Case Results

Elderly Client Prevails In Coverage Dispute

Our 80+ year old client suffered severe bilateral leg injuries from being crushed against the back of her garage. Her husband, who asked her to stand in front of the vehicle to assist him as he entered the garage, inadvertently depressed the accelerator of their 1993 station wagon rather than the brake, causing the accident. Several years earlier, our client had been injured in a one-vehicle accident, which also was caused by her husband’s negligence. Following that accident, upon the recommendation of their attorney, the couple met with their insurance agent to increase their automobile liability insurance coverage from $100,000 to $500,000, and to additionally purchase a $1,000,000 liability umbrella policy. The agent recommended that they switch their insurance coverage on their station wagon to a collector car policy, which had a lower premium. Unknown to the agent and to the couple, the collector car policy contained a "write-down" provision which changed the liability coverage from $500,000 to $30,000 for injuries caused to a family member by an insured. Therefore, despite our client’s severe injuries, the liability insurance carrier offered to pay only $30,000 to settle the claims. We pursued claims against our client’s husband in State Court, and against the liability carrier, umbrella liability carrier and insurance agency in Federal Court. We asserted claims against the insurance agency and its agent for negligent procurement of insurance, misrepresentation, and breach of fiduciary duty. We asserted contractual claims against the insurers. The umbrella liability carrier acknowledged its responsibility to provide coverage and paid $250,000. The remaining claims against the liability carrier and insurance agency were resolved through a confidential mediation settlement.

It remains unclear whether we would have prevailed against the liability insurance carrier on our contractual claim because both Federal and State Courts interpreting Minnesota law have enforced similar "write-down" provisions for family members injured by an insured’s negligence. We expect that there will be further litigation on this topic because, despite the rule of law that requires insureds to review their own policies, we believe that very few insureds would find or understand the language employed by the insurance company to reduce coverage for family members. Current Minnesota law does create significant exposure for insurance agencies who fail to review insurance contracts for such exceptional coverage limitations.

Man Receives Increased Settlement Offer After Obtaining Legal Representation

Our client sustained neck and shoulder injuries in a two vehicle accident. Both he and the driver of the vehicle he occupied received settlement offers from the liability insurance carrier for the other vehicle. His friend took the settlement offer. Our client, however, based on the advice of his doctor, talked to us. We felt that the offer was inadequate, and that it was too early to consider settlement. We were retained and ultimately obtained a voluntary settlement of $190,000, significantly higher than the $23,000 our client had been offered before we were retained. The case involved significant choice-of-law issues, since it involved Minnesota residents hurt in Illinois while driving a car insured under a Wisconsin automobile insurance policy. In addition to obtaining the liability settlement, we were able to obtain medical-pay coverage under the owner's Wisconsin policy, and no-fault coverage under our client's Minnesota insurance policy. We were also able to significantly reduce the health insurance lien under Illinois law. The case is significant to show that it is seldom in the best interest of an unrepresented accident victim to agree to an early settlement offer from a liability insurance carrier.

Woman Obtains Recovery for Dog Attack

Our Client was walking her small dog on a road near her home. Two large dogs escaped from their yard confinement and killed the small dog. When our client attempted to pick up her dog, the large dogs attacked her, biting her legs and arms, and pulling her off the road into a ditch. Our client initially tried to get up, and then stayed on the ground, putting her face into the ground and covering her neck with her hands. The dog owner saw his dogs on the road, and discovered our client in the ditch. Our client was hospitalized three times as a result of the attack, first to address her acute wounds, then due to an infection, and finally for a skin graft procedure for her leg. We obtained a policy limits settlement for our client in the amount of $300,000.

Wrongful Death Settlements

We recently completed three wrongful death settlements. In each of the cases, the decedent was in the prime of their life, and left behind grieving loved ones. In two of the cases, the defendant was intoxicated after consuming too much alcohol during a party at a private residence. We were able to secure liability policy limit settlements, underinsured motorist policy limit settlements, and additional compensation from the personal assets of the defendants. In each of the cases, we substantially reduced our fee. The cases provide a reminder that defendants seldom have adequate liability insurance coverage for catastrophic losses. Whenever possible, motorists should obtain an umbrella policy that provides both additional liability and UM/UIM coverage.

