Vedder Price

Ludwig E. Kolman

Shareholder

Ludwig E. Kolman is a Shareholder at Vedder Price, a member of the firm’s Litigation practice area and immediate past Chair of the Litigation department.

He has extensive jury trial experience, having tried more than 40 jury trials in commercial, products liability and tort, and white-collar crime litigation. He is a member of the Patent Bar and has a master’s degree in physics which, when combined with his considerable trial experience, has proven invaluable in litigating difficult products liability and patent infringement cases and other cases raising technical or scientific issues. Mr. Kolman has more than 15 years’ experience acting as national trial counsel for major appliance manufacturers and, in that capacity, has tried cases around the country. Prior to entering private practice, Mr. Kolman served five years as an Assistant U.S. Attorney in the Criminal Division of the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Chicago focusing on financial crimes. Before that, he spent several years in public interest litigation.

Mr. Kolman has devoted considerable time to pro bono work and was named Pro Bono Attorney of the Year in 1992 by Pro Bono Advocates. He is a member of the Chicago Council of Lawyers and the Chicago Bar Association, where for a number of years he has been a member of its Judicial Evaluation Committee, which evaluates the fitness of candidates seeking judicial office.

Mr. Kolman has been recognized by his peers as an Illinois Leading Lawyer and was selected for inclusion from 2005 to 2016 in Illinois Super Lawyers. In addition, he received an "AV Preeminent" Peer Rating in Martindale-Hubbell. Mr. Kolman is also admitted to practice before the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office.

Ludwig E. Kolman

Shareholder

Experience

Mr. Kolman was engaged by State Industries to act as “national counsel” to defend it against product liability cases arising out of the ignition of flammable vapors (typically gasoline, occasionally paint thinners or other volatiles) allegedly or actually by its water heaters. ATLA’s water heater/flammable vapor group was attacking the entire industry, asserting the existence of a simple fix—elevation of gas water heaters off the floor. As part of their litigation strategy, plaintiffs retained the former CPSC employee in charge of the Commission’s efforts in this area as a testifying expert. Notwithstanding these circumstances; a long list of prior incidents, claims and lawsuits; and devastating injuries, frequently to young children, we tried a number of these cases to verdict. Our willingness to do so, and our ability to obtain defense verdicts, allowed us to achieve very favorable settlements in the remaining cases. The matters that were tried are:

  • Thomas v. State Industries, Civil District Court, Orleans Parish, Louisiana. 19 month old toddler suffered mostly full-thickness burns to 90%+ TBSA when gasoline he spilled near the water heater ignited. Jury verdict in favor of plaintiff for $5 million.
  • Burr v. State Industries, U.S. District Court, Western District, Oklahoma. 13 month old child suffered partial and full-thickness burns to 90% TBSA when gasoline he spilled near the water heater ignited. The jury returned a verdict in favor of State Industries.
  • Muntaner v. State Industries, Circuit Court, 11th Jud. District, Dade County (Miami), FL. Ms. Muntaner suffered mostly second degree burns to 20% TBSA when the gasoline she was using to clean her floor ignited. The jury returned a verdict in favor of State Industries.
  • Sybille v. State Industries I, 215th Judicial District Court, Harris County (Houston), TX. Three year old twins suffered second and third degree burns, one to 40% TBSA and the other to 10% TBSA when the gasoline they spilled near the water heater ignited. In Sybille I, the jury hung.
  • Sybille v. State Industries II, The case was tried again in Sybille II, which resulted in a jury verdict in favor of State Industries.
  • Warren v. State Industries, Circuit Court, Jefferson County (Bessemer), AL. Two year old child spilled gasoline in the utility room and suffered fatal burns when the vapors ignited. After three days of deliberation, jury returned a verdict against State Industries for $500,000.

These trials and victories allowed us to achieve very favorable settlements in other cases. For example:

