General Liability Practice
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Catastrophic Loss

Lipe Lyons maintains a robust general liability practice that is headed by the firm’s experienced trial lawyers, who regularly represent companies in high-exposure cases seeking compensatory, punitive, and other damages. These complex cases most often involve commercial transportation, construction, premises, and product liability accidents, and the firm has substantial experience trying to verdict and otherwise resolving such claims. The firm has also resolved catastrophic losses arising out of varied other fact patterns, including fires and explosions, hostage situations, shootings, sexual assaults, dog bites, and other occurrences.

These are a selection of the catastrophic injury claims the firm has tried to verdict or otherwise resolved:
Commercial Transportation
  • Trial counsel for railroad and local transportation agency defendants in highly publicized trial involving noted violinist Rachel Barton.  While disembarking from a Metra commuter trial, Barton was dragged 360 feet by the train and run over by its wheels.  She sustained traumatic amputation of one leg and degloving injury and partial amputation of the other leg.
  • Defended a repair shop against numerous consolidated lawsuits that arose out of a motor coach rollover accident in Arkansas. The bus veered off of the highway while traveling between 60 and 70 miles per hour, fishtailed, and then rolled over one and a half times. The bus’s roof ripped off and multiple passengers were ejected. The driver and 14 passengers died in the accident, and the other 14 remaining passengers were seriously injured. Before trial, the repair shop settled for a small fraction of the total amount paid by the other 12 defendants.
  • Achieved verdict for defendants, a trucking company and tractor-trailer driver, in consolidated wrongful death lawsuits filed by the family of a driver and passenger who were killed in a motor vehicle accident. The accident occurred on narrow, two-lane road during rain when the defendant, who had been following the decedents for several miles as they drove erratically, attempted to pass the decedents’ vehicle, which then tried turned left in front of the defendant onto a farm access road.
  • Defended truck driver and his employer in lawsuits followed after the driver rear-ended a line of stopped vehicles at 57 mph during morning rush hour. Good Samaritans tried to resuscitate a man who was seriously injured but were unable; he died at the scene. One of the Good Samaritans called his wife, who had just found out that she was pregnant and overheard the resuscitation efforts. She miscarried four weeks later and filed suit for the wrongful death of her husband and unborn child. Another driver filed suit for his own personal injuries and the cases were consolidated. The driver was charged with multiple counts of driving under the influence and he entered a plea of not guilty. At trial, the plaintiffs sought compensatory and punitive damages. Before trial, the plaintiffs demanded $26 million to settle. During the two week trial the driver invoked the Fifth Amendment and the plaintiffs were not allowed to call him to testify as an adverse witness, but the jury was instructed that it could draw an adverse inference from his silence. After the trial the jury awarded the Estate of the driver who passed away $22.7 million and the other driver $12.4 million but the trial court remitted the verdicts to $12.7 million and $7.4 million after granting the defendants’ post-trial motion, which argued that numerous evidentiary and instructional errors caused the jury to award excessive verdicts based on sympathy. The defendants then settled with Estate for less than the remitted amount of the verdict, appealed the personal injury verdict, and ultimately settled with that driver as well.
  • Successfully resolved numerous wrongful death and personal injury lawsuits against trucking company brought in state and federal courts. Cases arose out of 11-vehicle accident that occurred when the defendant truck driver failed to stop for a red light at an intersection; the defendant admitted liability. In the one case tried to verdict, the jury awarded the plaintiff $1 million in damages, an amount equal to the defendant’s pre-trial offer. The pre-trial settlement demand was $10 million.
  • After several days of trial, settled personal injury and wrongful death lawsuit arising from a motor vehicle accident in which the plaintiff’s six-month-old fetus died and the plaintiff claimed an inability to have additional children. The plaintiff also sustained several upper and lower extremity fractures with non-union and delayed healing that resulted in 14 surgical procedures and major depression, causing her to be unable to return to work and to avoid most life activities.
  • Defended broker for shipment being transported by a tractor-trailer that crashed into several vehicles that were stopped by the side of the road. The accident killed a tollway worker, set a police car on fire with the officer inside, causing burns to nearly half of his body, and injured another truck driver. The plaintiffs demanded $55 million to settle and, shortly before trial, all three cases settled for less than half of the plaintiffs’ initial demands.
  • Trial counsel for a crane company in a wrongful death lawsuit arising out of an accident that occurred during the erection of a tower crane in downtown Chicago. On the day of the accident, several ironworkers, and employee of the crane company, and an employee of the general contractor were assembling a 264-foot tower crane for the construction of a luxury condominium tower. For an unknown reason, the ironworker foreman inserted his body into a pinch point without telling anyone else where he was or what he was doing. A 25,000 pound piece of equipment then lowered onto his body, crushing his chest and transecting his aorta. The crane company admitted fault but contested causation. The general contractor denied fault. After a month-long trial, and Plaintiff’s request during closing argument for more than $90 million in damages, the jury returned a verdict $11 million, which was reduced to $10,175,000 due to the decedent’s contributory fault. The amount paid to Plaintiff was considerably less than her last settlement demand, and only slightly more than Defendants’ last offer.
  • Trial counsel for general contractor sued by plaintiff sheet metal worker who fell from a 60 foot ladder that collapsed while he was installing expansion joints in the building’s gutters. The plaintiff worker and his wife asked the jury to award them more than $12 million in damages but the jury returned a net verdict of only $973,676.87, which was less than the last offer before verdict.