Youthful Automobile Passenger Prevails in Claim Against Trucking Company

Our minor client was riding to school in a car operated by his older brother. Due to inclement weather and road conditions, they stayed off major roadways between Luxemburg and St. Cloud. As they traveled northbound on Stearns County Road 74, a southbound semi turned left in front of them into a landscape dealership. Our client's brother was unable to stop or turn away from the path of the semi, and the car crashed into the side of the trailer. Our client suffered significant facial and oral injuries. Based upon statements from the semi driver, our client's brother was assigned all fault for the accident and was charged with a crime. We conducted many interviews, took statements from eyewitnesses and "ear" witnesses, and retained an accident reconstructionist. Based on our investigation, we were able to prove that the car was traveling within the posted speed limit, that the car's headlights were on, and that the trucker should have easily seen the approaching car before starting his left turn in front of the car. Based on statements that we provided to the prosecutor, criminal charges against our client's brother were dropped. The claim against the trucking company was settled for $500,000 shortly before trial.

Young Woman Obtains Settlement for Calcaneus Fracture

Our client was involved in an intersection accident in St. Cloud. She was initially treated for fractures of her right fibula and tibia. Unfortunately, her doctors failed to diagnose complex, displaced comminuted fractures of her calcaneus (heal bone). This condition was ultimately diagnosed when she could not perform physical therapy exercises. Because the calcaneus had already begun to heal, she was required to undergo a corrective osteotomy through the old fracture site. The surgeon was able to largely restore the anatomical structure of our client's calcaneus, as well as the mechanical alignment of the joints between the calcaneus and adjacent bones. He was also able to maintain the articular surface of the subtalar joint. Nevertheless, due to the complex anatomy, load bearing and movement functions of the bones in the hind foot, the "bubble wrap" anatomy of the calcaneus, and the inevitable alteration of mechanical alignment of the joints between the calcaneus and other bones following a blowout fracture, the surgeon felt that our client would likely require future fusion surgery or ankle replacement surgery. We were able to obtain policy limits settlements from the driver and owner of the at-fault vehicle, as well as our client's underinsured motorist carrier totaling $250,000.

Worker Prevails in Product Liability Claim Against Scissor Lift Manufacturer

Our client, a self-employed drywaller, suffered severe injuries while using a scissor lift elevator. Our client was working on the elevated platform of the scissor lift when the lift mechanism failed, causing the platform to collapse. We demonstrated through the findings of mechanical and electrical engineering experts that the components of the lift mechanism were not properly designed and were inadequately welded, all contributing to the failure of the lift. We further discovered that the same scissor lift elevator had been involved in a lift mechanism failure several years earlier in a different state, and that it had been subsequently sold over the internet to a dealer in Minnesota. The prior owner of the scissor lift, its insurance carrier, and the subsequent purchaser denied responsibility for making repairs to the scissor lift before it was ultimately sold to the company that employed our client as an independent contractor. The prior owner of the lift and its insurance carrier had notice of service bulletins from the product manufacturer advising of potential problems with its lift mechanism, yet did not supply this information to the dealer in Minnesota. The claim was settled on a confidential basis just prior to trial.

Woman Wins Verdict In Stearns County

Our client, a young woman, was struck from behind by another vehicle in her high school parking lot. She suffered neck injuries that persisted well beyond her expectation, given the lack of damage to either vehicle. Diagnostic tests showed that she had disc abnormalities in her neck which were consistent with her pain complaints. No settlement offer was ever made by the other driver’s auto insurer based on the low impact speed and our client’s lapses in medical care. We tried the case before a Stearns County jury in November, 2013. The jury returned a verdict of $92,149. The case was significant to us because it validated our belief that a jury will look beyond property damage issues and award substantial pain and suffering damages when justified by the testimony of witnesses.

Employee Obtains Settlement For Work Accident

Our client, a long term employee at a local food distribution company, was injured when he was struck from behind by a motorized pallet jack. The driver of the pallet jack planned to drive up behind our client and tap him on the shoulder. He realized too late that he was going too fast on a slippery floor, and could not brake in time to avoid striking our client in the back of his ankles. Within a few months of the incident, our client developed symptoms in one of his legs that led to a diagnosis of complex regional pain syndrome (CRPS), also known as reflex sympathetic dystrophy (RSD). Our client, who was 50 years old at the time of the accident, was unable to return to work and lost his job. Our client received workers’ compensation benefits and ultimately settled that claim. We avoided the exclusivity provision of the Workers’ Compensation Act by demonstrating that the pallet jack operator was not an employee of the company. The case settled in November, 2013, shortly after the Benton County District Court granted our Motion for Summary Judgment that the pallet jack operator was negligent. We settled the case for $850,000, free of the workers’ compensation lien.

