Ridge & Downes - Law Firm

James T. Farnan

Jim Farnan grew up on the west side of Chicago.  He is a graduate of Fenwick High School, Eastern Illinois University and The John Marshall Law School.  Jim joined our firm in 2015, following 27 years of trial experience with Guth, Reinke & Farnan and Farnan & Cahill.  Most recently, Jim tried a case in June of 2014 resulting in a verdict of $1.8 million on behalf of a construction worker in a very difficult liability case.

Jim is a member of the American Bar Association, The Federal Trial Bar of the Northern District of Illinois, The Illinois State Bar Association, Illinois Trial Lawyers Association, Chicago Bar Association and West Suburban Bar Association.  Jim is an AV rated Martindale Hubble Best Attorney Network, 2008. He volunteered as a pro bono coordinator for the Chicago Legal Clinic from 1992 to 1995  and as a Moot Court/Trial Skills Instructor for the Chicago Public Schools System from 1995 to 1997.  He has acted as an Arbitrator for the Circuit Court of Cook County and has also been a guest expert on the Jonathan Brandmeier radio program.

Jim has been recognized for his charitable and civic contributions by many organizations.  He is a current volunteer for Catholic Charities, donating his time at Tuesday night dinners for the homeless.  He is also past president of LaGrange Little League, past board member with St. Francis Xavier School and Varsity Football Coach for St. Francis Xavier School.

To contact Jim, click here
  • Injuries Resulting From Slip and Falls: Relief Under the Illinois Workers’ Compensation Act and Common Law Negligence

    slip on ice

    As another Illinois winter is underway, it’s time to address your rights in the event you are injured from a slip and fall on ice and snow.

    Workers’ Compensation Act

    It is well established in Illinois that parking lots that are owned, controlled or designated by the employer for use by its employees are considered to be an integral part of the employer’s premises.  Injuries that occur in parking lots owned, controlled or designated by the employer for use by its employees have satisfied the first of two requirements determining compensability.  The injury must occur within a reasonable time before or after the actual employment duties.  The extension of the employment relationship for entry upon and departure from the workplace, and the resultant liability of the employer, are predicated upon the obvious fact that the term “employment” means more than time spent at one’s workstation.

    After having determined ownership and control by the employer to park there, an employee must then prove that some condition of the parking lot increased the risk of accident and caused the injury to occur.  Usually, this involves ice, snow or some ‘defect’ in the parking lot such as a pothole or crack in the pavement, which causes injury to the employee.

    Common Law Negligence

    When a slip and fall occurs on land not owned by your employer, your avenue of relief would be under common law negligence.  Generally, in order for a property owner or the occupier of land to be held liable for a slip and fall on snow and ice, the owner must be shown to have in some way either; (a) caused an unnatural accumulation of ice and snow, or (b) to have aggravated a natural condition. 

    This means that a property owner has no duty to remove any natural accumulations of ice and snow from their property.  Unfortunately, if you are injured on ice and snow that is due from such a natural accumulation, the Illinois courts have indicated that a property owner is not liable for any injuries you might sustain.

    The bottom line is BE CAREFUL!  In most cases Illinois courts will not punish property owners for failing to remove snow but they may hold a property owner liable for negligently removing ice and snow.  If you do have an accident, look for an unnatural snow mound and take pictures of the area immediately

    There are also times when a snow removal contractor has a contractual obligation to remove snow and that too can be a basis on which liability can be assessed, if that removal is done negligently.  Please be sure to contact our office if you have had an injury caused by ice and snow and we will gladly guide you through this difficult process.

    If you have any questions regarding personal injury or workers’ compensation law please do not hesitate to contact Ridge & Downes at (800) 572-1136.

  • Suing a Municipality

    When a personal injury occurs due to the fault of a municipality, such as a city, park district, township or county, you must have an experienced attorney on your side. Municipal entities enjoy immunities from most lawsuits in Illinois, primarily due to the Illinois Tort Immunity Act.

    The Act’s purpose is to immunize local public entities and employees from negligence in executing their public duties, with limited exceptions.

    One common exception is that the Act expressly eliminates immunity for acts amounting to “willful and wanton conduct,” thus exposing a public entity to liability for egregious conduct. The Act defines “willful and wanton conduct” as “a course of action which shows an actual or deliberate intention to cause harm or which, if not intentional, shows an utter indifference to or conscious disregard for the safety of others or their property.” There is no bright-line test for willful and wanton conduct. Whether a public entity’s acts constitute willful and wanton conduct depends on the facts of each particular case.

    The Illinois Tort Immunity Act is broad and applies “to every kind of local governmental body; including counties, townships, municipalities, municipal corporations, school districts, school boards, community college districts, community college boards, forest preserve districts, park districts, fire protection districts, sanitary districts, museum districts, library systems and many other local governmental bodies. It excludes the state or any office of the State. The immunities found in the Tort Immunity Act also protects “public employees” from liability from certain acts or omissions performed while working at their jobs.

