A well-known South Toledo bar and grill has agreed to a settlement in a liquor liability case involving a customer who was critically injured in a horrific accident after leaving the bar. Norman Abood, who has a significant successful track record in personal injury cases, represented the winning plaintiff in the case.

The case involved two men, Austin Kekes and Ryan Benham, who were drinking and eating on May 9, 2019 at Doc Watson’s, a popular South Toledo establishment on South Bryne Rd. at Glendale Ave. The men consumed significant amounts of alcohol before leaving Doc’s when it closed at 2:30 a.m. With Kekes driving and Benham as his passenger, Kekes pulled onto Glendale, heading east, and quickly had the car up to 99 mph before he lost control and struck a tree in the 3000 block.

In video footage of the accident obtained by Abood from a nearby business video camera Kekes’ car can be seen splitting in half after hitting the tree. Somehow, Kekes, who was not wearing a seat belt, walked away from the accident – he can be seen leaving the scene on the video tape. Benham was not so fortunate. He was thrown from the wreckage and landed on his head, suffering significant, permanent brain injuries. Only the chance arrival of a neurological nurse on her way to work and her immediate treatment and 911 call saved Benham’s life.

Kekes left the scene and went home where he was found by police later that morning. He was charged with aggravated vehicular assault. Kekes was found guilty in February 2020 and sentenced to five years in prison.

Benham underwent a number of procedures at the University of Toledo Medical Center for his head and other injuries, including skull restoration surgery. Although his torso and leg injuries have also left him with disabilities, the traumatic brain injury he suffered left him with the mentality of a young boy with no hope of improvement. Now 27, he is presently living with his mother.

Abood filed suit on behalf of Benham against Kekes and Doc Watson’s. Kekes did not own the car he was driving and had no insurance, so the suit focused on Doc Watson’s. The suit against Doc Watson’s claimed the bar was at fault for continuing to serve alcohol to Benham and Kekes, knowing they were both far over the legal limit. The bar defended, claiming that Benham was drunk and should not have gotten in the car, and that he was not wearing a seat belt.

The case tuned when Abood received bar video footage previously seized by the Lucas County prosecutors’ office which showed both bartenders drinking alcohol while Benham and Kekes were present. The footage also showed one of the bartenders drinking while on duty the previous night, May 8.

The case was settled on March 17 of this year.

Although Abood is happy he won the case and was able to help his client, he feels there are no real winners.

“Ryan Benham is disabled for life. Austin Kekes is in prison and, worse, he acted as if he didn’t know who Ryan was, even though they were good friends. And, obviously, this is a stain on Doc Watson’s for not being more pro-active in cutting off both men from drinking. Still, Ryan and his family will have the funds they need to help provide for his future care.”

Abood has a strong track record in personal injury cases. He was in the national spotlight in 2013 as the attorney for an NFL player who was part of a winning $1 billion class action suit against the National Football League over traumatic brain injuries being suffered by the players. More recently, he won a large case on behalf of a Toledo chef who suffered a traumatic brain injury when rear-ended by a semi-tractor-trailer rig.

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Abood Wins Landmark Virgin Islands U.S. District Court Case

THOMAS, U.S. Virgin Islands – In a landmark victory for a client of Toledo attorney Norman Abood, the Federal District Court in the Third Circuit, the U.S. District Court for the U.S. Virgin Islands (St. Croix), has for the first time reversed a U.S. Bankruptcy Court decision involving the power of the Court to surcharge a debtor’s exempt property.

“It took nearly five years for the Court to rule on this case, so it’s gratifying for my client – and certainly me – that we came out victorious,” Abood said. “The fact that it’s the first time a Court in the U. S. Third Circuit has made a decision of this type makes it even more satisfying.”

The case involved Abood client Jeffrey Prosser’s bankruptcy filing in 2006. At one time, Prosser’s companies, valued at over $1 billion, provided telephone, cable, newspaper and internet services to the Virgin Islands, in the south of France, other Caribbean and West African countries. Among the myriad of legal issues yet to be resolved that pitted Prosser against the Court appointed Trustee was a dispute over who was going to pay over $1 million in costs associated with the loss of wine owned by the Prossers.

