Rapid Response for Catastrophic Accidents Only

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At FHMS, we focus on moving each matter to resolution at the earliest practical opportunity, whether by risk transfer, trial, dispositive motion, Alternative Dispute resolution or direct negotiation with the opposition. Our approach is dependent on the facts of each case and the goals of our client .We study our cases to identify the true issues and best defenses in dispute so that the case can be efficiently postured for resolution.

We are committed to sharing data with our business partners. We collect data on file cycle time, fees, costs and indemnity. We sort the data by type of case and injury severity. We want to know what worked…..and what didn’t. Our goal is simple…Better/Faster.

  • Frances Lettieri argued a case to the Superior Court in which the insured allegedly assaulted the plaintiff and his minor stepson and threatened to shoot them with a crossbow. The plaintiff, his wife, and the stepson sued the insured for assault, battery, negligence, among other claims. FHMS filed a declaratory judgment on the carrier’s behalf seeking a declaration that the insured’s actions were not covered by the policy of homeowners’ insurance issued to him. The trial court granted the motion for summary judgment, and the plaintiffs appealed. FHMS attorney The Superior Court affirmed judgment in our client’s favor, finding that the plaintiffs had waived their appellate claims by failing to properly preserve them on appeal. A concurring judge noted that the plaintiffs’ claims were meritless, since the insured’s actions were intentional conduct not covered by the insurance policy.
  • Frances Lettieri argued a case to the Superior Court in which our client, a large insurance carrier wrote a general liability policy to a daycare. The daycare and its principals entered into a series of agreements related to a lease, which it allegedly breached. The daycare’s landlord brought suit to enforce these agreements. FHMS filed a declaratory judgment action on our client’s behalf, seeking a declaration that the landlord’s claims against the daycare were not covered by the general liability policy. The trial court granted the motion, finding that the landlord’s complaint failed to allege an occurrence covered by the carrier’s policy. The landlord appealed to the Superior Court.  The Superior Court affirmed judgment entered in our client’s favor, finding that the daycare’s alleged breaching of the series of agreements was non-accidental conduct not covered by the general liability policy. The Superior Court further agreed with arguments raised by FHMS that the trial court had rejected, i.e., that the principals of the daycare were not covered by the policy because they were sued in their individual capacities.
  • Bill Thrall received a defense verdict after three days of jury trial in the Philadelphia Court of Common Pleas.  The case arose from Plaintiff’s purchase of a used motor vehicle from our insured – a large Philadelphia car dealership.  Plaintiff alleged violations of the Magnuson-Moss Warranty Improvement Act and the Pennsylvania Unfair Trade Practices and Consumer Protection Law stemming from her purchase of the subject vehicle.  Specifically, Plaintiff alleged that the defendant car dealership attempted to defraud the Plaintiff by failing to disclose a prior accident and numerous alleged defects with the subject vehicle, as well as violations of specific warranties.  Following evidence and testimony from several witnesses, including competing expert witnesses, the Jury returned a verdict in favor of the insured.
  • Lee Eckell extricated his developer from a case in which a construction worker fell three stories and suffered severe injuries. When a subcontractor’s carrier repeatedly ignored a proper indemnification request, suit was brought against them. The carrier eventually accepted the tender without a reservation of rights and repaid the self-insured developer for legal fees and expenses.
  • Bill Thrall used aggressive expert analysis to temper a Traumatic Brain Injury claim. The case originally had a seven figure demand.  The early reports led to the case getting to mediation quickly, where a fair resolution was reached without the need for extensive discovery.
  • Joe Fowler and Damian Taranto used a 2 day mediation to settle a multi-million dollar case arising from a workplace accident. The case involved a power surge conveyor, life changing injuries ,multiple defendants and significant legal and factual disputes. The first day of mediation was with defendants only, in order to establish a hierarchy of liability. The second day, with plaintiff’s present, allowed the mediator to push through difficult arguments involving comparative negligence, medical causation and legal issues including the Statute of Repose.
