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Heyl Royster

 

Practices

CASUALTY/TORT LITIGATION

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Heyl Royster has been recognized for many years as the "go to" defense firm throughout the state of Illinois for virtually every type of tort litigation. With more than 100 attorneys in six locations, our lawyers have successfully defended clients in all of the federal courts and in each of the 102 counties in Illinois, as well as in contiguous states. Our clients come from all sectors of the business community – Fortune 500 companies, small business concerns, insurance carriers, professionals, and individuals – and the tort-related cases in which we represent them cover a broad spectrum, including: 
  • Arson, Fraud and First-Party Property Claims
  • Construction Accidents
  • Environmental
  • Liquor Liability/Dramshop
  • Motor Vehicle Accidents
  • Premises Liability
  • Third-Party Property Claims
  • Truck/Motor Carrier Litigation
  • Special Investigative Units

These cases often involve wrongful death, catastrophic injury and other high-exposure claims brought against businesses or individuals. In serious transportation and construction accidents, our attorneys are frequently retained within hours of the accident. They are trained to immediately go to the accident scene, meet with the client and its employees, and commence the investigation using highly qualified accident reconstruction experts to assist the client in estimating potential exposure as early as possible.

Our on-the-ground experience with judges, lawyers, jury venires, jury verdicts, and the customs and practices in the geographic areas where we practice are often advantageous to our clients in the evaluation and defense of tort cases of all types and magnitudes. We possess the litigation resources and experience that allow us to provide our clients with the same service and responsiveness that would be expected at a large metropolitan firm, but at the costs associated with a downstate firm.

By leveraging technology, we can implement a multi-office staffing model that provides our clients with the requisite skills, regardless of where a case is venued. We encourage our lawyers to share work when doing so will benefit the client. Team concepts are stressed not only within the firm, but also in representing our clients. We believe that the client is best served when everyone on the team – the partner, the claims professional and/or in-house counsel, the associate and the paralegal – is contributing information and ideas and has a role to play. We enjoy working with committed professionals whose input and ideas add perspective and value to the handling of a matter.

Heyl Royster is committed to bringing disputes to conclusion quickly and reasonably. Our focus is on early evaluation of liability and damages, and assisting the client to formulate a strategy and budget designed to achieve an optimal result. Although trial skills are emphasized in our firm (the majority of our partners have been recognized for excellence in their fields by their peers as reflected in various lawyer-rating services), it has never been our intention to run every dispute through the judicial system. Our goal is to help clients achieve the most favorable resolution in a prompt, cost-effective fashion without prolonged, uncontrolled and expensive litigation. In many instances, our use of aggressive motion practice has led to a favorable settlement, the transfer of a case to a more favorable defense forum, or outright dismissal. We have also used various ADR tools (e.g., voluntary and court-ordered mediation, arbitration, summary jury trials, court settlement conferences/pre-trials, etc.). We often use structured settlements, mutual tolling (of statutes of limitations) agreements, high-low agreements, and other creative approaches to resolve difficult cases. Not every case goes to trial, but in many instances, the prospect of going to trial against prepared, first-class trial lawyers can lead to a favorable resolution.

Through our lawyers’ participation in bar and industry activities, we not only identify, but help develop trends in the law that benefit our clients and the defense bar. Many of our partners either hold or have held leadership positions in local, state and national bar and defense organizations. In recent years, partners in our firm have headed the International Association of Defense Counsel (IADC), the Federation of Defense and Corporate Counsel (FDCC); and Lawyers for Civil Justice (LCJ). We have had several partners on the Board of Directors of DRI, and other partners have been chairs of DRI Substantive Law Committees. Four of our partners have been president of the Illinois Association of Defense Trial Counsel, and many others have been active in that organization in one capacity or another. One of our partners was a president of the Illinois State Bar Association and recently served on the American Bar Association Board of Governors. A number of our partners have been involved in either drafting or passing tort reform legislation, and our firm is very much committed to taking a leadership role to "level the playing field" for our clients and advancing our system of jurisprudence. Collectively, the lawyers in our firm spend hundreds of volunteer hours each year as part of our commitment to improving the civil justice system.

