Experience

Family burned in Arkansas trucking accident

Location: Prairie County, Arkansas

Plaintiff: Mark Rogers
Defendant: U.S. Xpress, Inc.
Amount: $10.3 million verdict, plus multiple other confidential settlements
Alleged Injuries: Direct negligence and vicarious liability, loss of consortium and negligent and intentional infliction of emotional distress after three of four members of a family suffered severe burns in a tractor-trailer accident

Description: Mark Rogers and his family were traveling through Arkansas while on vacation when their car was corralled by several tractor-trailers just outside Biscoe. One of the rigs ignited, and the fire spread, setting Rogers’ car on fire. His was the only door that would open, so the 34-year-old escaped and kicked in the windshield to rescue his wife, daughter and son. In total, six tractor-trailers were involved in the catastrophic accident that left three of the four Rogers family members severely burned. Mark Rogers suffered full thickness burns to more than 60 percent of his body, respiratory insufficiency, pancreatitis and acute renal failure and had to undergo multiple surgeries. 

Three of the tractor trailer drivers involved in the accident were cited for careless driving. They failed to stop for slowed traffic and caused the multi-vehicle collision that trapped the Rogers’ family car. All of the truck drivers violated Federal Motor Carrier Safety Regulations, including §392.14 requiring extreme caution and reduced speed when hazardous conditions exist. Wilkes & McHugh represented the Rogers family and took the case to trial, securing a verdict that would help cover the costs of their ongoing care.  

Disclaimer: The results described on this website do not constitute a guarantee, warranty, or prediction regarding the outcome of your legal matter. A prospective client may not obtain the same or similar results as those described on this website.

Dogged litigation leads to successful recovery for clients despite bankruptcy

Location: Lafayette, Louisiana

Debtor: New Louisiana Holdings, LLC, et al.
Amount: Confidential settlement

Description: Wilkes & McHugh represented families whose loved ones were injured or died while in the care of the Debtors, which operated a nursing home empire spanning multiple states including Florida, Georgia, and Louisiana. After extensive negotiations and vigorous participation on the Unsecured Creditors Committee, Wilkes & McHugh successfully negotiated a compromise with the Debtors to secure a recovery for clients who otherwise may have received nothing as unsecured creditors. 

Car manufacturer deceives consumers about eco-friendliness of vehicles

Location: Pinellas County, FL

Plaintiff: Confidential
Defendant: Volkswagen Diesel Emissions
Amount: Ongoing litigation
Alleged Injuries: Violation of the Florida Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organization Act, Violation of Florida's Unfair & Deceptive Trade Practices Act, fraud, and unjust enrichment in a case where an auto manufacturer deceived consumers about the eco-friendliness of their vehicles

Description: After years of marketing and selling “Clean Diesel” vehicles, Volkswagen admitted to installing illegal software in its 2009-2015 diesel Jetta, Passat, Golf, Beetle, and Audi A3 vehicles designed to cheat federal and state emissions testing. The Federal Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) issued a Second Notice of Violation regarding illegal software in Volkswagen’s 2014-2016 diesel Touareg, Porsche Cayenne, Audi A6 Quattro, A7 Quattro, A8, A8L, and Q5. The resulting damages for VW, Audi, and Porsche owners include loss of value, inability to sell vehicles, reduced efficiency, and greatly increased eco footprints for vehicles advertised as “Clean Diesel” vehicles. Wilkes & McHugh attorneys represent several owners of affected vehicles in their claims against Volkswagen.

Disclaimer: The results described on this website do not constitute a guarantee, warranty, or prediction regarding the outcome of your legal matter. A prospective client may not obtain the same or similar results as those described on this website.

Years of tough litigation leads to multi-million bankruptcy settlement

Location: Tampa, Florida

Debtor: Fundamental Long Term Care, Inc.
Amount: $23.7 million

Description:  Judgment creditors represented by Wilkes & McHugh initiated involuntary Chapter 7 proceedings against Debtor Fundamental Long Term Care, Inc. to recover state court judgments following jury verdicts in excess of $2 billion. A decade of protracted litigation revealed a bust-out scheme involving a dozen real-parties-in-interest that devised a scheme to ditch a liability-ridden shell company by selling it to the Debtor using an elderly strawman. After a two-week trial, the parties reached a multi-million dollar compromise.

