KENNETH J. ALLEN LAW GROUP - INJURY ATTORNEYS
Illinois and Indiana Personal Injury Lawyers and Attorneys Trial and Civil Litigation Law Firm.
Accident & Injury Law
Call 24/7 877-GO WITH KEN (877.469.4845)
Passion. Commitment. Excellence.
Those three words best describe the driving forces behind Kenneth J. Allen Law Group. Our firm is devoted exclusively to the practice of Accident and Injury Law, and exclusively to the people - not corporations - seriously hurt or killed in incidents as varied as on-the-job accidents, semi-truck crashes, injuries from a defective product, or loss of life because of a doctor's medical malpractice.
As the only multi-state law firm in Valparaiso Indiana, Merrillville Indiana, Indianapolis Indiana, Northwest Indiana, Chicagoland, Joliet Illinois, Tinley Park Illinois, Chicago Illinois accepting serious injury and wrongful death cases, exclusively, Kenneth J. Allen Law Group is experienced and knowledgeable in the details and procedures that can make or break a case.
Monday-Friday: 8:00 am - 5:00 pm
BOATING ACCIDENTS CAN COST LIVES: ERIN BROCKOVICH ARREST REMINDER OF NEED FOR BOATING SAFETY THIS SUMMER
Erin Brockovich, the famous personal injury lawyer’s legal assistant made famous in a movie named after her and starring Julia Roberts, was arrested recently for violating Nevada DUI laws. Not that Erin Brockovich was driving a car while over the legal limit for blood alcohol content; no, Ms. Brockovich was arrested on Lake Mead for driving a BOAT on the waters while intoxicated. She has issued a public apology in response.
Still, there may be some who think that having fun on a lake in a boat isn’t the same as driving a car or SUV on a local road or freeway, even though there are real dangers in boating that everyone should know. The safety of the boater and others depends upon this — and serious personal injuries (brain injuries, spinal cord injuries) or even death can result from boat accidents.
Here in June, as Summer 2013 begins, it’s a good time to remember that fun on the water includes keeping yourself and your loved ones safe — from yourself as well as others having fun on the water.
- Illinois had 101 USCG Reportable Accidents in FFY12, resulting in 69 injuries and 19 fatalities.
- Last year Illinois had 103 USCG Reportable Accidents in FFY11, resulting in 70 injuries and 21 fatalities.
- The total number of registered boats continues to decline from 319,559 last year to 312,664 this year.
- Conservation Police Officers (CPOs) made 123 operating under the influence (OUI) of alcohol or drugs arrests. Other Law Enforcement agencies made 86 OUI arrests, for a total of 209 OUI arrests.
- In FFY12, the Illinois Department of Natural Resources Office (IDNR) of Law Enforcement saw a significant increase in the amount of hours worked on the Recreational Boat Safety Program (RBS) from FFY11. A total of 50,664 (46% increase) of which 15,885 hours (28% increase) were spent on-thewater.
- Although additional time was spent on-the-water, enforcement activity decreased slightly. There were 1,230 citations issued (down .23%) and 3,972 written warnings (down .15%) in FFY12, compared to 1,520 citations and 4,581 written warnings the previous year.
- CPOs inspected 20,015 vessels, provided assistance to a combination of 2,231 persons and vessels Boating accident reports indicate the majority of accidents occur between June and July, on Saturday or Sunday, between 12 p.m. and 6 p.m. Conditions are usually clear with good visibility, light winds, and calm water. Most accidents involve operators between the ages of twenty and forty who have over one hundred hours of boating experience but have little or no classroom boating safety instruction. They
- also involve open motorboats cruising in a careless/reckless manner culminating in a collision with another boat.
- 19 people died in 16 Illinois boating accidents.
- 9 fatalities occurred during the week and 10 on the weekend
- 15 fatalities with clear conditions and 13 with calm waters.
- The winds were light to moderate (16) with good visibility (15)
- In the majority of fatalities, the operators had no formal boat safety education (19).
- 10 out of 19 fatalities involved alcohol/drug impairment
- The leading type of accidents involving fatalities was falls overboard
- Once again, the factor that would have saved lives this past season would have been for people to wear their Personal Floatation Devices (PFD). Of 19 fatalities, 14 may have survived if they had worn their PFDs.
- 4 persons died from blunt force trauma.
Hopefully, this year will be a safe year for Indiana and Illinois as people flock to lakeside fun spots. However, it’s important to remember that there are safety laws in place, established under both Indiana statute and Illinois law, that apply in these situations. Boating safety laws are important and if they are broken or disrespected and an accident with injuries occurs, then criminal arrests may be a consequence as well as a personal injury lawsuit for damages resulting from a good day gone bad.
The Friday before Memorial Day, the annual Blessing of the Boats took place over by the Captain of the Helm statue near Dock Street in Chicago, officially opening Boating Season 2011.
Of course, lots of antsy locals were already getting their boats prepped and in the water – and they’ve been doing it since early April. Our time on Lake Michigan is never long enough, we have a short boating season up here, and the sooner you start getting your boat into Lake Michigan, the better, right?
Boating Safety and Boating Accidents
Last week was the annual National Safe Boating Week (May 21 – 27). According to the latest boating accident statistics compiled by the United States Coast Guard, there were 102 boating accidents in Indiana in 2009; 25 people died in them.
The sad truth is that even with all the safety campaigns and other efforts, there will be Illinois families who leave their homes in the morning for a funfilled day on the water, unaware that their lives will never be the same because they will be in a boating accident that day. Please don’t be one of them.
Wear Life Jackets and Avoid BOI
Remember to wear safety gear – including life jackets – and never to board a boat where the one driving the boat is drunk. Not only is this smart, it’s the law: in Illinois, there are life jacket laws (mandatory for those under the age of 13 and on any watercraft less that 26? long) and the same types of laws that have been enacted for driving under the influence are in effect for boating.
