented the 4th and 5th floors of a rowhouse located in that area.  Jesse had access to the rooftop deck via a ladder that was located in the apartment that led right to the rooftop.  The roof was pitched and it had no railings or guards.  Jesse, an aspiring artist and college student, went to the top of the roof deck one night, lost his balance and fell off the roof, five stories to the street.  Miraculously, Jesse survived the fall from this extraordinary height.  However, Jesse sustained catastrophic injuries.  He shattered his hip, broke both ankles and fractured several vertebrae.

Shaffer & Gaier was able to establish that the premises were unsafe, due to lack of railings or guards because the tenants had access to the roof deck.  Shaffer & Gaier was able to prove before even filing suit that the roof deck should have either been inaccessible to tenants or should have had railings or guards that would prevent an individual from falling.  We were happy to have such a satisfactory result on behalf of our client.

One Time in Court… Did He Really Say That?

We represented a young man who had no health insurance and he went to the Emergency Room at a suburban hospital with a blinding headache and soaring blood pressure which developed into a stroke.  He was admitted for treatment and observation.  Unfortunately, his blood pressure remained exceedingly high and he continued to be at risk for a second stroke.  With these symptoms, the young attending doctor should have been ordering daily CT scans to see if another stroke was developing, but he did not, and our client suffered a second stroke that was fatal.

At his deposition, we asked the young doctor why he had not ordered the daily CT scans. The frustrated witness said he “was tired of getting yelled at by my bosses for ordering tests for people that don’t have insurance.”  Sometimes we lawyers have to listen more than we talk – this case settled soon after this deposition.

Firm Newsletter: February 2018

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Jilted Bride

We represented the family of a bride whose husband-to-be called off the ceremony the night before the wedding. When the groom was a no-show at the rehearsal dinner, his friends and family
hunted him down, and he admitted that he didn’t want to go through with the wedding, which was then cancelled. The bride’s family had spent over $85,000 up to that point (gown, country club banquet room, food, flowers, photographer, etc.) and were able to only recover a portion of that amount. We filed suit alleging that the bride’s family paid for the wedding in exchange for the event to take place as planned. The lawsuit alleged that the groom’s refusal amounted to his breaching that agreement and gave rise to his responsibility to pay for all of their losses. A claim for punitive damages was included in the suit. Initially, the groom asserted that the bride’s family paid for the wedding simply because they wanted their daughter to be married, and there was no responsibility to pay the family back. The matter was confidentially settled 3 days after the lawsuit was filed.

Doctor’s Negligence Leads to Impotence

We represented a married Philadelphia couple (Mike and Mary) in their late 40’s in a lawsuit against their family physician. Mike was a machinist in relatively good health and Mary worked at home taking care of their 3 children. At Mike’s routine physical when he was 45, the doctor did a PSA blood test to test for prostate cancer (a standard test for men of his age). The doctor told Mike that “if anything comes back positive, we’ll let you know.” The results did, in fact, come back positive, but the doctor misplaced the paperwork and never notified Mike or Mary. Five years later, the mistake was discovered. By that time, the cancer had progressed so that the tumor was interfering with the nerves around the prostate; this required the surgical removal of the nerves necessary for an erection, along with the removal of the prostate. The effect of this 5 year delay was twofold: 1) the cancer metastasized and could spread to other organs, and 2) the removal of the nerves caused impotence that was only remedied through expensive procedures that Mike’s insurance would not pay for. We filed a medical malpractice action and our oncologist and urologist experts stated that the nerve bundles would not have been removed had the cancer been detected five years earlier. The case settled during jury selection for a confidential amount that enabled Mike and Mary to afford the procedures and renew their intimacy.

Arbitrator Awards 50% of Verdict to Spouse

Our client was 60 when he visited an outpatient surgery center for a procedure to correct snoring. Due to the doctors’ failure to properly monitor the patient during and after surgery, he suffered brain damage from a lack of oxygen, something that was corroborated by the many experts we brought in on the case. Our client was an first generation Italian immigrant who ran his own
barber shop. After the surgery, he was unable to feed himself, bathe or even go to the bathroom. His wife, also an Italian immigrant, took it upon herself to provide round-the-clock care for her husband. The arbitrator recognized the devastating toll the injury had on her and awarded her 50% of the verdict.

Loss of Consortium
Under Pennsylvania law, Loss of Consortium is an actionable injury for the loss of love, sexual relations, and services of a spouse due to injury for which money damages may be awarded. These types of claims arise out of  personal injury cases such as medical malpractice, negligence, and wrongful death. This is a legal claim that is made by the spouse who did not suffer the actual physical injury or death.

