Attorneys Michael Goodove, Elizabeth Ufkes, and Jeffrey Swartz have been recognized as the 2021 Top Lawyers in Coastal Virginia by CoVABiz, the Business Magazine of Coastal Virginia. Michael Goodove and Elizabeth Ufkes were recognized as Top Lawyers in the field of Plaintiff’s Personal Injury. Jeffrey Swartz was recognized as a Top Lawyer in the field of Criminal Law. Their law firm of Swartz, Taliaferro, Swartz and Goodove, P.C., specializes in personal injury law and criminal defense.
Attorneys Michael Goodove and Elizabeth Ufkes have been selected as 2021 Super Lawyers. Michael Goodove was selected as a Super Lawyer in the field of Plaintiff’s Personal Injury. Elizabeth Ufkes was selected as a Super Lawyer as a Rising Star in the field of Plaintiff’s Personal Injury. Goodove and Ufkes were selected based upon evaluation by other top lawyers and independent research of the candidates. Goodove and Ufkes are listed in the 2020 Super Lawyers Magazine.
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The furniture company that employed the driver agreed this week to pay Duffy’s family $450,000, most of which will be covered by insurance, according to a final order filed in Chesapeake Circuit Court.
Records in Virginia Beach show a suit filed there by Mundorff was settled in late August. A final order, in that case, was entered Oct. 3 but did not mention the settlement amount or terms.
The families were limited in how much they could collect because of the “woefully inadequate” assets and insurance coverage that the company had, according to their attorneys, Michelle McCracken and Michael Goodove. McCracken represented the Duffy family, and Goodove is Mundorff’s lawyer.
“This was never about the money,” Goodove said. “It was an attempt to gain some justice for our clients and to prevent another family from having to go through something like this.”
Duffy, 18, was killed May 19, 2017, when a Great Bridge Furniture box truck driven by Jerode Johnson slammed head-on into her SUV on Indian River Road in the Pungo section of Virginia Beach.
Duffy and Mundorff had spent the day at the beach with friends and were driving home. The two were set to graduate from Great Bridge High School less than a month later.
Mundorff remained hospitalized for months before being sent to a rehabilitation center in Georgia.
Johnson’s blood-alcohol level tested at 0.10 to 0.11 more than two hours after the wreck, according to a toxicologist. It would have been .12 to .16 at the time of the crash, she said. He also had cocaine, marijuana, and prescription drug Valium in his system. His father, a passenger in the truck, also was injured.
The 32-year-old pleaded guilty earlier this year to numerous charges, including aggravated involuntary manslaughter, DUI, hit and run, drug possession, and driving with a suspended license. He was sentenced in September to 47 years in prison, the maximum.
Mundorff’s mother, Debbie Leger, declined to disclose settlement information in her daughter’s lawsuit, other than to say it was a minor amount considering the significant physical and emotional damage her daughter suffered, and the impact those wounds will continue to have on her. The teen suffered a traumatic brain injury that meant having to relearn how to walk, talk, and eat. One arm had to be fused at a 60-degree angle. Damage to her peripheral vision means she’ll never be able to drive.
“All the money in the world won’t make up for what we have been through and what the Duffy family has been through,” Leger said.
Mundorff also will be required to reimburse their health insurance company with some of the funds she receives, Leger said.
Now 19, Mundorff started school at Virginia Tech this semester. It was a year later than she’d planned, but an amazing feat considering the many months of hospitalization, rehabilitation and therapy she had to undergo, her mother said. She plans to major in biology and hopes to be a doctor, which was Duffy’s goal, too.
“She loves (college) and she’s doing great, but she has a lot of issues, and it is much harder for her than it would have been before the accident,” Leger said.
Leger started a support group for young people with traumatic brain injuries and their caregivers called “TBI Survivors and Thrivers.”
Records in the Duffys’ suit show Great Bridge Furniture agreed to pay $50,000, and their insurance provider will pay $400,000. The suit, filed last year, had sought $30 million.
Settlement funds will go to Duffy’s parents and brother. Nearly $176,000 of that will be deducted for lawyer fees and costs and reimbursement for funeral expenses, according to the final order filed in Chesapeake.
After a settlement hearing in the case Wednesday, Duffy’s parents, Tammy and Scott, said that while appeals in the criminal case may be looming, the civil settlement was one step closer to peace.
“We’re just happy to get this chapter closed,” Tammy Duffy said.
Still, Scott Duffy said, the lawsuit doesn’t take away their loss.