If you or a loved one has been seriously injured or killed due to the wrongful acts of another, then you may have a legal claim for legal damages as well as the right for justice against the wrongdoer and you are welcomed to contact the Northwest Indiana and Chicagoland personal injury lawyers at Kenneth J. Allen & Associates to schedule a free initial legal consultation.
For the convenience of its clientele, Kenneth J. Allen & Associates offers five offices to serve those located in either the states of Illinois or Indiana.
VALPARAISO | A woman who suffered a brain injury when her vehicle was crushed beneath a semi trailer three years ago on Interstate 94 was awarded $5.22 million by a jury following a two-week trial.
Wednesday's $5.22 million verdict is the highest ever reported in Indiana for mild traumatic brain injury unaccompanied by bone fractures, Kenneth J. Allen said. He represented the woman in the case.
"The case was quite complicated to prove because mild brain damage cannot be seen on MRI or CT scans," Allen said.
"Fortunately for Kim, several of her doctors were willing to come to court and testify."
The woman, Kimberly Harty, 30, of Crown Point, was off work for more than a year and incurred more than $123,000 in medical bills as a result of the crash. She returned to work, but her brain injury is permanent, Allen said. Harty, who is married, has memory problems, trouble sleeping and difficulty multitasking as a result of the crash, Allen said.
The crash occurred while Harty was driving on Interstate 94 in Portage on Feb. 17, 2006. Her car was struck by a semi owned by Hummer Transportation, of Ontario, Canada, and driven by Inderjeet Sekhon, 37. The truck was en route to Chicago when it veered into Harty's lane, crushing her car under the trailer.
Allen said the jury "understood the scientific evidence and concluded that Kim's injury, although invisible, is very real and its impact quite severe."
Mother wins lawsuit against LaPorte schools in son's death
By JOSEPH DITS, Tribune Staff Writer
In September 2006, 9-year-old Juan Loera choked on a turkey corn dog as he sat with classmates at LaPorte's Haillman Elementary School.
A custodian rushed over to help him. So did nine other staff members. They tried the Heimlich maneuver. Then a police officer arrived and tried the maneuver. Paramedics came and removed the obstruction, but Juan eventually died in a hospital.
On Friday, a jury in LaPorte Circuit Court awarded a $5 million lawsuit against the LaPorte Community School Corp. The attorneys who filed that suit in behalf of Juan's mother, Maria Rosales, claimed the staff was inadequately trained to deal with the emergency.
â€œWe feel our staff did everything possible,â€ LaPorte Superintendent Judith A. DeMuth said Monday.
Calling the death a â€œmost tragic event,â€ she said, â€œOur hearts and thoughts are with that family.â€
Kenneth J. Allen, head of the law firm that filed the suit, said he doesn't fault the staff who tried to help the boy. Rather, he argues that the school had a plan for dealing with emergencies like this but didn't implement it. Specifically, he said, the staff lacked training in CPR and the Heimlich maneuver.
The school district won't have to pay more than $500,000 because of the state's limit on what may be collected from a government entity, Allen said. The school district has 30 days in which to file an appeal, and DeMuth said it's too soon to talk about that.
But the money isn't the point, Allen said: â€œIf we can prompt one school to implement these plans in the 92 counties of Indiana, then we will have done what we set out to do.â€
Some local school districts report that they don't have a plan for cafeteria emergencies, but they do make training available to their staffs.
Juan's choking death in 2006 â€œincreased our awareness,â€ said John Hutchings, director of student services for Elkhart Community Schools. It caused district officials to look and ensure that at least some of its food service employees were trained in the Heimlich maneuver in each cafeteria, he said.
â€œWe think we're pretty well covered,â€ he said.
CPR training is required of Elkhart's night custodians, who are in the buildings when adults from the community play in basketball and volleyball leagues, he said. But training in CPR and use of a defibrillator is available to any other employees who want it, Hutchings said.
After the death, LaPorte school officials said they'd ensure there was someone in each school building who was trained in the Heimlich maneuver.
â€œWe are going to continue to make student safety a top priority,â€ DeMuth said. â€œWe've continued our training in life-saving techniques.â€
In January, a kindergarten teacher and a program assistant helped a teacher's aide who was choking at Horizon Elementary School. The pair used their emergency training to dislodge whatever blocked the woman's breathing, said Teresa Carroll, spokeswoman for the Penn-Harris-Madison School Corp.
About a year ago, the lead cook at Battell Elementary School did the Heimlich maneuver on a kindergartner who was choking on a chicken nugget, The Tribune reported. In the article, a School City of Mishawaka official said all food service workers attend a meeting where they see a demonstration of choking responses.
Since 2007, Indiana law has required that newly licensed teachers be certified in CPR and Heimlich maneuver, though it doesn't require that for license renewals. The training for both methods is typically done together. CPR certification lasts for two years.
Neither PHM nor the South Bend Community School Corp. require CPR or Heimlich maneuver training of their cafeteria staffs. With such large school districts, officials there had a hard time assessing how many staff at each school are trained.
But PHM trains about 60 staff members a year in the procedures, Carroll said. All child care workers are trained in CPR, Carroll said of the schools with child care. Each PHM school has a safety team, and several of their members are CPR trained, she said.
South Bend offers training twice a month to any staff who want it, said communications director Sue Coney; employees pay $10 for the four-hour class.
In the John Glenn school district, all five kitchen workers at Walkerton Elementary School are trained in CPR, along with the custodian and two secretaries, said Tim Davis, principal of the school with 480 students.
VALPARAISO | Northwest Indiana injury attorney Kenneth Allen and wife Nina watched Thursday as children at Hilltop Child Daycare received Kinderprint Child Identification kits. The Allens funded the purchase of those kits for every kindergartner and first-grade student in Lake, LaPorte and Porter County schools with a $20,000 donation to the United Way serving those three counties.
Sharon Kish, president, United Way of Porter County, was thrilled with the Allens' gift.
"This is big," said Kish. "All three counties will benefit through this donation. It's very generous."
Through the donation, each school in those three counties will receive a Kinderprint kit, which contains tools and instructions for taking fingerprints, DNA samples, photos and dental records of children.