  • Tilini and Tavares v. State Industries (HI)—Four children and an adult sustained partial and/ or full-thickness burns (the children’s burns were, respectively, fatal, 75%, 15%, and 15% TBSA and the adult suffered 65% TBSA burns) when gasoline being used to remove paint from the children ignited. State Industries settled for $700,000.
  • Satingen v. State Industries (CA)—Ms. Satingen suffered partial thickness burns to 20% TBSA in a gasoline fire. State Industries was dismissed without payment.
  • Carey v. State Industries (OK)—Three year old suffered partial and full-thickness burns to 30% TBSA in a gasoline fire. State Industries settled for $435,000.
  • Soper v. State Industries (KY)—Ms. Soper was burned over 40% TBSA while using MEK as a cleaning agent. State Industries settled for $30,000.
  • Walter v. State Industries (LA)—Mr. Walter suffered second and third degree burns to 50% TBSA while washing auto parts in gasoline near the water heater. State Industries settled for $100,000.
  • Kellerman v. State Industries (MO)—Two brothers ages two and three were burned when they poured gasoline in their basement. One suffered partial and full-thickness burns to 65% TBSA and the other’s burns were fatal. State Industries settled for $500,000.
  • Peart v. State Industries (NYC)—Mr. Peart was applying floor sealant when the vapors were ignited, causing burns to 35% TBSA. State Industries settled for $65,000.
  • Munoz v. State Industries (Los Angeles)—Mr. Munoz was burned over 60% TBSA by a gasoline fire in his utility room. State Industries settled for $100,000.
  • Moseley v. State Industries (AL)—Mr. Moseley died of burns suffered when gasoline vapors were ignited in the hallway of his home. State Industries settled for $100,000.
  • Smith v. State Industries (Beaumont, TX)—Three year old boy playing in the utility room was injured in a gasoline fire, suffering burns to 25% TBSA. State Industries settled for $315,000.
  • Nawn v. State Industries (Boston)—Three children under the age of seven were burned while playing in the garage when a gasoline container was knocked over near the utility room. The children suffered second and third degree burns, respectively, to 80%, 85%, and 90% TBSA. State Industries settled for $50,000.
  • Blackburn v. State Industries (Detroit)—Twenty-one month old child died of burns suffered in a gasoline fire in the basement. Summary judgment for State Industries.
  • Webster v. State Industries (IA)—Mr. Webster was working with acetone and paint thinner in his house when a fire ensued, causing 65% TBSA burns. State Industries settled for $75,000.
  • Walls v. State Industries (OK)—Eleven year old child was burned in a gasoline fire in the garage, sustaining burns to 15% TBSA. State Industries settled for $20,000.
  • Schultz v. State Industries (Denver)—Ms. Schultz was applying lacquer sealer to her floors when the vapors ignited and inflicted second and third degree burns to 65% TBSA. State Industries settled for $150,000.
  • Cook v. State Industries (Detroit)—Three year old child was burned in a gasoline fire in the laundry room, suffering burns to 30% TBSA. State Industries obtained partial summary judgment and settled for $30,000.
  • James v. State Industries (FL)—Ms. James was cleaning her garage floor with gasoline when it ignited and caused burns to 25% TBSA. State Industries settled for $200,000.
  • Frank v. State Industries (CA)—Ms. Frank was applying a commercial carpet protector when the vapors ignited. She suffered burns to 20% TBSA. State Industries settled for $110,000.
  • Mandycz v. State Industries (NJ)—Mr. Mandycz was working on his car and had removed the gas tank. A fire ensued and caused 50% TBSA burns to Mr. Mandycz. State Industries settled for $50,000.
  • Velazquez v. State Industries (Houston)—Five year old girl was burned over 20% TBSA when enamel paint fumes were ignited in the bathroom. State Industries settled for $10,000.
  • Grove v. State Industries (IN)—Ms. Grove was burned over 20% TBSA when gasoline she was using in the bathroom was ignited by the nearby water heater. State Industries settled for $75,000.
  • Harper v. State Industries (WV)—Ms. Harper suffered fatal burns in a gasoline fire in the basement of her home. State Industries settled for $15,000.
  • Slater v. State Industries (GA)—Mr. Slater was using gasoline to remove glued-down carpeting from a bedroom when it ignited and inflicted fatal burns. State Industries settled for $415,000.
  • Clark v. State Industries (AZ)—Four year old boy spilled gasoline in the utility room, causing fire that burned child over 35% TBSA. State Industries settled for $15,000.
  • Ybarra v. State Industries (TX)—Thirty-three month old girl died of burns suffered in a gasoline fire in the garage. State Industries settled for $150,000.