Significant Cases

  • Travelers Indemnity Co. v. Mr. and Mrs. John Doe Circuit Court of McLean County, Illinois - The insureds owned a century old, three story brick warehouse which plaintiffs claimed was improperly maintained. The warehouse collapsed onto an adjacent commercial structure which housed an optical laboratory. Two laboratory employees were trapped inside the building for a period of time and all of the highly sensitive optical manufacturing equipment was damaged. A portion of the warehouse also collapsed onto an adjacent bridge and onto another structure utilized by a plumbing contractor. Seven claimants demanded damages in excess of $8,000,000. The matter was successfully mediated on 7/23/14 for less than 20% of the aggregate demand.
  • Hammond v. System Transport, Inc. 942 F.Supp.2d 867 (C.D. Ill. 2013) Rural intersection accident involving post-impact fire. Double fatality with admitted liability. Prior to trial, court ruled that evidence of any negligent acts  leading up to the accident were irrelevant. However, the manner of death was within the scope of damages allowable for grief, sorrow and mental suffering under the Illinois Wrongful Death Act. Despite no evidence suggesting either decedent survived the impact, plaintiffs' counsel argued various facts regarding the subsequent fire was relevant.  Despite some of the aggravating evidence associated with the fire post-occurrence, court ruled that it could not exclude all evidence associated with the manner of death or the events surrounding the accident. This was an issue of first impression in Illinois.
  • Crouse v. Benning (2012) - Our client was involved in a rear end collision with the plaintiff.  She filed suit for personal injury and the case went to trial in Sangamon County. Our defense was that, despite the fact that this was a rear end collision, the plaintiff failed to signal a pending turn as a traffic control device turned green and that as a result of that failure the plaintiff either was solely at fault for the collision or more than 50% at fault so that her recovery would be barred. The jury returned a defense verdict.  The fourth district appellate court affirmed the defense verdict. The plaintiff’s petition for leave to appeal to the Illinois Supreme Court was denied.
  • Braucher v. Swagat  702 F.Supp.2d 1032 (2010) Legionnaire’s disease case against hotel operator.
  • West v. Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod Rule 23 Order (3d Dist. 2010) Affirmed trial court decision granting summary judgment on First Amendment grounds to minister and religious entities in defamation action.
  • Berry v. American Standard, Inc. 382 Ill. App. 3d 895 (5th Dist. 2008) Denial of use of deceased plaintiff's discovery deposition as admissible evidence to defeat defendant's summary judgment motion.
  • John Doe, et al. v. Catholic Diocese of Peoria 2008 Trial court dismissed six abuse lawsuits with prejudice based on statute of limitations 
  • John Doe, et al. v. Catholic Diocese of Peoria 2008 Trial court dismissed ten clergy sex abuse lawsuits with prejudice based on statute of repose grounds.
  • Bush v. Catholic Diocese of Peoria (3d Dist. 2007) Affirmed trial court's dismissal of removed priest's breach of contract claim under First Amendment. Also affirmed dismissal of count for intentional infliction of emotional distress.
  • Rocke v. Froelich McLean County (2007), Premises liability trial.
  • Zarr v. Kroger Co. 218 Ill. 2d 559 (2006) Affirmed summary judgment in wrongful death premises liability case.
  • Thurman v. Hamm’s Holiday Harbor (2005), Peoria County. Represented the defendant in a wrongful death trial that resulted in a defense verdict.
  • Waterman v. Swisher (2002), Warren County, trial concerning loss of an eye.
  • Hamm v. Schnorr 321 Ill. App. 3d 1067 (4th Dist. 2001) Affirmed summary judgment where plaintiff on motorcycle was injured by defendant's cattle.
  • Romack v. R. Gingerich Co. 314 Ill. App. 3d 1065 (3d Dist. 2000) - Determination of whether partial waiver of workers' compensation lien is good faith settlement under Illinois Contribution Act.
  • Fearnow and Colvin v. Steidinger (1997), Livingston County. Represented the defendant in a multi-party death trial that resulted in a defense judgment against the driver.
  • Veltman v. Employers Mutual Casualty (Jury trial, Will County, 1996) In what is believed to be the first spoliation case tried after the Illinois Supreme Court's opinion of Boyd v. Travelers Insurance, a directed verdict was obtained for Employer's Mutual Casualty in connection with the loss of the quick coupler valve which was allegedly defective, causing an 18 years old employee to be blinded after exposure to anhydrous ammonia. The case was tried in two phases. The first phase focused on the product liability allegations against the maker of the quick coupler valve while the second phase revolved around the loss of the evidence and whether that loss impaired the ability of the parties to adequately present their cases.
