Case Type: Workers’ Compensation | Verdict: 105% Permanent Partial Disability

On 11/4/11, a Baltimore City jury overturned a permanency award of the Workers’ Compensation Commission, increasing it from a total of 35% (causally related) to a staggering 105% causally related permanent partial disability. Associate Rob Burton tried the case and did a fantastic job!

Our client, a corrections officer, suffered a serious back injury secondary to a fall at work in 2006. A year and a half after the injury, she underwent a laminectomy & foraminotomy along with a two level fusion. Unfortunately, the surgery left her with lumbar radiculopathy as well as severe constipation and sexual dysfunction. She is permanently restricted to sedentary work and has been suffering from depression and anxiety ever since.

During the voc rehab phase of her workers’ compensation claim, she decided that she would like to open a daycare center (which she had experience with prior to becoming a corrections officer). In a rather unusual move, after a bit of haggling, IWIF paid her $25,000 to open this business, which, unfortunately, failed shortly after the permanency hearing before the Commission. Burton filed a Motion in Limine to prevent the jury from hearing about the $25,000, based on prejudice and irrelevance. To IWIF’s great frustration, Judge Cox granted his motion after quite a lengthy debate.

IWIF’s argument rested on the testimony of Drs. Ronald Cohen (ortho) and Thomas Oglesby (psych). IWIF did not ask Dr. Cohen to provide an impairment rating for anything other than my client’s back. He failed to address her related complaints of severe constipation and sexual dysfunction, finding that she suffered from mere lumbar radiculopathy, and assigned a rating of 20% (12% related, 8% pre-existing). He also suggested that my expert, Dr. Jeffrey Gaber, used the wrong rating model (the range of motion model) when he should have used the DRE, or “injury” model. Dr. Gaber, on the other hand, had properly considered all of my client’s complaints related to her post-operative condition, and diagnosed her with Cauda Equina Syndrome. He explained this in detail in his deposition and explained to the jury that if he had used the DRE model to arrive at an impairment rating, he would have actually arrived at an even higher figure than his assigned 65% (57% related, 8% pre-existing). He also assigned 20% due to the severe constipation and 10% due to sexual dysfunction.

Dr. Oglesby, IWIF’s psychiatrist, found that our client had no ratable psychological impairment whatsoever. This was somewhat incredible, since he acknowledged that she had suffered a life-altering injury, had been in therapy (at least in part) for depression as a result of the injury, and had been prescribed anti-depressants at one point. IWIF also attacked the 30% psychological rating of our psychologist, Dr. Scott Holzman (who also treated my client), based on the fact that he failed to use the 4th edition of the AMA Guides. Dr. Holzman didn’t think that the edition of the AMA Guides he used was as relevant as the distinction between his opinion and that of Dr. Oglesby as to whether my client has a ratable impairment. Clearly, the jury agreed.

After a full day and a half of trial and a little over an hour of deliberation, the jury increased the Commission’s Award (related to the accidental injury) from 30% back, 3% psychological, 1% constipation, and 1% sexual dysfunction, to 65% back, 10% psychological, 20% constipation, and 10% sexual dysfunction. Our client will realize a net increase of over $300,000 from this verdict and we could not be happier for her.

Case Type: Legionnaire’s Disease | Settlement: Confidential Amount

Steve represented two elderly gentlemen who contracted Legionnaire’s Disease in 2003 at a hotel in the Baltimore metropolitan area. The illness required both men to spend time in intensive care and resulted in permanent injuries. Both men have since died. Heisler sued the hotel contending that it was negligent in failing to properly monitor it’s water system for legionella bacteria. The case settled in mediation for a confidential amount.

Case Type: Unnecessary Stent Implant Malpractice | Settlement: Confidential Amount

Steve, along with co-counsel, represented an individual who received an unnecessary stent implant several years ago at a Maryland hospital. The man, who was in his mid 70’s but died recently due to an unrelated condition, had no symptoms at the time the stent was recommended and did not have the necessary plaque build-up in his arteries to justify the procedure.

Case Type: Automobile Accident | Settlement: $5,500,000.00

Steve represented a 33-year-old single mother of one whose vehicle was struck head-on by a construction truck in 2002. The client suffered life threatening injuries and was in a coma for six weeks. She required two months of brain injury rehabilitation. The client currently has serious permanent disabilities as a result of the accident including short term memory loss, impaired speech, double vision, and right side paralysis.

She is unable to return to her occupation as a dental hygienist or any other occupation. Steve Heisler and his associate Keith Kauffman negotiated a $5.5 million structured settlement at mediation. Should the client reach her life expectancy the payout increases to $9.5 million.

Case Type: Wrongful Death | Settlement: $1.2 million

Steve and co-counsel represented the family of a teenage boy who died when several school counselors at the Youth facility he attended forcibly restrained him in a prone position for several hours, causing him to suffocate. The case settled in mediation for a confidential amount.

Case Type: Medical Malpractice | Settlement: $850,000.00

Steve’s client, a single male with no children, died the day after being discharged from a Baltimore City hospital. He had been treated for pneumonia. He was released from the hospital and the following day died as a result of fluid buildup in his lungs. Steve and associate counsel sued the hospital on behalf of the client’s family claiming his client was discharged prematurely, and that the hospital was negligent as a result. The case settled for $850,000.00.

