GWC partner, Lawrence Ruder, secured a $2,000,000 Will County settlement for a 20 year old that lost his arm in an automobile crash. Gomez v. Comar Drilling Company, et. al. The crash, which occurred in July 2005, caused Jose Alfredo Gomez to lose his left arm when a truck driven by an employee of Comar Drilling Company from the Joliet area crossed into his lane and hit his van head-on. Mr. Gomez was driving from his painting job in rural Yorkville to his home in Waukegan at the time. This is the highest reported settlement for an injury of this type in the history of Will County (Confirmed by the Illinois Jury Verdict Reporter).
The result is remarkable for two reasons. First, it is a record settlement for the traumatic loss of an arm [specifically, a non-dominant arm]. Most importantly, however, is that a successful result was attained despite the initial conclusions concerning the liability picture originally painted by investigators with the Yorkville Police Department. The Yorkville Police Department conducted an accident reconstruction analysis immediately after the crash and concluded Mr. Gomez was 100% responsible. After only a brief investigation of this collision – which obviously involved very serious injuries to this fine young man – the police department’s accident reconstruction expert concluded the collision occurred because Mr. Gomez had illegally passed a vehicle just before the crash. Again, the police placed the blame squarely on Mr. Gomez and it appeared no case could be made for him.
However, Mr. Gomez came to GWC because of his insistence that the Yorkville Police Department’s findings and conclusions were totally false. GWC immediately commenced the discovery and investigation process. It was only after countless depositions of parties and witnesses and a thorough investigation and analysis of scene evidence by our own accident reconstruction expert that GWC was able to establish the truth about how this collision occurred; which required proving that the findings and conclusions of the police department’s reconstruction expert were 100% wrong! Our legal team was able to prove that the collision had actually occurred in Mr. Gomez’s lane and it was the defendant that had been illegally passing another vehicle at a high rate of speed before the crash. It was the defendant’s actions that caused the crash and caused Mr. Gomez to lose his arm, and not the opposite as concluded by the local police department. The attorneys for the defendant agreed to pay the $2,000,000 to Mr. Gomez after it became clear that the police department had improperly engaged in a “rush to judgment” against Mr. Gomez.
The second record was confirmed yesterday when a Lake County judge approved a $2,000,000 distribution to the Estate of Wilson Alexander Lopez-Ochoa by the City of Waukegan. The payment was made after GWC partners, Louis Cairo and Lawrence Ruder, won a verdict for over $2 million dollar for the family of 21 year old Alex Lopez-Ochoa who was killed when his car was struck by a Waukegan police squad car on Super Bowl Sunday, 2005. This verdict is the largest ever reported in the history of Lake County for a case of this kind (Confirmed by the Illinois Jury Verdict Reporter).
This victory is especially gratifying because the Waukegan Police Department – like the Yorkville Police Department in the Gomez matter – blamed Alex for this crash and refused to take any responsibility for the actions of its officer. The department’s Chief of Police and other city officials went to the media and community immediately after the crash and claimed the department’s investigation proved Alex was solely responsible for the crash. They claimed that the evidence, which they gathered, proved that Alex negligently pulled into the street directly into the path of a police squad. Officials took great pains to point out that Alex was an undocumented Honduran immigrant and was in the country without proper papers. Outraged, Alex’s family came to GWC for help.
Depositions were taken of every police officer involved in the investigation. GWC’s accident reconstruction experts analyzed the data contained in the squad’s “black box”. This is a mini-computer that documents the speed of a vehicle in the moments before a crash. Our team proved the officer had been speeding 10 mph over the limit at the time of the crash, that he did not have his mars lights on and that his siren was off. Investigation also showed the officer was not responding to an emergency of any kind at the time and was operating his squad the night of the crash in direct violation of department policy. Further, GWC investigators went into the community and discovered that two people had actually witnessed the entire crash; two women who had been ignored by the police at the scene and who had previously been afraid to come forward for fear of retribution by the Waukegan Police Department. They testified during the trial entirely in Spanish and told the jury that they had seen the officer violating red lights and making an illegal u-turn just prior to the crash. Most of the testimony heard by the jury was in Spanish through the use of interpreters.
It took the jury less than three hours to determine that Alex was completely blameless and that the police officer was 100% responsible for the crash.
In both the Lopez and Gomez cases, GWC proved that “official” police department conclusions were 100% false. Said Lawrence Ruder: “It is incredibly gratifying to know that through our investigation and the legal process we have been able to ensure that justice was served for both Mr. Gomez and for the Lopez family. Helping people like the Lopez family and Mr. Gomez in tough situations like these is exactly why I became a lawyer!”
The law firm of Goldberg, Weisman & Cairo, Ltd. of Chicago, Illinois, concentrates its practice on representing the catastrophically injured and wrongful death cases. The firm represents many members of the Hispanic Community in Lake and Cook County.
– November 24, 2007