High School Student Obtains Settlement In Car Vs. Semi Accident

Our client, a high school student riding to school as a passenger in a vehicle operated by his brother, was injured when their car slid into the side of an oncoming semi-tractor/trailer. The semi driver had turned left across their path, blocking the entire road. Weather conditions were poor on the date of the accident, with slippery roads and limited visibility caused by fog. The semi driver told the investigating offer that the boys’ vehicle was not visible when he started his turn. Our client’s brother was charged criminally for the collision. The semi driver was not charged. We obtained multiple statements from persons at or near the scene of the accident. The statements cast doubt on the semi driver’s version of the accident and supported the statements of our client’s brother, who said that the semi was in his view and just several hundred feet away when it turned left in front of him. Criminal charges were dropped against our client’s brother. We retained an accident reconstructionist who mapped the entire area and created a three dimensional computerized simulation of the accident. We were able to demonstrate that it was likely that the semi driver simply failed to see what he should have seen, thereby violating the car’s right-of-way. Our client sustained numerous facial lacerations, fractured teeth, multiple nose fractures, and a concussion. He suffered from anxiety and depression caused by his facial injuries. The case was settled in December, 2013, during a mediation hearing prior to trial. The amount of the settlement is confidential. The case is significant to us to show the importance of early and thorough investigation of accidents involving semi-trucks. Had we relied upon police reports, the available coverage would not have been sufficient to compensate our young client.

Illinois Family Obtains Wrongful Death Settlement For Accident On I-94

Our clients were the heirs of a 78 year old father/grandfather who was killed on October 3, 2010. A car fire on I-94 caused a backup of vehicles on the highway. A semi-tractor/trailer rig crashed into multiple vehicles stopped on the highway. We were able to demonstrate that the driver of the semi learned of the emergency and resulting traffic backup on his CB radio, and that the driver diverted his attention from the road when he consulted his on-board global positioning system to find an alternative route. We demonstrated that the driver was traveling at 65 miles per hour, the top speed allowed by his semi-tractor’s governor, with his cruise control activated, as he approached the stopped traffic. Traffic accident reconstruction revealed that the semi’s sensing and guidance equipment measured the semi’s speed at 49 miles per hour at the moment of impact. The collision damaged five vehicles, all of them severely. Two occupants in our vehicle were killed. Using data retrieved from the semi tractor’s on-board computer system and the traffic accident reconstruction, we proved that the driver and owner of the semi violated multiple federal motor carrier safety regulations. In 2012 we obtained a substantial settlement for our clients, the terms of which are confidential by request of all parties.

Minnesota Resident Obtains Settlement For North Dakota Accident

Our client, a young Minnesota resident traveling with friends on a duck hunting trip in North Dakota, suffered severe abdominal and low back injuries when the pickup ran into the back of a semi-tractor tanker rig. The accident occurred in pre-dawn during the beet harvest season. The highway had patches of mud caused by beet trucks driving between the beet field and the various beet piling stations. The collision between the pickup and the semi occurred near the entrance to one of the beet piling stations, where the congregation of mud was particularly bad, covering the entire highway surface. The semi had just left the piling station, and was largely invisible to the pickup occupants because its reflectors and tail lights were obliterated with mud. We brought claims against the driver of the pickup, the trucking company, and American Crystal Sugar Company, the largest beet producer in the United States. American Crystal owned the piling station. We asserted that American Crystal was largely responsible for the accident by creating the muddy condition on the highway near the piling station. American Crystal denied responsibility, asserting that it had no responsibility, as an adjacent property owner, to abate the buildup of mud on the highway by halting the delivery of beets to its piling station or to clean mud off the adjacent highway surface. We presented evidence that American Crystal had the authority to halt deliveries to the piling stations, and in fact did so when weather conditions damaged the financial value of the beets. We demonstrated that most of the mud on the road surface adjacent to the piling station was caused by mud picked up by the beet trucks at the piling station. The Pembina County District Court rejected American Crystal’s motion for summary judgment, finding that the statutory duties of the State of North Dakota co-existed with the common law duties of persons using the roadways, including adjacent property owners whose affirmative conduct created muddy conditions on the roadway. The case settled in late 2012, shortly before trial. The amount of the settlement is confidential by request of the Defendants.

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Nurse Anesthetist Wins Verdict In Wright County

Our client, a nurse anesthetist, suffered a neck injury with left upper extremity radiculopathy in a motor vehicle accident. After an emergency room visit, he had no further care for several months. Then, following an accident at his home, he missed several months of work. While recuperating from those injuries, he reported ongoing neck symptoms and radiculopathy from the motor vehicle accident. He rejected surgery, choosing instead to follow the advice of his therapist that he reduce his work hours and engage in physical therapy. Just prior to trial, the negligent driver’s insurance carrier offered $6,750 to settle the claim. The case was tried in December, 2012. The jury’s net verdict, after the Court deducted from the verdict no-fault benefits paid by our client’s auto carrier, was $654,375.29. This was the largest personal injury verdict in Wright County in 2012.

