Selected Cases Handled By Steven J. Margolis
2015 – Automobile Accident
Plaintiff was involved in a motor-vehicle crash in 2010. As a result of the motor-vehicle crash, the Plaintiff, who had serious prior injuries, declined further as a result of the crash. Prior to the 2010 crash, Plaintiff required around the clock care; after the crash, additional services were needed because of the new injury. Based upon the preexisting injury, the insurance carrier for the defendant contended that Plaintiff was already seriously injured and offered a nominal amount to settle the claim. As trial approached, the offer was increased to $250,000.00; even this, it was claimed by the defense, was far in excess of the value of the case because of the severe and permanent preexisting injuries. Plaintiff wished to obtain full value on the claim and not merely settle for what was offered so the matter was tried to a jury. In reaching a verdict for the Plaintiff, the jury agreed with Plaintiff’s medical expert regarding the severity of the new injuries and rejected the medical opinions of the Defendant’s expert. Ultimately, a Judgment was entered in the matter for $525,000.00, along with a settlement from a second Defendant, who was only nominally culpable for $25,000.00.
Because the firm was willing to pursue the full value of the claim, by taking the matter to trial, as opposed to settling for what Defendant was willing to offer, Plaintiff was awarded a total of $550,000.00.
2014 – Automobile Insurance Bad Faith
Plaintiff was involved in a motor-vehicle crash in 2006. As a result of the motor-vehicle crash, his orthopedic surgeon indicated that he needed back surgery. The Defendant had only the minimum Insurance limits of $15,000.00 and that amount was paid immediately based upon the severe injuries. The Plaintiff’s own insurance company, upon learning that surgery was necessary, immediately attempted to terminate the Plaintiff’s medical benefits, despite the fact that Plaintiff had paid increased premiums for increased medical benefits of $100,000.00. Thereafter, Plaintiff’s Insurance company refused to make a fair offer for his injuries, offering only $15,000.00 in additional compensation while refusing to pay for any surgery, claiming it was unrelated to the crash, despite his treating doctor’s letter indicating that the need for surgery was caused by the automobile crash. Ultimately, Plaintiff was awarded $125,000.00 at arbitration for his injuries. Thereafter, a Bad Faith suit was instituted against Plaintiff’s insurance company for refusing to pay medical benefits and refusing to fairly settle his Under Insured Motorist Claim in violation of their own internal case handling guidelines.
On the eve of trial of the bad faith claim, Defendant settled the bad faith claim for an additional payment $495,000.00, over and above what had previously been received by Plaintiff.
2014 – Automobile Accident
Plaintiff was involved in a motor vehicle crash in 2011. Defendant was backing up his truck when he lost control of the vehicle. He stepping on the gas pedal instead of the brake and pinned plaintiff’s leg between his truck and a tree. Plaintiff had to be airlifted to the hospital and underwent years of surgery and therapy, which resulting in doctors saving the leg. Nonetheless, it was thereafter shorter than Plaintiff’s other leg and Plaintiff will be limited in use of the leg and need treatment for the remainder of Plaintiff’s life.
Prior to trial, at a settlement conference conducted by the court between counsel, the matter settled for $2,200,000.00 Dollars.
2013 – Psychiatric Malpractice
Plaintiff’s decedent was a minor receiving psychotherapy and treatment for drug addiction at this in-patient facility. Another patient was being transported off grounds to a medical appointment and gained access to a 2 week supply of the counselor’s methadone pills which were prescribed to her for pain. Pursuant to the facility’s policies, no personal drugs should have been unlocked or accessible in the counselor’s car. Further, no more than 1 day’s dosage should have been brought to the facility and should have been under lock and key. The counselor realized her drugs were missing and failed to report the fact. Both Plaintiff’s decedent and the other patient overdosed on the methadone pills.
The facility additionally failed to perform the bed checks required by their policies and procedures which would have saved her life, had she been discovered in a timely fashion. The case settled for $1,500,000.00 prior to trial.
