Monday, December 05, 2011

Public Citizen profiles Bruce Pfaff

Public Citizen is an extraordinary group that advocates effectively for public safety and true democracy. Our firm has supported Public Citizen for many years. The organization recently profiled Bruce Pfaff, our founding partner on its site:

We are proud of the acknowledgement and encourage all to support Public Citizen. Excellent examples of their good work can be found at

Leg amputation from Defective Product- Record Verdict

Bruce Pfaff and Matt Ports were on trial for two weeks in August in Tazewell County (Pekin, IL). They represented a young man, who, when he was 19, suffered the traumatic amputation of his left leg when it was crushed by the gantry of a MiTek RoofGlider (R) machine. The young man was employed in a truss making operation for Central Illinois Truss. The previous high verdict in Tazewell County for any kind of injury case was $970,000.

The jury awarded the exact amount Mr. Pfaff requested in closing argument: $13,544,172.71. It was the fifth time in Mr. Pfaff's career that a jury awarded everything he has requested to the penny. The RoofGlider design sold to Central Illinois Truss was incredibly dangerous and the jury saw that. The safety bar, designed to protect workers in Mr. Stone's position, failed when he contacted it and this allowed the gantry to advance, crushing the worker's leg against a steel plate for 60 minutes. It took paramedics, police and co-workers that long to free his leg from the machine.

Included in the damages were past and future medical expenses, which totaled more than $3,500,000.

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Young Farm Workers Electrocuted

We have followed with great sadness the news of two young ladies from Sterling, Illinois, who were electrocuted while working in a cornfield in Tampico, Illinois, as contract workers for Monsanto Corporation. Reports indicate that the young ladies were removing tassels from corn in a field and came into contact with a field irrigator system or water in which it was sitting. A co-worker reported that the field was flooded and looked like a pond. Water is a good conductor of electricity and any electric energy passing into the water could seriously injure any person in contact with the water. No reports indicate that the young ladies were aware that the water was energized or dangerous.

Monsanto has now removed its workers from the fields per published reports.

While OSHA representatives were on site, the agency reported that its report could take up to six months to complete.

Beyond the deep sympathy we have for the families and friends of the young ladies, we are disappointed that is will take OSHA months in order to get to the bottom of the problem. Prompt legal investigation using skilled work place experts should uncover the root causes of this tragedy and what can be done to prevent events like this in the future. Answers should not wait for OSHA's report.

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Management and Ethical Considerations

Bruce Pfaff will address a committee of the Chicago Bar Association on April 5, 2011 at 12:15. His presentation is "Management and Ethical Considerations of Solo and Small Firm Lawyers." Bruce will discuss the things he has learned in managing what started as his solo practice and then the small firm he heads over the past twenty years as well as recent amendments to the Rules of Professional Conduct.

Monday, March 28, 2011

How Bad is Hospital Care for Medicare Beneficiaries?

13.5% of hospitalized Medicare beneficiaries experienced adverse events during their hospital stays during the most recent period studied, October 2008. An "adverse event" is defined as harm to a patient as a result of medical care. An estimated 1.5% of Medicare beneficiaries experienced an event that contributed to their deaths, which projects to 15,000 patients in a single month. These data should be frightening to all of us who will likely wind up in a hospital sometime.

An exhaustive report issued by the Office of the Inspector General for the Department of Health and Human Services details these findings. It is available on line or we will be happy to supply it to you. It is publication # OEI-06-09-00090.

We always suggest to our friends and family how to help improve hospital care:
1. A family member should always be present at the hospital to protect the patient's best interests;
2. Keep a notebook of key events and people who provide care so that the next family member who comes to stay with the patient can have all the important information at her fingertips;
3. Be kind and helpful to the healthcare team--after all, you want what they want which is a healthy patient;
4. If you see something amiss, such as the patient getting a drug not intended for her, politely ask whether the medicine is really intended for this patient. Help the caregiver do the right thing!
5. Remember that healthcare workers often work 12 hours shifts and that it is a demanding job--don't be picky about the small stuff but make sure the important things are handled properly.

Friday, February 25, 2011

We Support Peaceful Protests in Wisconsin

Peaceful protests are a way of life and should be. Wisconsin public employee union members and their friends should be congratulated for their peaceful protests against actions they feel are unjust.

Calls to violence against protesters should stop. As reported yesterday, a lawyer employed by the state of Indiana lost his job for advocating violence against protesters. The state did the right thing. Here is what was reported:

A deputy attorney general in Indiana recently tweeted some advice for police facing pro-labor protesters in Wisconsin: “Use live ammunition.”

The comment and others, made in response to a Feb. 19 tweet by a Mother Jones writer, have ended badly for the government lawyer, Jeffrey Cox. He is now out of a job, according to CNN, the Associated Press and Mother Jones.

The Indiana Attorney General’s office explained its decision in a statement. “We respect individuals' First Amendment right to express their personal views on private online forums, but as public servants we are held by the public to a higher standard, and we should strive for civility," the AG's office said.

According to Mother Jones, Cox said the protesters were "political enemies" and "thugs" who were physically threatening lawmakers, and he called the publication’s reporter a “typical leftist.”

"You're damned right I advocate deadly force,” Cox reportedly wrote.

Thursday, February 24, 2011

Choose the Best Possible Hospital and Nursing Home

There are many sources available to help people choose health care facilities that are well rated by governmental or private agencies. It is important to use all possible sources when your own care or the care of family and friends is at stake. We can recommend you seek out the recommendations of Blue Cross Blue Shield for hospitals, published as the Blue Star Hospital Report. The reports summarizes the results of quality and safety performance measures for 91 Illinois hospitals.

You should also compare hospitals and nursing homes in your area on