Two tractor-trailers involved in crash that injures woman

Location: Crittenden County, Arkansas

Plaintiff: A female motorist
Defendant: A large trucking company
Amount: Confidential settlement 
Alleged Injuries: Negligence and vicarious liability that lead to a multi-vehicle accident and caused a woman severe injuries

Description:  The defendant was driving a tractor-trailer on I-55 in Memphis, Tenn., heading north toward Arkansas. He was in the right lane and tried to move into the left lane when he hit another driver, who then struck the retaining wall. The defendant crossed the bridge and pulled over to the side of the road, while the other driver’s car was disabled in the left lane.

Meanwhile, the victim was traveling that same route in the right lane behind another tractor-trailer.  Both were heading into Arkansas, crossing the Mississippi River on I-55 north.  The victim proceeded to enter the left lane, while the tractor-trailer remained in the right lane of the interstate. Once on the bridge, the victim collided with the disabled car in the left lane. The violent impact caused her to ricochet to the right lane where she struck the tractor-trailer. The victim's Honda spun around and slammed into the retaining wall before skidding back to the right lane.

The victim suffered a fracture to her left femur and underwent surgery to have a metal rod and screws placed in her leg. After surgery, she developed anemia that required a blood transfusion; developed hypoxemia (low blood oxygen); developed a fat emboli, which is a potentially life-threatening condition caused by globules of fat released by the bone that travel to the brain or lungs; became tachycardic and required oxygen for two days; and was placed on heavy narcotics, including Dilaudid and oxycodone, for pain and when that was not sufficient she was given Morphine injections.  She had extensive medical bills and missed six weeks of work.

The defendant driver was negligent, made poor decisions, and started the sequence of events that put the victim and other drivers in danger that day. Arkansas State Police cited the defendant driver for an improper lane change in causing the accident, and a trucking expert determined that the defendant's reckless move was the catalyst for the victim’s crash.

Disclaimer: The results described on this website do not constitute a guarantee, warranty, or prediction regarding the outcome of your legal matter. A prospective client may not obtain the same or similar results as those described on this website.

Jury awards $200 million verdict in nursing home case

Location: Pinellas County, Florida

Plaintiff: Estate of Elvira Nunziata, by and through Richard Nunziata
Defendant: Trans Health Management, Inc.
Amount: $200 million verdict
Compensatory damages: $60 million
Punitive damages: $140 million
Alleged Injuries: Negligence and wrongful death in a case where a woman was left unattended and fell down concrete steps while strapped in a wheelchair

Description: Elvira Nunziata, was a 92-year-old dementia resident at Pinellas Park Care and Rehab Center who, while still belted in her wheelchair, fell down 10 cement stairs to her death. Three different alarm systems – on her clothing, wheelchair and the “emergency only” exit door to the stairwell – should have been in place and turned on to alert staff to Mrs. Nunziata’s whereabouts. But none protected her from the horrific fall that left her broken and bloody.

The staff knew she was active despite being in a wheelchair and was prone to wandering. Investigations by the Pinellas Park Police Department and the Florida Agency for Health Care Administration revealed that she had been seen twice earlier that day trying to get through that same door. A maintenance worker, not the nursing staff, found her at the bottom of the staircase. He later said that after Mrs. Nunziata’s death, the facility spent $5,000 to install magnet locks on all of the doors – a simple fix that could have saved her life if they had bothered to do it sooner.

Prior to her death, Mrs. Nunziata also suffered other falls causing injuries, a scabies infestation, urinary tract infections, pneumonia, malnutrition, dehydration, weight loss and poor hygiene. She also suffered various unexplained injuries, including being pushed into a wall and injuring her hand and arm.

Mrs. Nunziata’s former caregivers were called to testify that the facility was chronically short-staffed and short of the most basic supplies. They complained of these conditions to their supervisors, but no action was ever taken to remedy these problems. Furthermore, caregivers confirmed that during state inspections of the home, the facility would increase staff to give the appearance that they were appropriately staffed at all times. Once the inspectors left, staffing would go back down to dangerously low levels.

