7/9/2018: TIDA’s “Hero of the Highway” Nominees

By Andrew Stephenson

When we defend trucking companies, in the context of civil litigation, we are expected to deal with the facts and the law in any given case. Juries are always instructed as to impartiality in consideration, that they should decide the case fairly and impartially without prejudice or bias. This instruction notwithstanding, in addition to the facts and the law, we often find ourselves having to deal with a preconceived negative bias against trucking companies and their drivers. Often the bias is deliberate, but sometimes it’s also unconscious. People feel threatened by the size, weight and speed of trucks. They form their opinion of trucking companies and truck drivers based on an individual bad experience on the highway, e.g. fast truck passing slow car in the rain. Compounding this negative bias, the news media almost exclusively portrays trucking companies in a negative context when there is a serious accident. Unfortunately, trucking companies and truck drivers don’t get enough credit for their invaluable contribution. Simply put, society as we know it would grind to halt within a few days but for the service provided by trucking companies. Everything you eat, wear and use was touched by a truck at one point during delivery. A full 80% of all U.S. communities depend solely on trucking. ATA and other industry organization try to combat those unfair perceptions through campaigns such as “Good stuff. Trucks Bring It” and “Trucking Moves America Forward.”

At the Trucking Industry Defense Association (TIDA), one of the ways we seek to address this problem is through the “Hero of the Highway Award.” Since 2010, TIDA has recognized a truck driver for his or her heroic behavior and/or extraordinary public service demonstrated in the preceding year. We honor the Hero of the Highway at the TIDA Annual Conference where they receive a plaque together with a check for $2,500.00. At the 2018 TIDA Annual conference we will honor one of the following nominees:

Arian Taylor (Ballard Trucking) out of Bardstown, KY, saved a 19-year-old woman from prostitution at a Compton, CA, truck stop. At around 4:00 am, Arian received a knock on his cab door only to find a 19-year old young woman standing outside his truck. As he spoke with her, he learned that her friend’s older boyfriend was trying to force her into prostitution. After she had refused and argued with him, he dumped her in the parking lot and sped off. She was cold, exhausted, had no money, no identification, was carrying everything she owned in her arms and was desperate to get back home to Las Vegas. At that point, Arian told her, “I will find a way to get you home.” After getting her warm and giving her water to drink, Arian looked at one of two Truckers Against Trafficking (TAT) stickers prominently displayed on his windows (which the victim had been eye-level with when she knocked on his door) and called the National Human Trafficking Hotline. TAT worked with him to secure the woman shelter for the night, a pre-paid cab ride to get her to that shelter and a chaperoned train ride back to Las Vegas the next day, where she was reunited with a family member. Arian took care of the young woman until she was placed in the cab, and even gave her his personal cell phone number in case she needed anything else.

Fernandez Garner, Jr. (Dupre Logistics, LLC) out of Lafayette, LA, skillfully avoided an accident that happened right in front of him and then stopped to render aid and assistance to the victims of the accident. Fernandez was on l-45N near Buffalo, TX following a burgundy van when a tanker passed and jumped in front of him so close that he had to immediately back off to gain a safe following distance. While creating this following distance, he saw the van lose control, flip over and shoot down a hill at a high rate of speed into a tree. The tanker then stopped quickly, and Fernandez was forced to take immediate evasive action to a collision. As he passed the tanker he saw a little girl in the middle of the roadway about 20 ft in front of him. He quickly pulled on to the left shoulder of the roadway to avoid killing her while putting himself and his rig at significant risk of a roll over. Fernandez then jumped out of his truck and started to provide aid and assistance to the occupants of the van. He found a baby with a 4-inch cut on its head and used bandages from a first aid kit to stop the bleeding while simultaneously calming the baby’s mother down.