  • Defended a general contractor that was overseeing a road construction project against a lawsuit filed by a plaintiff who was rendered a paraplegic when his personal vehicle allegedly struck an unbarricaded cut-out in the roadway and drove into a light pole. At the time of the accident, Plaintiff and two of his friends were driving from a house party to a party store. The driver of the vehicle was impaired by intoxication well beyond the legal limit. After a week of trial, the parties settled for a fraction of Plaintiff's initial settlement demand.
  • Obtained summary judgment for general contractor in lawsuit filed by electrician plaintiff who was severely injured when an electrical breaker he was working on arc-flashed and exploded. The plaintiff made a global settlement demand of $17.5 million to settle and right before the hearing on the defendants’ motions for summary judgment the co-defendants settled for over $3 million, leaving our client as the sole defendant. However, the trial court granted summary judgment, the First District affirmed, and the Illinois Supreme Court denied the plaintiff’s petition for leave to appeal, ending the case.
  • Obtained reasonable settlements on behalf of a steel erection contractor in companion lawsuits brought by families of two construction workers who were killed when they were struck by falling debris during the partial collapse of a new-construction facility that would serve as senior housing. More than 40 depositions were taken, including fact witnesses and expert engineers. Cases settled on the eve of trial.
Product Liability
  • Achieved a complete defense verdict for an international crane manufacturer in a product liability lawsuit alleging defective design of an overhead crane. The plaintiff’s left leg was traumatically amputated and his right leg was crushed when a 20,000 pound load of steel fell from the crane. The case originally was tried in 2003 by another defense firm and plaintiff obtained a verdict of $16 million. After the case  was reversed on appeal and sent back to the trial court for retrial, we were retained to represent the defendant in the second trial. And in the second trial, the jury rendered a complete defense verdict that was affirmed on appeal.
  • Complete defense verdict in favor of Manchester Tank after seven-week trial of product liability lawsuit seeking $32 million in damages. The plaintiff alleged that a defective Manchester 20 lb. propane cylinder was overfilled, resulting in fire that caused the plaintiff to suffer burns over 97 percent of his body, incur more than $6.6 million in medical expenses, and die from his injuries 6½ years later.
  • Settled a complex product liability case pending in Omaha, Nebraska days before trial for a small percentage of the plaintiffs’ initial $29 million demand. One of the plaintiffs had purchased an e-bike conversion kit that added a 500-watt motor to his 30-year-old bicycle. He installed the kit himself. Shortly after the installation he was thrown from the bicycle and onto his head in an unwitnessed accident. He alleged the accident caused a traumatic brain injury that prevented him from continuing his successful practice as a psychiatrist. His wife also sought damages for loss of consortium. The plaintiffs alleged strict liability, negligence, res ipsa loquitur, and breach of warranties. Defendants argued that the conversion kit was properly designed, manufactured, and accompanied by sufficient documentation, and that the plaintiff negligently installed the kit on his bicycle.
  • Achieved settlement for defendant bus manufacturer in highly-publicized wrongful death lawsuit for pedestrian struck by its bus that was loaned to defendant transportation company. The transportation company’s bus driver struck and killed the pedestrian in a crosswalk and while the driver had cocaine in his system.  Bus manufacturer’s liability arose solely from the display of its DOT placard, or logo, on the side of the bus. Plaintiffs demanded $16 million in damages.
  • Defended building security company in six wrongful death and 16 personal injury lawsuits (consolidated for discovery) arising from an office building fire that occurred on a Friday afternoon in a high-rise building in downtown Chicago. Multiple governmental investigations followed, including one by an ad hoc commission appointed by the Cook County Board that conducted public hearings. Cases settled on the eve of trial.
  • Trial support and appellate counsel for consolidated wrongful death and personal injury lawsuits arising out of December 2006 hostage situation in Chicago’s Ogilvie Transportation Center. During the confrontation, three hostages and the hostage taker were killed, and a fourth hostage was shot and injured. The shooter was a middle-aged truck driver who believed he came up with the idea for a portable toilet that truckers could use while on the road. After a patent attorney told him the idea had aleady been patented, the shooter came to believe the patent attorney stole the idea and profited off it. He went to Ogilvie, where the attorney’s office was located, took a security guard hostage, forced his way into the attorney's law firm, and shot the attorney and several co-workers. After several days of trial, Lipe Lyons’ client, the owners and managers, settled for a confidential amount. The jury ultimately found the building’s security company was negligent, and awarded the plaintiffs over $33 million in damages.
  • Represented ambulance company and driver in case in which ambulance attendant raped 14-year-old female psychiatric patient during 50-minute transport. Obtained pre-trial judgment for defendants on plaintiff’s theories of negligent hiring and retention of rapist, and on vicarious liability claim for rapist’s conduct. Case was tried to verdict. Jury found for driver, and verdict assessed against company was less than the plaintiff’s pre-trial settlement demand.
  • Defended a not-for-profit daycare against lawsuit filed by the parents of a teenage girl with mental and physical disabilities and a history of seizures and strokes who fell from a chair and struck a portion of her head without a skull on the ground, which allegedly resulted in her death six years later after her awareness and responsiveness slowly declined to a vegetative state.
  • Achieved summary judgment on behalf of a wooden pallet supplier that allegedly failed to report a defect in a pallet jack that crushed his left ankle/foot in a collision between two machines and required a below-the-knee amputation. The plaintiff claimed seven figures in special damages and demanded $8 million to settle before the court dismissed his case.
  • Settled, days before trial, a plaintiff’s lawsuit against her relative for a dog bite injury she sustained while entering the relative’s home under the Illinois Animal Control Act. The plaintiff sustained severe facial lacerations and a leg wound and claimed $2.5 million in damages.

For more information about the firm’s general liability practice, please contact Jordan Tank at 312.702.0586 or