Bill Hanna, head of LaPorte County United Way, feels this was an important gift.
"This is an expensive item and we in LaPorte would not be able to provide this to the children without the help of the Allens," Hanna said. "I give the Allens a lot of credit for not only thinking about Porter County, but Lake and LaPorte, too."
Lou Martinez, president of Lake Area United Way was also on hand to thank the Allens for their generosity.
"It's nice to see leadership coming from the law profession," said Martinez. "Nice to see them step forward. This program is needed for families and children."
The Allens feel prevention is key to keeping kids safe and they feel this program is important.
"We have a lot to be grateful for and we want to do what we can for the children," said Kenneth Allen. "The key is prevention and when these kids bring the kits home I hope it sparks conversation between the parents and their children. Parents need to talk about this with their children."
Editor's Choice for Best Guy to Have on Your Side if You've Been Injured
Kenneth J. Allen & Associates isn't just the best personal injury law practice in Northwest Indianaâ€”it's one of the best in the nation. The firm routinely tops lists of judgments won for its clientsâ€”$135 million and counting since 2000â€”and has won million-dollar verdicts every year since '03. Accolades such as being named among the 500 leading lawyers in America by national legal publications hang on the walls of founder Ken Allen's office.
â€œDuring my trial, there were a lot of out-of-town lawyers who I found out later came to watch him work,â€ recalls Brian Gulley, a former Kenneth J. Allen & Associates client who engaged the firm after suffering a severe head injury on the job. (Allen's specialty is trial presentation.) â€œI didn't realize just how good he was until then.â€
Gulley describes Allen as â€œa blue-collar guy in a white-collar job,â€ an apt description as Allen grew up working in the steels mills and on the railroads of the region.
â€œI liked the work, I liked the people I worked with, and there was a great seduction to stay there,â€ Allen recalls, but his father, also a steelworker, made him promise to keep up with his education and escape the factory grind.
Allen kept his promise, but never forgot his roots, which helps to explain his continuing passion for helping people who have been hurt by corporate negligence. For Allen, it's about not only justice for the client, but also protecting future workers.
He recalls one case involving a young man who had been crushed in a piece of machinery at work. â€œWe hired engineers who showed how, for a few hundred more dollars, the machine could have been designed so that it would have been impossible for the accident to have happened,â€ he says. After successfully arguing the case, the company turned around and asked for all those materials. â€œNow,â€ Allen says, â€œno one will ever get hurt that way again.
â€œA lot of lawyers lose sight of that,â€ he adds. â€œThe whole point of this area of law is injury prevention. If those who do wrong are held accountable, they won't do it again.â€ The big judgments for which personal injury lawsuits are often criticized are key to this, Allen holds, pointing back to the previous example. â€œIf it becomes more expensive to do wrong, people will do it right from the beginning,â€ he says.
If that should ever come to pass, Allen acknowledges he'd need to find a new line of work. â€œBut that's the kind of problem you'd like to have,â€ he says.
Kenneth J. Allen & Associates only takes about one out of every ten cases that come through the door. â€œOur first priority is the client, and then, how can we align that with the best interests of others,â€ Allen explains. Those cases which are accepted get attention across the firm. â€œWe have 7 a.m. meetings where we put one case on the table, and you have seven or eight smart people looking at one problem, so you will get a smart answer,â€ he says. â€œI've never seen an insurance company put eight lawyers on one matter. We do that every week.â€
All the firm's lawyers are specialists in personal injury law, and often specialists in a particular branch of that law. â€œThere's not one lawyer here who could write a will,â€ Allen says. â€œBut my partner knows more about trucking than anyoneâ€”his dad was a trucker, he drove a truckâ€”we have another partner who is interested specifically in medical negligence and so on. It gives us a much higher level of knowledge than our opponents.â€
But perhaps the real secret to Allen's success is simply that he loves what he does. â€œYou hear people say all the time, 'oh, I hate my job,'â€ he says. â€œThere's not a part of this job I don't love. It's not work at all.â€
By Network Indiana
A Merrillville surgeon who ran a sinus clinic and is now a fugitive has been found guilty of medical malpractice in the death of a patient.
50-year-old Phyllis Barnes died of throat cancer in 2004, but Dr. Mark Weinberger had diagnosed her as needing sinus surgery.
Shortly before she died, Weinberger abandoned his medical practice, deserted his wife and fled to Greece.
Malpractice claims in Indiana are judged first by a panel of three randomly selected physicians to hopefully avoid a jury trial.
In this case, attorney Kenneth Allen says the panel unanimously found Weinberger guilty of negligence in Barnes' death.
But Weinberger's insurance company refuses to pay the judgment since he's a fugitive and won't cooperate.
Allen maintains the Indiana Department of Insurance should pay the judgment instead so the Barnes family can avoid a jury trial.
Allen says there are hundreds of cases pending against Dr. Weinberger, but so far this is the first and only case to be decided.
By Bob Kasarda
| Wednesday, March 04, 2009
VALPARAISO | Attorney Ken Allen and his client should be celebrating this week's news they won a malpractice judgment against a former Merrillville physician who gained national attention after disappearing five years ago.
But Allen said the victory is bittersweet in that Indiana law has allowed bankers to get to Dr. Mark Weinberger's assets before his client, who will now have to wage another costly and lengthy legal battle in hope of receiving a judgment capped at $1.25 million in the death of Valparaiso resident Phyllis Barnes, 50. She died after her cancer was misdiagnosed by Weinberger as a sinus condition, he said.
The delays and caps that were made part of the state's malpractice laws during tort reform in the late 1980s do a better job of protecting bad doctors and the insurance industry than the public, he said.
Allen said he won the first malpractice judgment against Weinberger from a panel of three physicians, which is the required first step when such cases are filed in Indiana.
There are other civil malpractice lawsuits pending against Weinberger, including other clients represented by Allen.
The panel review in the Barnes case was dragged out for five years as a result of the current system and Allen's failed attempt to lay claim to Weinberger's assets along with the creditors.
