Legal News And Updates

From Ohio's Leading Wrongful Death Attorneys

Stay connected to the latest legal news from Cooper & Elliott. Read about our most recent litigation successes and gain insight from the verdicts and settlements we've achieved for our clients.

Click on the press release titles below to read more about each individual legal news update from the Compassionate Consultants at Cooper & Elliott.


Federal Judge OKs Multiple Cases Against Pilot Flying J for Fraud

Posted on Wed, Mar 25, 2015

Columbus, Ohio - Trucking companies represented by Cooper & Elliott in cases against Pilot Flying J for alleged fraud, breach of contract, and negligent misrepresentation will be allowed to continue their lawsuits. U.S. District Judge Amul Thapar rejected Pilot Flying J's request to dismiss these claims. Requests by Jimmy Haslam (CEO of Pilot Flying J) and other executives to dismiss RICO conspiracy claims asserted against them in companion cases were also denied.

Pilot Flying J has already paid out nearly $85 million to settle an initial class action suit and another $92 million to the federal government that spared the company from criminal charges. However, not all trucking companies damaged by Pilot Flying J were part of this initial settlement.

These additional cases now move to the discovery phase, where the trucking companies can obtain emails and company documents from Pilot Flying J and require current and former employees and executives to give sworn testimony. 

In April 2013, Pilot Flying J's headquarters were raided by the FBI, which had investigated claims that the company deliberately withheld rebate payments from trucking companies and lied to the companies about how much they were owed.  To date, ten Pilot employees have pleaded guilty to mail and wire fraud charges arising from the long-running scheme, including Pilot's former national sales director. 

Pilot Flying J's illegal rebate scheme – referred to within its sales force as "jacking the discount" – is yet another example of large-scale corporate greed.  Pilot Flying J is the largest seller of over-the-road diesel fuel in the United States, and its size and market share gave the company the chance to commit massive fraud. 

According to court documents, in a recording made by an undercover informant, Pilot Flying J's former vice president of sales indicated that CEO Jimmy Haslam knew of the scheme.

Trucking companies trusted that a company with Pilot Flying J's size and reputation would deal honestly and fairly with them. Their trust was violated in the worst way. In an excerpt from undercover recordings made by the FBI, Pilot's director of national sales was caught on tape explaining and teaching the fraud to other salespeople, including how to target less savvy trucking companies:

“Some of ‘em, some of ‘em don’t know what a spreadsheet is.  I’m not kiddin’.  So, again, my point is this: Know your customer… If the guy’s sophisticated and he truly has gone out and gotten deals from the other competitors and he’s gettin’ daily prices from us, don’t jack with his discounts, ’cause he’s gonna know, okay?… There’s guys that I move a penny, there’s guys that I move 15 cents.  I mean, it’s an art, it’s a feel, it’d do what you do.  It’s not do more, don’t, you know, don’t ever expose yourself…
I ask myself, is this a customer that I send a daily price fetch to?  Does he buy from anybody else?  Does he have any idea what cost-plus-4 means to his business?  Nope.  Has no clue.  Absolutely know [sic] idea.  Well, do I want to pay him $25,000?  Maybe… I look at my P&L, and my P&L says, ‘Huh.  I’m payin’ him $25,000 and we made $25,000 on it.  That’s not a very good deal for me.’  I’ll probably cut this one down to like 21.  This customer is not a very sophisticated buyer and he doesn’t know what we’ve done here, right?”

“The financial consequences to a small business dealing with a corrupt partner can be devastating,” said Chip Cooper of Ohio business litigation law firm Cooper & Elliott. “Standing up to big corporations like Pilot Flying J sends a strong message that they can't get away with fraud just because they’re an industry leader or think their customers are too naïve to detect the fraud or too intimidated to cry foul.”

Cooper & Elliott has a long history of successfully representing small businesses against much bigger opponents. “The contingency fee based representation we offer has allowed many small companies to take action, even though they may lack the resources to pursue behemoths like Pilot Flying J,” said Cooper.