2012 – Construction accident
Plaintiff was a guest in her brother-in-law’s home which had a 2nd floor back porch which was removed for replacement. The brother-in-law had removed the deck and failed to place any warning signs, nor did he secure the back door to prevent access to the area where the deck had been removed. Further, even though this was the usual main ingress and egress to the home, after Plaintiff walked in the front door, she was not advised that the back porch had been removed. She immediately left through the back door to the porch to obtain an item from her car, falling 10 feet and breaking her back. After a trial on liability, the jury found the homeowner fully at fault.
Prior to the trial on damages, the homeowner’s insurance company settled for $550,000.00, which was an amount $250,000.00 greater than the policy limits, due to the potential claim for bad faith for their refusal to pay policy limits prior to trial.
2010 – Insurance Agent Malpractice/Life Insurance Bad Faith
Plaintiff’s decedent had purchased a life insurance policy which had a standard suicide clause barring recovery for suicide within 2 years of the policy purchase. Plaintiff’s decedent was desirous of increasing coverage after more than 2 years had passed and instead of recommending additional coverage, Defendant agent advised Plaintiff to cancel the in force policy and purchase a new policy with a new suicide clause barring recovery for suicide within 2 years of the policy purchase. Thereafter after this 2nd policy was in full force and effect, Plaintiff’s decedent was again desirous of increasing coverage and again Defendant agent advised Plaintiff to cancel the in force policy and purchase a new policy with a new suicide clause barring recovery for suicide within 2 years of the policy purchase. Two weeks prior to the 2 year anniversary of this third policy, Plaintiff’s Decedent, who had a history of depression, committed suicide. When his widow sought to obtain the benefits of the life insurance coverage, she was denied any payment for her or her children due to the suicide clause. Plaintiff brought suit contending that Defendant insurance agent was having the Plaintiff’s decedent cancel in effect policies, which were past the suicide clause, due to the increased commissions he received in the first year of the new policies.
The matter settled for $550,000.00 which was greater than the full value of the second life insurance policy which would have been in effect, had it not been improperly cancelled.
2010 – Auto Insurance Bad Faith
Plaintiff was involved in a motor-vehicle crash while a law student in Florida. His parents who lived in Pennsylvania maintained ‘stacked coverage’ on six vehicles making $600,000.00 available for Under-Insured Motorist (UIM) coverage to all named insureds. After the crash, the Defendant paid their full policy limits which was insufficient to fully compensate him for his damages. The Plaintiff’s insurance company delayed payment of the UIM coverage for several years and then paid only $100,000.00 claiming Plaintiff was not entitled to stacking. A declaratory judgment action and Insurance bad faith claim were filed against Erie. After oral argument before the trial court, the trial judge found that stacking was available and that there was an additional $500,000.00 in coverage.
The claim settled thereafter for a combined $1,000.000.00 for an additional $400,000.00 of UIM and $600,000.00 for the Insurance Bad faith for improperly delaying payments and failure to properly evaluate the full value of the claim.
2009 – Insurance Declaratory Judgement action
Plaintiff was seriously injured in a motor vehicle accident in which the Defendant had insufficient coverage. Plaintiff sought coverage from her own insurance and they indicated that she only had $30,000.00 dollars of Under-Insured Motorist (UIM) coverage. As the attorney, I reviewed the policy and realized that she had $600,000.00 of coverage for Bodily Injury (BI) and only $30,000.00 for UIM coverage. Pennsylvania law requires that BI coverage and UIM coverage are equal, unless the Plaintiff agrees in writing to purchase lower UIM. Defendant could not produce a ‘sign-down’ form requesting lower limits, but contended that her signature on the contract sufficed.. After the case was briefed and argued to the court, a published opinion was issued by the Hon. Roger Nanovic in Erie Ins. Exchange v. Larrimore, 2009 WL 6092574 (Carbon CCP, 2009), in it, he stated that Plaintiff had the full coverage of $600,000.00 available. Erie Insurance appealed this decision and after argument before a panel of the Superior Court, the court issued a written opinion at 987 A.2d 732 (Pa. Super., 2009), confirming the holding of the trial judge that the full $600,000.00 of coverage was available. Thereafter, Defendant settled the matter by paying the full coverage of $600,000.00; an additional $570,000.00 above the $30,000.00 they originally paid
2009 – Under-Insured Motorist claim
Plaintiff was ejected from her vehicle after struck by the Defendant in an intersection when the Defendant ran a red light. The Defendant had insufficient insurance to fully compensate Plaintiff for her injuries and offered up the entire policy. Plaintiff sought additional coverage from her own Under-Insured Motorist policy and they refused to settle. The matter was tried before an arbitration panel of three arbitrators who awarded an additional $540,496.69.
