Charles P. Rantis: Representative Cases
- Lead trial attorney in a case of admitted negligence. In this matter, a Cook County jury found in favor of the plaintiff, but awarded less money than plaintiff demanded – and less money than the final settlement offer. Plaintiff, who suffered various injuries when his vehicle was rear-ended by a vehicle owned and operated by Johnson & Bell’s client, asked for $7.5 million at trial. The defense team sought a more realistic damages amount given the plaintiff’s injuries, but plaintiff stated he would not settle for less than $1.5 million. As a final proposal, Johnson & Bell made a settlement offer of $750,000. Once this offer was refused, the case headed to trial. As it turned out, the jury viewed the case and the plaintiff’s injuries very similar to the defense team. While the jury ruled in favor of the plaintiff, it only awarded $500,000 in damages.
- Lead trial attorney defending a public transportation agency in a personal injury lawsuit. At trial, the plaintiff sought $1.4 million in damages for alleged injuries suffered while a passenger on a vehicle owned by Johnson & Bell’s client. Plaintiff claimed that he would never work again due to his injuries, which he said would require knee replacement surgery on both of his legs, in addition to other alleged injuries. Plaintiff also presented an elaborate accident reconstruction as part of his case. The defense countered that plaintiff suffered no injuries. The jury found that the plaintiff suffered no injury and awarded a verdict for the defense.
- Lead trial attorney securing a not guilty verdict for defendant, Louisville Ladder, in a product liability lawsuit heard in Cook County. The plaintiff, a journeyman electrician, fell from an 8-foot fiberglass stepladder manufactured by defendant, sustaining several serious injuries. The plaintiff’s fellow employee witnessed the accident, and claimed that the stepladder collapsed. The ladder had been in service at the plaintiff’s employer for 4.5 years before the accident, and was provided to the plaintiff by his foreman. Defense established that the ladder had been properly tested and complied with ANSI requirements. The defense also successfully argued that the ladder had pre-existing damage and should have been taken out of service by the plaintiff’s employer before the accident occurred. Plaintiff's counsel asked the jury for an award of $900,000. After deliberating for just over an hour, the jury returned its verdict of not guilty.
- Served as second-chair attorney on team that obtained a verdict in favor of a major ladder manufacturer following a two-week-long jury trial. Damages in excess of $18 million were sought. The plaintiff rejected a settlement offer of $3 million. The lawsuit arose out of allegations that a 2006 ladder accident in which the plaintiff suffered a severe traumatic brain injury which left the plaintiff, a 64-year-old retiree, with significant residual impairments, including quadraparesis; seizure disorder; cognitive dysfunction; swallowing difficulty; spasticity; contractures; decubitis ulcers; and bowel and bladder dysfunction, requiring institutional 24/7 care in a nursing home. The plaintiff’s experts testified that this accident was the result of a structural overload failure of the ladder under normal usage. In contrast, the defendant’s experts contended that the plaintiff’s experts could not demonstrate by testing or experimentation how the ladder failed. The defendant’s experts disputed the overstress or overload theory and contended that the cause of the fall was a loss of balance, overreaching, and failure to follow the safety decals affixed to the ladder. The defendant withdrew its affirmative defenses of assumption of the risk of injury and contributory negligence and proceeded on a sole proximate cause theory. The defense contended that the ladder complied with the national ladder design standards and was a reasonably safe ladder. Jury deliberated for more than two days before reaching a not guilty verdict.
- In Bielskis v. Louisville Ladder, served as lead trial attorney and was granted summary judgment in defendant’s favor. On appeal, the Seventh Circuit affirmed summary judgment in defendant's favor. The Seventh Circuit considered whether the district court properly struck plaintiff's expert's report under the Daubert standard and then whether summary judgment was properly entered in Defendant's favor. The plaintiff had fallen from a three-foot-high mini-scaffold when it collapsed at a worksite. Plaintiff had obtained the mini-scaffold seven years prior when his former employer gave it to him fully assembled. Plaintiff filed suit against Louisville Ladder under a product defect theory and alleged that defendant failed to properly test and inspect the threaded stud of the caster stem that failed. In support of his theories, plaintiff retained an expert who concluded that the stud failed due to a brittle facture caused by excess stress brought by over-tightening of the threaded caster stem. The District Court struck the expert because the expert's conclusions were not supported by data or testing to support the brittle facture theory. On appeal, the Seventh Circuit affirmed. The Court of Appeals held the District Court "was within its discretion to conclude that [the expert's] methodology sounded more like the sort of '[t]alking off the cuff' -- without data or analysis -- that we have repeatedly characterized as insufficient." Without expert testimony, plaintiff could not prove his case and summary judgment in Louisville Ladder's favor was affirmed.
- Lead trial attorney who secured a not guilty verdict in a personal injury case brought against a general contractor overseeing the addition of a new gymnasium on a college campus. During construction, a worker employed by one of the sub-contractors on the construction project, died while operating a wall mounted coring drill when he fell from a six-foot ladder. Subsequent to the worker’s death, the drill cord was found to be frayed and plugged into a permanent wall socket with no ground fault circuit interruption protection. The worker’s estate claimed electrocution and sought $2 million in damages. Defense successfully argued that plaintiff died of heart attack, not electrocution. Co-workers testified that the plaintiff complained of heartburn, stomach ache, fatigue and leg pain in the morning. In addition, DuPage County coroner’s pathologist testified that the plaintiff had severe stenosis in all of his arteries with 70-95 percent blockage and concluded he died of a heart attack.
- Served as second-chair trial attorney in securing not guilty verdict in personal injury case seeking $10.5 million in damages. Plaintiff was injured when rocks fell from a vertical conveyor and struck him in the head, neck and shoulders while he was working on the north portion of the Deep Tunnel Project in Cook County. Plaintiff claimed he suffered a permanent organic brain injury as well as memory deficits, cognitive deficits and personality changes. Plaintiff claimed our client, a sub-contractor on the project, was the supervising employer when the accident occurred and that its conduct violated the general duty clause and provisions relating to safe access and egress under OSHA. Defense argued that the sole proximate cause of the accident was the conduct of the general contractor (plaintiff’s employer), which had the sole responsibility for the safety of the main construction shaft as well as the conveyor system. Defense also disputed plaintiff’s disability claims, arguing that the plaintiff had deceived all of the doctors as well as the Social Security Administration, which had committed more than $2 million in benefits to the plaintiff. Defense further maintained that the plaintiff had been malingering during the 6.5 years since the accident.