The lawsuit was originally filed on Dec. 23, 2005, and the trial began on Tuesday, Jan. 10, 2012. This was a default judgment where the jury had to determine damages only. THMI defended the case for four years before instructing the litigation attorneys to abandon the defense in 2010. The jury deliberated for less than an hour before awarding the verdict.  

Disclaimer: The results described on this website do not constitute a guarantee, warranty, or prediction regarding the outcome of your legal matter. A prospective client may not obtain the same or similar results as those described on this website.

Woman suffers infections, more in Arkansas nursing home

Location: Little Rock, Arkansas

Plaintiff: Estate of Minnie Lee Valentine
Defendant: Little Rock Health and Rehab and Heartland Personnel Leasing, Inc.
Amount: $10.45 million verdict
Compensatory Damages: $8.45 million
Punitive Damages: $2 million
Alleged Injuries: Violation of the Arkansas Long Term Care Resident's Rights Statute; Felony Neglect; and Negligence, including medical negligence that resulted in bedsores, dehydration, poor hygiene, infections, amputation and death

Description: Minnie Lee Valentine, 73, was a resident of Little Rock Health Care and Rehab. During her three month stay, she suffered dehydration, urinary tract infections, poor hygiene, and infected Stage IV bedsores. She also endured osteomyelitis (an inflammation of bone caused by infection) and a below-the-knee amputation of her left leg. Those injuries caused Mrs. Valentine to lose her personal dignity and suffer extreme and unnecessary pain, degradation, anguish, otherwise unnecessary hospitalizations, and emotional trauma.

Disclaimer: The results described on this website do not constitute a guarantee, warranty, or prediction regarding the outcome of your legal matter. A prospective client may not obtain the same or similar results as those described on this website.

Class Action

Location: Phillips County, Arkansas

Plaintiff: Kelly Leoppard, Martha Wright and Ozzie Griffin, individually and on behalf of all others similarly situated
Defendant: Alltel Communications, Inc.
Amount: Confidential settlement
Alleged Injuries: Claims of usury, breach of contract for overbilling and deceptive trade practices

Description:  Our clients alleged that Alltel Communications, Inc. breached its contract with customers by charging unauthorized amounts and violated the Arkansas Deceptive Trade Practices Act and Article 19, §13 of the Arkansas Constitution by charging usurious interest on past due accounts. The company also engaged in a deceptive trade practice in the marketing, sale and implementation of its calling plans.

Alltel charged more than 200,000 Arkansas customers late payment fees that were not authorized by the company’s contracts with customers for cellular service. The company routinely charged its customers in Arkansas interest that exceeded 5 percent above the federal discount rate, which violated Article 19, §13 of the Arkansas Constitution. Alltel also charged customers for long distance and roaming fees even when customers were placing and receiving calls in local calling areas.

Disclaimer: The results described on this website do not constitute a guarantee, warranty, or prediction regarding the outcome of your legal matter. A prospective client may not obtain the same or similar results as those described on this website.

Three brothers killed in trucking accident in Arkansas

Location: Prairie County, Arkansas

Plaintiff: Three brothers 
Defendant: Trucking company
Amount: Confidential settlement
Alleged Injuries: Negligence in a tractor-trailer accident that left three brothers dead

Description: Three brothers were killed by a driver who never should have been on the road. They were stuck in traffic that had come to a standstill because of road construction. They were unaware that as they sat stopped behind a double-trailer FedEx truck, another tractor-trailer was barreling toward them. Its driver, a man with a driving record littered with violations, had fallen asleep at the wheel. He never even braked.

The impact slammed the SUV into the FedEx trailer in front of it, ripping that truck’s trailer open and sending its contents flying all over the road. The man driving the tractor-trailer walked away from the crash; the men in the SUV never had a chance.

The driver had six recent driving violations and had his commercial driver’s license revoked in Tennessee because of multiple traffic citations. Despite his horrible driving record, he was hired anyway and pushed to “make time.” Evidence uncovered by our team showed that the trucking company had not only encouraged him to push his limits, they had not installed common technology to record drivers’ performance and sound alarms when they drive dangerously.

