The Robert Pahlke Law Group
Our team at The Robert Pahlke Law Group is dedicated to obtaining the best
possible results for our clients. Some of our cases have even been featured
on the television program
watch the episodes here. Learn more about our experience and skills in the courtroom by reading
some of our past case results below!
Ronald "Tim" Bacon v. DB Industries, aka DBI/Sala
Verdict for product liability for failure to warn: $21,131,633.00
The Robert Pahlke Law Group was asked to retry a product liability case
involving fall protection that failed to warn resulting in paraplegia.
Ronald Tim Bacon was a ironworker working from second story of the fire
escape in the Qwest Center in Omaha when a crane load of decking was brought
in overhead. Initially one piece of decking weighing 140 to 190 pounds
came down which Mr. Bacon deflected, protecting the man on the deck below.
A second deck plate came down and hit a glancing blow to his lifeline
fall protection which then failed to arrest his fall. Mr. Bacon fell approximately
12 feet and suffered paraplegia as a result. A lawsuit was brought against
the company operating the crane, the safety company and DBI Sala. Shortly
before the first trial the cases against the crane company and safety
company were resolved and the case proceeded to trial against the DBI
Sala, the manufacturer of the self-retracting lifeline. At the close of
Plaintiff's evidence the court directed a verdict for DBI.
On appeal the Court of Appeals reversed and sent the case back for trial
only on the theory of failure to warn. No offers were made by defendant
before trial. After the Trial Judge overruled the motion for directed
verdict defendant offered $250,000.00. Mr. Bacon declined that offer and
placed his trust in the jury. The jury returned a verdict in the amount
suggested by Robert Pahlke in his closing argument. The verdict was a
record verdict. Robert Pahlke and Robert Hippe of the Robert Pahlke Law
Group tried this case with Britany Shotkoski of Harris Kuhn.
One of the things that impressed Mr. Pahlke and he believes the jury was
Mr. Bacon's refusal to give up. Mr. Bacon described the one time when
he was pain free. He said "I just wanted to lay there, not moving,
not even breathing, in hopes the pain would stay away." It didn't.
But even though badly injured and often in horrific pain, Mr. Bacon wanted
to make things better for others. Mr. Bacon had a wheelchair lift on his
Jeep which shorted out in the rain, stranding him in the rain. To protect
himself and others at the time of trial he was working on a wheel chair
lift that would cost about a third of what others did and would have the
breaker at the wheelchair, not under the hood like the lift that stranded
him. He was also working on a wheelchair lift to allow wheelchair users
when they came in out of the rain or snow to jack up their wheelchair
to allow the user to remove and clean the wheels so he or she could avoid
tracking up their house.
Mr. Bacon had a spirit that would not give in and we believe that the jury
recognized that despite his injuries, Mr. Bacon answered the call.
ART CARBAJAL V. FRONTIER EQUIPMENT AND MELVIN HAVELY
Art, in the broad light of day, was driving to work along a busy highway.
The highway, near a construction zone and itself the site of a recently
completed construction project, demanded attentive driving from those
who used it. Art was careful. He obeyed the speed limit and kept a lookout
for other traffic on the road. Soon, his alertness drew his eyes to a
large truck and trailer fast approaching from the rear. Seconds later,
a violent collision sent his entire life on a permanent detour.
While Art stayed within the speed limit, defendant Melvin Havely—an
employee of defendant Frontier Equipment—barreled down the highway
at 75 miles-per-hour on his way to deliver a tractor. In a moment’s
time, Havely caught up with Art, who had reached a bridge that limited
his escape routes. Havely smashed into the rear end of Art’s car,
hurling him about 100 feet and into a guardrail.
Mr. Pahlke’s Closing Argument: An Excerpt
So how do you [the jury] deal with [Art’s injuries]? You can run
and hide, the defendants would love you for it, or you can just go to
work and do your job.
If you were to roll back the clock one day, and a man comes to Art’s
house and he has in his hand an envelope and he sets it on the table and
he says, “Art, this is yours. I’ve placed something in it
of great value, it is yours. But, if you want it, you have to get up in
front of the table, you have to come over and pick it up.”
“If you do, tomorrow, when you’re going to work, some guy’s
going to be barreling down the road, 16,000 pounds, he’s going to
hit you going about 75 miles-per-hour, he’s going to knock you 100
feet right in front of a semi, and you’re going to take the guardrail
like a spear to the chest. You’re going to demolish your vehicle,
just like a giant fist of an angry God struck you. And you’re thinking
before he hits you… ‘Slow down, buddy, slow down.’
“And after it’s all over, you will wonder, ‘Was this
caused because these guys didn’t care, because they were in a race
to deliver a tractor, because they had bad brakes, or because they were
just not paying attention?’
“Those things won’t matter because the facts are…you
just lost your job; [the defendants] have fired you without permission…
“He has pain every day. Every day. Spasms most of every day. “If
it’s a bad day, you won’t sleep at all at night. You’ll
be married to pain, and there will be no separation and no divorce. You
will lose your life as you knew it, your health, your ability to enjoy
life and a little boy, your ability to support; you will lose your dignity.
