A $2.5 Million Judgement Was Awarded to a Deceased Chicago PlaintiffOn August 18, 2004, Rebecca Hess was on the back porch of an apartment in a residential building in Chicago’s North Side. She fell from the porch, suffering a spinal injury resulting in her being paralyzed from the waist down. Hess had fallen through yellow tape that the defendant had put up to act as a handrail.

On May 21, 2018, the state appeals court upheld the $2.5 million jury verdict that had been awarded to the plaintiff, rejecting the defendant’s argument that the lawsuit against the estate of her now-deceased husband had been untimely filed.

A lawsuit with twists and turns

This case is a good example of a lawsuit with several unexpected events. Ms. Hess was standing on the rear porch of an apartment when it collapsed beneath her. Her injuries from the accident were catastrophic, resulting in a spinal cord injury that left her paralyzed.

Injuries to the spine that cause permanent disability are life-altering events. In the majority of cases, paralysis leads to secondary health problems and a significant increase in costs for ongoing medical treatment. Patients may also need round-the-clock care, and may also have a shortened life span. Spinal cord injuries are almost always debilitating and extremely expensive.

After her accident, Ms. Hess sued Ronald Flores and his wife Charlotte, the owners of the apartment building. She alleged the owners were negligent, and willfully and intentionally engaged in misconduct regarding the installation, safety, and upkeep of the porch.

However, while the case was pending, Rebecca Hess died. With the case still pending one year later, Ronald Flores died. When a party to a personal injury or premises liability lawsuit dies during the course of a case, the case doesn’t just go away. There are certain decisions to be made and steps to be taken.

For example, if you are the plaintiff, and the defendant dies while your case is in progress, you clearly can’t recover damages from a deceased person. Instead, you need to file a request with the court to substitute the probate estate of the deceased for the defendant. If you are the defendant, the law allows the administrator of the deceased’s estate to step in for the plaintiff. Once you settle or win your case, you will be paid your compensation from the estate.

In this particular case, Ms. Hess’s mother took over the lawsuit for her daughter but did not add the defendant’s estate as a party until 2013. However, the defendant, the late Flores’ wife Charlotte Klink, argued that the plaintiff had taken too long to name the estate as a party in her amended complaint. The court found in favor of the plaintiff, stating that the defendant had known that a claim would have been brought against her husband’s estate and had notice of the claim.

The Chicago premises liability attorneys at Gainsberg Law represents people injured in accidents on other people’s property. We will hold responsible parties accountable. Write us today through our contact form, or by calling 312-600-9585 to schedule a consultation. We proudly serve clients throughout the Chicagoland area.