Jim joined DeWitt in 1986 as a litigation paralegal specializing in personal injury work. He spent almost ten years prior to that doing insurance defense work in similar matters. His new focus was driven, and is to this day, by a desire to help guide people through what can be a confusing and often lengthy process.
Jim is a hands-on individual who tirelessly invests himself in his cases by visiting accident sites to take photographs and meticulous notes. He employs the same care when conducting and maintaining research on adversarial parties, and he interviews clients, as well as any witnesses, thoroughly to ensure the most accurate account of an event. Jim is always available for his clients if they have any questions or concerns about the progress of their case, what the next step might be, or what role they need to play as matters progress. He also seeks out and contacts expert witnesses, prepares exhibits and presentations for trial, and performs a host of other services to aid the firm’s personal injury attorneys.
In addition to his paralegal work, Jim is also the firm’s Ethics Compliance Specialist. In this role, he oversees conflict checks, file openings, client screens, rate increase notices and related matters to ensure compliance with legal ethical duties. He helps improve policies and procedures for submitting conflict data for review, and is a resource for attorneys in investigating potential conflicts.
Educated at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, Jim was also the founding member of the Paralegal Association of Wisconsin, and he served on the board of directors in 1987 and 1988.
After more than 25 years of working hand-in-hand with DeWitt personal injury attorneys and clients, Jim has become firmly rooted in his work. His personal and professional investments have shone in such matters as:
- Staskal, et al. v. Symons Corporation, et al. In June 1999, a section of the formwork equipment that supported freshly poured concrete at the University of Wisconsin Pharmacy Building construction site collapsed, trapping Terry Staskal for over three hours. Jim was on the site the days after the collapse to work closely with investigators and engineers as they sought to determine the cause of the collapse. His assistance in the preparation for the jury trial, which took place in October of 2003, was invaluable. That jury found in favor of the plaintiff, Mr. Staskal, citing the deficiency of the defendants’ product.
- Estate of Timothy Smith v. Theresa Mut. Inc. Co., et al. In July 1996, Tim Smith and his would-be spouse were riding his motorcycle on a county highway near Horicon Wildlife Refuge. They came upon an intersection at the same time as a motorist, who failed to see a stop sign that was completely obscured by a tree on private property. The motorist struck Mr. Smith and his fiancé as they were traveling through that intersection. Mr. Smith suffered severe injuries from which he never made a complete recovery. Prior to trial, the defendants took an appeal to the Wisconsin Court of Appeals and Supreme Court. The appellate court found in favor of the plaintiff, which was affirmed by the Supreme Court after Mr. Smith’s death. In uncommon fashion, the Supreme Court utilized and published a photo exhibit prepared by Jim which was pivotal in deciding the case (Physicians Plus v. Midwest Mut., et al., 254 Wis.2d. 77 at p. 120). Jim also assembled and maintained massive sets of evidentiary medical records pertinent to Mr. Smith’s injuries. At trial, Jim assisted at counsel table with not only exhibit preparation, but witness preparation.
- Hengst, et al. v. OLeary, M.D., et al. Neil Patrick Hengst was born on June 21, 1990. He suffered from severe cerebral palsy precipitated by the inadequate or substandard care provided by his treating physician at birth, who failed to respond properly to ongoing fetal distress and prenatal asphyxia. Jim’s primary role in this case was to aid in seeking experts, including those who could speak to the future needs and costs of care for young Neil. Jim also maintained meticulous medical records for six years prior to the settling of the case.
- Craig, et al. v. Vogel Bros. Building Co., et al. In September 1992, John Craig was working on a school construction site when the manlift he was on fell into an unguarded hidden pit and he was tossed to the ground. He was rendered a paraplegic from the fall. Detailed engineering reconstruction was performed and similar unguarded pits were discovered that were in violation of the construction standards called into question. Jim was an integral part of this engineering and detective work. Mr. Craig’s case settled one week prior to trial.