And then, when you try and get a just result, [the defendant] will try
and steal it with testimony that’s false; that’s what you
Bob’s Thoughts: “At this point in the trial, I like to make the issue clear in the
jurors’ minds: I want them to see, hear, and feel what Art has to
go through each day, each hour of his life. I want the jury to focus on
health that has been stolen by carelessness. I think it puts a fine point
on how little money means when all we want is our health—health
that has been stolen by carelessness.”
“So…for taking the best part from Arthur Carbajal, his health,
the enjoyment of life, and his dignity, if there’s $2 million in
that envelope for pain and suffering, would Arthur Carbajal get up and
walk over to the table and pick it up and say, “I accept, I will
make the trade”? Would anybody do that? You decide. Thank you."
The jury returned with a verdict of $3,250,000.
JAMESON V. LIQUID CONTROLS CORP.
Allan Jameson and his son, Richard, worked together in their family business,
Sandhill Oil Company. Allan, over 37 years, had grown the business from
a two-customer beginning to its role as a major supplier of fuel for local
farmers and ranchers. Richard, since he was five years old, aspired to
one day follow in his father’s footsteps by taking over the family
business. Richard’s plans—and his whole life—changed
one hot summer afternoon. We recount the story by looking at the opening
statement and closing argument Mr. Pahlke made for Richard to a Lincoln
County jury. Out of respect for Richard and his family, we left out descriptions
of the extensive and permanent injuries Richard tragically suffered.
The Day that Changed Everything
“It was a Sunday…in the middle of haying season, and it’s
late in the afternoon, … Allan and Richard are getting ready for
business the next day,” Mr. Pahlke began. “And Richard thinks
to himself, ‘Pretty soon I’ll be going home, I’ll be
going home to my wife and kids.’” After a pause, Pahlke finished
the thought: “Richard Jameson did not go home that night. Richard
Jameson did not go home for the next 90 nights.”
How could Richard have been so wrong in thinking he could go home to his
family? Because, unbeknownst to him or Allan, they were working with defective
gasoline equipment. The equipment included a Liquid Controls meter—which
was brand new—and a Blackmer pump. There was no warning that these
products could, even when used correctly, cause serious injury or death.
The injury happened at their service station where Allan and Richard were
attempting to solve the mystery of the malfunctioning system. After Allan
turned the Blackmer pump on, only a small amount of gas registered in
the Liquid Controls meter. Confounded by the failure of a brand new meter,
he tried to understand what went wrong by examining the device. A few
minutes later, Allan turned the pump on again. This time it unexpectedly
worked and shot gasoline—liquid and vapor—through the system
with enough force that it escaped, shot in Richard’s direction,
exploded into flames, and engulfed Richard.
The Liquid Controls Meter and the Blackmer Pump
What was wrong with this equipment? How could it cause such a tragedy?
Pahlke summed up the manufacturers’ failures in five points: they
failed to “design and manufacture a safe product...to test the product…to
know their customers…to educate their customers…and to warn
the customer that…there is anything unsafe or potentially dangerous
about the product.”
In particular, Liquid Controls failed to put a sufficiently protective
strainer on its meter; this meant that particles that could clog the meter
could get through the “protective” strainer. Pahlke described
this inexplicable failure saying, “Even though [an effective strainer]
ought to be on there, it’s like Liquid Controls saying to you, ‘I
know you bought the car but the headlights were optional. If you’re
going to drive after dark you should put on headlights.’ That’s
The Closing Argument
Though the trial began with two defendants—Liquid Controls and Blackmer—it
ended with one. Blackmer after participating in the trial and approximately
two minutes before the closing argument, thought it best to settle than
let the jury decide. This left only Liquid Controls.
Near the end of his closing argument, Pahlke showed the jurors that the
lone remaining defendant was going to ask them for a favor:
“They are going to be asking you for immunity from being responsible.”
They are asking for “a King’s X so they don’t have to
step up to the plate, and do what responsible manufacturers have to do.”
He then asked the jury to hold them accountable:
“On behalf of Richard Jameson I’m asking you to say no, no,
mister manufacturer, not today, not ever. You don’t get to do this
to Richard Jameson.”
In his last minutes, Mr. Pahlke talked about how clients like Richard enrich his life:
“You know, one of the best things about this case is that I got to
meet Richard. This case has been a struggle, been a fight every inch of
the way. But Richard has always been a guy who has never quit. And, he
is a person that I’d like to have my children be like."
Bob’s Thoughts: “As I often say, one of the best parts of my profession is meeting
and getting to know clients of great character and courage, Richard was
such a client.”
He finished with,
"I have mixed emotions, I hate to let go, because as soon as I sit
down I can no longer be responsible for Richard’s future. I’ve
done all that I can. And when I sit down I begin to feel this burden that
we’ve borne so long together, being lifted from our shoulders. His
future is in your hands. And I ask that you guard it well. Thank you."
