Articles Posted in Firm News

Richard E. Vollertsen of the Alaska Personal Injury Law Group has been selected by Best Lawyers of America as “Lawyer of the Year” for 2017 in plaintiff’s personal injury law in Anchorage. This is the third time Best Lawyers of American has selected Mr. Vollertsen for this honor.

Mr. Vollertsen was also selected for inclusion in the “Best Lawyers In America” 2016 publication. He is now in a distinguished group of attorneys listed in the publication for over 15 years. Selection to the “Best Lawyers In America” listing is based on exhaustive and rigorous peer-review evaluations by the top attorneys in the country.

Mr. Vollertsen, Neil O’Donnell, and Michael Moody of the Alaska Personal Injury Law Group have been selected for inclusion in the “Best Lawyers In America” 2016 publication. They have all also received the highest “A-V” ranking in Martindale-Hubbell, the oldest and best known lawyer ranking service. The Alaska Personal Injury Law Group focuses its efforts on serious personal injury and wrongful death cases.

Mr. Vollertsen was selected as an Alaska Super Lawyer for 2016, and has been selected for this honor every year since 2007. Mr. Vollertsen has been a member of the Atkinson, Conway & Gagnon law firm since 1982. His practice includes complex litigation matters primarily involving products liability, wrongful death, and personal injury. He served as Law Clerk to Chief Justice Edmund Burke of the Alaska Supreme Court. Mr. Vollertsen was also Editor-in-Chief of University of San Francisco Law Review, 1980-81, and contributing editor to Alaska Court Review, 1983-2000.

Alaska Personal Injury Law Group members Richard Vollertsen, Neil O’Donnell and Mike Moody have all been selected for inclusion in both Alaska Super Lawyers and Best Lawyers in America. They have all also received the highest “A-V” ranking in Martindale-Hubbell, the oldest and best known lawyer ranking service. The Alaska Personal Injury Law Group focuses its efforts on serious personal injury and wrongful death cases.

The Super Lawyer rigorous merit-based selection process began early in the year, with invitations to participate in the nominations process going out to over 1,400 attorneys in Alaska. In addition, their research department conducted independent candidate searches through professional databases, legal trade journals, and meetings with law firms. The candidates were then evaluated by the research department. This evaluation process included examination of candidates’ background and experience, followed by a peer evaluation from other Alaskan attorneys in the practice area. The final candidates selected were those with the highest point totals from each category, and included only five (5) percent of all attorneys in Alaska.

Richard E. Vollertsen of the Alaska Personal Injury Law Group, announced that a settlement was reached in an FTCA claim asserted against the Norton Sound Regional Hospital. The claim arose out of the hospital’s failure to diagnose and treat pneumococcal meningitis in a child. The child suffered irreversible brain damage, spastic quadriparesis, profound cognitive and developmental deficits, a seizure disorder, and incontinence. Lifelong care will be provided for the child through a Special Needs Trust. Stipulated facts filed in federal court regarding the hospital’s medical errors can be found in A.N. v. United States, 2:09-cv-00009-TMB.

The $1.5B settlement reached in the Stryker Rejuvenate/ABGII Hip Implant litigation in November, 2014, has been finalized as 95% of the MDL litigants have agreed to participate in the settlement. Litigants are receiving a base payment with enhanced awards when complications arose during their medical care, such as muscle destruction, osteotomy, or subsequent revision.

Richard E. Vollertsen, of the Alaska Personal Injury Law Group, served as local counsel in Alaska for the New York law firm, Weitz Luxemberg. Ellen Relkin, of Weitz Luxemberg was lead counsel in the litigation.

Those patients who have had their Stryker hip implants removed after November 2014, may be able to join the litigation, and should contact the Alaska Personal Injury Law Group for a case evaluation.

Richard E. Vollertsen of the Alaska Personal Injury Law Group, announced that a settlement was reached in an FTCA claim asserted against the Norton Sound Regional Hospital. The claim arose out of the hospital’s failure to diagnose and treat meningitis and seizure in a two-month-old child. The child suffered irreversible brain damage, spastic quadriparesis, profound cognitive and developmental deficits, cortical blindness, and incontinence. Lifelong care will be provided for the child through a Special Needs Trust. Stipulated facts filed in federal court regarding the hospital’s medical errors can be found at A.A. v. United States, Case Number 3:09-cv-00251-TMB.

Mr. O’Donnell recently received the honor of being one of the few Alaska attorneys to be inducted as a Fellow in the American College of Trial Lawyers.

“The American College of Trial Lawyers, founded in 1950, recognizes the very best trial lawyers from the United States and Canada. The College’s Fellows are chosen strictly by invitation and only after a rigorous and lengthy investigation. The candidate must be identified as a highly skilled trial lawyer in the opinion of judges and practitioners, and as a person whose ethics, moral standards and collegiality are above reproach. Fellowship is limited to one percent of the lawyers in any individual State or Province, and the candidate must have practiced for at least 15 years.” http://www.actl.com

“The names included on the roster of the College are indicative of the College’s make-up. Every current Justice of the United States and Canadian Supreme Courts save one is an honorary member, having accepted Fellowship at a national meeting of the College. That one is Justice Suzanne Côté, a Judicial Fellow from Montreal, Canada, who was inducted as a Fellow prior to leaving private practice for the Court. Past Presidents of the College include such outstanding lawyers as former Supreme Court Justice Lewis Powell and former United States Attorney General Griffin Bell.” http://www.actl.com

Mr. Vollertsen was selected as an Alaska Super Lawyer for 2015, and has been selected for this honor every year since 2007. Mr. Vollertsen has been a member of the Atkinson, Conway & Gagnon law firm since 1982. His practice includes complex litigation matters primarily involving products liability, wrongful death, and personal injury. He served as Law Clerk to Chief Justice Edmund Burke of the Alaska Supreme Court. Mr. Vollertsen was also Editor-in-Chief of University of San Francisco Law Review, 1980-81, and contributing editor to Alaska Court Review, 1983-2000.

