US District Court Affirms More Than $8 Million Jury Verdict for Firm Pro Bono Client William Dean
Jenner & Block is proud of its 2019 pro bono results:
On September 28, US District Judge Sue Myerscough issued a 55-page order affirming a jury verdict in excess of $8 million for firm pro bono client William Kent Dean against Wexford HealthSources, Inc. The order, which denied the defendants’ motion for judgment as a matter of law and motion for a new trial, includes approximately $700,000 in attorney’s fees and costs. In her ruling, Judge Myerscough noted, “This case was about a kind of deliberate indifference that is more subtle and insidious than the kind of deliberate indifference that screams out with obvious, easy-to-find evidence. The skill, resources, and tenacity of Plaintiff’s attorneys are the reason Plaintiff was able to uncover and prove deliberate indifference.”
“We are pleased with Judge Myerscough’s order, which sends a strong message about the systemic deficiencies in medical care involved in this case. Most importantly, we are hopeful that Mr. Dean and his family will now promptly receive the resources necessary to support his care,” said Jenner & Block Partner Joel T. Pelz, who leads the matter for the firm.
In December 2019, a unanimous jury in Springfield, IL returned a more than $11 million verdict for Mr. Dean, who was incarcerated at the time. The jury found that Wexford and several of its employees violated Mr. Dean’s federal civil rights (8th Amendment, deliberate indifference) and committed both institutional negligence and medical malpractice under Illinois law. The result concluded a seven-day trial before US District Judge Sue Myerscough in the Central District of Illinois. Mr. Dean secured early release from prison in January.
Hehas stage-4 metastatic kidney cancer, which is terminal. While imprisoned in the Taylorville Correctional Center in central Illinois, he began showing obvious signs of serious illness, including gross hematuria, or visible blood in his urine, in late 2015. Despite his alarming symptoms, Mr. Dean did not receive proper diagnostic testing for four months and did not receive surgery for seven months. Jenner & Block was appointed as his pro bono counsel in 2017.
In her decision to set punitive damages at $7 million, Judge Myerscough wrote: “This amount recognizes the reprehensibility of Wexford’s conduct and the harm Plaintiff suffered,should be sufficient to deter future similar conduct, and also stays within the bounds of due process, in the court’s judgment.”
Paralegal Kevin O. Garcia assisted Mr. Pelz in the matter.
Alabama Governor Issues Apology, Invites Compensation Dialogue for Pro Bono Client Injured in 1963 Church Bombing
The firm represents Sarah Collins Rudolph, who at age 12 was the victim of a 1963 church bombing that left her partially blinded. Carried out by the Ku Klux Klan, the explosion at the Sixteenth Street Baptist Church in Birmingham killed Ms. Collins Rudolph’s older sister and three other girls.
Earlier this month, the team sent a letter to Alabama Governor Kay Ivey, calling for an official apology from the State of Alabama to Ms. Collins Rudolph and seeking compensation for the decades of physical and emotional pain she has endured.
On September 30, Gov. Ivey responded. “Moreover, there should be no question that Ms. Collins Rudolph and the families of those who perished – including Ms. Collins Rudolph’s sister, Addie Mae, as well as Cynthia Wesley, Carole Robertson, and Carole Denise McNair – suffered an egregious injustice that has yielded untold pain and suffering over the ensuing decades. For that, they most certainly deserve a sincere, heartfelt apology – an apology that I extend today without hesitation or reservation,” reads the letter.
In the letter, the governor also suggests opening a dialogue with the firm team regarding the sought-after compensation.
“We are gratified by Governor Ivey’s unequivocal acknowledgment of the egregious injustice that Ms. Collins Rudolph suffered, and by the Governor’s apology for the State’s racist and segregationist rhetoric and policies that led to Ms. Collins Rudolph’s injuries. We look forward to engaging in discussions in the near future with the Governor about compensation, which Ms. Collins Rudolph justly deserves after the loss of her beloved sister and for the pain, suffering and lifetime of missed opportunities resulting from the bombing,” said Partners Ishan K. Bhabha and Alison I. Stein in a statement. Associate Caroline C. Cease is also on the team.
The team’s initial letter was reported by multiple news outlets, and Governor Ivey’s response was reported by media including the Associated Press, Washington Post, NBC News, Montgomery Advertiser, WBRC Fox Birmingham, CBS 42 Birmingham, and AL.com.
Firm Assists Healthy Eating Non-Profit Strengthen the Delivery of its Services
The firm counseled Purple Asparagus as it explored a strategic alliance that would strengthen the delivery of its programming. Purple Asparagus educates children, families, and the community about eating that’s good for the body and the planet. Its flagship program, “Delicious Nutritious Adventures,” brings healthy foods to life for elementary school children in Chicagoland schools.
The matter began at the top of the year as a proposed merger with a local non-profit, but uncertainties caused by COVID-19 led to negotiations ending. Purple Asparagus and the firm team shifted focus to finding another home for the programming and ultimately entered into an agreement with another Chicago-based non-profit that will strengthen the delivery of all Purple Asparagus programs.