Topics: business litigation

Sean Alto Joins Cooper & Elliott

Posted on Wed, Jan 14, 2015

Sean_Alto-HeadshotColumbus, Ohio – Ohio civil litigation law firm, Cooper & Elliott, is pleased to announce Mr. Sean Alto has joined the firm. Along with other attorneys at Cooper & Elliott, Mr. Alto will practice in matters of wrongful death, personal injury, medical malpractice and business litigation.

Mr. Alto’s reasons for joining Cooper & Elliott are numerous and include the opportunity to work with experienced and respected trial attorneys and litigators, as well as the ability to try interesting and challenging cases. “My primary reason for joining Cooper & Elliott is due to the firm’s stellar reputation,” said Mr. Alto. “They tend to take on large and very important cases – those cases where litigation may be contentious but where they still obtain favorable outcomes for their clients.” 

How well an attorney will fit into the Cooper & Elliott culture is an important consideration when hiring a new attorney at the firm. “We’re careful about who we bring on board, and that holds true with regard to Sean Alto”, said Chip Cooper, the firm’s co-founder. “What immediately struck us about Sean is that in addition to being an excellent lawyer he’s an intelligent, creative and compassionate person, and those are really important characteristics for an attorney at Cooper & Elliott.” 

Rex Elliott, the firm’s other co-founder remarked, “One of the many things that impressed us about Sean is his authenticity. He’s just an open, genuine and approachable attorney. Those qualities are at our very core here at Cooper & Elliott, so Sean fits right in.”

Mr. Alto currently serves as the Chair of the Columbus Bar Association’s Common Pleas Court Committee. He received his Juris Doctorate from Capital University Law School, and received his undergraduate degree at The Ohio State University. Mr. Alto resides in Columbus with his wife, Kelly, and their cocker spaniel, Teddy. When he’s not at work, Sean enjoys golfing and long-distance cycling.  

Topics: business attorney

Wrongful Death Claims Versus Survival Claims: What’s The Difference?

Posted on Tue, Mar 18, 2014

187621262When your client loses a loved one to a case of wrongful death, there are two distinct claims possibilities. The first and most obvious course of action is to file a claim under Ohio’s wrongful death statute. However, if the decedent suffered any conscious pain or suffering before death, even if only briefly, a survival claim also comes into play.

Lawyers who do not have experience handling wrongful death claims often overlook the survival claim – to the detriment of the decedent’s beneficiaries.

How To Define A Wrongful Death Claim
The administrator of the decedent’s estate brings on a wrongful death claim. The types of damages available under a wrongful death claim include:

  • Loss of support from the decedent’s earning capacity
  • Loss of the decedent’s services
  • Loss of companionship
  • Loss of prospective inheritance 
  • Mental anguish

The proceeds recovered in a wrongful death claim are allocated through the probate court. The court adjusts the share of each beneficiary in a manner that’s equitable, taking into account the age and condition of the beneficiaries, the injury and each beneficiary that has suffered as a result of the death.

Since the proceeds are distributed directly to the decedent’s next of kin, there is no estate tax on any claim rewards.

How To Define A Survival Claim
A survival claim is not concerned with damages to the next of kin, but focuses on injuries the decedent suffered during his or her lifetime. Like a wrongful death claim, the decedent’s personal representative brings on a survival claim.

However, the damages from a survival claim are for the decedent’s pain and suffering, and the decedent’s economic losses (such as for lost income and medical expenses). These damages become part of the estate and are distributed according to the decedent’s will (or by statute if the decedent died without a will).

The Differences Between Wrongful Death And Survival Claims
There are several important differences between a wrongful death claim and a survival claim. The following are two examples to help illustrate the contrast between claims:

  • A jury may award punitive damages and attorney fees for a survival claim but not for a wrongful death claim. 
  • Insurance companies may assert subrogation rights against proceeds from a survival claim, but not against proceeds from a wrongful death claim.

Understanding the variations and nuances between a wrongful death claim and a survivor claim makes a huge difference in the amount of money the beneficiaries receive.

As a lawyer, you know that each area of a particular practice comes with its own set of complexities. Only years of hard-won experience lend the requisite knowledge necessary to see consistently favorable results for your clients.

Referring your client to an experienced wrongful death attorney is the most reasonable course of action. The right wrongful death attorney will have no qualms about welcoming you onboard to consult on the case. Ultimately, their lead in your client’s lawsuit is going to carve out the most efficient and effective path to justice.

