The Top Personal Injury Verdicts & Settlements in Washington in 2014

Personal-injury lawyers netted some big paydays for plaintiffs this year. Here's a look at the top 25 in our area.
The Top Personal Injury Verdicts & Settlements in Washington in 2014
Photo-illustration by Miles Donovan.

No. 1 — $9.5 million


Court: Prince George’s County

Case: Derrick and Yalonda Gregg v. Wang K. Koon, MD, et al.

Plaintiff’s lawyers: Giles Manley and Jason Penn of Janet, Jenner & Suggs (Pikesville, Maryland).

Defense lawyer: John Penhallegon of Cornblatt, Bennett, Penhallegon & Roberson (Towson, Maryland).

This medical-malpractice case reads like every parent’s worst nightmare. In December 2005, the plaintiffs brought their two-week-old daughter, Desirae, to Laurel Regional Hospital. The baby hadn’t been eating and seemed short of breath. The hospital ran blood tests, then discharged her and directed the parents to follow up with their pediatrician. Desirae subsequently developed meningitis and suffered permanent brain damage, resulting in cerebral palsy. The parents sued Maryland Provo-I Medical Services, the employer of Laurel’s emergency-room doctor, and the ER nurse. They argued that the hospital had delayed sharing Desirae’s bloodwork results, which showed a bacterial infection requiring immediate treatment, and that the delay caused her cerebral palsy. A jury awarded the family $9.5 million, ultimately reduced to $7.15 million because of a statutory limit on damages.

No. 2 — $5.75 million


Court: Fairfax County

Case: Bruce McLaughlin v. Shevlin Smith

Plaintiff’s lawyer: Thomas Plofchan Jr. of Westlake Legal Group (Potomac Falls).

Defense lawyers: David Hudgins and Reese Pearson of Hudgins Law Firm (Alexandria) and Joshua Hoffman of Franklin & Prokopik (Herndon).

Talk about a messy—and tragic—breakup. In 1996, plaintiff Bruce McLaughlin and his wife began divorce proceedings and a contentious custody battle. One son alleged he’d been sexually molested by McLaughlin, who was later charged with molesting all four of his kids and sentenced to 13 years in prison. McLaughlin’s case was reexamined in 2000, and an investigator determined that at least one child was coached by his mother and that none of the children had any actual memories of abuse. McLaughlin was exonerated and hired the firm Shevlin Smith to sue his trial attorneys for failing to defend him adequately. But Shevlin Smith made a critical oversight, so McLaughlin filed this legal-malpractice suit against the firm—and this time the jury was on McLaughlin’s side.

No. 3 — $3.3 million

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Court: Prince George’s County

Case: Colleen Bowen et al. v. Washington Suburban Sanitary Commission et al.

Plaintiff’s lawyer: Timothy Maloney of Joseph Greenwald & Laake (Greenbelt).

Defense lawyers: Kenneth Thompson and Todd James Horn of Venable (Baltimore).

The plaintiffs sued their former employer for age discrimination after their positions in the IT department were terminated.

No. 4 — $2.475 million


Court: Arlington County

Case: Barbara Decker, personal representative of the estate of Jill T. Decker, deceased, v. Virginia Hospital Center

Plaintiff’s lawyers: William Artz and Andrew Waghorn of William E. Artz (Arlington).

Defense lawyers: Richard Nagle and Heather E. Zaug of Hancock, Daniel, Johnson & Nagle (Fairfax).

After Jill Decker died following wrist surgery at Virginia Hospital Center, her estate sued for medical malpractice and wrongful death.

No. 5 — $1.5 million


Court: Loudoun County

Case: David Brandon v. Michael Cummings

Plaintiff’s lawyers: Steven M. Frei and Matthew Perushek of Sickels Frei Mims (Fairfax).

Defense lawyer: Alicia Lehnes Summers of Michael L. Davis & Associates (Alexandria).

The defendant rear-ended the plaintiff, who said he sustained injuries that caused memory loss and fatigue.

No. 6 — $963,504


Court: Prince George’s County

Case: Melissa Satterfield v. Sara Coe

Plaintiff’s lawyers: Laura Zois and Ronald Miller Jr. of Miller & Zois (Glen Burnie).

