Noteworthy Cases: Arthur Caltrider
San Juan Construction was a minority contractor hired to lay asphalt and install guard rail on a New York State Highway project. Mother was driving with her then 5 year old son when she fell asleep at the wheel and the vehicle went off the road, down the embankment, flipped over, rendering her son a ventilator dependent quadriplegic. Plaintiff sued the State of NY, the General Contractor, the Engineer and San Juan, alleging failure to install an additional 90’ of guardrail, thereby preventing the vehicle from leaving the highway. The plans / specs called for the additional rail. Our MSJ was denied, trial verdict was 57M yet we won on appeal and our client paid zero. All of the other defendants, before trial, settled out for 13M.
Defendant’s agent was cooking in the kitchen of the 7th floor unit in a Condominium located in Harbor East, Baltimore when a sprinkler head activated at 50 gallons per minute. The fire department arrived within 12 minutes of the alarm and declared this was a “cooking fire.” Yet there was no “Fire Investigation” per NFPA Section 931, Chapter 18. The ground floor housed a 5 star restaurant that sustained significant water damage as the water ran for an hour. The insurance carrier for the restaurant paid the damages then filed a subrogation action against the defendant. A jury returned a defense verdict.
NLRB LABOR and STATE WAGE CLAIMS
The employer laid off employee as employer had purchased a more efficient software eliminating the need for the employee’s position. Employee retained a lawyer who claimed employer violated a “protected activity”, an employee’s right “to complain” about the new software. A claim was filed before the NLRB and we won at the first level and on appeal. In addition, employee filed a claim in the Circuit Court Baltimore County alleging a violation of the State Wage Law. I advised the client to pay that claim and a check was mailed. Employee then said, unless both cases are settled, there is no settlement. It became clear counsel did not want to settle in order to run up lawyer fees as fees were recoverable if employee prevails.
We went on the offensive arguing that the reason the case continues is so counsel can fun up fees. Our answer said as much and despite a motion to strike our answer the court agreed with us. Employee could see the writing on the wall and the matter was then settled for a fraction of the original demand.
A west coast based manufacturer of a caffeinated alcoholic beverage was accused of causing an adult man to fire a gun up under his jaw causing extensive cognitive, neurologic and orthopedic injuries. He was rushed to the hospital, underwent surgery, and survived. Upon receiving the demand letter Plaintiff counsel and I engaged in months of discussion regarding the strengths and weaknesses of said case. Plaintiff counsel tried to persuade me that studies were showing an “association” between consumption of caffeinated alcohol bad behavior, and I pointed out that these studies failed to show “causation” between consumption and bad behavior. The three statute of limitations ran and the complaint was never filed.
Under Maryland Law RP 10-702, a seller of real property must produce in writing a disclaimer or disclosure of latent defects. A latent defect is a defect that seller has actual knowledge of, a reasonable purchaser would not discover upon a careful visual inspection, and the defect presents a health and safety issue. After purchaser moved in, each time it rained, a large pool of water would come up thru the basement floor. Seller denied actual knowledge. We retained an engineering expert who, upon inspection, found that there was hydrostatic pressure on the walls and floor in the basement and this condition had existed for years. The case was successfully resolved when Seller agreed to pay for the installation of footers and a French drain system that would alleviate the hydrostatic pressure.
PRODUCT LIABILITY / PROFESSIONAL LIABILITY
A minor (suffering from scoliosis) and her mother made a claim that the brace was defective, resulting in surgery. This claim was supported by the treating physician who was the head of the scoliosis department at Johns Hopkins. The complaint was filed in the Circuit Court for Baltimore City and we filed a venue challenge. Plaintiff claimed that venue was proper because their expert was located within Baltimore. I represented that I was in the process of selecting an expert (the deadline to name an expert was months away) and that I had interviewed three orthopedists specializing in scoliosis all located in Baltimore County (a more favorable venue). Our motion to transfer venue was granted. We ultimately selected an expert who effectively demonstrated weaknesses in Plaintiff’s case and this potentially dangerous case was settled for below defense costs.
Seven offices, physical and aquatic therapy business, were owned and operated by three partners. After seven years, two partners wanted to separate from the third and vice versa. This was a very emotional “business divorce” and after two months of negotiation, both sides were locked into their respective positions. The main issue centered on the duration and geographic scope of the non-compete clause contained in the partners’ agreement.
We filed an ex parte petition for partition in the Circuit Court for Baltimore County and in response the opposing side filed a similar pleading in Prince Georges County Circuit Court. I then suggested a mediation which occurred one week later and after nine hours, we had an agreement in principal. A month later we had an agreement in writing. Today my client’s offices are thriving with a new office opening. The same can not be said for the third partner.
A homeowner defaulted on the mortgage and the bank foreclosed, yet the bank let the homeowners continue to live there. There was a built in pool in the backyard and one day the son and two of his friends decided to use the pool. One of the boys dove in head first and was paralyzed from the neck down. The future life care plan was $15,000,000. We filed a Motion for Summary Judgment arguing that the danger was open and obvious and the failure to have depth markers was not relevant.
We defended a New York bank in a wrongful death action where a bank customer was in a vault looking at her safe deposit box at closing time. The vault automatically closed and eventually there was no air to breath and the customer suffocated. We pointed the finger at the design professionals and the case was resolved reasonably.
We defended a branch office of a New Jersey Bank where a women walked by the Bank at night and was brutally attacked and made a premises liability claim. We retained an excellent premises liability expert who opined that the Bank had met all standards under New Jersey law and the case was resolved for nuisance value.