Case Type: Motorcycle Accident | Settlement: $800,000.00

Steve represented the estate and family of a 45 year old man who was killed when the motorcycle he was riding struck a guardrail and he was catapulted down an embankment. The estate and family alleged that a vehicle in the lane to the immediate left of the man swerved into his lane and caused a collision. The defendant strongly denied any wrong doing. The case was settled at a settlement conference for $800,000.00.

Case Type: Legionnaire’s Disease | Settlement: $600,000.00

Steve and co-counsel represented an educator in his 60’s who contracted Legionnaire’s Disease while a guest at a large Hotel in the Southeast part of the United States. Steve’s client was in a coma requiring ventilator assistance for several weeks. He now has slight neurological-cognitive defects as a result of the ordeal.

Case Type: Medical Malpractice | Settlement: $475,000

Steve and co-counsel represented the family of a four month old boy who stopped breathing while at a Baltimore area hospital for a routine eye exam. The child’s eyes were being dilated when he stopped breathing. The attending physician did not attempt to resuscitate the infant and he did not breath for approximately 13 minutes. The boy died. The case settled in mediation for $475,000.

Case Type: Product Liability | Settlement: $455,000.00

Steve represented the family of a 40-year-old window washer who plunged 30 stories to his death in 2001 at the Baltimore World Trade Center. Steve and associate counsel sued the manufacturers of the safety harness and the rope alleging that the safety harness malfunctioned when the rope broke. The case settled for $455,000.00.

Case Type: Motorcycle Accident | Settlement: $325,000.00

Steve’s client, a 45 year old Sr. Program Manager, was struck by a work vehicle that failed to yield the right of way while turning left in front of the victim in St. Mary’s County, Maryland. Steve’s client was thrown from his Harley Davidson and suffered multiple injuries resulting in two surgeries. Suit was filed and the case settled for $325,000.00.

Case Type: Personal Injury | Settlement: $275,000.00

Steve’s client was a single male employed as a pipe-fitter in Baltimore City. While working at a job site his client noticed that several pipes appeared to be steaming. He asked the maintenance supervisor if the pipes were shut off and the supervisor checked the pipes and then assured him that they were. Shortly thereafter, scalding hot water sprayed from the pipes onto both of his legs. Steve’s client suffered second and third degree burns and spent seven days in the burn unit. He was required to undergo skin grafting and currently has scarring on his legs. He also suffers from depression and panic attacks. Steve sued the company who his client was performing the work for alleging that the company was negligent in failing to properly monitor its equipment. The case settled in mediation for $275,000.00.

Case Type: Product Liability | Settlement: $255,000.00

Steve represented a 43 year old convenience store manager who had floor and concrete cleaner splash on both feet while mopping the floor at her store. She suffered third degree chemical burns to both feet requiring multiple surgeries and skin grafting. She now has permanent nerve damage. The case settled for $255,000.00. The worker’s compensation carrier agreed to a significant reduction of it’s lien.

Case Type: Automobile Accident | Settlement: $250,000.00

Steve represented the family of a 15 year old Anne Arundel County boy who was killed when the vehicle he was a passenger in failed to negotiate a curve and struck a tree. The defendant driver was also killed. Another passenger survived the crash. The defendant driver had a $300,000.00 liability policy. Steve negotiated a $250,000.00 settlement for the family. The remaining $50,000.00 was tendered to the surviving passenger.

Case Type: Maryland Automobile Accident | Settlement: $200,000.00

Steve’s client, an elderly lady from West Virginia, was seriously injured when the car she was traveling in was struck by a negligent driver in Garrett County, Maryland. The lady suffered a broken back and detached retina. Steve negotiated a $100,000.00 settlement with the defendant driver’s insurance company and was successful in getting his client’s West Virginia insurance company to “stack” an additional $100,000.00 for a total settlement of $200,000.00.

Case Type: Personal Injury | Settlement: $169,925.00

Steve’s client, a middle aged African-American professional, was a potential customer at a local car auction. While inside the auction the client realized that he had accidentally left his identification in his car. While on his way to get his identification he was stopped by a security guard and told to leave the premises. The client informed the security guard that his identification was in the car and he was going to get it. The security guard became irate and pushed Steve’s client to the ground, injuring his back. The injury eventually required surgery. Steve and his associate, Keith Kauffman, settled the matter for $169.925.00.

Case Type: Automobile Accident | Settlement: $95,000.00

Steve represented a 36-year-old Cecil County man who was rear ended while stopped at a red light. The force of the impact was severe and his client’s vehicle was totaled. Steve’s client suffered a cerebral concussion, a C5-6 disc herniation, and a L2-3 disc protrusion. He received a 30% whole-body permanent disability rating. Steve settled the case with the insurance company for $95,000.00.

Case Type: Auto Accident | Settlement: $150,000.00

Steve represented a 57 year old lady who was injured in an automobile accident in 2009. The injury required her to undergo back surgery (lumbar laminectomy and fusion). The case was settled for $150,000.00.

Case Type: Automobile Accident | Settlement: $100,000.00

Steve represented a five year old Eastern Shore boy who was struck by a vehicle driving on the wrong side of the road while the boy was riding his bike. Steve’s client suffered a traumatic brain injury and serious fractures which required him to spend an extended period of time in a rehabilitation center. The boy now has permanent brain damage. The case settled for the driver’s policy limits of $100,000.00.