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Modification to the Direct Action Law in Wisconsin October 25, 2011

Posted by Andrew Christman in FAQ Personal Injury, Milwaukee Litigation Attorney, Milwaukee Personal Injury Attorney, Personal Injury Law, Wisconsin Auto Accidents.
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In May of last year I wrote a blog post about the direct action statute in Wisconsin. This is the law that allows an injured party to sue the insurance company of the at fault party directly. The Supreme Court has recently modified this law in its decision in Casper v. American International South Insurance. There was previously case law in Wisconsin that said in order for the direct action statute to apply, the insurance policy must have been delivered or issued in Wisconsin. In the Casper case, the Wisconsin Supreme Court unanimously overturned this case law now stating that for direct action to apply the subject injury need only take place in Wisconsin. In Casper, an automobile accident, the at fault driver was operating a truck as part of his job duties. The insurance policy covering the employer was issued out of state. More information about the case can be found at the State Bar of Wisconsin website.

Feel free to contact Groth Law Firm, S.C.  if you have any questions or would like to discuss your need for a personal injury attorney.  Groth Law Firm, S.C. has offices to meet with clients in Brookfield, Milwaukee, Green Bay and Marinette.

Attorney Jon Groth To Speak at the WSSFC.ORG October 24, 2011

Posted by Attorney Jonathan Groth in Milwaukee Personal Injury Attorney, Personal Injury Law.
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Attorney Jon Groth will be speaking at the 2011 Wisconsin Solo and Small Firm Conference at the Kalahari Resort in Wisconsin Dells, WI. The Saturday presentation is entitled, “All That’s New With Personal Injury Thanks To The Recent Legislative Session.” see www.wssfc.org

New Study On Driving Under the Influence July 28, 2011

Posted by Andrew Christman in Drunk Driving, FAQ Personal Injury, Milwaukee Litigation Attorney, Milwaukee Personal Injury Attorney, Personal Injury Law, Wisconsin Auto Accidents.
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On Saturday, USA Today posted this article about new research from the University of California – San Diego, that says even one alcoholic beverage can increase the likelihood of a driver being involved in a serious collision. The study found that drivers with a small amount of alcohol in their system, an amount under the legal limit for driving, had accidents on average that were 36.6% more serious than sober drivers. While it is extremely unlikely that a single drink would cause a person’s blood alcohol level to climb above the legal limit of .08 thus subjecting the driver to possible charges for driving under the influence, a single drink can influence a drivers concentration, and speed of travel. The study showed that drivers that had consumed alcohol were more likely to drive over the speed limit than those drivers who had not consumed alcohol.

Please remember to always drink responsibly and never to drive under the influence. If you have been injured in an automobile accident by a driver under the influence please contact Attorney Jonathan P. Groth at 877-375-7001. Groth Law Firm, S.C. has offices to meet with clients in Wauwatosa, Brookfield, Milwaukee, Green Bay and Marinette.

Wisconsin Personal Injury Settlements for Minors March 21, 2011

Posted by Attorney Jonathan Groth in Milwaukee Litigation Attorney, Milwaukee Personal Injury Attorney, Personal Groth, Personal Injury Law.
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Under Wisconsin law settlements for a minor may not be enforced without the appointment of a guardian ad litem and the approval of the court.  Supreme Court Justice Gordon put it best when he said “we are aware that settlements are sometimes made in cases involving the claims of minors wherein releases are taken from the parent, but court approval is not sought.  This practice is ordinarily found only in cases in which the injuries are modest and the settlement is correspondingly small.  Since it is clear that a minor cannot be bound by an extra judicial settlement, a calculated risk is taken in striking a bargain without the benefit of judicial approval.”  In re: Matter of Lee O. Anderson, minor, et al. v. Mutual Service Casualty Insurance, 17 Wis.2d 380, 382, 117 N.W.2d 360, 361 (1962).  In Anderson a minor child was represented by an attorney at a summit hearing at which a settlement was approved in the Circuit Court of Douglas County.  The minor settlement took place without there having been a guardian ad litem appointed.  The Supreme Court held that even though an attorney had represented the minor, the settlement was not valid because a guardian ad litem had not been appointed for the benefit of the child.  The court went on to say that “the legislature has wisely directed a guardian ad litem be appointed for a minor who does not have a general guardian.  This is a desirable way of assuring that in every case the infant’s rights will be fully protected.”  See Id.  The logic behind the legislature’s actions is strongly in favor of protecting a minor.

The most common situations in which minor settlements are needed is that of a motor vehicle accident or dog bite case where a minor was injured and the insurance company asks for a minor settlement hearing.  Because it is the insurance company’s neck that is on the line, it is their prerogative to ask for a minor settlement hearing.  Again, they assume the risk set forth in Anderson.