The Indiana Department of Insurance has the discretion to respond to the panel's finding by paying out up to $1.25 million to Barnes' family, Allen said. But with little confidence that will happen, Allen said he plans to file a malpractice lawsuit in Lake County. Any judgement against the doctor would be paid out of the state's patient compensation fund.
Allen said he is using the case to shed light on what he sees as injustices in the state's tort reform laws. He downplayed the perception the changes were needed to protect against "runaway verdicts" by saying there are plenty of opportunities to appeal rulings in the courts.
Weinberger, who was featured late last year on the "America's Most Wanted" television show, remains at large, Allen said.
By Sylvia Hsieh
The plaintiff, 41-year-old Anthony Arciniega, worked for a steel mill where a contractor, Minteq International Inc., was hired to apply refractory, a bonding spray, to various metals.
Instead of suing the steel mill, which employed Arciniega and could not be sued under the exclusivity provision of the state workers' comp statute, plaintiff's attorney Kenneth J. Allen of Valparaiso, Ind. brought the case against the contractor.
The main allegation was that the contractor had misapplied the substance by overspraying and coating the ladder as well. When the plaintiff ascended the ladder, which was stationed about 17 feet above the ground over a platform, the refractory broke off, causing the fall.
The jury assigned 50 percent fault to the contractor, but also found that the steel mill, a non-party, was 50 percent at fault.
A key issue at trial was the steel mill's failure to install a handrail on the platform in violation of OSHA rules.
Another critical piece of evidence was videotape of improper spraying created by a defense expert. The videotape was valuable both for its contents and the sanctions that resulted from a discovery fight over its production.
The defendant tried to put the blame on the steel mill by arguing that the mill failed to install a handrail on the platform underneath the ladder, in violation of OSHA regulations.
The defense argued that the handrail would have prevented the fall.
But Allen, whose case was focused on the contractor's fault, hired a biomechanical engineer who testified that had the handrail been installed, the accident would have been even worse because the plaintiff would have hit the rail during the fall.
"He concluded that if there had been a handrail on the platform, the injury would have been significantly worse, resulting in either paralysis from the neck down or death," Allen said.
He said the jury of five women and three men responded very positively to the plaintiff, who returned to work in a wheelchair within six months of the injury in a newly-created job.
"The jury saw that as a real testament to what kind of guy he is. He has three little kids and a wife and he responded accordingly," said Allen.
Another key piece of evidence was videotape taken by defense experts who taped the contractor applying refractory.
The tape showed that the defendant had oversprayed on other occasions.
"Their own evidence did them in. It showed they were chronically misapplying the refractory by spraying onto other things. The jury saw that, and it was pretty damning," said Allen.
But perhaps a bigger impact was the battle over the failure to produce the evidence.
During discovery, Allen argued that the videotape was taken without his knowledge and was not disclosed to him.
"It was done for the defendant, by the defendant by defense experts. It was not intended for us to see, but after a court battle we obtained production," said Allen.
The judge awarded sanctions and allowed Allen to name new experts on the eve of trial, according to John W. Patton, Jr., of Patton & Ryan in Chicago, who was hired to replace the sanctioned defense attorney.
By the time Patton stepped in as new defense counsel six weeks before trial, he already felt he had an uphill battle.
"The plaintiff had five liability experts and the defense had one. We were not in a position to rebut their opinions," said Patton.
He also complained that the state law requiring a jury to be told that an employer will not pay damages because of the workers' comp bar "puts a defendant at an extraordinary disadvantage."
But Allen said the reason the jury reached its verdict was the shifting arguments of the defendant.
"First they said the refractory wasn't their product. When we proved it was their product, they said 'We don't overspray.' Then when we proved they oversprayed on a regular basis, they argued the steel mill should have cleaned it up. That was how they defended the case," said Allen.
The case is currently on appeal on a number of issues, including whether sanctions were warranted.
Allen is also appealing whether the plaintiff is entitled to collect the full $48 million from the contractor because of how the non-party employer was named on the verdict form.AT-A-GLANCE
Verdict: $48 million in compensatory damages
Type of case: Negligence
Status: On appeal
Case name: Arciniega v. Minteq
Date: Dec. 11, 2008
Plaintiff's attorney: Kenneth J. Allen of Kenneth J. Allen & Associates in Valparaiso, Ind.
BY BRIAN WILLIAMS
Tuesday, November 25, 2008
VALPARAISO | From 200 to 300 victims of September's flooding across the region received a measure of help in the form of a turkey dinner with all the trimmings Monday at Strongbow Inn.
Lisa and Randy Dammarell, of Hobart, said they appreciated being able to go out for a nice meal with their children Colton and Nicole.
After 7 feet of water shut down their business, Lake George Bait and Tackle, they were hit with a Catch-22 in seeking assistance, Lisa Dammarell said.
They were turned down for a loan by the Small Business Administration because with their source of income gone, they were deemed a poor risk for being able to pay back the loan.
So as they work to reopen the business, the formal dinner was a very generous offer, she said.
The dinners, which will continue with two more seatings today, were the gift of Valparaiso attorney Kenneth Allen.
The event was an acknowledgement, Allen said, "that all of us suffer when some of us suffer." It was an attempt to show the flood victims that people care. "It's nice to do something for others when we can."
Allen attributed the idea for the dinners to his wife, Nina, and thanked the United Way for logistical help in publicizing the event and distributing tickets.
Theodis and Wallynda Clayborne lost furniture and appliances when 18 inches of water flooded their Gary basement. More painful was the loss of irreplaceable items such as baby photos, holiday decorations their three kids made and daughter Jailynn's christening dress.
"That can't be replaced," Wallynda Clayborne said. "You can't put a money amount on that."
The Strongbow dinner, Theodis Clayborne said, was "a blessing."
Maggie Valene, who also lost furnishings in the basement of her Gary house, also appreciated the dinner.
"It's wonderful. It make you feel nice," she said.
Valene saw homes worse off than hers in the disaster, so she chose to look on the positive side.
"We survived," she said. "It could be worse."