“I don’t want it, really,” he said of the settlement money.
“I just want her back.”
The patient felt nervous enough. She was 4 1/2 months pregnant with a deformed fetus, lying on a hospital bed, waiting for an abortion. She knew it would be traumatic.
Into her room walked a nurse who, she says, turned her morning into a horror.
The nurse criticized the patient for choosing the abortion, told her she would never get over it, said she would have to celebrate her dead child’s birthday just as she celebrated her living child’s, the patient says.
Then, she says, the nurse started crying and said she was opposed to abortion. The nurse said she had never assisted in an abortion and told the patient that she would have to help her through the difficult procedure.
That was in December 1994. This month, the patient – using the pseudonym Jane Doe – sued Sentara Norfolk General Hospital and the nurse, Nancy C. Benson of Norfolk, for medical malpractice and other alleged misdeeds.
She is seeking $1 million in compensatory damages and $350,000 in punitive damages.
This is the same abortion that prompted another lawsuit earlier this year. In that case, the nurse sued the hospital, claiming religious discrimination: She says she was fired for refusing to help with the Doe operation. That case is pending in federal court.
All sides agree that the nurse was taken off the abortion soon after the incident, suspended, then quit a few days later.
The patient sued Dec. 6 in Circuit Court under a pseudonym to protect her privacy. She says, in court papers, that she feared the nurse would withhold pain medication and would not help her through the procedure.
“This really doesn’t come down to whether you’re pro-life or pro-choice,” said Doe’s attorney, Michael L. Goodove. “She (the patient) has made a lawful decision to terminate a pregnancy and she should not be subject to someone else’s views. . . . A professional nurse should never, ever subject a patient to this kind of treatment.”
Sentara agrees that the nurse was out of line, even though it is a co-defendant in the new case. The company says it took swift action against the nurse for acting improperly.
“Sentara suspended (Benson) for imposing her views and judgment on a patient,” says a legal brief by Sentara’s attorney, William M. Furr, in the discrimination case. “(The nurse’s) conduct was totally inappropriate.”
The nurse’s attorney did not return repeated phone calls.
Taken together, the two lawsuits put Sentara and the nurse in awkward legal positions.
First, it means Sentara must defend itself against two lawsuits involving the same abortion. The suit filed by Benson says Sentara acted too strongly against the nurse. The suit filed by the patient says Sentara didn’t act strongly enough to protect her from the nurse.
Second, the two lawsuits put the nurse in an odd spot: She is suing Sentara in one case, but she is a co-defendant with Sentara in the other.
“Litigation makes strange bedfellows,” said a Sentara attorney, William E. Rachels Jr.
“The hospital is certainly caught between a rock and a hard place,” said Goodove, the patient’s attorney.
The nurse’s lawsuit was filed in March and is pending in federal court in Norfolk. A judge heard arguments last week and will rule soon on Sentara’s motion to throw the lawsuit out. The trial is scheduled for Jan. 14.
Court documents, including sworn depositions by the nurse, patient and her family, spell out what happened in the hospital room the morning of Dec. 22, 1994.
Jane Doe was about 20 weeks pregnant – halfway to her baby’s birth – but there were problems. Medical examinations found severe abnormalities in the fetus, including spina bifida, water on the brain and clubfeet, Goodove said.
After much agonizing, the patient and her husband decided to abort.
At Norfolk General, Nancy Benson was one of five nurses in the labor-and-delivery unit. She was assigned to the abortion.
Benson did not want to do the abortion, she says in her lawsuit. She says she had strong religious and moral objections. She says Sentara knew her feelings, yet ordered her to help with the Doe abortion.
Sentara says in court papers that Benson never told her supervisors how she felt and certainly never filed her objections in writing. If she had, Sentara says, the nurse never would have been assigned to abortions. Sentara also says that Benson could have swapped assignments with another nurse.
Benson says there was not enough time and, anyway, it violated her religious beliefs to ask someone else to help with an abortion.
About 7:30 a.m., Benson started an intravenous line and began giving the patient medications. What happened next is spelled out in Sentara’s legal brief in the discrimination case:
The nurse said, “I don’t do these,” meaning abortions. The nurse told Jane Doe that the abortion would always be with her, that she would never forget it, that it might be traumatic and it might come up later in her life.
The nurse also told Doe that she would need to celebrate the dead child’s birthday the same as her living child’s.