St. John The Divine, the oldest Episcopal Cathedral in the U.S., located in New York City, was destroyed by a fire, sustaining $50M in damages and the defendant’s surge protector was blamed as the cause and origin. A Federal jury in Manhattan found for the defendant. Affirmed on appeal. (Excess & Surplus)
Plaintiff was crossing a street and made contact with the defendant’s vehicle, sustaining significant brain damage. Full damage value was $20M. Plaintiff’s MSJ was granted, and on appeal, reversed and remanded for trial. Jury trial resulted in a defense verdict and same was reversed and remanded on appeal. During the second trial case was settled for $2.5M (primary paid first 1.1M).
In this Dram Shop action, Plaintiff became a quadriplegic as a result of being a passenger in a motor vehicle accident, alleging that earlier that evening, the driver was served alcohol while visibly intoxicated at the insured’s Casino. The Atlantic City jury found for the Defendant.
Plaintiff sustained massive brain and orthopedic injuries when the “cherry picker” went over center, causing him to fall 50 feet from the bucket. Plaintiff sued the owner of the cherry picker, manufacturer of the manifold and the Defendant who manufactured the hydraulic valve. Owner of the “cherry picker” settled with the Plaintiff for 16M.
PRODUCT LIABILITY R.I. Nightclub Fire
This tragedy resulted in 100 deaths and another 200 severe burn victims. This was a $500M exposure, involving 200 defendants, 7 Travelers’ insureds, $100M in combined limits (multiple excess layers) and numerous complicated coverage and liability issues. The seven insureds were settled out or dismissed with payment of $34M and net of reinsurance of $15M.
9 firefighters died in a massive fire of a large furniture warehouse. Plaintiffs alleged that furniture merchants were responsible, as the furniture served as an accelerant, failing to meet the applicable fire retardant code. Case was resolved for defense costs on the theory that even if a higher retardant was used, the temperature of this fire was so hot that Plaintiffs could not have survived.
12 miners in West Virginia died in a mine collapse due to an explosion. The Defendant who manufactured the mine blocks only had $3M in coverage, facing a $50M exposure. We were able to convince Plaintiff to settle early with us and persuade the distributor to join in (1.3M Distributor and 1.95 insured) providing Plaintiff a war chest against other Defendants. The release protected the defendant from uninsured exposure and insulated the carrier from Extra Contractual exposure.
Perhaps the worst natural disaster in U.S. history. The legal issue created by the Plaintiffs’ bar and thus facing the insurance industry was whether or not wind blown water was flood or wind damage. Judge Duvall found the policy language ambiguous, but on appeal the outcome was different. This was a “bet the company” exposure.
ARCHDIOCESE CLERGY ABUSE
St. Paul Insurance Company insured various Archdioceses across the country, where victims of clergy abuse claimed negligent supervision by the church and its parishes. The individual cases varied in terms of damages, statute of limitations, and coverage disputes with local parishes.
The EPA ordered the City of Boston to clean up its harbor resulting in the construction of an effluent outflow tunnel where 5 construction divers were injured, (two deaths) as the temporary air supply failed. The litigation involved multiple parties, complex liability and coverage issues. I came up with a baseball arbitration approach. (1) Participating defendants would contribute to a pot and settle the innocent Plaintiffs as soon as possible as interest (12%) was running from the day of the accident. (2) Each defendant would contribute what they honestly felt they owed. (3) Proceed to binding arbitration and percentages would be determined. (4) Agree that if you paid below the finding of the arbitrator you would agree to pay a penalty of 18% on the deficient amount and also pay the deficient amount. Once parties made this agreement they would be sincere in what they felt they owed. (5) If a Defendant did not participate they would be subject to a contribution action. Three Defendants combined to settle all Plaintiffs’ cases; contributions were very close to what others thought was owed thus, avoiding arbitration; contribution actions were pursued and almost every dollar used to settle with Plaintiffs was recovered by the original three.
Landfill was selected by the City of Baltimore and State of Maryland to be a repository for thousands of truck loads of dirt coming from the construction of the Camden Yards baseball stadium for the Orioles. Opening day was approaching and time was of the essence. The amount of dirt coming in was surpassing the permit elevation, but the Department of Public Works was told to allow the trucks to continue and that the permit would be amended to a higher elevation.
The landfill was immediately adjacent to the Patapsco River Bridge (a major entry point into S. Baltimore) and when the Federal Bridge inspectors were performing their scheduled inspection, they saw that the pilings were cracking. They suspected the landfill operation as the cause and a report was sent to the City engineer who finally, two months later, saw the report. He then immediately went to the bridge and shut down the landfill and the bridge. A suit was filed alleging that the landfill was strictly liable for causing the lateral movement of subterranean soil. My strategy was to defeat a MSJ, creating a question of fact, and then pursue aggressive discovery exposing the activities of the Governor, Mayor, and Department of Public Works. I was able to get the case resolved for below the repair cost, saved a significant amount of the insurance limit, and the insured was able to retain title to his lone asset, the landfill property.
I represented a school teacher that was accused publicly of damaging behavior by three prominent Defendants who were members of an underground conservative religious organization, attempting to overthrow the leadership of the school. The confidentiality agreement permits me to say “The matter was resolved to my client’s satisfaction.”
I represented a grading contractor as a Plaintiff and counter defendant in a contract dispute against the developer. The jury ruled in my client’s favor on the counterclaim. On my clients complaint for damages, the jury awarded the highest verdict in the County up until that time.