Robert “Bob” Jurek (Ward Trucking) out of Buffalo, NY, noticed a fellow patron choking, and took it upon himself to perform the Heimlich maneuver. Bob was eating at Ang’s Family Restaurant, when he noticed a fellow patron starting to choke. Bob got up and asked him if he was OK and the man excused himself to the restroom. A few minutes later, the man busted through the men’s room door choking and pointing to this throat. Bob jumped up spun the man around and started performing the Heimlich maneuver which successfully dislodged the food from his throat. A few minutes later, the man stood up and thanked Bob whose quick actions most likely saved his life.

Roy Gillespie (USF Holland, Inc.) out of St. Louis, MO, is a two-million-mile linehaul driver who has leveraged his driving experience to consistently help his immediate community and beyond. Sometimes referred to as “the Master of Disaster,” Roy works with the Teamsters Union, American Red Cross, and corporate partners like Holland to collect donations and coordinate trucks to deliver aid after disasters strike. In 2017 Roy organized a group of 210 volunteer truck drivers, mechanics, doctors and nurses to respond to the devastation of Hurricane Maria in Puerto Rico. Just weeks earlier, Roy spent three weeks in Houston, TX leading efforts to collect supplies in his community and bring them to Houston after Hurricane Harvey. For the past decade Roy has been busy helping communities with various charity efforts. Roy assisted in four separate disaster relief efforts in 2016. He spearheaded our St. Louis terminal’s efforts to bring clean drinking water to the people of Flint, MI, by organizing, packing and delivering four 53-foot trailers loaded to capacity with 200,000 bottles of clean water. After historic floods devastated the Baton Rouge, LA region, he brought Team Holland together to lend a hand. Jointly with local Teamsters and other organizations, Team Holland delivered five full 53-foot trailers filled with necessities and flood cleanup supplies to Baton Rouge. Roy also helped bring relief in Raleigh, NC after Hurricane Matthew hit and in Tennessee after major flooding in July. In addition to helping after natural disasters, Roy co-founded the Chris How Group to collect food and clothing for the poor throughout the year. Their Christmas toy drive involves dozens of volunteers, corporate donations, and countless hours to deliver over 100,000 new toys to children that otherwise would never have Christmas. Roy also works with H.E.R.O.E.S Care—a non-profit organization dedicated to supporting service members and their families. In total, Roy helped to deliver 18 trailers full of donated toys to ten different military bases across the Holland footprint.

John Weston (Challenger Motor Freight) out of Ontario, Canada, stopped to render assistance following a tragic accident just east of Cambridge Ontario last October. A ten-year veteran for Challenger, John was bobtailing back after completing his last run of the week when he came across an horrific accident scene. John safely pulled over before any emergency vehicles had arrived and was the first to render assistance. He approached the wreckage of the last tractor where he was barely able to see the top of the driver’s head. He persistently called out and eventually the driver responded, and John learned his name. John said to the driver, “Would you mind if I put my hand on your head, so you know that I’m with you?” With the driver’s agreement, John placed his hand on the driver’s head reassuring him that someone was with him. It was a simple but profound act of kindness. Eventually the driver became unresponsive and tragically, trapped, he succumbed to his injuries. As a result of John’s act of kindness, the driver did not die alone.

We would like to heartily congratulate all of the 2018 nominees for their incredible contribution, acts of bravery and heroics. We look forward to the Annual Conference where the winner of the 2018 “Hero of the Highway” award will be announced.

6/27/2018: F&P Secures Victory for the Board of Education at the Court of Special Appeals

With multiple reported opinions addressing the offset statute in the last calendar year, the Maryland appellate courts have been busy addressing the offset provision codified in Section 9-610 of the Labor and Employment Article.  The purpose of the statute is to prevent public sectors employees from receiving more than one benefit from the same injury.  This statute again took center stage before the Court of Special Appeals in Rodney Crawley v. Board of Education for Prince George’s County, Maryland, et. al, with attorney Michael Bennett, who was joined in the brief by attorney David Skomba, arguing on behalf of the Board of Education.  Mr. Crawley elected to retire shortly after sustaining an on-the-job injury with the Board. He filed a claim with the Workers’ Compensation Commission, and also began receiving weekly retirement benefits based upon his age and length of service.  In Maryland, there is no offset for service-based retirements.  Perhaps observing there was a higher payout associated with other retirement benefits tied to his work-related accident, Mr. Crawley then voluntarily converted his retirement benefit to the higher paying accident disability benefit, which compensated him at a significantly higher weekly rate.