The nurse questioned the fetus’ deformity, according to the legal brief. She told Doe that there are boys and girls at Children’s Hospital of The King’s Daughters born with this defect and they are beautiful. She told Doe there was some doubt as to the fetus’ birth defect and asked if Doe had gotten a second opinion.
At that point, the brief says, Doe asked Benson if she was opposed to abortion, and Benson said yes. The nurse started crying, told Doe she would have a hard time dealing with this and said she might never get over it. She asked the patient to help her – the nurse – get through the procedure.
John and Jane Doe complained and the nurse was removed. She was later suspended and eventually quit.
Benson says she was forced out because of her religious views. Sentara says Benson’s conduct was intolerable.
“Health care providers have a right to their religions,” Sentara’s legal brief states, “but they do not have a right to impose their religious views on their patients.”
The new lawsuit has not yet been served on Benson or Sentara, so they have not yet replied.
Meanwhile, a third lawsuit involving abortion at Norfolk General has been settled out of court.
In that case, another nurse – Deborah J. Michael of Gatesville, N.C. – claimed Sentara fired her for refusing to help with abortions. It was filed in March at the same time as Benson’s lawsuit and was scheduled for trial this month.
“Sentara was ready and willing to take this case to trial,” Furr said, “but agreed to a resolution of this case when Ms. Michael decided to conclude the lawsuit for personal and emotional reasons.”
The mother of the 17-year-old who committed suicide in a courthouse holding cell last year is suing the sheriff and the city, saying they failed to protect her son, who had a long history of mental illness and trying to kill himself.
Lisa Washington, mother of Katrell Washington, filed the wrongful death lawsuit Thursday afternoon against Norfolk Sheriff Joe Baron and leaders at the Norfolk Juvenile Detention Center.
The lawsuit alleges a sheriff’s deputy falsified a logbook after the teen’s death to make it appear she and her colleagues had checked on him.
Lisa Washington is asking for $5 million to compensate her for the loss of her son, plus $350,000 in punitive damages from 18 defendants, including Baron, Juvenile Detention Center Superintendent Carey Patterson and the city, which runs the center.
Lt Col. Michael O’Toole, the No. 2 at the Norfolk Sheriff’s Office, declined to comment on the suit around noon Friday, saying he didn’t have a copy of it because the office had not been served. City spokeswoman Lori Crouch declined to comment.
On Nov. 16, Katrell Washington used his shackles to strangle himself in a fifth-floor holding cell. He was awaiting a hearing on charges that he threatened a Maury High School teacher, tried to attack her with scissors and stabbed two students who protected her.
Washington had long-suffered from severe mental illness and tried to commit suicide multiple times, attorney Beth Ufkes wrote in the 56-page lawsuit filed in Norfolk Circuit Court. In fact, Washington had come to court to plead not guilty by reason of insanity so the judge could order him to get the treatment he needed.
But detention center employees said nothing when they handed off Washington to Norfolk sheriff’s deputies so they could take him to court, Ufkes wrote. Then, she alleges, deputies put him in a holding cell alone and didn’t check on him for more than an hour as he wrapped his shackles twice around his neck and strangled himself.
“He relied on the system for help, and the system failed him,” Ufkes’ law partner, Michael Goodove, said in an interview.
Later, the lawsuit alleges, Deputy Mylicia Andrews created false logbook entries saying she and her colleagues had checked on Washington. Andrews, who started working at the sheriff’s office in 2013, had “separated” from the agency by March, according to records The Virginian-Pilot got through a public records request.
The allegation against Andrews echoes a state investigation that found Portsmouth jail staff falsified logs after two inmate deaths five months apart.
The Norfolk sheriff’s office made changes shortly after Washington’s death. Less than two weeks later, Baron told The Pilot he would order an assessment on everyone coming into his custody. The sheriff’s office had long required inmates coming into the jail to be assessed; Baron’s policy change expanded the requirement to those like Washington who would only be in deputies’ custody for a few hours.
Washington’s mental illness was well known to detention center staff, Ufkes wrote in the suit. He had threatened to kill himself several times and had made multiple attempts to end his life by drinking a half bottle of Pine-Sol, swallowing liquid soap, cutting himself with a spork, and trying to hang himself with clothes.
So detention center staff housed Washington alone, Ufkes wrote. He was either naked or had to wear a “suicide smock” to prevent him from using clothes to hang himself. He also had to write and draw in crayons because he was forbidden from having pencils.
But they didn’t tell Norfolk sheriff’s deputies about any of this, Ufkes said.