When a settlement has been reached involving a minor and the insurance company requires the settlement to be approved by a circuit court the ball is usually in the attorney’s court to get the settlement approved.  It is important to ask the insurance company to pay for the filing fee for the petition for approval.  These fees change from county to county but they are usually approximately $155.00.  The documents filed with the court are pretty standard.  If you don’t have copies of these documents, please feel free to contact me and I will e-mail them to you.  My standard letter to the Clerk of Circuit Courts in the county where the injury occurred encloses an original (1) Petition for Approval of Minor Settlement, (2) Affidavit from the attorney in support of the Petition, and (3) an original and a copy of an Order for Approval of the Minor Settlement.  I always ask the clerk to contact me if a settlement hearing is not necessary.  Sometimes the court will review the petition, pictures, medical records and bills or any other documents attached and sign the Order and forward it back.  That’s why it’s important to ask to avoid the extra expense of court time.  Be sure to call the court about a week after sending the documents just to make sure that the court understands the matter and to explain why you think the matter needs to have a hearing or whether you would like the court to read the documents and approve it without a hearing.  If the court requires a hearing, then it is very important to have the client present along with the client’s parents or legal guardian.  When it comes to people present at the hearing, the more the merrier.  If father and mother are divorced and both have custody of the child I strongly encourage both parents to attend the hearing.  The last thing we need is a battle after the fact if only one parent came.  Also, you don’t want that embarrassing question from the judge about why only one parent is in attendance.  If because of work or other conflict only one parent can attend, it is a good idea to get a written consent by the absent parent and bring that with you so the court is aware that the other parent has read through the documents and consents to the approval of the minor settlement.

Minor settlement hearings themselves don’t change much injury to injury.  Hopefully the judge you are appearing before will have enough time on his or her calendar to make the child feel at home.  I have had judges allow the child to play with the gavel and ask questions of anyone on the judge’s staff.  Court reporters seem to get the most questions.

The purpose behind a hearing is to make sure that everyone is aware of the ramifications of the settlement.  Evidence needs to be presented so that the court is aware of the extent of the injuries.  That is why it is important to forward to the court in advance of the hearing documents that substantiate the injury.  A motor vehicle accident report, pictures, medical bills, and records are a good start.  I usually send everything that I sent as a demand to the insurance company to the judge in advance of the hearing.  Be sure to prepare the minor client for a few questions about how the accident happened, his or her past injuries and present injuries, and how the injuries affected their life since the accident.

Next, one should ask questions of the parents or legal guardians of the child who are present.  Again, if someone cannot attend, it is important to have an Affidavit to present to the court to show the court that everyone is in agreement about the settlement.  The parents/legal guardians need to set forth that they understand that a settlement has been reached regarding a certain injury.  They need to state that they understand that this settlement is full and final.  For example, “do you understand that this is a full and final settlement for all of the injuries that your child has suffered on the injury date and he/she can never again claim compensation for those injuries?”  They must state that they are aware and approve that the funds will be placed in a “secure” bank account until the minor reaches the age of 18 or older.  Recently I have heard of judges being very concerned about the type of account that a minor’s funds are placed.  I am not going to tell you where to place your client’s funds other than be sure to place them in an insured interest bearing account.  Again, structured settlement companies like the ones that advertise in The Verdict are highly recommended.

For your sake and for the sake of your client it is important to confirm on the record that the parent/legal guardians understand that they will not have access to the funds.  It’s often a good idea to make them aware that they will only be able to get access to those funds if they petition the court at a later date for certain things.  At this point you can use the court to tell the parents/legal guardians about what things they can ask for.  Judges will usually be helpful in this matter by stating that it is only for extreme situations that they will release funds for the benefit of a minor prior to that minor’s 18th birthday.  Asking for a new pair of socks or a new keyboard for a computer (these are things that I have heard clients ask judges and me about) will most likely not be allowed prior to that child’s 18th birthday.

For your benefit and the benefit of your minor client, it is important to ask the parents about every item on your settlement disbursement form.  Be sure to have copies for everyone present and go through it with them line by line asking them if they understand and agree with the settlement disbursement form.  For example, “Do you realize that the settlement amount is $15,000.00?  Do you consider this to be a faire and reasonable settlement for the injuries your child sustained?  Do you know that our firm’s fees are this amount and the costs are this amount?  And do you feel that the fees and costs are fair and reasonable?”

