2014 CVN Engle Progeny Awards: The Attorney Finalists

Posted by Arlin Crisco on Dec 16, 2014 7:37:00 PM



With the award nomination period over, we highlight the 2014 attorney finalists for the CVN Engle Awards, honoring excellence in this landmark series of litigation. The winner in each category will be announced December 30.

Plaintiff's Attorneys

Willie Gary, of Gary, Williams, Parenti & Watson

  • 2014 Record: 1-?
  • 2014 Damages: $23.6 billion, with potentially more undetermined.
  • The case for Willie Gary: Even if the $23.6 billion punitive damage award in Robinson v. R.J. Reynolds is ultimately reversed, it created shockwaves as the largest punitive verdict ever handed down by an Engle progeny jury, and Gary's electric oratory no doubt played a part in that. Furthermore, the trial's compensatory verdict alone (at $16.8 million) places it among a handful of $15+ million awards this year. With Halburton v. R.J. Reynolds in progress, Gary's argument for the award is still being made. 

Allan Kaiser, of The Ferraro Law Firm

  • 2014 Record: 2-1
  • 2014 Damages: $40.5 million
  • The case for Allan Kaiser: Kaiser's two wins ($12.5 million in Cuculino v. Philip Morris and $28 million in Hubbird v. R.J. Reynolds) both yielded eight-figure awards, and his $40.5 million verdict total for the year places him in the stratosphere among those not involved in the Robinson trial.

T. Hardee Bass, of Searcy Denney

  • 2014 Record: 3-0-1
  • Damages: $26.58 million
  • The case for T. Hardee Bass: Trying four CVN Engle progeny cases between March and November alone is noteworthy enough. Going undefeated on that slate, with more than $26 million in verdicts is nothing short of outstanding.

Defense Attorneys

Harold Gordon, of Jones Day

  • 2014 Record: 2-0-1
  • The case for Harold Gordon: With three CVN Engle trials and an undefeated record, Gordon had one of the most successful years of any defense attorney in 2014. 

Frank Cruz-Alvarez, of Shook Hardy

  • 2014 Record: 1-0-1
  • The case for Frank Cruz-Alvarez: A new face in CVN Engle trial circles this year, Cruz-Alvarez had a strong 2014. Even his mistrial, in Gore v. R.J. Reynolds, came after a jury finding awarding no compensatory damages. 

Kelly Luther, of Kasowitz, Benson, Torres

  • 2014 Record: 2-0-2
  • The case for Kelly Luther: Luther carried an exemplary, undefeated record through four trips to the courtroom in 2014. Although Perrotto v. R.J. Reynolds yielded a verdict for the plaintiff, the jury apportioned no liability to Luther's client, Liggett. Meanwhile, one of Luther's mistrials, in Russo v. Philip Morris, came only because the parties were unable to seat a jury.  

Come back next week when we name the finalists for the Law Firm categories. 

CVN features unmatched Engle litigation video coverage.


Topics: Negligence, Engle Progeny, Tobacco Litigation

$26 Million Award in Florida Dismemberment Suit

Posted by Arlin Crisco on Dec 16, 2014 4:17:20 PM

In closing arguments, R. Gene Odom, representing Jerry Johnson in his suit against Daniel Drakulich, tells the jury it has nearly limitless power to compensate Johnson for the range of pain, suffering, and injuries, including the loss of his legs, caused when Drakulich struck Johnson with his car. Jurors awarded Johnson and his family $26 million.

Bradenton, FL—Jurors awarded a former sanitation worker and his family $26 million in their suit against the driver whose vehicular collision cost the worker his legs. Jerry Johnson v. Paul Drakulich. 

Jerry Johnson and his wife Sabrina sued Paul Drakulich, who  was 19 when he struck Johnson in December 20011 as Johnson waited by his disabled Waste Management truck. The collision crushed Johnson’s legs and pelvis, among other injuries. Doctors ultimately amputated Johnson’s legs, and he was hospitalized for more than five months following the accident. The jury deliberated for less than five hours before rendering its verdict, which awarded $20.6 million to Johnson, $3.4 million to Sabrina, and $1 million each to Johnson's two children. 

At trial, the defense admitted Drakulich’s fault in the incident but argued that Johnson sought an excessive amount for his future expenses and lost earnings. The case turned on Johnson's damages, with both sides presenting conflicting expert testimony concerning Johnson's future expenses. In closing arguments Tuesday, J. Emory Wood urged jurors to award the Johnsons $9.68 million, saying "It's a terrible case, but it's not a situation for punishment. It's a situation for determining a value for these losses." 

However, Johnson's attorney, R. Gene Odom, told jurors in closing arguments that the combination of Johnson's injuries was more severe, and warranted more in damages, than the sum of each indvidual injury. "The damage to his kidneys, lungs, brains, eyesight, legs, stating the obvious: it's a synergistic effect on him that has an exponential effect on him," Odom said. 

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Topics: Negligence, Vehicle Collision, CVN Florida, Johnson v. Drakulich et al,, CVN News

Breaking News: Perini v. MGM Settles Moments Before Trial to Open

Posted by Arlin Crisco on Dec 16, 2014 12:50:00 PM


Perini v. MGM Mirage Design Group, the suit involving nearly a half-billion dollars in claims, has settled for a currently undisclosed amount, according to multiple sources. CVN will provide more information as it becomes available. 


Las Vegas—Shortly before opening statements were to begin in Perini v. MGM Mirage Design Group, the nearly $500-million construction defect suit involving MGM’s CityCenter development project, parties settled the case according to multiple sources. The terms of the settlement were not immediately disclosed, but CVN will provide more information as it becomes available.

