In March of 2021, firm members William W. Watts, III and Jeffery J. Hartley, representing the Chapter 13 Trustee for the United States Bankruptcy Court for the Southern District of Alabama, obtained an order from the Court of Civil Appeals reversing a trial court’s judgment awarding reimbursement to the employer of workman’s compensation benefits paid to the debtor out of proceeds collected by the debtor in satisfaction of a judgment against an underinsured motorist insurer. The Court held that employers are not entitled to be reimbursed their payment of worker’s compensation benefits out of the proceeds collected by the employee on a claim for underinsured motorist benefits arising out of an automobile accident which occurred in the course and scope of the employee’s employment. The Court rejected the argument that the employer should be entitled to be reimbursed UM proceeds if they are collected under a policy of uninsured motorist benefits that the employer itself obtained for the benefit of its employees while driving in the course and scope of their employment.
In September of 2021, firm members Bill Watts and Ryan Luna, representing a local hospital, successfully obtained an order from the Alabama Supreme Court, granting the hospital’s petition for writ of mandamus, and reversing the trial court’s order denying the hospital’s motion to dismiss the action on the grounds that the action was barred by the statute of limitations.
Helmsing Leach partners Win Stuardi and Kirk Mattei recently secured a defense award for their nursing home client in a wrongful death case following a 4-day arbitration hearing. Plaintiff alleged that the nursing staff breached the standard of care in failing to monitor a resident who allegedly choked while eating dinner. Through the testimony of the nursing staff and expert witnesses (a registered nurse and pulmonologist), the nursing home put on evidence that the standard of care was met, the resident had finished eating and the probable cause of the resident’s death was a pulmonary embolus. After hearing all the evidence, the arbitrator ruled in favor of the nursing home.
Firm member Casey Pipes will present on the Top Ten Issues Affecting Real Estate in 2021 at a meeting of the American College of Real Estate Lawyers (ACREL). ARCEL is the premier organization of U.S. real estate lawyers. Admission is by invitation only after a rigorous screening process. ACREL’s distinguished, nationally-known lawyers have been elected to fellowship for their outstanding legal ability, experience and high standards of professional and ethical conduct in the practice of real estate law.
Helmsing Leach partner Casey Pipes is a member of the faculty at the 2021 seminar of the American Law Institute’s Section for Eminent Domain and Land Valuation Litigation. ALI is the leading independent organization in the United States producing scholarly work to clarify, modernize, and otherwise improve the law.
Firm partner Joe Babington presided over the annual meeting of the Trial Attorneys of America in Chicago from June 12-14, 2019. For the past two years, Mr. Babington has served as TAA president.Continue reading
Helmsing Leach is proud to announce that Jeff Hartley, who heads up the firm’s Creditor’s Rights Department, has been selected by his peers as the Mobile region’s Lawyer of the Year in the area of bankruptcy litigation for the 2019 Edition of The Best Lawyers in America. Best Lawyers was first published in 1983. Since its inception, its mission has been to use a rigorous peer review process to identify the top legal talent in America.
Firm member Joe Babington attended the annual meeting of the Trial Attorneys of America (TAA) from June 6-8, 2018, in Chicago Illinois. Mr. Babington organized and participated in the “short-circuit” portion of the program in which members presented brief updates on each Federal Circuit. Mr. Babington is the TAA president for 2017 through 2019. The TAA, which celebrates its 50th anniversary in 2019, is an invitation-only group of 200 leading product liability defense, insurance, and commercial litigation trial attorneys and corporate counsel from across United States.
Helmsing Leach partner Joe Babington, along with Gregg Mackuse and Heather Giordanella of the Drinker Biddle & Reath law firm in Philadelphia, recently secured summary judgment for Janssen Pharmaceuticals, Inc. in a case pending in the Northern District of Alabama that involved Janssen’s anti-psychotic medication, Risperdal. In Drake v. Ortho-McNeil-Janssen Pharms., 2018 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 47164 (N.D. Ala. Mar. 22, 2018), the plaintiff, an obese 36-year-old man diagnosed with schizophrenia, claimed that his prescribed use of Risperdal resulted in him developing gynecomastia, the benign enlargement of glandular breast tissue in males. The defendant moved for summary judgment, arguing that the plaintiff could not meet his burden of establishing causation. The judge stressed that the plaintiff was required to prove both general and specific causation and that expert testimony was required for both. The plaintiff’s expert had testified that the risk of gynecomastia in children and adolescents is higher than Risperdal’s labeling represented. As the court noted, however, while the expert’s “report and deposition testimony from other cases might be sufficient to raise a question of fact regarding general causation, . . . his report and testimony contain[ed] no evidence regarding the cause of [the plaintiff’s] alleged injuries. Id. at *13. Moreover, the plaintiff had no other causation expert. As a result, the court found ”the plaintiff’s evidence concerning specific causation [was] threadbare.” Id. In fact, there was no evidence that the plaintiff had even been diagnosed with gynecomastia. In granting summary judgment to Janssen, the court noted that, “[i]n the absence of medical or expert evidence, a fact finder must speculate about the cause of [the plaintiff’s] enlarged breasts, and a verdict may not rest on speculation.” Id.
Helmsing Leach is proud to announce that firm member Alan Alexander was recently inducted into the Alabama Chapter of the American Board of Trial Advocates (“ABOTA”). Membership in the organization is by invitation only, following a rigorous nomination and voting process. ABOTA is a national association of experienced trial lawyers and judges dedicated to the preservation and promotion of the right to a civil jury trial provided under the Seventh Amendment to the U.S. Constitution. There are approximately 7,300 ABOTA members in the United States, only 122 of whom are located in Alabama. To be considered for membership in the Alabama Chapter, a candidate must have tried at least 10 civil jury trials to a verdict, be nominated by an existing Chapter member and be approved by 75 percent of the members voting on the candidate’s nomination for admission. Criteria evaluated in determining whether to admit a candidate include the candidate’s jury trial skills, civility, professionalism and integrity.