In the end a minor settlement hearing is the government’s way of insuring that minors are not taken advantage of.  It also has the ancillary benefit of making sure that minors or their parents are fully aware of the settlement and in that matter protects trial lawyers who represent these victims.  Finally, don’t forget to do your duty as guardian ad litem.  You must state to the court that you approve the settlement for the minor based upon the documents presented and testimony given.



Update On “Milwaukee’s Crumbling Concrete” March 14, 2011

Posted by Attorney Jonathan Groth in Milwaukee Litigation Attorney, Milwaukee Personal Injury Attorney.
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A while ago I wrote a post about the “Crumbling Concrete” of South East Wisconsin.  One concrete contractor sued Central Ready Mixed (owned by Prairie Material) and obtained a verdict of $1.1 million from a Waukesha County jury.  According to the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel article:

Central Ready Mixed refused to disclose its “batch tickets,” the recipe from each load of concrete, claiming they contained proprietary information. The company eventually had to produce them as part of the discovery process in the lawsuit, and it was determined the formula contained too much water and not enough cement for this region.

More than a dozen affected customers testified about the flaking, scaling and crumbling top surfaces of their driveways, Schultz said.

“You could drive on them, but it was a nuisance and not what you paid for,” he said.


Thanks to Sara for the tip about this story!

Attorney Jackie Chada Nuckels Joins Groth Law Firm, S.C. March 7, 2011

Posted by Attorney Jonathan Groth in Milwaukee Personal Injury Attorney, Personal Groth, Personal Injury Law, Wisconsin Auto Accidents.
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Personal Injury Attorney Jackie Chada Nuckels

Personal Injury Attorney Jackie Chada Nuckels

Everyone at Groth Law Firm, S.C. is excited to announce the addition of Attorney Jacqueline Chada Nuckels to the litigation team.  Attorney Nuckels brings experience from the defense and plaintiff’s bar to Groth Law Firm, S.C.   Attorney Groth commented, “We are lucky to have her.  Attorney Nuckels brings a wealth of experience on complex briefing issues and, most importantly, knows how to try a case before a jury.”

Attorney Jackie Nuckels’ bio illustrates that this award winning lawyer is a credit to the profession and a fantastic advocate for her clients:

Jackie was born in Greendale, Wisconsin. She attended Greendale public schools, before heading to DePere, Wisconsin to attend St. Norbert College. While in college, Jackie was an active member of various community service groups and student government. It was during a service trip to Washington, DC that Jackie decided to pursue a career in law to advocate on behalf of those without a voice.

Following her graduation from St. Norbert, cum laude, Jackie attended Marquette University Law School, where she was again involved in volunteer organizations and student government. While in law school, Jackie gained invaluable experience as an intern to the late Honorable Ted E. Wedemeyer of the Wisconsin Court of Appeals and the Legal Aid Society of Milwaukee. Throughout her law school career, Jackie also maintained employment as a law clerk at a successful Brookfield law firm. Jackie graduated from Marquette University Law School with her Juris Doctor.

Attorney Jackie Nuckels  is a member of the Wisconsin State Bar, Wisconsin Association for Justice, American Association for Justice, National Association of Women Lawyers, Association for Women Lawyers and the Milwaukee Young Lawyers Association. Jackie is also a member of the Brain Injury Association of Wisconsin and proud supporter of the American Cancer Society.

In 2008, Attorney Nuckels was named in Cambridge Who’s Who Among Executives, Professionals and Entrepreneurs. She has also been a speaker at the Wisconsin Association for Justice Tort & Technique Update Seminar and the Professional Association of Wisconsin Licensed Investigators.

Jackie currently lives in Oconomowoc, Wisconsin, with her husband, daughter, and dog. Jackie enjoys golfing, gardening, and spending time with family and friends.

New Review/Testimonial for Groth Law Firm, S.C. March 4, 2011

Posted by Attorney Jonathan Groth in Milwaukee Personal Injury Attorney, Personal Injury Law, Wisconsin Auto Accidents.
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I’m honored to have represented such good people.  It’s humbling to hear what former clients say about our staff and firm.

Just yesterday a former client testimonial was posted on Avvo.com:

Jon Groth was very efficient on expediting my case. Face with several challenges, having to track all medical bills, out of pocket expenses, get a rental vehicle arranged, along w/Insurance Company changing case agents several times. Jon Groth was able to settle my personal injury case out of court for a fair amount.

This case also involved personal property claim due to high value of my vehicle. After my vehicle was repaired Jon Groth was able to litigate for a diminished value of my vehicle. Due to Car Fax for that vehicle will always show the amount of damage. Jon Groth was able to settle this personal property claim for a fair amount, at no charge.