  • Bubb v. Springfield School Dist. 186 167 Ill. 2d 372 (1995) In a case of first impression, the court interpreted language in Section 3-106 of the Tort Immunity Act, finding that statutory recreational immunity is triggered by the recreational character of the property regardless of its primary purpose.
  • Fillpot v. Midway Airlines 261 Ill. App. 3d 237 (1994) Airline cannot be liable for slip and fall on ice on tarmac.
  • Sheffer v. Simmons Airlines (1994) - The plaintiff slipped and fell on ice while walking on the tarmac at the Springfield airport from the plane to the gate. Numerous attempts at dismissal were denied by the court and the case went to trial. The jury found for the plaintiff and awarded $301,000 and found the airline 80% at fault and the airport 20% at fault. The airport settled for its proportional fault. We appealed on behalf of the airline. The fourth district appellate court reversed the trial court, finding that no duty existed because the fall was on a natural accumulation of snow and ice and that the airline’s original motion for summary judgment should have been granted.
  • Page v. Blank 262 Ill. App. 3d 580 (4th Dist. 1994) Discusses what duty a landowner owes to protect the safety of children, and concludes that a landowner owes no duty and is not liable to a 12 year old who suffers a loss of vision in an eye, when the child struck a nail with a hammer and the nail bounced into his eye while building a skate board ramp on the defendant's premises.
  • Moore v. Diamond-Star Motors (1993), McLean County, multi-party trial.
  • Buell v. Oakland Fire Protection District 237 Ill. App. 3d 940 (1992) Applicability of Tort Immunity Act in contribution claim against an ambulance service.
  • Watson v. J.C. Penney Co., Inc. 237 Ill. App. 3d 976 (4th Dist. 1992) The court refuses to overrule the natural accumulation rule which was applied to preclude the plaintiff from obtaining a recovery for a slip and fall on a natural accumulation of ice.
  • Moore v. Swoboda 213 Ill. App. 3d 217 (4th Dist. 1991); appeal denied, 141 Ill. 2d. 544 (1991) Trial and appeal; wrongful death jury verdict in favor of parents of deceased minor reversed on appeal due to parents' own contributory fault in allowing 14 year old minor to drive dirt bike unsupervised in rural areas. The Wrongful Death Act was amended shortly thereafter to eliminate the possibility of a beneficiary's contributory fault as a complete bar to any recovery.
  • Lower v. Rucker 217 Ill. App. 3d 1 (2d Dist. 1991) Reversal of trial court's order to produce statement of witness/passenger, who was also an insured under the same policy as the driver. The case, which involved a car/pedestrian collision at high speeds, was later tried before a jury and resulted in a defense verdict. (Jury Trial, 1994, Ogle County)
  • West v. Kirkham 207 Ill. App. 3d 954 (4th Dist. 1991) Recognized that trial court may find plaintiff contributorily negligent as a matter of law.
  • Goodknight v. Village of Royal 197 Ill. App. 3d 319 (1990) Common law liability of a municipality for injuries sustained due to consumption of alcohol.
  • B & J Sales, Inc. v. Peterbilt Arbitration, McLean County, IL, Case no. 03 AR 77. Subrogation claim seeking recovery from truck maintenance provider.
  • Bhattacharya v. Venture Stores, Inc., and Unarco Industries, Inc. 86 L 195 (Macon County) Filed in Macon County, Sixth Judicial Circuit of Illinois - Personal injury case involving an infant who was placed in a shopping cart which tipped over resulting in bilateral femur fractures. We received a directed verdict after the completion of the plaintiff's case.
  • Bohlen v. Shaw and Tate Trial; multiple car accident resulting in assessment of 10% fault against our insured-driver.
  • Brown v. Crabtree Auto/pedestrian collision case involving catastrophic injuries to plaintiff.  Result was plaintiff's verdict, reduced by 50% for plaintiff's contributory negligence.  Net award was $750,000.  Case was tried on a high/low agreement, this number fell within that range.
  • Delta Sigma Phi Fraternity v. Sound and Signal Electronics, William Murphy, individually and d/b/a Sound and Signal Electronics, SecurityLink, Inc. and SecurityLink, Inc., f/k/a SecurityLink from Ameritech f/k/a Ameritech Monitoring Services, Inc., and ADT Security Services Inc., and TYCO International (US) Inc. Mediation of large property damage claim involving destruction of fraternity house fire; represented fire alarm monitoring company at mediation and resolved case following lengthy discovery and mediation/settlement discussions for five months. 
  • Dwayne Hoffer v. American Family Insurance 95 L 345 (Tazewell County) Filed in Tazewell County, Tenth Judicial Circuit of Illinois - A breach of contract and bad faith case against the insurer for alleged improper denial of a theft claim. The verdict was not guilty.