The firm team included Partner Gail H. Morse and Associates William R. Erlain and Rita L. Feikema.
Jenner & Block Partner Gregory Boyle Selected to Chicago Bar Foundation Leadership Team
On September 21, 2020, Partner Gregory M. Boyle was selected as second vice president of the Chicago Bar Foundation (CBF) Board of Directors. After serving as a vice president for two years, Mr. Boyle will become CBF president in 2022. Comprised of diverse lawyers and judges, CBF officers and board of directors develop plans to carry out its mission: “to improve access to justice for people in need and make the legal system more fair and efficient for everyone.”
As the charitable arm of the Chicago Bar Association (CBA), the CBF brings the Chicago legal community together to improve access to justice for people in need and make the legal system more fair and efficient for everyone. The Foundation addresses large systemic issues, such as the sharp increase of unrepresented people in the courts. Through community leadership, the CBF develops new solutions for providing access to justice, including advocating within the courts and at all levels of government for laws and policies that make the justice system more fair and accessible.
In addition, Through its annual Investing in Justice Campaign, the CBF raises millions of dollars to support legal aid organizations and programs throughout Chicago. Since its inception in 2007, the Campaign has raised more than $18.5 million to fund legal services for low- and middle-income people in need.
Another CBF initiative is the Justice Entrepreneurs Project (JEP), which is a small-business incubator that helps lawyers start practices serving low- and middle-income Chicagoans. The JEP has helped several lawyers build sustainable practices, serving more than 4,000 clients and securing more than $4 million in revenue over the past year. As a JEP board member for many years, Partner Terri L. Mascherin currently serves as chair of its Advisory Board.
In addition to Ms. Mascherin, Mr. Boyle joins a long tradition of Jenner & Block lawyers who have been involved with the Foundation and who have held CBF leadership positions. The late Floyd E. Thompson, who was Chief Justice of the Illinois Supreme Court, CBA president, and a former Jenner & Block partner, made the initial gift to establish the CBF in 1948. Partner Jeffrey D. Colman served as CBF president, in addition to long service as a board member. Partner Terry J. Truax was also a longstanding board member. Partner Jason M. Bradford currently serves as vice president of its Young Professionals Board. Since 2005, Partner Howard S. Suskin has served as a member of the CBF’s Cy Pres Committee.
Jenner & Block lawyers have also been recognized by the CBF for contributions to the profession, including Partner Andrew F. Merrick, who received the Maurice Weigle Exceptional Young Lawyer Award in 2016. Mr. Weigle was a Jenner & Block partner in the 1970s and 80s.
Letter to Alabama Governor Seeks Justice for Birmingham’s “Fifth Little Girl”
Jenner & Block Partners Ishan K. Bhabha and Alison I. Stein and Associate Caroline C. Cease sent a letter to Alabama Governor Kay Ivey seeking justice on behalf pro bono client Sarah Collins Rudolph, who at age 12 was the victim of a 1963 bombing that left her partially blinded and killed her older sister.
Known as the “fifth little girl,” Ms. Collins Rudolph survived the bombing at the Sixteenth Street Baptist Church carried out by the Ku Klux Klan in Birmingham, Alabama, on September 15, 1963. The attack killed four girls, including Ms. Collins Rudolph’s sister, 14-year-old Addie Mae, as well as Denise McNair, 11, Carole Robertson, 14, and Cynthia Wesley, 14. Ms. Collins Rudolph lost her right eye in the attack.
The letter sent to Gov. Ivey on September 14 calls for an official apology from the State of Alabama to Ms. Collins Rudolph and seeks compensation for the decades of physical and emotional pain she has endured. “While social justice is always a worthy cause, given recent events, now is the time for Ms. Collins Rudolph to receive long overdue justice,” the letter states.
Learn more in this press release about the case.
Cross-Office Team Advises Lawyers Without Borders
Earlier this year, Lawyers Without Borders (LWOB) asked the firm to conduct an in-depth analysis on wildlife trafficking and organized crime and whether there has been an impact since the start of the coronavirus pandemic, particularly in Africa, South America, and Asia.
After diligent research by a cross-office team including Partner Christine Braamskamp, Staff Attorney Angelina Smith, and Paralegal Neha Patel, the team found that while there were travel bans and trade restrictions in effect that limited the move of goods and people, organized crime found ways to adapt their operations and continue wildlife trafficking. This includes finding alternative methods of transportation and increasing online wildlife trading and selling.
The team suggested that to mitigate the adaptation of organized crime, law enforcement agencies should increase security at check points on land borders and at ports where the transport of wildlife occurs the most. Further, the development of specific strategies to police virtual markets, such as cybercrime units and special monitoring programs, may be needed. Their research recommended that educating local communities on the dangers of wildlife trade and the potential diseases that can cause outbreak would help curb the demand in wildlife trafficking. The team urged the LWOB to have readily available information on the practice of illegal wildlife trafficking and its connection to the spread of disease, as well as provide communities with a way to report suspected illegal trafficking.