Bob’s Thoughts: “This part of a case is always hard for me. We've dedicated
so much energy and time to a client and I have to let it all go and leave
the jury to decide if my client gets compensation for what has happened
to him. I think it’s important to let the jury know that from the
point that I sit down, they control the rest of my client’s life.”
The jury returned with a verdict of $5,000,000, the largest personal injury
verdict in the history of Nebraska at that time.
ESTATE OF SHANE WOLFENDEN V. HUBERT, HILDERHOFF & G3 ENTERPRISES
Late on July night, G3 employee Hubert was having a party at his place
some 25 miles distant from his employer. Hubert had driven home the company’s
large gravel truck and pup trailer and parked it in front of his apartment.
It was common for G3 employees to stay on the company premises after work
and have several beers. After that, Todd Hubert would head home driving
the large gravel truck and trailer and part it in front of his home. On
the night in question, a party was held at Hubert’s apartment. Before
the party was over, Shane Wolfenden’s life would end as a result
of several poor decisions made by Hubert and Hubert’s Ted Hilderhoff.
The verdict in this case was substantial but was much less than others
shown on our site. This case is noteworthy because of the legal difficulties
it presented The Robert Pahlke Law Group—and that the team overcame
them and made Shayne’s family as nearly whole as the law could muster.
On that July night, Hubert and several of his friends are drinking through
the night and into the following morning out in front of his apartment
and adjacent to the parked company truck and trailer. At about 2:45 a.m.,
employee Hubert allowed Hilderhoff to drive the truck. Hilderhoff was
unlicensed, unqualified, and impaired if not drunk. The truck, per company
policy and common practice, was left with the keys in it.
When Hilderhoff started the truck, his claimed intention was to drive it
around the block. As he pulled out of the lot, Hubert thought better of
the permission previously granted Hilderhoff and jumped on the tongue
of the pup-trailer and into the box of the trailer. Shane, almost instantly
followed suit, for what had been represented to be a short trip around
the block. Shortly thereafter Hilderhoff took a right on highway 97, crossed
the railroad tracks. At the railroad crossing Shane was half in and half
out of the trailer with Hubert holding on. Hubert let Shane go and Shane
fell. Screams were heard 140 feet away, however, driver Hilderhoff and
the guy standing on his running board heard nothing. Hilderhoff continued
to Highway 2, took a right, and proceeded west. Shane fell but managed
to hang onto the trailer until it had drug him to his death 1.3 miles
down the highway.
The Legal Difficulties: Comparative Negligence and Assumption of Risk
When Shayne’s family brought the lawsuit, giving them justice in
court was difficult because of two problems: comparative negligence and
assumption of risk. With comparative negligence, if the plaintiff is partially
at fault, he can only recover from the defendants for the amount of damage
that they caused and none for the damage he caused. In our case, Shayne
had been drinking, suggesting that his actions that night may have been
Assumption of risk is a legal doctrine that says if you knowingly decide
to do a dangerous thing and you get injured doing it, your decision to
do the activity waives your right to recover when you’re injured.
For Shayne, he did decide to get on the trailer, a decision that the defense
argued was an assumption of the risk of injury or death.
Dealing with the Comparative Negligence Argument: An Excerpt from Mr. Pahlke’s
Let’s take a look at Shayne. It’s [the defense’s] job
to blame Shayne. It’s their job and they will. And I’m here
to tell you I think he should be blamed too, to a degree.
Bob’s Thoughts: Tell the truth. Only one thing has the ring of truth – the truth.
Juries recognize when being told the truth and when they’re not.
My client was partially at fault, and I knew we had to own up to the responsibility.
The jury knew they heard the truth on that day and responded accordingly.
In retrospect he shouldn’t have done it, but under the circumstances,
what he knew was it was just around the block. It wasn’t some hell-bent-for-election
trip to Whitman or whatever it was going to be…
It was a split second decision, he had no time to weigh the pros and cons
of this. Defendant Hubert admits there was not enough time to decide if
it was safe or not safe.
Dealing with the Assumption of Risk Argument: Another Excerpt
If the defense is going to argue assumption of the risk, which is really
their asking for immunity for their actions, if the attorneys ask for
that, I think you have to ask yourself in your heart and soul whether
or not the actual defendants would even ask for that atrocious, harsh,
unfair, unjustified remedy.
The driver said, “Just around the block, boys.” Shayne cannot
know that this is a false statement. You cannot assume the risk of what
you don’t know: 1.3 miles down Highway 2. This is unknown to Shayne.
He did not know and he could not know. You can’t assume the risk
that you don’t know about.
This case presented special difficulties for the plaintiff. In fact, the
pre-trial polling research showed that the plaintiff was unlikely to win.
Even still, when it counted, before a jury, Mr. Pahlke made the most of
the Wolfenden family’s day in court. The jury returned a verdict
$1.105M before reduction for contributory negligence. Afterwards, Shayne’s
father signed the jury form and wrote, “When Bob Pahlke speaks,
the jury listens!”