Chemical Burns in the oil field
Our client was working as a floorhand on a work-over rig in Pavillion, Wyoming. When he was tripping out tubes, toxic chemicals and water suddenly poured out of the pipe, soaking him with an unknown, but toxic chemical mixture. Our client suffered severe chemical burns on his face, shoulders, arms, neck and legs and was rushed to a burn clinic in Colorado. During discovery, Jessica identified the system failure that caused her client’s injuries. The operator failed to notify the toolpusher that water mixed with fracking chemicals remained in the well. Additionally, Chesapeake’s tubing had a hole in it, causing the toxic chemicals to be pulled into the pipe from the borehole.
Work Place Brain Injury
Our client was coming to work through the back entry of a grocery store, which was a manual garage door. The top panel came out of the tracks, swung down and hit our client on the head. He was knocked unconscious and suffered a mild traumatic brain injury. Jessica found the perfect garage door expert witness who identified a series of system failures on the part of the garage door contractor who installed and serviced the garage door. One month before trial, the case settled very favorably for our client.
CEMENT PUMP TRUCK – BROKEN NECK AND BRAIN INJURY
Our client was helping his son-in-law build his house. When the cement pump truck arrived, our client stood on the foundation wall form and held the large hose attached to the pump truck used to fill the foundation forms. After the pump truck owner-operator stopped pumping to switch cement trucks, the hose became highly pressurized. The pump truck operator failed to push the emergency stop button on his control panel, causing our client to be blasted up off the foundation and to fall ten feet onto the ground. Our client suffered a broken neck and a brain injury. The case settled shortly before trial for a substantial recovery for our client.
Long Term Disability Benefits
Our client owned a long-term disability policy with Cigna – Life Insurance Company of North America, which provided for monthly payments in the event she became ill and could no longer work. Our client suffered from recurring brain tumors and underwent four brain surgeries, radiation therapy and chemotherapy over seven years. Nevertheless, Cigna denied her long-term disability benefits, asserting she could return to work. The case settled favorably shortly after suit was filed with Cigna admitting it had treated our client very poorly.
Fraud and False Advertising
Our client purchased an individual health insurance policy advertised on television. The advertisement and the agent on the sales call promised that the insurance policy offered unlimited surgery benefits. After over one year, our client’s doctor told her to get a spinal fusion to treat her back injury. Our client and her doctor obtained pre-authorization for the surgery, but then was denied the insurance claim which exceeded $140,000.00 for hospitalization and surgery.
Jessica Rutzick & Associates, P.C. filed suit against the insurance company claiming insurance bad faith, breach of contract and fraud. In discovery we learned that this insurance company had already been fined $700,000 by the State of New York Insurance Department for false advertising, but continued its false advertising campaign across the United States. Three weeks before trial, the parties reached a seven-figure confidential settlement agreement.
Chronic Back Pain- Disability
Our client suffered from severe neck and back pain in her mid-forties, at which time she was diagnosed with C4-5 and C5-6 disc herniations. She then was in a motor vehicle collision which worsened her neck and back pain. She underwent spine surgery, but her pain continued. After a second spine surgery, her pain continued and migrated to her shoulder. She went through extensive physical therapy for several years, but that treatment did not alleviate her pain. She also had many steroid injections, which did little to help her. Our client was eventually referred to a pain clinic and was prescribed strong narcotic medication to help her manage her pain.
Our client was unable to work as a result of her neck and back pain and made a claim for disability benefits she had through her employment. Aetna Insurance paid the disability benefits for several years, but then hired a private investigator to surreptitiously surveil our client. Relying on videotapes showing our client grocery shopping, cutting hair and walking her dog, Aetna discontinued the disability benefits of nearly $3,000/month.
Jessica Rutzick & Associates, P.C. filed an ERISA appeal before the federal district court in Wyoming. The federal judge found that Aetna had arbitrarily disregarded the evidence showing that our client was disabled. The judge ordered Aetna to reinstate disability benefits, to pay the back-due disability benefits with prejudgment interest, and to pay our attorney’s fees and costs.
Trucking Collision: Interstate 80
Our client was injured when an eighteen-wheel tractor-trailer rear-ended the snowplow he was operating on Interstate 80. The collision resulted in the death of the semi driver and severely injured our client’s neck and shoulders. This case settled shortly before the scheduled 5-day trial in federal court in a six-figure settlement.
Vehicular Crane Wreck- South Pass Wyoming
Our client was employed as a commercial driver of an 80-ton crane. The corporation who owned the crane failed to properly maintain its brakes and our client lost control of the crane while driving down South Pass in Fremont County. He managed to avoid hitting any other vehicles on the highway, steered it off the road and jumped. Our client survived the wreck, but suffered severe injuries. After a five-day trial, Jessica obtained a seven-figure jury verdict.
This was just the third jury verdict in Fremont County over $1 million and Jessica Rutzick is the first woman plaintiff’s lawyer in Wyoming to obtain a jury verdict for a personal injury case in excess of $1 million.
ERISA Breach of Fiduciary Duty
Our client was just twenty six years old when he was diagnosed with a rare form of cancer. He had health insurance through his employment, but had to quit working in order to get treatment at the MD Andersen Cancer Center. Our client continued his health insurance under COBRA, and timely sent his monthly premiums to the insurance plan administrator. His employer, however, was consistently late in making premium payments for the group plan. When a sudden blizzard delayed the employer’s premium payment by just several hours, the insurance plan administrator took that opportunity to drop the whole group from the insurance plan.
This ERISA case went to a one-week trial before the federal district court in Wyoming. The federal judge found that the insurance plan administrator’s decisions were arbitrary and capricious and made in bad faith, with the intent to drop a plan beneficiary (our client) who would be making potentially high claims against the insurance trust. The judge ordered the insurance plan administrator to pay the claim. The decision was appealed to the Tenth Circuit Court of Appeals and was affirmed. The federal court ordered Wyoming Associated Builder’s Insurance Trust to pay our client’s claim for benefits and to pay our client’s attorney’s fees and costs. That case can be reviewed: Phelan vs. Wyoming Association of Builders, 574 F.3d 1250 (10th Cir. 2009)