  • Estate of Leon Rademacher v. Teledyne Industries, Inc., Teledyne Continental Motor, et al. - Estate brought Wrongful Death and Survival Act case on behalf of successful farmer, young husband and father against aviation mechanic and other defendants alleging negligence and product liability caused plane operated by friend to crash land. Following a six-week trial, the jury returned a not-guilty verdict on behalf of our client.
  • Gibson v. Village of Oquawka 98 L 6 (Henderson County) Filed in Henderson County, Ninth Judicial Circuit of Illinois - A premises liability case wherein plaintiff sustained an injury which resulted in bilateral knee surgeries. The verdict was not guilty.
  • Jeramie Morris as special administrator of the Estate of Kimberly Gregorich, deceased and the Estate of John F. Parrett, IV deceased and Elizabeth Johnson, Individually and as special administrator of the Estate of Inara Parrett, deceased v. Nathan E. Merrill and Martin Co. Excavating Truck driver ran stop sign resulting in deaths of 18 month old child, child's father and child's grandmother. The child's mother survived, but suffered various injuries. Retained by insurance carrier to help navigate through potential bad faith issues. Complex pre-suit investigation with numerous issues explored, ultimately resulting in favorable settlement at mediation within our case evaluation.
  • Kohl v. Miller Personal Injury, Peoria County. Retrial of case originally defended by another firm and reversed on post-trial motion. Defendant and his son were operating a hayrack ride for plaintiff's group. Three members of the group were thrown from the wagon. Plaintiff claimed the defendant was negligent for driving too fast and not breaking up bales of hay. Plaintiff suffered back and neck injuries, and numbness in the left arm and fingers resulting in disability, requiring early retirement from his job. Result: Not guilty.
  • Land v. Montgomery Health Care - Three hundred class action plaintiffs brought medical malpractice case alleging negligent and intentional acts against the defendant. Defendant denied the allegations of the various class members. After an eight week trial involving 25 members of the class, the parties reached a favorable, settlement agreement.
  • Massengale v. K-Mart Corporation Trial; not guilty jury verdict for alleged slip and fall on spilled motor oil.
  • Melvina Hopkins, as Mother and Next Friend of Charles Lee, a Minor, et al. v. Bergman, et al. - Mother and next friend of Minor brought negligence case against driver of a local school district school bus and driver of a private vehicle following accident where elementary school student stepped off of bus and was hit and injured by the private vehicle. After extensive discovery and mediation, the parties reached a favorable, settlement agreement.
  • Patton v. Prospect Foods, Inc. Trial; minimal jury award for plaintiff who was allegedly assaulted by grocery store employees after claimed theft of store items.
  • VanHoose v. Phillip Environmental Structural Work Act case involving whether client provided an unsafe workplace when plaintiff used a man lift to move a steel plate, and whether our client was "in charge of plaintiff's work;" trial lasted 5 days.  The result was plaintiff's verdict - 90% fault of third party defendant, 3% to property owner and 7% to our client, a subcontractor on the premises.
  • Vivian Murphy, Executor of the Estate of Joseph E. Murphy (Deceased) v. Ron Cline Trucking and James Stephens Filed in DeWitt County, Sixth Judicial Circuit of Illinois - A wrongful death case wherein it was alleged that the plaintiff sustained a subdural hematoma from a motor vehicle accident which eventually caused his death. The verdict was not guilty.
  • Williams v. Old English Inn Jury Trial, McLean County, IL. Plaintiff was a patron in defendant's tavern when a shelf supporting a 19-inch CRT television set and other items fell, the heavy television severely striking plaintiff a 27-year-old district sales rep on the head and shoulder. Plaintiff suffered cervical and head injuries, loss of consciousness, and significantly reduced function, pain and numbness of her left arm and hand from thoracic outlet syndrome. Asked jury for $471,000+. Result: Not guilty.
  • Wilson v. Norfolk and Western Railway Company 718 N.E.2d 172 The Illinois Supreme Court ruled in case of first impression that a railroad employee must prove physical contact or the threat of physical contact to recover damages for intentional infliction of emotional distress under the FELA.
  • Successfully defended a municipality in a jury trial in Franklin County, Illinois. The plaintiff brought suit against the defendant for damages alleged to have been caused by the plaintiff's fall into a water meter pit owned and maintained by the defendant. The jury found for the defendant.
  • Successfully obtained summary judgment for a municipality and a police officer in litigation brought by an employee of an independent contractor who was struck by a vehicle while painting a crosswalk; included the successful defense of an appeal to the Fifth District Appellate Court.

