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Longshoreman avoids removal, scores $5 million verdict

An injured longshoreman who managed to keep his case out of federal court has won a $5 million verdict from a Portsmouth jury.

The Virginian-Pilot reports Sherman Whitaker was hurt when he fell through a shipyard catwalk in 2002.  His lawyer, William Breit, filed suit against his German-owned employer in Portsmouth Circuit Court asking for $74,000, even though Whitaker’s lost wages claim exceeded $500,000.  The demand of $74,000 was just below the threshold amount to allow the defendant to remove the case to federal court.

Portsmouth Circuit Judge James A. Cales Jr. called it “bad faith conduct” to evade removal with the low ball ad damnum, but the Supreme Court of Virginia in June found the defendant blew its chance to remove by waiting too long after it learned of the special damages in discovery answers.  The court remanded for a trial limited to a determination of damages.

By Peter Vieth

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