  • Greg Hirtzel  This was a case of clear liability. Plaintiff was a 48 year old service manager. He alleged a variety of injuries but his primary complaint was injury to his cervical spine.  He had complained intermittently of cervical pain before the accident, most recently as a year prior, but work records did not reflect that he missed time from work because of that condition. The plaintiff underwent anterior cervical discectomy at C5/6 after the accident. He did not return to work as a service manager after the surgery and subsequently was awarded social security disability. Immediately upon assignment, aggressive records discovery was conducted, the results of which raised considerable questions on causation.  With the pre-accident history in hand we proposed mediation without a deposition and plaintiff agreed. The case settled within five months of assignment for a number both sides deemed to be fair.
  • Greg Hirtzel Sometimes trial is the appropriate resolution.  A tenant’s guest  fell down the building’s fire escape steps while descending them at night carrying his infant child.  The plaintiff, as well as the tenant they were visiting maintained that the owner breached his duty to his invitees by failing to provide/maintain appropriate lighting on the fire escape steps. Defendants admitted that they were aware the 15 year old motion sensor light would malfunction from time to time but denied knowledge that the long time tenant and her guests were using the fire escape as the regular means of ingress and egress into the apartment.  Plaintiff suffered a tri-malleolar ankle fracture which required application of an external fixator and debridement of fracture blisters resulting  in permanent disfigurement.  Subsequently,  the external frame was removed and open reduction and internal fixation with plates and screws was performed.  One year later the 28 year old Plaintiff was hospitalized for again when he underwent hardware removal surgery and a  fusion of his ankle with a bone graft .  At this time, arthroscopy and extensive debridement of the ankle joint were also performed to address degenerative changes caused by the fracture.  Plaintiff’s orthopedic surgeon testified it is highly likely that plaintiff will again develop severe arthritis and eventually will require an ankle replacement. Plaintiff’s medical experts testified that he has a very severe ankle injury which will significantly limit his functionality  such that as he ages, prolonged walking, standing and weight bearing on this ankle will become increasingly painful and limited.  Plaintiff’s global demand at trial was $300,000. The jury awarded plaintiffs a gross verdict of $125,000.00 and allocated the respective negligence of the parties as follows: 42 percent comparative negligence to the plaintiff ($52,500); 49 percent negligence to co-defendant Property Manager ($61,250); and 9 percent negligence to Mr. Hirtzel’s clients ($11,250).
  • Lee Eckell   A case settled after opening statements and testimony of Plaintiff.  Demand was $75,000 when the case came in and the case settled for $7,500 at trial.  Medical bills were $7,900.   We developed significant notice defenses in this slip and fall case during discovery and trial.
  • Lee Eckell   We resolved a significant construction injury case involving serious injury to Plaintiff, who fell from an elevated position while framing a residential home.  The plaintiff suffered significant injuries that required surgery.  We successfully tendered the defense to a subcontractor and received not only complete defense and indemnification, but reimbursement of all defense costs for the client.
  • Joseph Fowler and Damian Taranto obtained voluntary dismissal in an industrial accident case involving catastrophic injuries less than ninety days after assignment.  The Plaintiff had his arm amputated after reaching into an unguarded portion of a conveyor system and sued various entities involved in the construction, design and manufacturing of the system.  We investigated the accident, determined that our client could not be held liable under Plaintiff’s theory of liability and successfully negotiated dismissal before discovery commenced without having to make a financial contribution.
  • Joseph Fowler settled an automobile accident a month after assignment.  We quickly identified liability on behalf of our insured driver and settled for a fraction of Plaintiff’s demand before filing a responsive pleading or conducting discovery.
  • Andrew Spaulding, in a defective maintenance case involving serious back injuries, we successfully pursued defense and contractual indemnity strategies .  Before significant discovery was conducted, we tendered the case to our client’s tenant under a lease agreement requiring the tenant to maintain the property.  The tenant and its insurer accepted without a reservation of rights, settled the case without any contribution from our client and agreed to reimburse our client for fees and costs.
