George Pilja and Michael Errera Obtain Plaintiffs’ Verdict for 100% of Claimed Damages in Warehouse Bailment Loss Involving Alabama’s Second Largest Fire Ever

Foran Glennon shareholder George Pilja and partner Michael Errera obtained a unanimous verdict in favor of an insurance and two manufacturing clients for the full amount of all monetary damages sought in relation to a historic warehouse fire.

The plaintiffs asserted breach of contract and negligent bailment claims to recover the loss of specialty sunroof assembly manufacturing equipment destroyed in a catastrophic fire which began and spread throughout the defendant’s 60,000 square foot warehouse. Foran Glennon’s clients asserted that over the years, the warehouse company permitted numerous fire suppression system deficiencies to exist and persist, including:

  • The lack of a system design and fuel load analysis;
  • The lack of fire pumps, a water tank and a water reservoir;
  • The lack of annual system inspections; and
  • The failure to maintain the water main piping to the system which resulted in a critical water supply pipe burst and loss of water supply and pressure.

The severity of the fire resulted in the State of Alabama diverting millions of tons of water to the warehouse property to fight the fire and the use of over 600 firefighters to extinguish the fire, which took several weeks to complete.

George and Michael overcame logistical and evidentiary obstacles to prove ownership and transfer of care, custody and control of the destroyed equipment, as well as the terms of the applicable storage contract, which required the defendant to obtain insurance on the equipment of which they failed to do.

Ultimately, the jury returned a unanimous verdict for the plaintiffs’ entire $4,469,000 in total claimed damages. The plaintiffs’ counsel are now seeking nearly $1,300,000 in prejudgment interest on the jury verdict and judgment.

George concentrates his practice in civil litigation, focusing on commercial, construction, product liability and transportation/logistics litigation, loss recovery/subrogation, casualty litigation and other insurance-based litigation. On both the plaintiff and defense sides, he has represented numerous prominent businesses and insurance entities and has decades of experience in litigating complex, multi-million dollar matters in state and federal courts throughout the United States and internationally. He has prosecuted and defended cases involving such diverse matters as commercial disputes and business tort claims, product design, manufacture and warnings claims, industrial facility and equipment management, operations, repair and maintenance claims, energy-based claims and construction defect and delay claims.  He has been recognized by various legal organizations including Super Lawyers, Leading Lawyer and the American Lawyer, which named him a Midwest Trailblazer, and he has presented extensively on a wide variety of cutting edge legal topics and issues throughout the United States and abroad.

Michael concentrates his practice in civil litigation, focusing on commercial, construction, product liability, transportation, subrogation and first party coverage disputes. Michael’s practice has included the handling of hundreds of claims within the United States and internationally.  Michael has authored a variety of articles and industry publications on topics involving subrogation and claim handling.  Michael has a Martindale-Hubbell AV Preminent® peer rating, which is the highest ranking in legal ability and ethical standars as determined by his peers in the legal community.  Michael was also recognized as an Illinois Rising Star, a designation only awarded to less than 2.5% of all attorneys in Illinois. 

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