Deputies put Washington in “dangerous” handcuffs and leg shackles attached by the drop chain he would later use to kill himself, Ufkes wrote. She added that Deputy Shawn Dean, a 19-year veteran, freed Washington’s right hand from his handcuffs, “greatly exacerbating an already dangerous situation.”
At 9:55 a.m., deputies put him in the courtroom holding cell, Ufkes wrote. At 10:42, he took the drop chain and wrapped it twice around his neck, then used his free right hand to tighten the chain.
Then the teen fell off the bench to the floor of the cell, Ufkes said, adding that her timeline comes from a Norfolk police detective’s written account of a surveillance video Ufkes has not seen herself.
About 20 seconds later, Washington started convulsing, Ufkes wrote.
But no one checked on him for another 23 minutes when two lawyers found him at 11:05 and cried for help, she added.
Ufkes and Goodove said in an interview that their investigation found that the deputies had seen Washington on surveillance video, but thought he was sleeping.
Paramedics took the 17-year-old to Sentara Norfolk General Hospital, where he died the next day.
Norfolk Police Department homicide detectives investigated Washington’s death. They determined no one committed a crime and nothing deputies did caused his death, Norfolk sheriff’s spokeswoman Karen Pinkston said in a Feb. 9 news release. Investigators with the state Office of the Chief Medical Examiner ruled the death a suicide.
But Sheriff’s Office employees were disciplined for violating the agency’s policies and procedures, Pinkston said in announcing the end of the internal investigation into Washington’s death.
Baron has refused to specify how or how many of his employees were disciplined, except by saying in the February news release that “appropriate disciplinary actions have been taken to hold them accountable for those deficiencies.” Baron also wouldn’t say which policies they broke, because doing so would identify them to former Sheriff’s Office colleagues, he said.
A Pilot review found that at least three deputies left the Norfolk Sheriff’s Office after a three-month investigation into Katrell Washington’s death. Two of them said they were fired.
All three were quickly hired by the Portsmouth Sheriff’s Office.
Investigations by police detectives and the medical examiner should be enough information for people, Baron said in an interview in March.
The sheriff’s staff lawyer at the time, Jennifer Worden, said Baron wouldn’t release the final report on Washington’s death. The sheriff could make the information public if he wanted to, but state law allows him to keep certain information secret, including records of inmates and administrative investigations into possible wrongdoing by law enforcement officers.
A day after Washington died, Circuit Judge Jerrauld Jones ordered the Sheriff’s Office and police department to destroy all copies of the video once they completed their investigations. After Ufkes filed a motion, Jones on Dec. 4 ordered Baron to preserve the video in case it was needed in a future lawsuit.
Ufkes and Goodove said they haven’t seen the surveillance video, but expect to get it as their lawsuit moves forward.
Attorneys Michael Goodove and Elizabeth Ufkes have been selected as 2018 Super Lawyers. Michael Goodove was selected as a Super Lawyer in the field of Plaintiff’s Personal Injury. Elizabeth Ufkes was selected as a Super Lawyer as a Rising Star in the field of Plaintiff’s Personal Injury. Goodove and Ufkes were selected based upon evaluation by other top lawyers and independent research of the candidates. Goodove and Ufkes are listed in the 2018 Super Lawyers Magazine.
Jeffrey Swartz, Michael Goodove and Elizabeth Ufkes were selected as “Top Lawyers” by Coastal Virginia Magazine. They were recognized in the areas of criminal law, civil trial law and personal injury law. They were nominated by lawyers who vote for other lawyers who exemplify excellence in their specialties.
Inside Business Magazine, the Hampton Roads Business Journal has selected Attorney Elizabeth Ufkes as one of the Top 40 Under 40 for 2017
Attorneys Michael Goodove, Franklin Swartz and Elizabeth Ufkes have been selected as 2017 Super Lawyers. Michael Goodove was selected as a Super Lawyer in the field of Plaintiff’s Personal Injury. Franklin Swartz was selected as a Super Lawyer in the field of White Collar Criminal Defense. Elizabeth Ufkes was selected as a Super Lawyer as a Rising Star in the field of Plaintiff’s Personal Injury. Only 5% of Virginia attorneys are chosen every year and Goodove, Swartz and Ufkes were selected based upon evaluation by other top lawyers and independent research of the candidates. Goodove, Swartz and Ufkes will be contained in the 2017 Super Lawyers Magazine as well as in the 2016 November/December issue of Hampton Roads magazine.