2009 – Industrial Accident Claim
Plaintiff was employed as a repair person for an extruder manufacturing company. He went to Defendant’s factory to repair one of their machines. Plaintiff was advised that he could not de-energize Defendant’s machinery, and that they would perform lock out-tag out for him. Plaintiff was advised that the machine he was working on was de-energized and safe to climb into. Nonetheless, Plaintiff left the safety cage door open, as it had been installed with a safety interlock which would prevent the machine from operating while the door was open. Despite the assurances from Defendant’s employees, they had not properly de-energized the machine. Additionally, Defendant’s employees had disabled the safety interlock which would prevent the machine from operating while the door was open. They did this because it would stop production when the door was opened to readjust the rollers and reduce the daily output. Plaintiff had his leg crushed between two rollers, when the machine started suddenly while he was working on it, leaving Plaintiff with a permanent limp. After three days of trial, the Defendant settled the case for $1,020,000.00.
2008 – Trucking Accident
Plaintiff was lawfully operating his vehicle on Route 78 heading West when an Eastbound tractor- trailer lost control, broke through the cement median and crashed into Plaintiff’s vehicle. Although Plaintiff was hospitalized for months, he ultimately made a complete recovery, having no residual problems. The matter settled for $900,000.00.
2008 – Product Liability
Facts: This case involved a minor who used a Olive oil hair spray produced by Defendant. Over 1 hour after using the product, minor plaintiff’s hair was near, but not touching an open flame, when her hair burst into flames causing 3rd degree burns to the scalp and ear. Plaintiff’s expert tested the product and demonstrated that human hair sprayed with the product, even hours later, could spontaneously combust without actually touching flame.
Result: Plaintiff supplied Defendant with expert videos and was able to settle the claim early in litigation for $450,000.00.
2008 – Glasow v. Skutches, et al., Lehigh County, PA.
Facts: This failure to diagnose cancer case involved a Plaintiff-Decedent, who went to her gynecologist with concerns regarding a lump on her breast. After examining her, Dr. Skutches advised her it was a sebaceous cyst and that it would open on its own at which time sebum (congealed body oil) would be expelled. In violation of the standard of case, he failed to perform any testing on the lump. One year later the lump erupted exuding blood and tissue. An examination and testing by a different doctor resulted in a diagnosis of malignant breast cancer.
Result: No settlement was offered and the matter was tried to verdict. A jury found negligence and causation and awarded $3,973,000.00 in damages. The jury found 35% comparative negligence on the part of the Plaintiff.
Additional History: Defendants sought J.N.O.V. or in the alternative, a new trial claiming that Plaintiff’s expert failed to testify to the appropriate standard of care. Trial judge granted a new trial. This decision was overturned by the Pa, Superior court in a reported opinion,
2007- Industrial Accident
Facts: Plaintiff was the driver of a liquid tanker, in the process of delivering liquid chemicals used for the production of soap products to Defendant, Dial. While off-loading his product in the assigned truck bay, Plaintiff slipped on several inched of accumulated chemicals used for the manufacture of soap products, knocked unconscious and ultimately required a spinal fusion. Evidence revealed multiple OSHA violations and internal safety violations.
Result: The matter settled for a confidential amount prior to trial.
2007 – Medical Malpractice
Facts: This failure to diagnose cancer case involved a Plaintiff-Decedent, whose barber noticed an odd mole (size/color) on the top of his head. He saw the doctor at his family practice, MacArthur Medical Center, who failed to perform a biopsy or any other testing of mole and indicated that it was benign. Thereafter, almost a year later, Mr, Metzger developed a golf ball sized lump on his neck Although Defendants indicated that this was a sebaceous cyst, subsequent testing by other treaters disclosed that it was cancer in the lymph nodes metasticized from the malignant mole. Plaintiff’s decedent died within 4 months of the proper diagnosis.