Mr. Kolman was also retained as “regional counsel” (East, Midwest, South) for the White-Rodgers Division of Emerson Electric in defense of product liability suits asserting that propane (LP) and natural gas control valves for water heaters sold by White-Rodgers were defectively designed and had permitted gas leakage, which caused explosions and fires resulting in death and grievous bodily injury. Notwithstanding horrific burn injuries, a history of 30-plus lawsuits, a product recall of the control valves in question, and a Consumer Product Safety Commission fine for failing to report a product hazard—at the time the largest CPSC fine ever levied—we tried several of these cases, two to defense verdicts, and two others to verdicts lower than plaintiffs’ final demand. These outcomes in turn drove down the settlement value of the remaining cases, almost all of which were settled for under $500,000 despite devastating injuries. The matters tried were:

  • Hedrick v. Emerson Electric, Circuit Court of Milwaukee County, Wisconsin. Plaintiff suffered second and third degree burns to 91% of his total body surface area (TBSA) when propane gas leaking from the White-Rodgers gas control ignited. The case was tried to a defense verdict in favor of Emerson Electric.
  • Payne v. Emerson Electric, Federal District Court for the Southern District of Ohio (Western Division). Plaintiff sued Emerson, claiming that its defective water heater control valve allowed propane to leak, which caused burns to plaintiff’s hands and arms. Defense verdict returned at summary jury trial.
  • Holmes et al., v. Emerson Electric, Circuit Court of Codington County, South Dakota. Propane gas leaking from water heater exploded during relighting attempt. One adult incurred second and third degree burns to 40% TBSA; another adult sustained first, second, and third degree burns to 30% TBSA; one child suffered fatal burns; another child suffered second and third degree burns to 40% TBSA . The jury returned a verdict totaling $2.9 million.
  • Bettinger v. Emerson Electric, Circuit Court of Milwaukee County, Wisconsin. Bettinger suffered second and third degree burns to 57% TBSA when propane gas exploded. The jury returned a verdict of $1.63 million against Emerson.

We achieved the following settlements in the Emerson Electric cases:

  • Mary and Edward Agee v. Emerson Electric (MI)— Ms. Agee suffered second and third degree burns to 43% TBSA and Mr. Agee, her teenaged son, sustained partial and full thickness burns to 40% TBSA in a propane gas explosion. Emerson settled for $225,000.
  • Brown v. Emerson Electric (MI)—Mr. Brown suffered fatal burns in a propane gas explosion. Emerson settled for $33,000. •Cunningham v. Emerson Electric (IL)—Ms. Cunningham sustained first and second degree burns to her hands and face from a natural gas ignition. Emerson settled for $1,500.
  • Hoskins v. Emerson Electric (IA)—Ms. Hoskins suffered third degree burns to 54% TBSA, including her face, in a propane gas explosion. Emerson settled for $1.4 million.
  • Junkins v. Emerson Electric (WV)—Ms. Junkins sustained fatal burns in a natural gas explosion. Emerson settle for $125,000.
  • Miller v. Emerson Electric (IN)— Mr. and Mrs. Miller both suffered fatal burn injuries in a propane gas explosion. Emerson settled for $75,000. •Owen v. Emerson Electric (MI)—Mr. Owen suffered fatal burn injuries in a propane gas explosion. Emerson settled for $230,000.
  • Ruch v. Emerson Electric (MN)—Mr. Ruch sustained partial and full thickness burns to 40% TBSA and Mrs. Ruch suffered fatal burns in a propane gas explosion. Emerson settled for $333,333.
  • Swenson v. Emerson Electric (MN)—Mr. Swenson suffered fatal burns in a propane gas explosion. Emerson settled for $11,500.
  • Thomas v. Emerson Electric (WI)—Mr. Thomas sustained second degree burns to 90% TBSA in a propane gas explosion. Emerson settled for $452,600.
  • Shavers v. Emerson Electric (GA)—Mr. Shavers sustained partial thickness burns over 20% TBSA in a propane explosion. Emerson settled for $90,000.
  • Williams and Moore v. Emerson Electric (GA)—Ms. Williams suffered first, second and third degree burns to 20% TBSA and Mr. Moore sustained first, second, and third degree burns to 43% TBSA. Emerson settled for $124,100.

Ludwig E. Kolman

Shareholder

Education

  • Northwestern University School of Law, J.D., 1975, cum laude
  • University of Rochester, M.S., 1972
  • University of Illinois, B.S., 1970, with distinction

Ludwig E. Kolman

Shareholder

Bar Admissions

  • Illinois, 1975
  • U.S. Patent and Trademark Office, 1986

Court Admissions

  • U.S. District Court, Northern District of Illinois, 1975
  • U.S. District Court, Northern District of Illinois, including Trial Bar, 1983
  • U.S. Court of Appeals, Seventh Circuit, 1977
  • U.S. Supreme Court, 1980

Affiliations

  • Member, Chicago Council of Lawyers
  • Member, Chicago Bar Association
  • Member, Chicago Inn of Court
  • Board Member, Better Government Association

Ludwig E. Kolman

Shareholder

Ludwig E. Kolman

Shareholder