Defense lawyer: Thomas McManus of Sasscer, Clagett & Bucher (Upper Marlboro).

The plaintiff fractured her ankle after the defendant’s car collided with her SUV. Satterfield argued that the injury ended her career as a hairdresser. Because of a statutory cap, the award was eventually reduced to $776,504.09.

No. 7 — $749,250


Court: Howard County

Case: Jane Doe v. Joseph Caudill

Plaintiff’s lawyers: Jane Santoni and Victoria Chihos of Williams & Santoni (Towson).

Defense lawyer: Steven Shemenski of James E. Crawford Jr. & Associates (Baltimore).

The defendant was found guilty of kidnapping and assaulting the plaintiff in a criminal trial, but the jury deadlocked on a second-degree rape charge. The plaintiff then brought this civil action, alleging he raped her and caused her to suffer PTSD.

$550,000 (settlement)

Court: Montgomery County

Case: Jorge Mendez and Roxana Osorio, as parents of Tania Mendez, v. China Buffet Linco

Plaintiff’s lawyer: Afshin Pishevar of Pishevar & Associates (Rockville).

Defense lawyer: Eric Hitzel of Greenspan, Hitzel & Schrader (Silver Spring).

Seven-year-old Tania Mendez was dining with her parents at China Buffet in College Park in 2012. As the girl headed toward the ice-cream machine, a server carrying a vat of soup knocked into her, dumping the steaming liquid down her side. The accident caused severe burns, and Mendez had to get skin grafts. Her parents sued for medical bills totaling $30,000, plus future expenses, as well as compensation for their daughter’s pain and suffering. After months of negotiations, China Buffet agreed to settle.

No. 9 — $514,110


Correction: This verdict was unanimously reversed by the DC Court of Appeals in April 2014. The appellate court held that the First Amendment protects the right of citizens to provide truthful information of wrongdoing by law enforcement supervisory personnel. Because the Court of Appeals decided in defendant Karen Thompson’s favor, the verdict is zero.

Court: DC Superior Court

Case: William H. Armstrong v. Karen Thompson, David Sutkus, and United States of America

Plaintiff’s lawyer: Kevin Byrnes of the Law Office of Kevin E. Byrnes (Falls Church).

Defense lawyers: Earl N. Mayfield of the Lewis Firm (Fairfax), George Elfter of Wolk & Neuman (DC), Michael Steadman Jr. of Council Baradel (Annapolis), and Robin Meriweather of the US Attorney’s Office (DC).

Ever wonder what could happen if you gave a negative review of a colleague to his potential future employer? This lawsuit shows the worst-case scenario. Armstrong, the plaintiff, was a special agent with the Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration (TIGTA) when he was offered a job at the US Department of Agriculture. But before he could start the new gig, Thompson, the defendant, who was also employed at TIGTA, sent letters to USDA alleging that Armstrong was a liability and was being investigated by their agency. USDA subsequently rescinded Armstrong’s job offer, and he sued for defamation, emotional distress, and other claims. Thompson was unable to argue successfully that she was just doing her job by sending the letters, and the jury sided with Armstrong. (The case against the other two defendants was dismissed.)

No. 10 — $463,725


Court: DC Superior Court

Case: Vicie Burgess v. Ronald L. Anderson, MD

Plaintiff’s lawyer: John Sellinger of Greenberg & Bederman (Silver Spring).

Defense lawyer: Shadonna Hale of Wilson Elser Moskowitz Edelman & Dicker (DC).

The plaintiff sued her ophthalmologist for medical malpractice after she lost vision in her right eye following surgery.

$425,000

Court: US District Court for DC

Case: Frazier Caudle, Nikeith Goins, William James, et al. v. Metropolitan Police Department, Cathy L. Lanier, and the District of Columbia

Plaintiff’s lawyers: John Relman, Jennifer Klar, Megan Cacace, and Jia Cobb of Relman, Dane & Colfax (DC).

Defense lawyers: Kerslyn Featherstone, Stephanie Litos, and Charles Coughlin of the DC Office of the Attorney General.