Result: No settlement was offered and the matter was bifurcated for trial. A jury found negligence and causation in the liability trial. Thereafter, the case settled prior to the damages trial for a confidential amount in excess of seven figures..
2006 – Medical Malpractice
Facts: This failure to diagnose cancer case involved a Plaintiff-Decedent, who went to her family practice with complaints of back and leg pain. An x-ray was performed which revealed an abnormality on the film. This was misread as normal by both the radiologist and the family practice doctors. A proper reading would have led to additional testing and early discovery of a tumor (Ewing’s sarcoma) Plaintiff’s decedent treated and fought the cancer for 2 years before succumbing to the disease at 15 years of age.
Result: Case settled on eve of trial for a confidential amount in excess of seven figures.
2005 – Dillow v. Myers, et al., Carbon County, PA
Facts: a Culligan water truck owned by the defendant, Funk Water Quality Company, and driven by its employee, the defendant Edward John Myers, rear-ended a Penn DOT ‘crash truck’ parked on the east berm of the Northeast Extension of the Pennsylvania Turnpike in which John Dillow, an employee of the Pennsylvania Turnpike Commission was seated. The Penn DOT truck had attached to the rear a directional arrow board for traffic control and was being used on that date for alerting and deflecting oncoming vehicular traffic away from Turnpike Commission employees further up the road. Two witnesses observed the defendant’s vehicle for a distance of almost 20 miles as it traveled northbound on the Turnpike. Both testified that defendant’s vehicle was “listing heavily to the passenger side” at an angle of 20 to 30 degrees off level. Myers told an investigator that “the load was so heavy on the right-hand side of his truck that he had to hold the steering wheel to the left to stay in the right lane.” In this same statement, Myers stated that “there was 8,000 pounds all on the right side.” As a result of the crash, Plaintiff suffered inoperable coccydynia as a result of fracture and improper fusion of the coccyx.
Result: After trial, the jury awarded $271,000 in economic and non-economic damages and $155,000 in punitive damages.
Additional History: Defendants appealed the verdict claiming improper comments during closing arguments by Plaintiff as well as a lack of basis for punitive damages. The trial court rejected all arguments and entered a verdict for the Plaintiff. Dillow v. Myers, 2005 WL 4923687 (Pa. Com. Pl. (Carbon) 2005). Defendants further appealed to the Pennsylvania Superior Court, which, in a reported decision, upheld the verdict in Dillow v. Myers, 916 A.2d 698 (Pa. Super., 2007) (additionally finding that to the extent payments may have been made by Defendants to the Worker’s Compensation Insurance Carrier to preclude the amount owed on the lien being presented to the jury, this was a ‘gift’ and would not reduce Plaintiff’s recovery..
2005 – Byrne v. Mowad, et al., Northampton County, PA
Facts: In this motor vehicle claim, Plaintiff’s Decedent was a passenger in Defendant, Mowad’s vehicle. Mowad was intoxicated from drinking at an underaged drinking party at the home of Judith McCloskey. While driving from the party to another location and going around a curve, Mowad’s vehicle side-swiped a vehicle operated by Flory Tolino, traveling in the opposite direction. At the time, witnesses indicated that Mowad was not swerving or driving erratically. Tolino pulled his vehicle over and saw that the other vehicle did not stop, he then turned around and gave chase. Prior to being chased, Mowad was operating within the speed limit, but as the Tolino vehicle bore down on them at high speed, Mowad increased his speed and ultimately flipped his vehicle while traveling at close to 100 mph causing plaintiff’s decedent’s death. Subsequent to the sideswipe incident, there was never any actual contact between the Tolino vehicle and the Mowad vehicle. Plaintiff sought compensatory and punitive damages against Tolino for the chase that resulted in the one car crash.
Additional History: Defendant, Tolino filed a Motion for Summary Judgement claiming that no liability was possible against him, as there was never contact between their two vehicles. He also sought dismissal of the punitive damage claim and the claim for conscious pain and suffering. Said Motion was denied in Byrne v. Mowad, 73 Pa. D. & C.4th 203, (Pa. Com. Pl. (Northampton), 2005).
Result: After losing the Motion for Summary Judgment, on the eve of trial, Defendant, Tolino settled the claim. (All other Defendants had tendered their insurance policies and placed them into Court).