In 2013, the U.S. Bankruptcy Court ruled that the Prossers owed the Bankruptcy Estate $528,086 to reimburse it for legal fees and court costs associated with the disappearance and spoiling of around half of Prossers’ wine collection in their St. Thomas and Palm Beach homes, wines that had been inventoried in 2008. The Court also sanctioned the Prossers an additional $419,135.59 for dissipation in the value of the wines. The Bankruptcy Court then assessed those costs as charges against Mr. Prosser’s exempt real property on St. Croix. The Court then held that the Trustee could seize title to Prossers’ real estate and sell it to pay the legal fees and sanctions awards. Prosser argued that the real property, being exempt, was not a part of the bankruptcy estate and thus it was beyond the power of the court to impose any surcharges on that property

Aiding Prosser’s case was a 2014 United States Supreme Court decision. In Law v. Siegel, the High Court ruled that the Bankruptcy Court could not require a portion of a homeowner’s equity in his home to pay the court-appointed trustee’s legal fees because that court had determined that equity was exempt.

In ruling for Mr. Prosser, Chief Judge Wilma A. Lewis, echoing and accepting the High Court’s dictain Law v. Siegel, wrote: “This Court’s ruling means……a bankruptcy court cannot use the sale of exempt property to pay damages to the estate.”

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Abood Wins Wood County Suit Involving Real Estate Partners

BOWLING GREEN, Ohio – A Wood County Common Pleas Court judge has ruled in favor of a Delta, Ohio man who was sued by his partner in a commercial real estate enterprise.

In issuing his decision, Judge Alan Mayberry dismissed all nine counts filed by plaintiff Barry P. DeRan of Lambertville, Mich., against defendant John Scott Yoder, who was represented by attorney Norman Abood.

“This was a gratifying win for a number of reasons,” Abood said. “Most significant, my client stood by his partner during a period of difficulty for him, only to be asked suddenly and without explanation to dissolve their agreement and pay back his partner’s entire investment in the project with no legal grounds to do so.”

DeRan and Yoder formed their partnership, a limited liability company, in 2011 to buy a rental warehousing building in Northwood, Ohio. DeRan invested $650,000 in the venture, which was operated by Yoder.

After inducing Mr. Yoder into their partnership,  DeRan, a former cardiologist, surrendered his medical license in 2013, was found guilty of

four counts each of aggravated possession of drugs and aggravated trafficking in drugs.

After spending three months in state prison on the drug charge, DeRan pled guilty in federal court in 2014 to one count of conspiracy and eight counts of aiding and abetting making false statements in the acquisition of firearms. That charge resulted in a six-month sentence in a halfway house.

During DeRan’s legal issues, Yoder stood by his partner and, as Abood proved to the court, continued to run the business, which each year became more profitable. g,. Upon his release from prison DeRan suddenly told Yoder he wanted his money back Yoder didn’t refuse but asked for time. DeRan declined and filed suit in May, 2014.

In ruling for Yoder, and despite DeRan calling two expert witnesses to support his claims, Judge Mayberry wrote: “None of the plaintiff’s [nine] claims have been established by the appropriate burden of proof.”

Abood successfully defended against DeRan’s demands that the company be placed in receivership and then dissolved. The judge’s ruling upheld the original terms of the business agreement, and recognized that one partner does not have the unilateral right to change his mind and walk from a business venture in violation of the parties written agreements.   DeRan was ordered to pay all court costs.

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BLAIR, Nebraska – A Washington County, Nebraska District Court has ruled in favor of Total Industrial Plant Services, Inc. [TIPS] in its suit against a general contractor and two other plaintiffs which TIPS said neglected to pay for work performed on a construction project.

“It’s very difficult for a visiting attorney with no connection to the local court system to win a case,” TIPS attorney Norman Abood said. “I’m gratified we won, and especially gratified my client will be compensated for the money owed to them.”