This case made headlines for years as it wound its way through court. The five plaintiffs, all African-American, were undercover DC police officers when, in 2005, a white lieutenant was put in charge of their unit. The plaintiffs said he treated them differently than their white counterparts, and they sent an anonymous complaint to their commander. Soon after, the department announced that everyone in the unit would have to reapply for his or her job. The white lieutenant was ultimately allowed to keep his position while the plaintiffs were removed from the unit. They sued over discrimination and retaliation. Though claims against the department and the chief were tossed out, the suit against the city continued, and a jury awarded back pay plus attorneys’ fees.

No. 12 — $306,100


Court: Calvert County

Case: Abel Bennett and Mildred Bennett v. Gorman Wink, Brandon Wink, and GEICO

Plaintiff’s lawyer: Deborah Potter of the Jaklitsch Law Group (Upper Marlboro).

Defense lawyers: Marcia Harman of John Dahut & Associates (Silver Spring) and Rotrica Neal of Allstate Staff Counsel (Greenbelt).

The 87-year-old plaintiff tore his rotator cuff during a car crash with the defendant and, because of his age, was unable to have surgery, rendering his injury permanent, he says.

No. 13 — $275,000


Court: Prince George’s County

Case: Catherine Jones v. Marlo Furniture

Plaintiff’s lawyer: John T. Everett of Chasen Boscolo (Greenbelt).

Defense lawyer: Kimberly Limbrick of Crosswhite, Limbrick & Sinclair (Baltimore).

The plaintiff sued after falling down three stairs while shopping at Marlo Furniture, hitting her face on a dresser and sustaining black eyes as well as back and knee injuries. The award was ultimately deemed excessive, and the parties reached a confidential settlement.

No. 14 — $200,000


Court: Prince William County

Case: Caroleanne Phillips v. John Doe

Plaintiff’s lawyer: Thomas Morrison, solo practitioner (Fairfax). Defense lawyer: Lewis Morris Jr. of Michael L. Davis & Associates (Alexandria).

After getting rear-ended in a hit-and-run, the plaintiff sued State Farm for damages under her uninsured-motorist policy, which allows a policyholder to be reimbursed when the offending driver is unknown. (Her award was later capped at $100,000.)

No. 15 — $120,000


Court: DC Superior Court

Case: Elizabeth Whitlock v. Kamaljit Sethi, MD, and Washington Nephrology Associates

Plaintiff’s lawyer: John Sellinger of Greenberg & Bederman (Silver Spring).

Defense lawyers: Crystal Deese, Benjamin Salsbury, and Larry McAfee of Gleason, Flynn, Emig, Fogleman (Rockville).

Whitlock sued her doctor and his practice for prescribing a high dose of prednisone that she said resulted in infection and kidney failure.

No. 16 — $106,739


Court: Prince George’s County

Case: Alan Harrison v. Jaime Esposito, Dominique Powell, and State Farm Mutual Automobile Insurance Company

Plaintiff’s lawyer: Michael Robinett of Simeone & Miller (DC).

Defense lawyer: William Flood III of Council Baradel (Annapolis).

The plaintiff sued after he was rear-ended and suffered permanent lower-back injuries.

$105,000

Court: DC Superior Court

Case: Jacqueline Wright v. Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority

Plaintiff’s lawyer: Michael Robinett of Simeone & Miller (DC).

Defense lawyer: Michael Guss of WMATA in-house counsel (DC).

A metro station that was allegedly too messy led to this verdict against WMATA. Wright, the plaintiff, went into the Fort Totten stop in February 2010 and stepped onto some netting that was meant to keep out birds but had fallen down eight days earlier. She claimed the netting made her slip and fall, resulting in a meniscus tear in her knee and a shoulder injury. Wright sued WMATA for putting passengers at risk by not picking up the netting and by failing to warn pedestrians. The agency argued that Wright simply neglected to watch her step, but the jury disagreed.

No. 18 — $75,000 (settlement)


Court: Fairfax County

Case: Shahnaz Khan v. Brian Hennessy

Plaintiff’s lawyer: Justin Beall of Koonz McKenney Johnson Depaolis & Lightfoot (Fairfax).