While Mr. Crawley did not dispute that an offset was appropriate under 9-610, he urged the court that the offset should be limited to the difference in his accidental disability retirement benefit and his prior benefit based upon his age and length of service.  Under Mr. Crawley’s theory, he would have been entitled to a portion of his permanent partial disability benefit through workers’ compensation, as well as the full amount of his accidental disability retirement benefit.  The Court of Special Appeals rejected Mr. Crawley’s argument that merely a portion of his accidental disability retirement benefit is available for an offset.  Instead, the intermediate court agreed with the Board’s position that the entire amount of Mr. Crawley’s accidental disability retirement benefit is analyzed under §9-610, which effectively fully offsets his workers’ compensation benefit.  To adopt Mr. Crawley’s theory, the Court of Special Appeals noted, would violate the plain language of the statute and its clear statutory intent.

The Court of Appeals decision affirmed the decision of the Circuit Court for Prince George’s County, which affirmed the original decision from the Workers’ Compensation Commission.  While the decision in Crawley is unreported, the recent reported opinions from the appellate courts have been defense friendly.  Thus, §9-610 remains a vital exposure mitigation instrument available for employers and insurers who cover public sector employees.



6/5/2018: Andrew Stephenson and Colin Bell Present at the Annual Trucking Claims Boot Camp

Franklin & Prokopik principals Andrew Stephenson and Colin Bell both represented the firm this year at the annual Trucking Claims Boot Camp.  Each presented on the topic of Freight 101: The Basics of Cargo Claims Handling. These boot camps provide current and up-to-date legal information for the trucking industry’s claims professionals. These meetings are offered at no cost and are held throughout the United States from February through May. The event is sponsored by Atlas Settlement Group, Inc.; CIA Custard Insurance Adjusters; Marshall Investigative Group and S.E.A.

To ensure the success of each event, Franklin & Prokopik partners with the following firms: Carr Allison; Dowd & Dowd; Nerone, Girman, Winslow & Smith, P.C.; Rincon Law Group, P.C.; Young Moore Attorneys; Bressler Amery Ross; and Cox P.L.L.C. Each attorney is experienced in defending trucking and transportation matters.. For more information on the Trucking Claims Boot Camp, please visit the website at http://www.truckingbootcamp.com/.

6/1/2018: Justin Tepe to Discuss MD’s New Paid Leave Law at HVBF Program

On Thursday, June 7, F&P attorney Justin Tepe will speak on Maryland’s New Paid Leave Law at CCBC in Hunt Valley, MD.  The program will take place from 8:00-10:00am and will be complimentary for Hunt Valley Business Forum members and first time HVBF event attendees.

The Maryland Healthy Working Families Act that went into effect last February has been one of the most relevant Labor & Employment topics of 2018.  Attendees will learn the general framework and requirements of the act and how it affects employers.  Please visit https://www.hvbf.org/event-2923814 to register.


5/30/2018: Franklin & Prokopik Ranked No. 7 on Law 360’s “Best Law Firms for Female Attorneys” List

Gender equality is a core value at Franklin & Prokopik (F&P) and the firm believes in hiring and promoting a diverse workforce.  F&P is being recognized nationally for these efforts and was ranked seventh on Law360’s Best Law Firms for Female Attorneys list in the category of firms with 20-149 lawyers.  F&P was the only Baltimore based firm to make the top 25 in that segment.  The rankings are based on surveys that measured factors such as percentage of females overall, percentage of female nonpartners, percentage of female partners, and percentage of female equity partners as of December 31, 2017.

The results from the Best Law Firms for Female Attorneys survey along with Law360’s annual Glass Ceiling Report clearly demonstrate that gender inequality continues to be a problem in the legal industry and one that is making very slow progress.  These studies found that females represent only 35% of all attorneys and 22% of partners – numbers that have stayed virtually stagnant over recent years.  F&P’s 50% female partnership rate more than doubles the national average and is at the “Ceiling Smashers” level based on having 36% female equity partners.