    Because of the protection afforded by the law there are rigid steps to follow and deadlines to meet for an injury claim against a municipality, or other protected entity. Failure to follow these steps or meet a time limit can end an otherwise viable claim. It is important to have the benefit of a knowledgeable attorney from the very outset of your case. Suing a municipality or other public entity is much different than suing an individual or business. If you believe that your injury may be the result of negligence on the part of a municipality, please contact the experienced attorneys at Ridge & Downes as soon as possible.

  • Injured State Trooper Settles Case For $1 Million

    According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, impaired elderly drivers are involved in approximately 15% of traffic fatalities.  Impaired drivers can strike pedestrians, bicyclists and other drivers causing serious injury or even death.  If a corporation knowingly allows an impaired driver to operate its vehicles on the open road, and that driver causes injury to a person, then that corporation is responsible for the harm that it has caused.

    This occurred in August of 2009, when an Arlington Heights Company allowed one of its employees to drive a vehicle while he was suffering from cognitive deficits. 

    In May and July of 2009, doctors expressed concern over this employee's ability to safely drive a vehicle.  Despite having knowledge of the medical concerns, the corporation ignored the risks involved and knowingly allowed the employee to drive the company vehicle.  

    Just one month later, on August 26, 2009, that cognitively impaired employee was driving the company car.  He approached an intersection with three Illinois State Police squad cars stopped at a red light.  The driver approached the light too quickly and the company car struck the third Illinois State Police car as it sat at the red light.

    The 26-year-old State Trooper struck in the accident retained Ridge & Downes to represent her. 

    As a result of the collision, the Trooper was diagnosed with a herniated disc in her lumbar spine. She underwent surgery, which resulted in permanent restrictions.  Those restrictions precluded her from fulfilling the physical requirements of an Illinois State Trooper. 

    Despite the fact that the State did find her an alternative administrative job, her salary and pension are much less than she would have received if she were able to continue working as a State Trooper. At 33-years-old she will never be able to move up or be promoted in this job.  

    Ridge & Downes filed proceedings against the driver and the company who owned the vehicle on the basis that they knowingly let him drive despite his cognitive impairments. The case was defended by two law firms, one representing the driver and one representing the vehicle owner.

    The parties agreed to take part in a mediation session to ascertain if a settlement could be reached before the trial.  During the mediation, Ridge & Downes negotiated a settlement of $1 million dollars for this Trooper. This money will not bring back her dream of serving Illinois as a law enforcement officer, but it will help compensate her for the loss of income and pension, as well as her pain and suffering. 

    Because the Trooper was on duty at the time of the accident, she also had a workers’ compensation case versus the State of Illinois, handled by Attorney Amylee Hogan Simonovich. The State agreed to waive its right to be reimbursed for $185,000 it had paid in lost time and medical benefits as part of the resolution of both claims.

  • Dangerous Toys

    Now that the holidays are over, we are sure that your little ones are spending many hours enjoying the toys that Santa delivered. Please be aware, however, that Santa’s bounty may also include toys that pose significant dangers for your children. One of the most common items involved in product liability cases are children’s toys. Defective or faulty toys may cause serious injury or even death to your children.

    According to the US Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC), in 2013, there were an estimated 256,700 toy-related injuries treated in U.S. hospital emergency rooms. Of the 256,700 injuries, an estimated 73% happened to children younger than 15 years of age. In addition CPSC staff received nine reports of toy-related deaths that occurred in the 2013 calendar year among children younger than 15 years old.

    Many children are injured because they weren’t properly supervised. Other injuries occur because the parent failed to follow the toy manufacturer’s instructions properly. Serious injuries and even death can however also occur due to a toy being inherently defective or dangerous. Always be conscious of the fact that many toys are mass produced and assembled in third world countries, where quality is not nearly as important as quantity.

    According to CPSC, the following are the common causes for toy-related injuries in children:
    • Small parts of the toy that can choke children;
    • Sharp edges or materials of toys causing cuts, grazes and deep lacerations;
    • Strings, ribbon, and cords that can strangle a child;
    • High amounts of hazardous chemicals; and/or
    • High amounts of lead content.

    The most common toys that cause injury include: Rocking horses, balloons, battery operated toys, toys with electrical cords, toys with sharp or jagged edges.

    In accordance with the Consumer Product Safety Act (CPSA), US toy producing companies must ensure that their products are safe for children’s use and they should not contain any hazardous chemicals or materials. The Act gives CPSC the power to develop safety standards and pursue recalls for products that present unreasonable or substantial risks of injury or death to consumers.

    What can you do about dangerous toy injuries?

    Toy injury claims are based on the legal concept of Product Liability, alleging the toy was defectively designed or built. Regardless of the cause of your child’s injury, such as choking on a small part, or getting burned by a hot wire, the actual legal basis for your claim will lie in the negligence of the designer or manufacturer in the manner in which the toy was designed, produced or distributed. In order to successfully bring a products liability action for an injury to your child because of an alleged dangerous or defective toy, you must be able to prove four main elements, called your burden of proof.

    These elements are:
    1. The toy was defective;
    2. The designer or manufacturer’s negligence caused the toy to be defective;
    3. As a direct result of the negligence in the design or manufacture of the toy, your child was injured;
    4. Your child’s injuries resulted in compensable damages.