Ready to team up with an experienced wrongful death attorney capable of delivering your clients the best possible results? Call 614-481-6000 or click here to speak with a Plaintiff Protector at Cooper & Elliott.

5 Benefits Of Referring The Right Wrongful Death Attorney For Your Clients

Topics: wrongful death attorney, wrongful death, decedent, wrongful death claim, wrongful death claims, survival claims, survival claim, wrongful death statute, probate court

Personal Injury Mediation: A Viable Alternative To Deadlock Negotiating

Posted on Thu, Dec 26, 2013

Essential Insight Into The Personal Injury Mediation Process

describe the imageWhen it comes to personal injury litigation, some people turn away from the process due to its potential to be expensive, stressful and time-consuming.

However, in recent years, personal injury mediation has become common in these types of cases. A large percentage of civil cases settle, in turn making mediation the most common settlement technique.

Personal Injury Mediation: What Is It?
Mediation occurs when a third party (mediator) facilitates a discussion with the sole purpose being to settle the case. The third party is typically a personal injury lawyer who has experience trying these types of cases for plaintiffs, defendants or both.

Mediation is an entirely voluntary process. If mediation does not work – meaning both sides of the dispute cannot reach an agreement – the only consequence is that the litigation continues. Since nothing either party says during mediation is usable by the other party in later stages of the dispute, there is no downside to mediation.

Mediation: First Steps To Ensure Settlement Success
The key to any personal injury settlement is not simply to settle the case, but to get the highest value possible. Here’s what you need:

  • Select A Strong Mediator: Look for a professional mediation service, staffed by full-time mediators who have both mediation experience and a legal background or identify individual mediators that have a long track record of successful mediation experience.
  • Select The Right Counsel For Your Case: This means finding a well-seasoned personal injury attorney who the other side fears.
  • Conduct In-Depth Preparation: Deep knowledge of the strengths and weaknesses of your case, along with a total understanding of all the defenses are crucial to a successful outcome.

Work with your lawyer to determine the best possible personal injury settlement scenarios to push during mediation.

During your personal injury mediation process, your lawyer needs to educate the mediator as much as possible before the mediation date. This must be done so the mediator understands the defense pressure points and the objectives to achieve in any settlement. Preparation and education will also help facilitate a smooth process the day mediation begins. We prepare power point presentations and detailed mediation statements to help ensure success at mediation.

The Benefits (And The Barrier) Of Personal Injury Mediation
Pro: When you reach a stalemate in your negotiations with the insurance adjuster, mediation is a way to break the impasse.

Pro: When you sit across the table from the insurance adjuster, you’ve put a human face to your set of personal injury claim documents. Because of this, they are more likely to understand the risks of a jury trial by putting a face to the tragedy.

Pro: The third-party mediator encourages a break in any deadlock, so the whole process is typically faster, easier and less expensive than taking your case to court.

Con: Because both parties must agree to mediation, it is sometimes difficult to get an adjuster on board due to the extra steps involved, including that crucial personal appearance.

Where Do You Draw The Line Before Deciding To Mediate?
You’re going to need legal counsel with a personal injury background, as well as a professional mediator, if any of the following scenarios have the parties at an impasse:

  • The insurance company has not offered anything close to fair personal injury compensation.
  • The major dispute involves the extent of your personal injury and to what degree each party was at fault.
  • You see no other avenues for negotiating, beyond taking your claim to a jury.

If you’ve suffered a personal injury, the law reserves you the right to certain compensation that helps you pay for time lost at work, medical bills and any loss of life enjoyment. You deserve to have the truth about your personal injury revealed as well as a settlement that assists in your path towards recovery.

Personal injury mediation has revolutionized the legal system as a viable alternative to achieve desired results, without the expense and complex battles of a court case.

Would you like to learn more about personal injury mediation and partnering with the right attorney to guide you through the process? Call 614-481-6000 or click on the button below to speak with a Compassionate Consultant at Cooper & Elliott. 

Right The Wrong

 


Topics: personal injury compensation, personal injury settlement, personal injury attorneys, personal injury, personal injury attorney, personal injury lawyer, mediator, mediation, personal injury mediation