Fraklin & Prokopik is proud to be recognized as a firm with strong female representation and applauds the other firms that are contributing to lowering the industry’s gender gap.

The full articles can be found on Law360’s website:


5/22/2018: Jury Returns Favorable Defense Verdict at Recent F&P Trial

After a six day trial and ten hour jury deliberation, F&P attorneys Imoh Akpan and Renee Bowen helped secure a  defense verdict  in last month’s trial in the case of  Gardner v. Demby.  The case was a complex motor accident  and was tried  before  U.S. District Court, Judge Catherine C. Blake.

The facts of the accident are as follows: on a clear afternoon in April of 2013, 82 year old plaintiff Robert John Glad was driving his vehicle on Route 301 in Maryland.  Plaintiff John Borycens, a male in his 60s, was a passenger.  At the same time, a dump truck, operated by defendant Markeith Doron Demby and owned by Thomas H. Pauls, LLC, was driving in the same direction.  Glad alleged that Demby failed to maintain his lane of travel and struck his vehicle, which was traveling at highway speed of 62 mph. Demby contended that he attempted to make “J” turn in a designed turn around, when plaintiff’s vehicle struck his and that Glad had fallen asleep at the wheel.

Plaintiff Glad was airlifted to a local trauma center for treatment of a fractured hip, neck and back injuries, and traumatic brain injury. Both Plaintiff Borycens and Defendant Demby suffered neck and back injuries.  Glad died of unrelated causes prior to trial.  There was no dispute over injuries suffered by the parties to this accident; the matter went to the jury on the issue of liability and extent of damages.

Plaintiffs filed suit against Demby for failure to maintain his lane of travel, failure to keep a proper lookout, failure to control his vehicle, and failure to avoid this accident. Plaintiffs named owners of the company, Thomas H. Pauls, Julia Pauls, Vernetta E. Sherman, Joan L. Wilmer and Joan Pauls Wilmer.  Plaintiff Borycens settled his claims against defendants for $50,000 prior to trial, and the case proceeded against Demby, Sherman and Thomas H. Pauls, LLC.  The other defendants were dismissed.

Defendants denied Demby was negligent contending that Glad fell asleep at the wheel and drove into his truck, which was attempting a legal “J” turn in a designated turn around. Demby counterclaimed for injuries he sustained in the accident.

Again, after nearly two days of deliberations the jury returned a defense verdict for Demby, Sherman and Thomas H. Pauls, LLC, on the plaintiff’s negligence claim. The jury also returned a defense verdict for Glad on Demby’s counterclaim for damages. No damages were awarded to either party.

5/17/2018: Helen Neighbors Shares Ethical Issues Insights at VADA’s Spring Sections Seminar

Helen Neighbors, a principal that resides in Franklin & Prokopik’s Herndon, Va. office, spoke at the Virginia Association of Defense Attorney’s (VADA) 2018 Spring Sections Seminar last Thursday, May 10.   The two-day meeting took place at the Boar’s Head Inn in Charlottesville and provided a unique opportunity for continuing education and networking.  Helen spoke on the Professional Liability panel regarding the topic of “Ethical Issues Across the States” and she is also the chair of VADA’s Professional Liability litigation section.

VADA is a networking organization that provides valuable educational opportunities and information sharing for Virginia attorneys. It promotes fairness and integrity in civil justice. For more information, visit their website at http://www.vada.org/.



4/27/2018: Tamara Goorevitz Co-presents Robert T. Franklin Award at DRI Trucking Conference

On Thursday, April 26, Franklin & Prokopik (F&P) principal Tamara Goorevitz co-presented the second Robert T. Franklin Award to Stephen Winborn of  National Interstate Insurance Company at the  DRI Trucking Conference in Chicago, Il.  The Award is named in honor of Bob Franklin, co-founder of F&P and founder of the DRI Trucking Law Committee, who passed away in November of 2013.  The nominations are judged based on commitment to the trucking industry, education of the industry, and loyalty to the industry, aiming to select an individual who is a true champion of the trucking industry, as was Bob.