Publications

  • Heyl Royster Quarterly Review Newsletter
  • "The Attorney-Client Relationship," chapter in Illinois Civil Practice: Opening the Case, Illinois Institute for Continuing Legal Education (2009, 2015) - Download Article
  • "Evidentiary Issues Involving Grief, Sorrow and Mental Suffering," DRI, In Transit - The Newsletter for the Trucking Law Committee (2014)
  • "Economic Loss - The Line Between Contract and Tort," chapter in Contract Law,  Illinois Institute for Continuing Legal Education (2008, 2013) - Download Article
  • "Punitive Damages in Trucking Litigation: Recognizing Risk and Assessing Exposure," DRI, In Transit - The Newsletter for the Trucking Law Committee (2012) - Download Article
  • "Physician Disciplinary Records: TMI?!" IDC Defense Update, Vol. 11, No. 8 (2010) - Download Article
  • "Privileges" chapter in Illinois Civil Trial Evidence, Illinois Institute for Continuing Legal Education (2009) - Download Article
  • "Return of the Verdict and Entry of Judgment" chapter in Illinois Civil Practice: Trying the Case, Illinois Institute for Continuing Legal Education (2009) - Download Article
  • "The Power Behind the Robe: A Primer on Contempt Law," published by Illinois Bar Journal (2009)
  • "Rule 41(a) Voluntary Dismissal in Federal Court Takes Effect Immediately Upon Filing, Not When Docketed," Illinois Defense Counsel Quarterly (2008) - Download Article
  • "Illinois Appellate Court First District Vacates $25 Million Jury Verdict Because Trial Court Improperly Barred Expert Testimony Regarding Plaintiff's Blood-Alcohol Level," Illinois Defense Counsel Quarterly (2008) - Download Article
  • "Without Fear or Fervor," Defense Research Institute Judicial Task Force - Contributing author.  The paper explored the current issues facing modern judiciary and methods of constructively addressing those issues. (2007)
  • "Trial Court Properly Refused Plaintiff's Jury Instruction Seeking Damages for Future Pain and Suffering," Illinois Defense Counsel Quarterly (2006) - Download Article
  • "Premises Liability Update," Heyl Royster (2005)
  • "The Necessity of Analyzing All Amendments for Lack of Timeliness Under the 'Relation Back' Doctrine of 735 ILCS 5/2-616(b)," Illinois Defense Counsel Quarterly (2005) - Download Article
  • "Developing Basic Trial Skills," The Civil Litigator (2004)
  • "Life After 'Same Part of the Body:' An Update on Admissibility of Prior Injuries," Illinois Bar Journal (2004)
  • "What Constitutes an Invalid 'Blanket Consent' Within the Purview of Illinois' Mental Health and Developmental Disabilities Confidentiality Act?" Northern Illinois University Law Review (2002)
  • "Code Blue! Ambulance Manufacturing Specifications May Pre-empt State Common Law Claims," Northern Illinois University Law Review (2001)
  • "Life After Daubert and Kumho Tire: An Update on the Admissibility of Expert Testimony," Illinois Bar Journal (2000)
  • "Surveillance Videotapes at Trial," Illinois Defense Counsel Quarterly (1997) - Download Article