  • Andrew Spaulding filed preliminary objections in a trucking case where a multi-vehicle accident caused Plaintiff to suffer traumatic brain injuries.  The Court sustained the preliminary objections and dismissed all claims against our clients that alleged violations FMCSA Regulations and state motor vehicle laws.  This ruling narrowed Plaintiff’s cause of action against our clients and prevented Plaintiff from claiming that our clients were negligent because they violated applicable motor vehicle rules.
  • Sean Hvisdas  A plaintiff riding on our client’s bus was injured in an accident in an intersection. We arbitrated the case and received a defense verdict for our driver and regional bus company. The arbitration panel found the co-defendant to be 100% liable.
  • Joe McNulty  Our Allentown office handled a case alleging false imprisonment and slander. We took a firm “no pay” position and, after the plaintiff died of unrelated causes, the family agreed to withdraw the case.
  • Greg Hirtzel  Our Lancaster office postured a difficult case for settlement. Plaintiff sued our  carpet cleaning company, claiming she became ill from the fumes. Research revealed that the chemical manufacturer had problems with the product. We reached out to the manufacturer and they agreed to provide us with settlement funds. We are now negotiating resolution…..and asking for reimbursement of our defense costs.
  • Bill Thrall   Bill, who is resident in our Philadelphia office got a defense verdict at an arbitration hearing. Plaintiff’s counsel never moved off of a demand for arbitration limits.  Bill agreed to tried the case without an IME, further reducing costs.
  • Joe McNulty   A chain collision accident case in which we were pushed into Plaintiff’s vehicle.  After discussion with our client, we skipped any pleading or discovery and began convincing defense counsel to secure his agreement that his carrier would accept 100% liability and got both parties to stipulate insured out of case.  No pleadings filed, no discovery performed and the case was closed in 2 months.
  • Allan Molotsky and Fran Lettieri . We handled an uninsured motorist case which had a bad faith component. The case involved the death of a 21 year old.  We prevailed on Summary Judgment and the plaintiff’s appealed to the 3rd circuit. The case was settled for a fraction of the value before the significant costs of appellate briefing and argument were incurred.
  • Joe Fowler and Matt Vodzak  In a case involving lengthy and contentious negotiations,  wewere able to have our defense assumed by a co-defendant . After the tender was accepted, we negotiated the payment of a significant portion of our fees.
  • Greg  Hirtzel  A policy limits demand UIM claim was removed to Federal Court where Greg obtained summary judgment within 3 months of the assignment by convincing the court and parties to decide the legal issue on stipulated facts before any discovery was conducted in the case.
  • Lee Eckell   Lee, who is resident in our New Jersey office successfully resolved a number of cases for our client, a national grocery and retail chain. Several cases were resolved without any discovery being performed. Another significant case was settled within 4 months of assignment. In that time frame, we were able to confirm the liability issues, obtain and review medical and lien information and obtain a contribution from an unrepresented co-defendant.
  • Joe McNulty  In a case in which we represented a governmental entity, Joe obtained an  affidavit from our client’s Township Manager stating that the accident occurred on private property. He then convinced Plaintiff and 3 defendants to dismiss our client before discovery commenced.
  • Bill Thrall and Sean Hvisdas  The case involved a rear end motor vehicle accident with clear liability but minor injuries. Accordingly, we explored early resolution and were able to settle the matter well below the demand without significant pleadings or discovery.
  • Rachel Rosenzweig  Our regional transportation company was sued in a case in which plaintiff was a passenger in a bus operated by our driver that was impacted by co-Defendant.  While the insured had little liability, plaintiff’s counsel refused to dismiss them because they provided the basis for venue in Philadelphia County. We were able to resolve the case for what we estimated  to be the cost of deposing the co-defendant and preparing a motion for summary judgment. We settled without responding to discovery and conducted only the plaintiff’s deposition. .