The Return of Love!

Did you know that the world-famous “Love” statue was on the move this week? It’s returning to its home in – where else? – Love Park, Philadelphia. It will be a welcome sight downtown.

Did you also know… we LOVE working with referrals? Call us and let’s make a date… to talk about that injury case we can handle for you.

Firm Newsletter: January 2018

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Black Ice = $200,000 Verdict

We represented Helen Drugan, a youthful and energetic 85-year-old woman who was employed full time as a sales associate and, despite her age, worked long hours and had an extremely active social life. She was also the primary caretaker for her 67-year-old son, who had some health issues. On the day of the accident, she parked her car and stepped onto a parking lot that was very slippery. There had not been any recent precipitation, but our expert later established that the slope of the parking lot caused accumulated snow to melt during the day and freeze overnight. We also argued to the jury that the property managers knew that Helen would come to work as early as 5A.M. because she would personally greet the security people every day. The defendants asserted that the parking lot was safe and Helen fell on “black ice,” claiming they could not be responsible for such a condition. The jury disagreed, awarding $200,000 for Helen’s injury, which included a broken arm and various neck and back injuries.

Loss of Finger Results in $650,000 Arbitration Award

We represented “Jamie W.” who was employed as a private sanitation hauler. As part of his job, Jamie went to various businesses and apartment complexes to unload large dumpsters. At a particular apartment complex, Jamie had to maneuver the dumpster into the parking lot so it could be emptied. On one very cold day, as he was pulling a heavy dumpster toward the trash truck, Jamie’s feet slipped due to a patch of ice. The dumpster, still moving, crushed his hand. When Jamie removed his glove he discovered part of his finger was entirely severed. During discovery, the property manager admitted that there various potholes in the parking lot that would freeze during the cold weather but that nothing had been done to address the problem. Jamie, only 24 years of age at the time, needed a prosthetic finger on his injured hand. We ensured that the company that made the prosthetic address its duration (3-5 years) and projected the costs for replacement over our client’s life expectancy. Upon submission to binding arbitration, an award of $650,00 was returned in Jamie’s favor.

Water Flows Down Hill

We represented a pedestrian that was walking the steep hills of Manayunk. As she was walking, she fell due to a patch of ice in front of a property that was actually no longer in business. We had originally thought that we would not be able to help the woman because the property where the fall occurred was vacant and carried no insurance coverage. However, when we brought in a property expert, it was discovered that another business owner negligently allowed water to stream downhill and accumulate onto this vacant property. It was then that we were able to establish that the property owner up the hill from the vacant property caused this dangerous condition. We secured a significant confidential settlement for our client.

Incredible (and sometimes downright unbelievable) stories of things that happened with cases.
(Really, they did.)

#meetoo Hits the Courtroom

We recently were involved in a trial in Philadelphia over a failure to accurately diagnose a fracture. The case hinged on whether a particular X-ray was read correctly. We retained a board-certified radiologist who happened to be a woman. The other side retained a male radiologist.

During the trial, the defense attorney refused to refer to our expert as “Doctor,” instead calling her “Miss” or “Maam,” yet always referring to their own male exert as “Doctor.” After lengthy questioning, our expert asked the defense attorney why he refused to call her “Doctor.”

He was stopped in his tracks and had no good answer. The jury got the point because they were all nodding their heads in approval of our expert. Seems like that #metoo movement is everywhere.

Firm Newsletter: December 2017

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Hospital Ignores Complaints of Patient with Fatal Infection

We represented the estate of a 82-year-old woman who died when a Delaware County hospital didn’t recognize the extent of a lower back infection. While her symptoms pointed to an infection, the hospital staff largely ignored her complaints, attributing it to her being cranky and older, something we commonly find when representing elderly people. The estate was comprised of her husband and children and they had an active, warm family life right up until the time she was hospitalized from the infection, which spread and led to her death. At trial, the defense continually pointed to our client’s age and attempted to paint a picture that since she was 80 years old, she didn’t experience “life’s pleasures” any longer, and her damages should be minimized. We effectively countered that one’s later years could be, should be, and often were the happiest ones, a premise that we use whenever we represent an elderly client. The case settled after closing arguments, for a substantial but confidential amount.