CHICAGO - Injury Attorneys Kenneth J. Allen & Associates sponsored the Youth Summit 2008 in Chicago's Washington Park on Saturday, August 23rd. The firm underwrote about one-third of the event's total costs, which was held in conjunction with 35 Chicagoland churches, the United Churches for Christ and the International New Vision Outreach Ministries (INVOM). The Youth Summit is a yearly event geared toward helping disadvantaged youth on Chicago's South Side refocus their lives.
Chicagoland job placement, outreach and city officials came together at the event to offer young South Siders positive alternatives to the streets such as after-school programs, employment opportunities, counseling services and guidance. Entertainment included a concert by local recording artist, Platinum Souls, the Nubian ensemble dance team and a tumbling group, Tumbling for Success.
Kevin L. Tuggles of INVOM said, â€œThe breakdown in family structure in the inner-city has left many youths void of true family structure, morals, and values, leaving them to retreat to the streets and gangs for a sense of 'family belonging.' We must get together as a community to instill the values, morals, and hope in our youth, while they are still in their most impressionable and formative years of life. We hope that these positive values will continue to be the driving factors in life as they mature.
Tuggles thanked Mr. Allen â€œfor his sponsorship, contribution and support...your generosity will help us in our endeavors to help others.â€
BY KEN KOSKY
219.548.4354 | Saturday, August 30, 2008 |
One of the workers who was badly burned by flames in a molten steel accident a year ago at ArcelorMittal's Burns Harbor plant filed a lawsuit Friday seeking more than $55 million.
The worker, Jeremy Schoon, 31, of Valparaiso, filed the lawsuit before Chief Lake Superior Court Judge John Pera.
Attorney Kenneth J. Allen, whose firm is representing Schoon, said Schoon has incurred more than $1 million in medical bills and is physically and emotionally scarred for life as a result of being burned on 60 percent of his body. Allen seeks at least $5 million in personal and monetary damages and at least $50 million in punitive damages.
"As the mills make record profits, death and injury to steel workers continues to increase. Something needs to be done to stop it," Allen said. "The goal of our suit is to send a message to the steel mills and the contractors they hire: Change your business model. Put worker safety first, above increased profits, not the other way around. This is an especially important message on Labor Day."
The lawsuit targets ArcelorMittal; EQ Engineers, which did design work at the facility; and Graycor Industrial Constructors, Inc., which constructed EQ's design work.
Schoon was one of seven workers burned Aug. 28, 2007, when flames and molten steel shot out of a basic oxygen furnace. Although the victims were wearing protective clothing, the heat was so intense they were burned.
Allen said companies like ArcelorMittal should be using some of their record profits to increase safety, but he said safety is actually decreasing.
Schoon's wife, Veronica Schoon, said her husband's life is forever changed, as daily stretching, medication and therapeutic baths consume his time.
She said the hardest thing for her husband is "not being able to do with the children what he's always done."
The Schoons have three children, ages 2, 7 and 10. Veronica Schoon said her husband, who was hospitalized for about a month, is back to work, but in an office because he must be in a temperature controlled environment for the rest of his life.
"It's been hard," Veronica Schoon said, crying.
Allen said Schoon is the first of the seven injured men to file suit, but he expects others to follow.
A spokesperson for ArcelorMittal did not return calls seeking comment.
BY KEN KOSKY
219.548.4354 | Friday, August 01, 2008 |
VALPARAISO | A Valparaiso construction worker -- paralyzed when an "untrained" and "incompetent" heavy equipment operator struck him in the head with an excavator shovel and knocked him into a hole -- will get a handicapped-accessible van, a scooter and perhaps a home.
Bruce Johnson, who is in his mid-60s and currently being cared for by his sister in Florida, is getting a $2.2 million settlement from the responsible parties.
Attorney Kenneth J. Allen negotiated the settlement for Johnson after another Porter County attorney and some Chicago attorneys were unable to help him and declined the case.
"I'm very thankful to (Allen's law firm) for winning my case, especially after the Chicago lawyers all said it couldn't be won," Johnson said.
"This settlement is going to make my life easier and give me some freedom."
Allen said, "It's nice to be able to help somebody."
"It (the settlement) was all he could possibly get, and coming into it he was looking at getting nothing essentially."
Allen said injury victims generally can't sue their own employer, but rather just get workmen's compensation. Johnson and the heavy equipment operator both worked for companies owned by the same individual.
"There are exceptions to that rule (that employers can't be sued)," Allen said.
The defendants in the case were Local Service LLC; Roger Tomlinson, who controlled the job site; M.T. Broviak LLC; Roland Machinery Co.; Mark Fisher, equipment operator; and Komatsu America Corp.
Although the terms of the settlement were sealed, the facts were spelled out in court documents Allen filed Thursday to protect his client from a previous attorney. One of the attorneys is trying to collect more than $10,000 in attorney's fees even though he ended up not helping Johnson.
Johnson was struck April 14, 2004, by a 16-ton excavator operated by a man with no special training, who didn't know standard hand signals for operating heavy equipment, who was an accountant by education and who had a history of embezzlement and forgery, according to court documents. Documents also say the excavator had a broken, missing or defective side mirror.
As a result of the accident, which occurred at a residential construction site at 4407 Goodrich Road in Valparaiso, Johnson became paralyzed. He has limited use of his upper extremities.
Allen said the settlement will pay the hundreds of thousands of dollars in medical bills and pay for Johnson's continuing care. Before becoming a construction worker, Johnson worked at Bethlehem Steel for 36 years until it went bankrupt.
"At least this (settlement) gives him some mobility, some ability to engage in life again," Allen said.
BY BOB KASARDA
Monday, June 23, 2008
VALPARAISO | A jury is expected to be chosen this afternoon to hear the case
against an Ohio truck driver accused of running a red light on Ind. 49 and
killing a 91-year-old driver.
Sampson Boadi, 42, of Columbus, is charged with felony counts of reckless homicide and criminal recklessness and misdemeanor counts of criminal recklessness and reckless driving in connection with the crash at 12:30 p.m. Oct. 8, 2006, at the highway's intersection with County Road 400 North, or Vale Park Road.