    The law states that the manufacturer of a toy must exercise reasonable care in its design and manufacture, so the toy does not unnecessarily harm a child. The law does not state the manufacturer has an absolute duty to ensure your child will not be injured by the toy.

    If the injuries weren’t serious enough to require medical care, you probably don’t have a case. It’s not enough that your child sustained a minor cut or bruise, or momentarily choked on a piece of the toy. To have a valid personal injury claim, your child’s injuries must be serious enough to require medical care.

    In addition to medical costs, you can also include out-of-pocket expenses (ex. medications, bandages, etc.), lost wages if you had to miss time off work to care for your child, and the pain and suffering your child endured as a result of the injury.

    In an unfortunate scenario that your child gets injured due to a defective toy, the following are SUGGESTED TIPS for parents whose child gets involved in a toy-related injury:

    1. Call the emergency department immediately– Have your child diagnosed by a physician in order to have the injury treated and to avoid further injury.

    2. Follow doctor’s prescription – Once the injury is treated, strictly follow the doctor’s recommendations concerning medication and diet.

    3. Document the incident – Keep medical records of your child and take note of the information regarding the incident. Make sure to document pieces of information regarding the toy that caused the injury. Include information such as the toy name, the manufacturer, and serial number of the product. If possible take photographs of the toy and of the part of the toy in particular that you claim is defective.

    4. File a complaint with the CPSC – CPSC welcomes complaints about toy-related injuries. The CPSC has a number of resources that can help you protect your child including safety guides and tips for preventing accidents and injuries. The commission’s website also provides updated lists of products that have been recalled and the reasons why, as well as a consumer hotline and a link where you can report unsafe products. The website is http://cpsc.gov.

    5. Consult Ridge & Downes Attorneys– Legal representation from highly specialized attorneys who are familiar with product liability cases is advisable if your child has been injured by a defective or dangerous toy.

  • Trucking Accidents in Illinois

    Each year, thousands of motorists are critically injured when passenger vehicles and commercial trucks collide.  As the number of commercial trucks on the road steadily increases every year, inevitably so will the number of serious accidents. A collision with a large truck can be devastating for the driver and any passengers in the car. The truck's sheer size and power leave the car’s passengers at risk for serious personal injuries or even death. 

    In 2008, the National Highway Transportation Safety Administration (NHTSA) reported 144 fatal crashes with large trucks in Illinois. Federal and state codes, designed specifically to protect motorists from the negligence of untrained commercial truck drivers and trucking companies, regulate the safe operation of large trucks. At Ridge & Associates, we are familiar with those laws and regulations and can provide well informed advice to you or any of your loved ones who have been involved in a trucking accident in Illinois. 

    Trucking accidents can happen for a variety of reasons, which vary from relatively simple errors, such as excessive speed, driver fatigue or inexperienced driving, to more complicated and serious reasons, which include, ignoring regulations that require companies to limit the number of hours their drivers are on the road, carrying excessive or unsafe loads and drug or alcohol use on the part of the driver. 

    In addition, the list of possible defendants in a trucking accident goes beyond just the driver of the truck. The company that owns the truck can also be held liable, as can the owner of the load, the owner of the trailer carrying the load, the truck manufacturer, the tire distributor, or others, depending on the cause and circumstances of the accident. 

    The law limits the time you have to pursue a legal action against a negligent party so it is important to obtain sound legal advice as soon as possible. More importantly, it is imperative to obtain quick access to the evidence and witnesses surrounding a trucking accident, as this will often be a crucial factor in winning a case. In addition, trucking companies and their insurance carriers will have investigators in place within hours of an accident occurring.

    At Ridge & Associates, we have the knowledge, resources and expertise to handle any question you may have surrounding this important area of personal injury law so please do not hesitate to call us if you have further questions about this area of the law.

  • Firefighter Receives Settlement for Laceration

    Firefighter received 5% loss of use of his ring finger for a laceration he sustained preparing a meal for his fellow firefighters at the firehouse.

  • Nursing Home Abuse and Neglect

    It is difficult to believe that something as terrible as neglect can be perpetrated by caregivers entrusted with the safety of your elderly or disabled loved ones. As difficult as that may be to imagine, the sad truth is that neglect, abuse and exploitation of residents in nursing homes occurs all too frequently.

    As our society has grown, so have the life expectancies of its people. The increased life expectancy has resulted in the growth of nursing and long-term care facilities. Many facilities take excellent care of their residents and patients but some have demonstrated themselves to be unworthy of the patronage of our sick and elderly family members.

    There is no excuse for an elderly and infirm resident to be over-medicated, under fed, handled violently, restrained from physical activity or left in soiled linens. The oldest members of our society deserve our respect and admiration. They should be treated accordingly.

    There are legal remedies to this abuse. If you suspect that a cherished family member has suffered from abuse or neglect at a nursing home or long-term care facility, please contact our office for a consultation. 

  • What to do when a loved one is hospitalized

    When someone we love is in the hospital we often feel helpless and intimidated by the doctors and medical staff. Here's a quick guide as to what to ask and do to protect the patient.


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