Nursing Home Resident Left in Restroom Suffers Tragic Fall

In a case that was rejected by two other Philadelphia law firms, we represented an elderly woman who was a full-time resident in a suburban Philadelphia nursing home. She was able to move about her room with the assistance of a walker and a nursing aide, but the nursing home placed her on strict instructions not to walk without staff assistance. After a nurse helped our client to the restroom, she pushed a call button, but there was no response. She then hollered for the nurse to assist her back to her bed, but no one responded for 15 minutes. Our client, getting anxious and feeling scared, attempted to walk back to her bed herself, using her walker for assistance. Unfortunately, she fell and broke her hip, resulting in three operations and over $65,000 in medical bills. In many nursing home settings, we have found that staff is spread too thin to meet patient needs. As a result, many basic, but necessary, services and activities are not delivered. Because of our client’s advanced age, we filed suit in federal court, where the docket often moves faster than in state court. The case was settled by the federal court magistrate judge after two settlement conferences.

Diabetic Condition Improperly Managed by Nursing Home Facility

We represented an 80-year-old woman in relatively good health, but who had trouble managing a diabetic condition. As a result, her children decided that a nursing home would be a better environment for her. However, after just a few weeks of residency, she was transported twice to a hospital because her diabetic condition spiked, something that never happened when her children – with no specialized training – cared for her. A few weeks later, when her sugar became extremely elevated, she was transported back to the hospital, but went into septic shock and diabetic ketadosis and died. Shaffer & Gaier filed a wrongful death and survival action against the nursing home and its attending physician. After extensive discovery, the parties agreed to submit the matter to binding arbitration. We presented experts that proved that the nursing home failed to properly monitor or recognize her severe condition. Several family members testified that she was truly in her golden years – enjoying her grandchildren and great grandchildren and very active in her church. The arbitrator returned a substantial award in our favor.

Incredible (and sometimes downright unbelievable) stories of things that happened with cases.
(Really, they did.)

Lessons Worth Learning.

We had a very long seat belt product liability trial in federal court. The trial was lengthy, complex and stressful. The federal judge was a senior judge and 82 years old at the time of trial. During the trial, we settled with one defendant but the jury unfortunately returned a verdict in favor of the remaining defendant. After the trial, the judge wrote us a letter that is actually framed in our office. It reads as follows:

“I told you that this case was a pain in the ass. It does not mean that I did not learn anything. Everything is worth it if we learn something new. It is one of the rewards of our profession. I repeat what I told you – you did a great job in serving your client. Of paramount importance is that you were effective advocates consistent with the best qualities and standards of the  profession.”

The defense verdict was not easy to swallow but the judge’s wise words sure put things in perspective.

Firm Newsletter: October 2017

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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.

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

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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.

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.


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

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.

Incredible (and sometimes downright unbelievable) stories of things that happened with cases.
(Really, they did.)


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.”

Mortgage Foreclosure Defense Authority Presents Educational Program to Voorhees Homeowners

Philadelphia, PA (September 11) — Area mortgage foreclosure defense authority Michael H. Gaier, Esq. recently presented a foreclosure defense seminar to homeowners at the Voorhees Camden County library.

In his presentation, Gaier, a Haddonfield resident, 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.

Some of the topics addressed included:

    Why homeowners don’t have to leave just because the bank says so
    How homeowners can stay in their homes
    Options available that homeowners aren’t aware of

For over four years, Gaier has represented hundreds of homeowners in Pennsylvania and New Jersey, successfully securing principal loan reduction, dismissals of foreclosure lawsuits and loan modifications. In addition to defending homeowners when the bank sues them, Gaier has successfully filed dozen of lawsuits against the “big banks,” including Bank of America, Wells Fargo and Chase Bank for predatory lending and loan servicing mistakes.

Michael Shaffer Named to Montessori Board

Philadelphia, PA (July 17) –– Philadelphia area plaintiff’s attorney Michael Shaffer was recently appointed to the Board of Trustees for the Bala House Montessori School in Bala Cynwyd, PA.

The Bala House Montessori School was founded in 1969 supporting communities in Montgomery County and the City of Philadelphia.

Shaffer, a Lower Merion resident, was originally general counsel to the Bala House and oversaw its construction and renovation project in 2003. He was nominated for a two-year term to the Board of Trustees for the Bala House Montessori School beginning for the academic year of September 2013.

Since 1990, Mr. Shaffer has dedicated his practice to representing individuals who have been injured both on and off the job representing many families for wrongful death, and individuals who have suffered severe vehicle accidents; traumatic brain injuries; severe burns; paralysis; and other types of catastrophic and career-ending injuries.

Shaffer & Gaier offers more than 45 years of combined legal experience to individuals and businesses in the areas of foreclosure defense, commercial litigation, personal injury and medical malpractice. To learn more, visit the Firm’s website.

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