  • Joe Fowler and Jacqui Campbell  In a trip and fall case where plaintiff demanded $225,000 and claimed Reflex Sympathetic Dystrophy. We defended on liability and countered that the injury was a bone bruise. The case settled on the first day of trial for $19,000. The matter was resolved within 9 months of assignment.
  • Joe Fowler and Rachel Rosenzweig  This case involved an  accident at the airport in which a vehicle owned by a janitorial services contractor of our airline client collided with our airline’s  vehicle. We joined the contractor as a defendant on contractual defense and indemnity theory, and successfully tendered out defense to them. The contractor accepted tender without reservation of rights and has agreed to reimburse our client for past legal fees.
  • Joe Fowler and Sean Hvisdas. A passenger who tripped and fell on an airport jet bridge leased by our airline client.. After the close of discovery, we were successful in seeking dismissal with the consent of the parties prior to any mediation or trial.   
  • Joe Fowler and Matt Vodzak.  An airline passenger claimed that he slipped and fell on accumulated water in a Club Lounge restroom. We successfully tendered the case to the sub-contractor who handled the maintenance of the facility.
  • William L. Thrall   In a case involving an alleged rear end hit to the plaintiff’s car by the defendant dump truck. , Bill received a defense verdict from a Chester County jury.  The defendant driver denied that an impact occurred, or that if a minimal touch did happen, it was because plaintiff’s vehicle drifted into his truck. Plaintiff claimed a variety of personal injuries and ongoing physical limitations. The final demand on the case was $250,000. At trial, the defense was able to challenge the accuracy of plaintiff’s alleged injuries. Plaintiff had a pre-existing back condition which she claimed has resolved. The records belied that assertion. Surveillance also showed that many of plaintiff’s claims regarding physical limitations were questionable. The defense was able to present the jury with objective evidence which showed the plaintiff’s testimony at deposition and at trial was inaccurate. The jury returned a defense verdict on negligence.
  • Joseph F. McNulty  After Preliminary Objections to Plaintiff’s Complaint were filed based on the lack of exceptions to the Tort Claims Act, Plaintiff’s counsel expressed his intent to file an Amended Complaint raising the real estate exception. In response, FHMS noted that the filing would be frivolous and provided appropriate notice that a motion for sanctions would be filed if the amended complaint named the Borough as a defendant. Thereafter, Plaintiff’s counsel withdrew his claim against the Borough by filing an amended complaint without naming the borough.
  • Gregory H. Hirtzel   In a case of stipulated negligence plaintiff alleged injuries to her neck, back, right arm and shoulder as well as significant injuries to her ankles which required 3 surgeries. Plaintiff testified to pain on every day since the accident. Video revealed the plaintiff doing activities that the treating physician said she could not perform. The case was settled during binding arbitration and after plaintiff’s cross-examination for a number favorable to our client.
  • Andrew J. Spaulding  The case involved a slip and fall on broken concrete. FHMS received the case with a month left in discovery. After deposing the plaintiff, and before an IME or depositions of our corporate designees took place, the case was settled for a fraction of previous evaluations.
  • Joseph  Fowler  Plaintiff was killed when the car she was riding in went off the road at a high rate of speed striking the client’s parked trailer. The trailer was parked approximately 17 feet from the edge of the roadway. The accident occurred when Pennsylvania law was still controlled by the Joint and Several Liability Act. The host tortfeasor, who was traveling 62 in a 25 mph zone, had clear liability. Plaintiff’s two experts opined that the accident would not have happened if the area had been better illuminated, if defendants had a clear zone on the side of the roadway that allowed vehicles to regain control and if the trailers were not lined up to form an “underride wall”. They also opined that the area on which the trailers were situated was poorly maintained due to depressions, bumps and railroad ties and which effected the driver’s ability to regain control. After an extensive Frye hearing,  the Court found that neither expert, both of whom had testified in court hundreds of times, had utilized appropriate scientific methodology. All of the opinions with regard to negligence offered by the two experts were precluded as not supported by methodology generally accepted in the expert’s scientific community. Summary judgment was then granted on behalf of all defendants.