The settlement ends years of legal wrangling between scores of parties. The lawsuit revolved around the Harmon Hotel, a 48-story, luxury tower intended to be the jewel of the $8.5 billion Las Vegas CityCenter development. Construction on the Harmon ceased in 2008, after inspectors determined the building was structurally unsound. The hotel sat empty as the rest of the CityCenter opened in 2009. The Harmon was eventually dismantled, as building contractors and property owners argued over the tower's fate and who should be held responsible. Contractor Tutor Perini Corp. and its subcontractors contended that MGM Mirage Design Group and other property owners owed them more than $492 million on the project, while the defendants claimed that Perini and its subcontractors were liable for defects that made the building uninhabitable.


Topics: Construction, CVN National, Perini Building Co. v. MGM Mirage Design Group, CVN News

Engle Progeny Review for the Week of December 8

Posted by Courtroom View Network on Dec 12, 2014 6:58:00 PM

Dorothy Wilson, the daughter of Andrew Haliburton, details her father’s history of chain smoking. Haliburton’s widow, Dorothy, is suing R.J. Reynolds, claiming that Haliburton’s nicotine addiction caused his fatal COPD.

Haliburton v. R.J. Reynolds

West Palm Beach, FL—Thursday saw Dorothy Wilson, the daughter of Andrew Halburton, the deceased smoker at the heart of this suit against R.J. Reynolds, describe her father's heavy history of smoking. Wilson told jurors that her father would begin smoking soon after he awoke each morning, and she remembered that he smoked so heavily he would simetimes have more than one cigarette burning at a time. "He may start smoking one cigarette. Before he can finish it, he'd take the cigarette he had lit and light up another one," Wilson recalled. "He'd put (down) the one that lit (the second cigarette), puff off the second one... and he'd continue to smoke. Then he'd get one of the (burning) cigarettes out of the ashtray; he'd light up a third cigarette, and continue to smoke," she said. 

Andrew Haliburton, who smoked several different brands of R.J. Reynolds cigarettes over several decades, quit smoking in 1994 when he was diagnosed with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease. He died four years later, at age 60. Wilson said the effects of Haliburton's death still weigh on her mother Dorothy Haliburton, Andrew's widow and the suit's plaintiff. "They'd been married for over 40 years, and there are times she calls and you can tell, she misses him. He's not there. There's no one there," Wilson said. "She loved him. He loved her. He's gone."

Wilson also described the pervasiveness of smoking and cigarettes when she was a child, including the marketing of candy cigarettes and the number of stores in her neighborhood that allowed her to purchase cigarettes for her father. However, on cross examination, she acknowledged that she never began smoking herself because she regarded it as a "bad habit" or "addiction." She also acknowledged that her father had developed a cough before she moved out of her father's house in 1982. 

A potential key to the case is whether Haliburton should reasonably have known and sought medical attention for smoking-related respiratory problems prior to prior to May 5, 1990, a bar date for Engle progeny suits.

Wilson's presence on the witness stand followed more than three days of testimony from Robert Proctor, an expert on tobacco and tobacco industry marketing. Proctor detailed what Haliburton's attorneys contend was a concerted scheme by tobacco manufacturers, including Reynolds, to conceal the dangers of cigarettes. However, Proctor acknowledged on cross examination that he had no knowledge of whether Andrew Haliburton had ever heard tobacco industry claims regarding cigarettes.

Coming next week: The defense is expected to begin its case in chief next week. 

Our weekly review comes from our unequaled gavel-to-gavel coverage of Florida's Engle progeny cases.

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Topics: Engle Progeny, Tobacco Litigation, CVN Florida, Haliburton v. R.J. Reynolds

Half-Billion-Dollar Vegas Construction Defect Trial to Open Tuesday

Posted by Courtroom View Network on Dec 10, 2014 7:19:00 PM


The Harmon Hotel never became the vibrant centerpiece of the $8.5 billion CityCenter development project or the Las Vegas skyline (pictured), as its owners envisioned. Opening statements are scheduled to begin Thursday in a potentially year-long trial to determine who is responsible for nearly a half-billion dollars in costs for the hotel, which has been dismantled.

Update 12/11/14, 11:15 a.m. Eastern: Openings, which had been scheduled for Thursday, December 11, have been postponed until Tuesday, December 16. 

Las Vegas—After more than a month of jury selection, opening statements are scheduled to begin Thursday  Tuesday, December 16, in a massive breach-of-contract suit involving MGM Resorts's $8.5 billion CityCenter development project. Perini Building Co. v. MGM Mirage Design Group.

The trial revolves around the ill-fated Harmon Hotel, a 48-story, luxury tower intended to be the jewel of the Las Vegas development. Construction on the Harmon stopped in 2008, with the tower only about half-finished, after inspectors declared the building structurally unsound. The building sat empty as the rest of the CityCenter opened in 2009. The Harmon was eventually dismantled, as building contractors and property owners argued over the tower's fate and who should be held responsible. Project contractor Tutor Perini Corp. and its subcontractors claim that MGM Mirage Design Group and other property owners owe them more than $492 million for design changes and construction overruns, while the defendants contend that Perini and its subcontractors are liable for defects they claim made the building a public danger .

According to reports, more than 3 million pieces of potential evidence have been recorded for the trial, which is expected to last about a year. Opening statements are expected to begin at 9 a.m. Pacific (Noon Eastern). CVN will provide live and on-demand access to the trial, as well as in-depth coverage of its proceedings.


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Topics: Negligence, Construction, CVN National, News, Perini Building Co. v. MGM Mirage Design Group

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