Disclaimer: The results described on this website do not constitute a guarantee, warranty, or prediction regarding the outcome of your legal matter. A prospective client may not obtain the same or similar results as those described on this website.

Toddler killed, woman and other children injured in crash

Location: Union County, Arkansas

Plaintiff: Confidential
Defendant: Confidential 
Amount: Confidential settlement 
Alleged Injuries: Negligence and wrongful death in an auto accident that killed a toddler and injured members of her family.

Description: The plaintiff, a woman in her 30s, was driving with her three children westbound on a two-lane highway outside of Strong, Arkansas, on a sunny July afternoon. The defendant was driving eastbound in an F-150 pickup truck owned by his employer when he fell asleep while driving, veered across the center line, and collided head-on with the plaintiff’s SUV. The plaintiff’s vehicle came to rest with the front end crushed in a drainage ditch.

The plaintiff’s 20-month-old daughter was killed in the accident despite being in a child safety seat, and her 5-year-old son was seriously injured. The plaintiff also suffered serious injuries and endured multiple surgeries. In addition to long-term physical pain and injuries, she and her surviving children suffered ongoing mental and emotional trauma as a result of the crash and the death of the youngest child.

The defendant had been on his way home from work when the accident happened. According to his deposition testimony, he had gotten only about six hours of sleep total in the two nights prior to the crash. Wilkes & McHugh attorneys argued that the defendant’s employer was liable in the accident as well as the driver because the truck had been provided as part of the employee’s compensation, it was maintained by the employer, and all of the expenses related to the truck (gas, insurance, etc.) were covered by the employer. The driver possessed and drove that vehicle for the benefit of his employer, and on the date of this accident he was driving that vehicle home from work for the benefit of his employer, our attorneys argued.

Disclaimer: The results described on this website do not constitute a guarantee, warranty, or prediction regarding the outcome of your legal matter. A prospective client may not obtain the same or similar results as those described on this website.

Nursing home abuse led to $78.4 million verdict

Location: Mena, Arkansas

Plaintiff: Margaretha Sauer
Defendant: Advocat, Inc., et al
Amount: $78.4 million
Compensatory Damages: $15.4 Million
Punitive Damages: $63 Million
Alleged Injuries: Negligence, medical malpractice, tort of outrage, breach of contract and wrongful death in the case of a woman 

Description: Margaretha Sauer suffered from dehydration and malnutrition while in residence at Rich Mountain Nursing and Rehabilitation Center. She was allowed to lie in her own feces for hours. Testimony at trial also showed that the facility was seriously understaffed and residents suffered as a result. Because of the nursing home’s negligence Ms. Sauer eventually went into kidney failure and ultimately died. The jury returned the largest verdict ever reached against an Arkansas nursing home at that time. 

Disclaimer: The results described on this website do not constitute a guarantee, warranty, or prediction regarding the outcome of your legal matter. A prospective client may not obtain the same or similar results as those described on this website.

Florida Court of Appeals upholds nursing home verdict

Location: Hernando County, Florida

Plaintiff: Walter Spilman
Defendant: Beverly Enterprises-Florida, Inc. d/b/a Eastbrooke Health Care Center
Amount: $2.7 Million (jury verdict)
Alleged Injuries: Neglect by nursing home leading to infected bedsores and death

Description: Walter Spilman was literally allowed to rot to death while in residence at a nursing home. Infected bedsores, so deep that his bone tissue was exposed, were a major contributor to his death. The jury returned a verdict of $2.7 million.

In what was perhaps the most important ruling in this area of law in over a decade at that time, Florida’s Fifth District Court of Appeals set a new standard for recovery of damages on behalf of Florida nursing home residents who die because of mistreatment by upholding the verdict.

Judge Winifred J. Sharp concurred specially with the opinion, adding: “There is little I can add to Chief Judge Peterson’s excellent opinion in this case. I write only to say we should never cease to be shocked by Man’s inhumanity to Man, no matter the circumstances. And, a remedy must always be afforded.”

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