The 2018 recipient, Stephen Winborn, is the Senior Vice President of Claims and Risk Management for National Interstate, a nationwide premier provider of traditional insurance and innovative alternative risk transfer products.  Steve has been involved in the defense and operation of insurers and transportation companies for over 25 years, and has assumed roles of increasing responsibility throughout his career.

The first Robert T. Franklin Award was received by Judy Burckhalter of Old Dominion Freight Line in 2016 and will be given by DRI’s Trucking Law Committee at their biannual seminars, which will next occur in 2020.

4/9/2018: Bert Randall Speaks at Spring 2018 USLAW Network Client Conference

Franklin & Prokopik principal Bert Randall spoke on April 7, 2018 at USLAW’s annual Spring Network Client Conference. The event was held from April 5 through April 7 at the Fairmont Scottsdale Princess in Scottsdale Arizona. Bert’s presentation addressed “Understanding and Implementing Strategic Responses to Protecting Medicare’s Future Interest.” Joining him on the panel were Sandra Gravanti, US Security Associates, Todd Kirchner, US Bank Corporation and Thomas S. Thornton, Carr Allison, P.C. Highlights from the presentation include Medicare’s future interest, the impact on claim handling and liability cases and organizational concerns.

USLAW is comprised of 60 international firms focused on civil litigation. This network includes more than 6,000 attorneys spanning the globe with experience in commercial and business law, employment and labor law as well as other business-related fields of law. For more information regarding USLAW Network, Inc., please visit the website at https://web.uslaw.org/.

4/6/2018: VA WCC Denies Slip and Fall Claim Appeal in F&P Case Victory

On April 3, 2018, Franklin & Prokopik attorney Alex Mayfield from the firm’s Herndon, Va. office secured a decision in favor of the Appellee in the case of Debra Levy v. Wegmans Food Markets, Inc.  The case, an appeal from a previously denied workers’ compensation claim, was argued in front of the Court of Appeals of Virginia in Fredericksburg, Va.

Levy, an employee of Wegmans, damaged her knee, which had pre-existing arthritis, in a June 2011 incident where she slipped and fell in the back of the store’s walk-in freezer. This injury required surgery and Levy filed a number of claims related to this injury over a prolonged period of time.  The claim at issue was filed in April 2015, seeking approval of arthroscopic knee surgery, proposed by Levy’s doctor and protective disability claims continuing from January 2015.  In a September 2015 review opinion the full Commission found no indication in her doctor’s records that the claimant’s compensable injury was playing a role in any disability which [Levy] may have had.  Subsequent to this decision, Levy filed a series of new claims predicated on the very same surgical opinion addressed in the full Commission’s September, 2015 decision.  Claimant argued that her new claims were not barred by res judicata because she presented a new theory founded in a compensable consequence claim rather than a direct causal link.

While the claimant styled her filings as “new” claims, a deputy commissioner in May 2016 held that despite how those claims were pleaded, they were indeed barred by res judicata, and the full Commission went on to affirm the ruling.

Levy subsequently appealed the Commission’s decision to the Court of Appeals the following October, bringing forth various arguments as to why her injuries should be fairly categorized as “new”.  The Virginia Court of Appeals rejected her arguments, holding that the right of a party to allege alternative theories was not an invitation to create “new” evidence and “take another swing,” at proving her case.   The Opinion went on to state that Levy had the opportunity to offer evidence of causation for the contemplated surgery at the first hearing, and she chose not to. To reward her with another opportunity to do so would incentivize piecemeal litigation, undermine the finality of judgments, and multiply the number of proceedings – the very evils the doctrine of res judicata was developed to address. Consequently, the Commission’s judgment was affirmed.  This is the first time the Court of Appeals has address res judicata in the workers’ compensation context in several years.