Boadi is accused of running a red light while traveling north on Ind. 49 and striking a westbound car driven by Earl Eaton, of Liberty Township.
Eaton died as a result of chest injuries, according to emergency officials.
The case will be heard in the courtroom of Porter County Superior Court Judge Bill Alexa.
Deputy Prosecutor Andrew Bennett will pursue the case, and Eaton will be defended by attorney Gary Germann.
Surviving family members of the accident victim filed a wrongful death civil suit against Boadi and trucking firms Q.S. of Illinois, Quality Services and Hub Group.
The suit accuses the trucking companies of negligence for hiring and retaining Eaton, who had prior violations of Federal Motor Carrier Safety Regulations, according to attorney Kenneth J. Allen.
The offenses include logbook violations, Allen has said.
The lawsuit seeks an unspecified amount of money.
LEADERSHIP IN LAW Kenneth J. Allen Attorney and Principal, Kenneth J. Allen & Associates, Valparaiso Indiana University School of Law â€“ Bloomington Kenneth J. Allen is recognized as a foremost plaintiff lawyer in personal injury and wrongful-death cases, leading Indiana in million dollar verdicts for the last several years. He often speaks at continuing legal education seminars about personal injury and accident litigation. But Allen is also known in the community for his success outside of the practice of law. He has made financial contributions to various programs and organizations, such as Unite 2 Fight Paralysis and the Northwest Indiana Spinal Cord Injury Walk; Pro Bono Volunteer Recognition Night of the First Judicial District Pro Bono Committee; and Hilltop Neighborhood House, which helps families and children in Porter County. Allen sponsors "Teachers of Excellence:' which recognizes outstanding local teachers. For the past 10 years, Allen and his wife have donated tens of thousands of dollars to buy Christmas gifts for northwest Indiana children. Last year, according to a news report, the Allens gave $50 to every child living in area shelters during the holidays, which was distributed by the United Way partner agency shelters in the form of gift certificates. It's Allen's generous work with the United Way that has positively impacted the community the most. Through his donation to the agency, every kindergarten-age child in Lake, LaPorte, and Porter counties' public and private schools received a child identification kit, which included identification bracelets and instructions for taking fingerprints. The United Way of Porter County has recognized Allen and his wife as leading contributors to its annual campaign. He's also been a recipient of the Child Safety Advocate Award given by the Indiana University School of Medicine and the Indiana Safe Kids Coalition.
| Wednesday, April 30, 2008 |
LEADERSHIP IN LAW
Kenneth J. Allen Attorney and Principal, Kenneth J. Allen & Associates, Valparaiso
Indiana University School of Law â€“ Bloomington
Kenneth J. Allen is recognized as a foremost plaintiff lawyer in personal injury and wrongful-death cases, leading Indiana in million dollar verdicts for the last several years. He often speaks at continuing legal education seminars about personal injury and accident litigation. But Allen is also known in the community for his success outside of the practice of law.
He has made financial contributions to various programs and organizations, such as Unite 2 Fight Paralysis and the Northwest Indiana Spinal Cord Injury Walk; Pro Bono Volunteer Recognition Night of the First Judicial District Pro Bono Committee; and Hilltop Neighborhood House, which helps families and children in Porter County. Allen sponsors "Teachers of Excellence:' which recognizes outstanding local teachers.
For the past 10 years, Allen and his wife have donated tens of thousands of dollars to buy Christmas gifts for northwest Indiana children. Last year, according to a news report, the Allens gave $50 to every child living in area shelters during the holidays, which was distributed by the United Way partner agency shelters in the form of gift certificates.
It's Allen's generous work with the United Way that has positively impacted the community the most. Through his donation to the agency, every kindergarten-age child in Lake, LaPorte, and Porter counties' public and private schools received a child identification kit, which included identification bracelets and instructions for taking fingerprints.
The United Way of Porter County has recognized Allen and his wife as leading contributors to its annual campaign. He's also been a recipient of the Child Safety Advocate Award given by the Indiana University School of Medicine and the Indiana Safe Kids Coalition.
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BY KEN KOSKY
219.548.4354 | Wednesday, December 06, 2006
VALPARAISO | Northwest Indiana attorney Kenneth J. Allen and his wife, Nina, have played Santa for several years by buying hundreds of Christmas gifts for needy children.
But this year, they are trying something different -- giving away $50 gift cards for children who will spend this Christmas in a homeless shelter or domestic violence shelter in Lake and Porter counties.
Allen said the change will accomplish the goal of making sure children in need have presents, but also will give parents a good feeling by letting them pick out gifts they know their children will like.
"This way parents in shelter can play Santa Claus for their own children," Allen said.
"Hopefully, this will strengthen the bonds between parents and children and bring happiness to these families in need this Christmas."
Allen said there are more than 150 children housed in shelters now, and he said an additional 100 could land in shelters by the end of the year. The Allens gave $12,500 -- enough for 250 children -- to the United Way for distribution to children in its partner shelters.
Allen said he and his wife will make an additional contribution if additional children are in need. If the $12,500 contribution proves to be too large, the shelters can keep the money for birthday presents, Allen said.
BY KEN KOSKY
219.548.4354 | Friday, October 12, 2007 |
VALPARAISO | A young woman who was rendered a paraplegic when the car she was riding in was struck by a semitrailer five years ago will receive a $24 million settlement from the semi's owner and its insurance carrier.
Lisa Keppen, of Porter County, will receive payments for the remainder of her life, according to the settlement her attorney, Kenneth J. Allen, negotiated for her.
Allen said the money will ensure Keppen's health care will be taken care of for life.
"She would give that money back in a heartbeat if she could erase the tragedy," Allen said.
Keppen, 20, suffered a spinal injury on June 19, 2002 when a USF Holland semitrailer eastbound on U.S. 12 turned in front of the car Keppen was riding in. The crash occurred at U.S. 12 and Kansas Avenue in the Pine Township section of Porter County.