Alaska Personal Injury Law Group members Richard Vollertsen, Neil O’Donnell and Mike Moody have all been selected for inclusion in both Alaska Super Lawyers and Best Lawyers in America. They have all also received the highest “A-V” ranking in Martindale-Hubbell, the oldest and best known lawyer ranking service. The Alaska Personal Injury Law Group focuses its efforts on serious personal injury and wrongful death cases.

The Super Lawyer rigorous merit-based selection process began early in the year, with invitations to participate in the nominations process going out to over 1,400 attorneys in Alaska. In addition, their research department conducted independent candidate searches through professional databases, legal trade journals, and meetings with law firms. The candidates were then evaluated by the research department. This evaluation process included examination of candidates’ background and experience, followed by a peer evaluation from other Alaskan attorneys in the practice area. The final candidates selected were those with the highest point totals from each category, and included only five (5) percent of all attorneys in Alaska.

Benchmark Litigation has selected Richard E. Vollertsen as a 2015 Litigation Star in Alaska. His law firm, Atkinson, Conway & Gagnon, was also selected by Benchmark as a recommended law firm in general and plaintiff’s personal injury litigation practice.

Richard E. Vollertsen, of The Alaska Personal Injury Law Group, has been selected as Alaska counsel for the New York law firm, Weitz & Luxenberg, to assist in defective product claims concerning hip implant devices manufactured by Stryker Orthopedics. Weitz & Luxenberg has been designated as one of the lead counsel of the litigation filed in New Jersey, and are nationally-recognized counsel with extensive expertise in such claims.

In July, 2012, Stryker recalled its Rejuvenate and ABG II modular-neck hip stems because of fretting and corrosion at the modular-neck junction. When this corrosion occurs, local tissue damage and systemic toxic metal exposure can occur. Adverse effects of the implant’s failure include pain, fluid buildup in the joint, pseudotumor, localized tissue necrosis, and loss of blood supply to the bone causing bone cell death. These problems often require that the implant be removed and replaced in a revision surgery. Before revision is undertaken, physicians will complete blood testing to determine the level of toxic metal exposure from the cobalt and chromium in the implant, and will take MRI images to determine the health of the tissue and bone surrounding the implant.

Multiple claims for Alaska residents have now been asserted in this litigation.

Congratulations to my partner Mike Moody, and his co-counsel Dennis Mestas, for their excellent work in the Ennen v. Integon Insurance case. The Alaska Supreme Court recently held in Ennen v. Integon Insurance Corp., Opinion No. 6637 (1/20/12 Alaska), that insurance companies owe a duty of good faith and fair dealing to all their insureds, not just to the individual or the business which happens to be listed as the named insured on the policy. This is a very important decision. Insurance companies are liable for damages in tort when they breach their duty of good faith and fair dealing by, for example, hiding coverages from the insured, unreasonably low-balling the value of a claim, or unreasonably delaying or denying payment of a valid claim. This cause of action is called an insurance bad faith claim. It allows the insured to recover not just what the insurance company should have paid to begin with (before years of litigation finally made them do it), but also the additional damages the insured suffered in the meantime by not having the insurance policy benefits they should have promptly received from the insurance company. If the insurance company’s improper conduct was reckless or intentional, the insurance company may also be liable for punitive damages.

In two earlier blog posts, we discussed how pervasive this type of improper claims handling is. The first post discussed the results of an 18-month investigation by CNN which concluded that many insurance companies engaged in systematic bad faith claims handling. The second post discussed an American Association for Justice Report which showed that such hardball claims tactics had gone hand-in-hand with record industry profits.

The Ennen v. Integon Indemnity decision is extremely important in light of these problems because many insurance companies (including Integon and Allstate) have taken the position that they owe no duty of good faith and fair dealing to their insureds who are not the named policy holder. A motor vehicle insurance policy typically protects many types of insureds who are not the named insured on the policy. For example, permissive drivers are covered under the liability coverage for any accidents they cause and medical payments coverage if they are injured. If they are injured by the negligence of another driver, they may be entitled to uninsured or underinsured motorist (UM/UIM) coverage. The policyholder’s spouse and other resident relatives of the named insured and guest passengers are expressly included as insureds for UM/UIM coverage. If Integon’s (and Allstate’s) position had been accepted by the Alaska Supreme Court, they would have been insulated from bad faith claims by any of these insureds. Insurers in Alaska could have hidden policy benefits from these types of insureds; delayed their claims for years; or denied their claims entirely for no valid reason and faced no penalty whatsoever. If the insurance company got caught, it would only have to pay what it should have paid to being with.