Thru working with Jon Groth over a year and half I learned that not only is he very driven person. He very versed in law , he also has a very large support network in the law community. I was referred to Jon Groth by a coworker and truly am thankful. I will now do the same if I know anyone who needs a personal injury lawyer or legal advice of any type.

Social Networks Impact on E-Discovery February 24, 2011

Posted by Attorney Jonathan Groth in Milwaukee Personal Injury Attorney, Personal Injury Law, Wisconsin Auto Accidents.
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I don’t have much to add to this article by Judge Sankovitz, Professor Grenig and William Gleisner.  When it comes to discovery issues they are certainly the experts in the field.  I recommend you read this article if you do any sort of litigation in Wisconsin.

In fact, social networking has so permeated the culture that competent lawyers cannot afford to ignore its customs and the trove of discoverable information to be found where it takes place. Just as lawyers last century needed to master the intricacies of email, so too this century with social networking. As one commentator puts it: “It should now be a matter of professional competence for attorneys to take the time to investigate social networking sites. You must pan for gold where the vein lies – and today, the mother lode is often online.”


Attorney Groth Interviewed On WISN 12 Milwaukee January 26, 2011

Posted by Attorney Jonathan Groth in FAQ Personal Injury, Milwaukee Personal Injury Attorney, Personal Injury Law.
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Attorney Groth was interviewed by Milwaukee’s WISN tonight.  In part the story states:

Wednesday, just before delivering his State of the County speech, Holloway was also served with papers from a tenant who is suing him.  Thelma Murphy, who lives in a building in the 2000 block of Atkinson that Holloway owns, claims bad lighting and poor upkeep of the stairwell caused her to take a debilitating fall in August.  “The stairs were torn and tattered,” said attorney Jonathan Groth, Murhpy’s attorney.  Groth sent Holloway a letter on Murphy’s behalf in October, requesting the name of Holloway’s insurance company, to cover Murphy’s medical bills.  Groth said instead of responding, Holloway tried to evict Murphy.  In January, Groth and Murphy claim in the lawsuit, Holloway sent “an armed thug” to Murphy’s apartment.  “When he left back out, he put the gun back to me and told me, ‘Thelma Murphy — I know who you is, and Lee Holloway wants you out of this building immediately,'” Murphy told 12 News earlier this month.   “This is the most uncivil civil servant I think we have in the Milwaukee area,” Groth said.   The Milwaukee city attorney’s office is prosecuting the municipal case against Holloway for five properties with outstanding violations.

For video of the story please visit WISN.

Attorney Groth Helps Victim of Current Milwaukee County Executive Lee Holloway January 25, 2011

Posted by Attorney Jonathan Groth in Milwaukee Personal Injury Attorney, Personal Injury Law.
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Recently the actions and inactions of acting Milwaukee County Executive Lee Holloway have been outrageous.  Our firm represents one victim of the Milwaukee County Executive.  The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel has published a story about the lawsuit we filed today stating:

Thelma Murphy’s lawsuit contends that Holloway failed to maintain the apartment building in a safe condition and was aware of the dangers because city inspectors had issued more than 100 code violations at the building, at 3061 W. Atkinson Ave. The suit, filed in Milwaukee County Circuit Court, also named Holloway’s wife, Lynda Holloway, the Holloway Living Trust, the state Department of Health Services’ office of legal counsel and two unnamed insurance companies as defendants.

Holloway could not immediately be reached for comment Tuesday afternoon.

Earlier this month, Eric L. Turner, a security guard for Holloway’s rental business, was arrested after Murphy, 51, said he had barged into her apartment with a gun, ransacked it and told her she had to leave.

Holloway had said he didn’t know about that incident, but he had said he was trying to evict Murphy, whom he called “a bad tenant.”

Her attorney, Jonathan Groth, said that after the Aug. 12 fall he sent a letter to Holloway in October to inquire who insures the rental business and apartments. Groth said he never got a reply, but five days later Murphy was hit with an eviction action, which he helped her get dismissed. A second eviction action also was dismissed last year. Holloway filed a third eviction Jan. 6, the day after Turner visited her apartment. That case is pending.

But Murphy was later a victim of “thuggery,” meant to intimidate her from seeking compensation for her injuries, Groth said, and of Holloway’s comments about her to news media. He said he’s still never been told who, if anyone, insures Holloway’s rental properties.

According to the lawsuit, the windows near the entrance to Murphy’s building have been boarded up, so little daylight can illuminate the interior where the lights didn’t work. Further, the stairs themselves have been “repaired” with duct tape, the suit contends, making them more hazardous.

Groth said Murphy suffered a knee injury in the fall. Though she has been recuperating, he said, she is consulting with an orthopedic surgeon about possible surgery on the knee.