Hybrid High/Low Agreement Results in $500,000 Settlement in Work Injury Trial

Cameron Hansen, 48, was a cement mason working at a construction site at Loretto Hospital at 645 Central Ave. in Chicago. The defendant in this case was Stone Mountain Access Systems Inc., which was the company that provided the scaffolding at the job site. Stone Mountain was responsible for designing and consulting for the building of this scaffold for this job.

Hansen was attempting to disassemble the scaffolding on Nov. 11, 2010 when it tipped over and he fell to the ground. Hansen sustained a traumatic brain injury along with unspecified injuries to his neck, left shoulder, left hip and left knee. He required five surgeries and physical therapy. The injuries left him with permanent disability.

He blamed Stone Mountain for the placement of counter-weights for the scaffold falling over and this accident. Stone Mountain maintained that there was nothing wrong with the equipment or the way the scaffold was built and argued that Hansen’s dismantling of the scaffold was the sole cause of the scaffold’s fall.

Before trial, the attorneys representing Hansen, Carl S. Salvato and John C. Coyne demanded $2 million to settle the case. The pretrial offer to settle made by Stone Mountain’s lawyers was $500,000. The case proceeded to trial.

An interesting arrangement between the attorneys was done at mid-trial. The parties agreed to a $500,000 (low)/$1 million (high) high/low agreement based upon how the jurors voted on the issue of liability at that point in the trial. The agreement was reached on the fifth day of an expected two-week trial. At that time, the defendant had not presented any evidence.

The parties agreed that the plaintiff would receive $500,000 if the majority of the jurors voted in favor of the defendant. The plaintiff would receive $1 million if the majority of the jurors voted in favor of Hanson and $750,000 if there was a tie. At this point in the trial, the court instructed the jury to vote on whether at this juncture they favored one party to win over the other. The jurors voted 10 to 2 in favor of the defendant, Stone Access. Accordingly, Hansen’s settlement was $500,000 and the trial was at an end. Although an unusual but useful settlement technique, the lawyers would need the full cooperation of the presiding judge to permit the jury to take a vote in mid-trial. I have to assume that the parties agreed that regardless of how the jurors voted, the case was settled and thus, the jurors did their job and were then discharged.

Hansen’s counsel presented medical evidence from a psychologist, an internist and two orthopedic surgeons.

Cameron Hansen v. Stone Mountain Access Systems, Inc., No. 12 L 2305 (Cook County, Ill.).

Kreisman Law Offices has been handling work injury cases, construction site injury cases, traumatic brain injury cases, wrongful death cases and catastrophic injury cases for individuals and families who have been harmed, injured or died as a result of the carelessness or negligence of another for more than 40 years in and around Chicago, Cook County and its surrounding areas, including Schiller Park, St. Charles, Aurora, Joliet, Waukegan, Crestwood, Forest Park, Park Ridge, Palos Park, Calumet City, Tinley Park, South Holland, Blue Island, Zion, Des Plaines and Deerfield, Ill.

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