The crash caused Keppen to lose her ability to walk and control her bowel and bladder functions, according to court documents. The documents state she suffers chronic pain and depression, and will require assistance from others for the rest of her life -- an estimated 61 more years. Her medical care will cost an estimated $5.7 million.
"Apart from her economic damages, Lisa has suffered enormous human loss as a result of her injury including: the permanent loss of a normal life, constant and intractable physical pain, emotional suffering and, of course, disfigurement," Allen states in court documents.
Allen alleged USF failed to properly train, test and supervise its drivers. USF didn't admit negligence, but offered a settlement, according to court documents.
BY KEN KOSKY
219.548.4354 | Saturday, October 06, 2007
PORTAGE | A Portage jury on Thursday awarded $1.25 million to an area resident whose foot was run over and badly crushed during an accident four years ago.
The injured man's attorney, Kenneth J. Allen, said the verdict appears to be an Indiana record for this type of injury and the highest ever awarded in a courtroom at the North Porter County Government Center in Portage.
"The jury worked hard to do the right thing, deciding that this injury will have life-long consequences to Aaron (Jones, the injured man), whose life expectancy is 57.8 more years," Allen said.
"The jury took into account the fact that he can't come back to court 10 years from now when his condition becomes more disabling, so the verdict included money for future problems. The jury's verdict was fair and just."
Jones, 23, who lived in Valparaiso but who now lives in Hammond, was struck Dec. 13, 2003, on Interstate 65 in DeMotte. Jones was a student returning from Indiana University Bloomington in a pickup truck driven by Ray Ramirez III, 25, of Valparaiso. Ramirez spun out on the black ice he encountered on a northbound bridge. He truck hit a guardrail and became disabled, blocking the northbound passing lane.
While Jones attempted to move the truck off the road, Mark Franciose, 19, lost control of his car and hit the guardrail and disabled pickup truck, running over Jones' foot and crushing bones.
"My passion is geology and this injury makes it difficult for me to do my job and complete my doctorate," said Jones, who is working for the Indiana Geological Survey and who is pursuing a doctoral degree in geology.
"The jury's verdict will help me focus on my career goals without worrying over medical bills I can't afford."
The jury served under Porter Superior Court Judge Jeffrey Thode.
BY BRIAN WILLIAMS
219.548.4348 | Friday, June 15, 2007
VALPARAISO | Tainted Peter Pan peanut butter led to the salmonella poisoning and kidney failure of 11-year-old Krystina Brugh of Lowell, her family alleges in a lawsuit filed Thursday against ConAgra Foods in U.S. District Court in Hammond.
The suit claims the nation's food supply is at risk due to inadequate oversight and calls for overhaul of the U.S. Food & Drug Administration.
The girl will undergo a kidney transplant Monday, receiving a new organ from her father, the family said at a morning news conference at the Valparaiso office of attorney Kenneth Allen.
The suit seeks unspecified compensatory and punitive damages.
The family wants changes in the nation's "broken system" of food inspection that allow food manufacturers to be self-policing, Allen said.
The FDA cannot force plant shutdowns or force recalls and has no subpoena power, Allen said as he called for the agency's food safety functions to be dismantled and replaced by single agency responsible for food safety.
The February salmonella outbreak and recall of Peter Pan and Great Value peanut butter manufactured at a ConAgra plant in Georgia, Allen said, resulted from inadequate inspection, questionable testing and unsanitary procedures.
Krystina, a cheerleader, gymnast and Girl Scout, was first diagnosed with stomach flu, Allen said. When salmonella poisoning was discovered, it "ravaged her kidneys" and led to months of kidney dialysis and the upcoming transplant.
The lawsuit was brought to protect other consumers and families, Allen said.
"We're not in this for a settlement," Allen said. "We're in this for some change."
Krystina's parents, John and Christina Brugh, said Krystina fell ill in late January after eating peanut butter, her favorite food, two weeks before the FDA announced a recall of the ConAgra product for suspected salmonella contamination.
Stephanie Childs, a spokesperson for ConAgra Foods, said she couldn't comment on the lawsuit, as the company had not seen it yet.
On Feb. 14, ConAgra initiated a voluntary recall of Peter Pan peanut butter based on information from the FDA drawn from a report of the Centers for Disease Control, Childs said.
"It is of deep concern to us that any consumer may have been harmed" by a ConAgra product, Childs said. The company is addressing each complaint of illness from tainted food as appropriate, she said.
BY BOB KASARDA
219.548.4345 | Wednesday, December 06, 2006
VALPARAISO | An Ohio truck driver, already facing criminal charges for a fatal crash along Ind. 49, has been named in a wrongful death lawsuit.
Surviving family members of accident victim Earl Eaton filed the civil lawsuit Monday against driver Sampson Boadi, and trucking firms Q.S. of Illinois, Quality Services and Hub Group.
The suit accuses the trucking companies of negligence for hiring and retaining Eaton, who had prior violations of Federal Motor Carrier Safety Regulations, according to attorney Kenneth J. Allen.
The offenses include logbook violations, he said.
"That kind of person should not be on the road, at least as a professional driver," Allen said.
The lawsuit seeks an unspecified amount of money.
Boadi, 41, of Columbus, made an initial court appearance last month and pleaded not guilty to felony counts of reckless homicide and criminal recklessness, and misdemeanor charges of criminal recklessness and reckless driving.
He is accused of running a red light Oct. 8 at County Road 400 North (Vale Park Road) while driving north on Ind. 49 and striking a car driven west by Eaton, 91, of Liberty Township.
Eaton died as a result of chest injuries, according to emergency officials.
If found guilty, Boadi faces between two and eight years behind bars on the reckless homicide charge and up to three years on the criminal recklessness count.
BY KEN KOSKY
219.548.4354 | Friday, October 06, 2006
A jury on Thursday decided that Ted K. Fields was in bad hands with Allstate and awarded the Valparaiso man $20 million.
Fields' attorney, Kenneth J. Allen, said the jury's decision supports his contention that Allstate acted in bad faith against its customers, and he hopes the verdict sends a message to Allstate and other insurers to treat their customers fairly.