  • William L. Thrall –Plaintiff suffered injuries in a slip and fall at a residential housing complex during a significant and prolonged snowstorm. Defendants’, including our snow removal company were granted Summary Judgment  after extensive oral argument. Plaintiff admitted that the snow was ongoing and unrelenting and that the plows were on the scene on an ongoing basis. The plaintiff also did not pin down the area of her fall to a location that was part of  the snow removal protocol area.
  • Gregory S. Hirtzel: Case involving the claims by a family of four, alleging permanent physical and emotional  injuries as well as permanent scarring after each was attacked by client’s Huskie was settled before the client’s Answer was filed at a meeting with Plaintiffs and their counsel. The dog had allegedly been involved in two prior incidents and was euthanized after this incident and the mother and son Plaintiffs had been bitten in the head, face, and neck during the attack.
  • Gregory S. Hirtzel: Pre discovery settlement at mediation involving rear end collision by client’s CDL driver where the Plaintiff truck driver had multiple pre existing issues. A defense medical exam and radiologic review prior to mediation played a key role in early resolution. The 42 year old Plaintiff’s liens exceeded $145,000 arising from cervical discetomy and fusion after the incident and the matter was resolved for $225,000.
  • Joseph Fowler: Defense verdict  in the case of Hetrick v. American Infrastructure following a two week trial in Chester County, Pennsylvania in favor of a construction company and driver. Demand from plaintiff’s counsel during the pretrial phase of the case was $12,000,000. Plaintiff suffered massive head injuries when defendants truck struck a telephone line which crossed the street. Plaintiffs’ expert opined that defendant saw the line pre-impact and should have stopped after hearing the line come in contact with the truck. Jury returned a verdict in one hour. Defendant presented both construction and accident reconstruction experts.
  • Joseph Fowler: Defense verdict following a two week trial. Defendant commercial vehicle driver rear ended plaintiff’s vehicle when defendant yawned and took his eyes away from the roadway. Post-accident, Plaintiff unsuccessfully underwent spinal cord surgery which resulted in massive neurologic limitations. Plaintiff’s experts identified significant wage loss future medical expenses. Plaintiff demanded $3,000,000 at trial. The jury returned a verdict for defendant finding that defendant was not negligent. The Superior Court sustained the lower court’s decision to uphold the jury’s verdict.
  • Joseph F. McNulty: Retained on the day of the accident to lead the investigation into a pedestrian fatality in Northampton County. Obtained expert review, located witnesses and scheduled and completed a successful mediation with Plaintiff counsel representing the surviving widow who had witnessed the accident within two months of the day of the accident.
  • William L. Thrall, III: Dismissal of client on Motion for Summary Judgment in case involving allegations of defective maintenance of large condominium complex.
  • Andrew J. Spaulding: Represented the manufacturer of a racking system in a warehouse. The racking system collapsed, pinning the 47 year old plaintiff by the ankle in his forklift. Plaintiff required an ankle fusion and 12 follow-up surgeries. After joining the designer of the system and the maintenance company, we moved to mediation where a favorable settlement was reached.
  • Andrew J. Spaulding: Settled a case for a favorable number after a fatal accident involving a commercial motor carrier. Early investigation showed significant problems with the case, including that the driver was over his hours of service and had inconsistencies on his medical card. In light of the unfavorable liability picture, we moved to mediation before discovery and resolved the matter.
  • Andrew J. Spaulding: We represented the interests of a motor carrier in a fatal accident on a major highway. We interviewed our driver at the scene, reconstructed the accident, learned about plaintiff’s background and moved the case to a favorable resolution.