Defense lawyer: Jay Richard Goldman of Allstate Insurance (Chantilly).

Khan was driving on the Dulles Toll Road in heavy traffic when she was rear-ended by Hennessy. She sued for damages related to a rotator-cuff tear caused by the accident.

No. 19 — $68,380


Court: Howard County

Case: Gerard Butler, Shawna Fleming, and Tyler Butler v. Taylor Anne Cummings

Plaintiff’s lawyer: Nicholas Parr of the Law Office of Steven H. Heisler (Baltimore).

Defense lawyers: Linda Ham and Laverne Largie of the Law Offices of Jonathan P. Stebenne (Baltimore).

Plaintiffs were broadsided by the defendant’s vehicle. All of them claimed the collision caused neck and back injuries, and Gerard Butler said he suffered a mild traumatic brain injury.

No. 20 — $50,000 (settlement)


Court: US District Court for Maryland

Case: Amit Sharma v. Howard County; Ken Ulman, Howard County executive; et al.

Plaintiff’s lawyer: Morris Fischer, Morris E. Fischer Labor & Employment Law Firm (Silver Spring).

Defense lawyers: Gary Kuc and David Reid Moore of Howard County Office of Law (Ellicott City).

The plaintiff was a civil engineer for Howard County who claimed he was terminated for taking approved leave for a medical condition.

No. 21 — $35,150


Court: Howard County

Case: Patrick Snell v. Pradip Purushottam Amin

Plaintiff’s lawyer: Michael Silverman, solo practitioner (Columbia).

Defense lawyer: Thomas Basham of H. Barritt Peterson, Jr. & Associates (Towson).

Snell was rear-ended by the defendant’s vehicle and said he sustained neck and back injuries.

No. 22 — $30,169


Court: Howard County

Case: Peter Asaad v. Shelly Ann Schaal

Plaintiff’s lawyers: John Hermina and George Hermina of the Hermina Law Group (Laurel).

Defense lawyer: Clifford Robinson of H. Barritt Peterson, Jr. & Associates (Towson).

Asaad claimed his knee was injured after a car accident with the defendant.

No. 23 — $30,000


Court: US District Court of Maryland

Case: Aieda McCallum v. Archstone Communities

Plaintiff’s lawyers: Richard Salzman and Susan Huhta of Heller, Huron, Chertkof & Salzman (DC) and Matthew Handley of the Washington Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights and Urban Affairs (DC).

Defense lawyers: Nancy Delogu and Jennifer Thomas of Littler (DC).

Archstone, a property-management company, fired McCallum, a leasing agent, after she revealed she was pregnant, and she sued for discrimination.

No. 24 — $29,761


Court: Montgomery County

Case: Getachew Demissie v. John Franklin Ghee and Carlos Pompilio Sibrian

Plaintiff’s lawyer: Timothy Capurso of Gordon Feinblatt (Baltimore).

Defense lawyers: Matthew Goodman of Simmons, Fields & Fanshaw (Timonium, Maryland) and Tracy D. Scott of Leftwich & Ludaway (DC).

The plaintiff sued over injuries brought on by a collision with the defendants’ cars.

No. 25 — $28,816


Court: Prince George’s County

Case: Shirley Williams v. Garry Savoy

Plaintiff’s lawyer: Norman Schneider of Kamerow Law Firm (Alexandria).

Defense lawyer: Alexander Williams III of Timothy Smith & Associates (Greenbelt).

Williams claimed back, head, and knee pain after the BMW she was riding in was rear-ended by the defendant’s minivan.


Senior Editor

Marisa M. Kashino joined Washingtonian in 2009 as a staff writer, and became a senior editor in 2014. She was previously a reporter for Legal Times and the National Law Journal. She lives in Northeast DC with her husband, two dogs, and two cats.

Associate Editor

Caroline Cunningham joined Washingtonian in 2014 after moving to the DC area from Cincinnati, where she interned and freelanced for Cincinnati Magazine and worked in content marketing. She currently resides in College Park.