Allen said Allstate has had a policy for the past decade that gives its policyholders two choices -- accept a poor settlement or face a long, drawn out legal fight. He said insurers traditionally pay out 70 cents on the dollar for claims, but Allstate began paying 52 cents on the dollar in order to return millions to shareholders.
Allstate disagrees with Allen's assessment and the decision of the jury in Lake Superior Court Judge Diane Kavadias-Schneider's court.
"We disagree with the jury's verdict and we're disappointed in the resulting damages award," said Karen Spica, senior corporate relations manager.
"Allstate believes the decision in the case by the Appellate Court in Allstate's favor was correct and we will pursue a further appeal to the court. Allstate's claim processes are sound. Our goal is to investigate, evaluate and promptly resolve each claim fairly and on its merits."
The case against Allstate almost didn't go to trial because of an Appellate Court ruling, but the Indiana Supreme Court vacated that decision.
Allen said Fields, 50, who is now retired on disability from his job as a steelworker, suffered spinal injuries in a 1995 crash. After the insolvency of the insurer for Jimmie Woodley, 57, of Gary, the driver who caused the crash, Allstate became responsible under the uninsured motorist coverage it sold Fields.
Fields suffered $7,000 in medical bills and $18,000 in lost wages, but Allen said Allstate forced Fields into a nearly 10-year battle. Allen said many people yield to Allstate's tactics, but Fields would not.
Allen said a doctor and psychiatrist testified during the two-week trial that the stress caused by Allstate's actions contributed to Fields' rise in blood pressure, which led to heart problems and a stroke.
"All I ever wanted was to get my car fixed and my bills paid, but Allstate turned my claim into World War III," Fields said in a statement.
Allen said he believes the $20 million verdict is the largest bad faith verdict ever rendered against an auto insurer in Indiana.
"When Ted was hurt by an uninsured motorist, he believed he was in good hands...," Allen said.
"He soon realized Allstate's good hands were in reality boxing gloves."
Allen said insurance customers have a right to having their claims paid in full and anything less "is flat wrong."
August 17, 2006 Tona Kunz, Daily Herald Staff Writer An Aurora family is suing the city and its fire department claiming slow ambulance service led to the death of the family's patriarch. Sheri Myers filed the lawsuit this month on behalf of herself and her three brothers over the death of their father, Vernon Panega. "It really is everyone's worst nightmare," said Kenneth J. Allen, the Chicago attorney hired by the family. "Ambulances should run. We think a message needs to be sent that this is not the way to run a fire department or emergency service." According to the lawsuit, Panega experienced breathing difficulty March 9 and an ambulance was called to take him to the hospital. The ambulance arrived, but was unable to leave with Panega because of an undisclosed problem, likely mechanical or fuel related, Allen said. Panega waited about 45 minutes before he was taken in an ambulance, and during that time he suffered a heart attack and brain injury due to reduced oxygen, Allen said. The 82-year-old who had been in good health prior to the ambulance call never recovered and died July 1, Allen added. The lawsuit seeks an undetermined amount of money for negligence and wrongful death, claiming the fire department failed to maintain its vehicles and lacked a plan for when vehicles do not operate. The suit says the ambulance was parked in such a way that it blocked other vehicles, prohibiting someone from moving Panega to another vehicle to get him to the hospital. Aurora fire officials and the city attorney could not be reached for comment. Sheri Myers, who serves as executor of her father's estate, declined comment. © 2006 Daily Herald Record Number: 870784
August 17, 2006
Tona Kunz, Daily Herald Staff Writer
An Aurora family is suing the city and its fire department claiming slow ambulance service led to the death of the family's patriarch.
Sheri Myers filed the lawsuit this month on behalf of herself and her three brothers over the death of their father, Vernon Panega.
"It really is everyone's worst nightmare," said Kenneth J. Allen, the Chicago attorney hired by the family. "Ambulances should run. We think a message needs to be sent that this is not the way to run a fire department or emergency service."
According to the lawsuit, Panega experienced breathing difficulty March 9
and an ambulance was called to take him to the hospital. The ambulance arrived, but was unable to leave with Panega because of an undisclosed problem, likely mechanical or fuel related, Allen said. Panega waited about 45 minutes before he was taken in an ambulance, and during that time he suffered a heart attack and brain injury due to reduced oxygen, Allen said.
The 82-year-old who had been in good health prior to the ambulance call never recovered and died July 1, Allen added.
The lawsuit seeks an undetermined amount of money for negligence and wrongful death, claiming the fire department failed to maintain its vehicles and lacked a plan for when vehicles do not operate. The suit says the ambulance was parked in such a way that it blocked other vehicles, prohibiting someone from moving Panega to another vehicle to get him to the hospital.
Aurora fire officials and the city attorney could not be reached for comment.
Sheri Myers, who serves as executor of her father's estate, declined comment.
© 2006 Daily Herald Record Number:
BY KEN KOSKY
219.462.5151 | Sunday, August 13, 2006
The family of a Valparaiso motorcyclist killed when a truck smashed into him filed a $30 million wrongful death lawsuit Friday in LaPorte Superior Court.
The crash that killed Larry Davis, 43, occurred June 15 at U.S. 421 and County Road 300 North in LaPorte County. Davis, who is survived by his wife, Darcie, two daughters and four step-children, was operations manager at National Intermodal Services in Chicago.
Police reports state 20-year-old Adam Deutscher, of Michigan City, was driving a Suburban and may have fallen asleep before driving into Davis, who was stopped waiting to turn. A witness told police Deutscher continued driving "with a person on the front of the truck with arms in the air."
Deutscher's vehicle, with Davis still on it, ended up swerving into the opposite lane and striking another vehicle.
"This is one of the most horrific deaths I've come across," said the family's attorney, Kenneth J. Allen.
The lawsuit names Deutscher and his family's company, The Masonry Stop Inc., as defendants. Allen said Deutscher was working for the company at the time of the accident.