TIPS had been hired by purchase order as a subcontractor by general contractor Welco Services, Inc. of McPherson, Kan., to upgrade a Novozymes enzymes plant in Blair, Neb. on land owned by Cargill. After TIPS completed their initial work and submitted invoices in fall, 2011, Welco declined to pay, claiming TIPS failed to complete the services detailed in Welco’s purchase order. TIPS continued its work, and additional work requested verbally and through change orders but, after still not receiving payment from Welco, left the jobsite in spring 2012, having completed 60% of the purchase order and significant other work requested on-the-job and through change orders.

After TIPS filed suit, Welco countersued, seeking payment for having to pay another subcontractor for the work it said TIPS failed to complete.

After a four-day trial, Judge John Samson ruled on Aug. 5, 2015 for TIPS and dismissed Welco’s counter suit. He ordered Welco to pay TIPS $579,241.68 of which Cargill and Novozymes were ordered to pay $194,683.32 within 20 days as a condition of releasing the construction lien filed against the $500 million Cargill/Novozymes property. If not paid within 20 days, Judge Samson ordered the sheriff immediately proceed with foreclosure sale.

In explaining his decision, Judge Samson said TIPS’ documentation and testimony were credible while Welco’s was not. A primary issue throughout the case was the credibility of Welco’s president/part owner and project manager. His testimony on almost every issue was rebutted by e-mails and related business and contract documents.

Abood said he was pleased by not surprised by the verdict, as he and TIPS were well-prepared for the hearing.

“Through orderly presentation of hundreds of exhibits we were able to convince the court that Welco’s testimony was not to be believed. As a result, we obtained a fair and significant award for our client.”

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Abood Calls NFL Player’s Surprise Retirement Potential Game Changer

TOLEDO, Ohio – The surprising March 16 announcement by 24-year-old Chris Borland, star linebacker for the San Francisco 49ers, that he will retire after one season in the National Football League because he fears long-term health issues could impact the future of the country’s most popular spectator sport, according to Toledo attorney Norman Abood.

“It’s the beginning of a trend that could possibly decrease the popularity of the sport,” Abood said.

Abood’s concern involves his participation in a class action suit against the NFL by more than 20,000 former players related to potential debilitating neurological health issues connected to multiple concussions suffered during their playing days. He is representing five players: Antwaan Randle El, Ray Buchanan, Jeremy Bridges, Dante Wesley and Damon Washington.

The case currently is being debated in U.S. District Court in Philadelphia, where Judge Anita Brody last year preliminarily approved a NFL settlement offer of $765 million but asked both sides to expand and amend some of the settlement terms.

Abood believes the Borland announcement – and the retirement announcements earlier this year of several other players still in their 20s – raises another issue that needs to be considered before the lawsuit is settled.

“The settlement calls for payments to be made for 65 years. A significant number of players are still in their 30s and 40s and may not need help for 20 or 30 years. But there’s no guarantee the NFL will be a profitable entity in 20 or 30 years,” he said.

Abood cited the decline in participation in youth football across the country, as parents have become alarmed by widely publicized cases of former players committing suicide who were later discovered to have suffered from brain damage related to concussions suffered during their playing days.

Abood also objects to the exclusion in the settlement of families of deceased players being compensated even if the players are diagnosed with brain damage after they have died.

“That to me and a number of the other attorneys is the biggest hole in the current settlement,” he said.

The case as garnered significant attention because of the popularity of the sport – it generates $10 billion in income annually – and the alarming demise of some of the game’s most popular players after post-mortem tests revealed brain damage. While critics of the suit say players knew in advance they were signing up for a dangerous sport that could cause long-term health problems, Abood says the argument is severely flawed.

“The NFL conducted studies that showed the detrimental effects of multiple concussions, but they lied about the results. That’s why this is in fact a fraud case. These players and their families deserve a just result because the potential long-term health implications are devastating,” he said.

For more information:
Norman Abood [419] 724-3700

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