Child Obtains Settlement For Burn Injuries

Our two year old client was with his parents and other family members at a campsite. Our client was placed in a child-sized chaise lounge, and was wrapped in a blanket. Our client was left unattended near the campfire for several seconds. During this time an ember from the campfire came in contact with the blanket and ignited it. Our client sustained burns to his lower extremities. Because our client’s grandmother had purchased identical blankets for all of her children, we were able to obtain exemplar blankets for destructive testing. We demonstrated that the blanket was more flammable than newspaper, and further demonstrated that the blanket was mislabeled by the manufacturer. We obtained a $375,000 settlement for our client. Settlement proceeds were invested in a tax free structured settlement.

St. Cloud Family Obtains Settlement For Wrongful Death Caused By Chiropractic Manipulation

Our client was the wife of a man who died as a result of intra-cranial hemorrhage. An autopsy conducted by the hospital pathologist revealed the presence of white blood cells in the area of a damaged artery near the base of the man’s skull. Our client advised the hospital pathologist that her husband had undergone recent chiropractic manipulation of his neck. The pathologist concluded that the intra-cranial hemorrhage was caused by chiropractic manipulation. The chiropractor denied neck manipulations. Experts retained by the chiropractor opined the neck manipulations could not cause the type of arterial damage sustained. The case was settled on a confidential basis shortly before trial.

Pillager Resident Obtains Settlement For Accident In Hennepin County

Our 47 year old client and a friend attended a hockey game in the Twin Cities. Following the game, thinking that he had consumed too much alcohol to drive, our client asked his friend to drive home. While traveling on Highway 494, the vehicle went off the road and crashed following a possible entanglement with a semi-tractor/trailer. The driver could not identify what caused him to lose control of his vehicle on the highway. The driver was uninsured. Evidence at the scene of the accident showed that the front bumper of our client’s vehicle was torn off before the vehicle left the roadway. Our client recalled seeing a semi drifting over from the adjacent lane shortly before the accident. Our client sustained a hip dislocation and proximal tibia/fibula fractures. We made recoveries against our client’s liability coverage, based upon the conduct of our client’s friend, and against our client’s underinsured motorist (UIM) coverage, based upon our theory that the car had a collision with a semi, which then left the scene of the accident. The combined liability and UIM settlement totaled $306,000.

Holdingford Resident Wins Verdict In Stearns County

Our 46 year old client was involved in an intersection accident in St. Cloud. He suffered the loss of several teeth, a facial laceration, and aggravation of pre-existing back and neck problems. Our client had previously settled his liability claim against the negligent driver, without representation, for $20,000. We pursued an underinsured motorist (UIM) claim on his behalf. The UIM carrier offered $1,000 to settle the case before trial. The jury returned a verdict of $230,000.

Little Falls Family Obtains Wrongful Death Settlement Against Municipality

Our clients were the heirs of a 19 year old son/brother who was riding his motorcycle in a residential area in Little Falls. The young man collided with a backhoe in an uncontrolled intersection. Trees near the intersection made visibility very limited for both the motorcyclist and the operator of the city-owned backhoe. The evidence showed that the front prongs of the motorcycle likely struck the side of the backhoe on the step between the front and rear tires of the backhoe. The backhoe operator testified that he was traveling at 5 to 10 miles per hour, and that the motorcyclist must have been coming at high speed toward the intersection. The Minnesota State Patrol measured the drag coefficient of the roadway surface and the length of the motorcyclist’s straight line skid, determining that the motorcyclist was exceeding the residential speed limit by at least 15 miles per hour. The Minnesota State Patrol investigation faulted the motorcyclist for the accident, even though the motorcyclist had the directional right of way, based upon its accident reconstruction. However, our investigation showed something entirely different. We demonstrated that very little damage was done to the front prongs of the motorcycle, where it came in contact with the side of the backhoe. This indicated that the motorcyclist was traveling at low speed at the time of impact. The motorcyclist was crushed by the back tire of the backhoe, supporting our claim that the motorcycle struck the side of the backhoe between the tires. We also demonstrated that the State Patrol’s accident reconstruction was impossible because it assumed 100% braking efficiency by a motorcycle on a gravel road. We also located a witness who had observed the backhoe approaching the intersection at high speed approximately one block north of the accident intersection. This witness testified that he continued to hear the backhoe after it went out of sight, and that the engine sound from the backhoe did not change. We obtained a substantial settlement for our clients shortly before trial, the terms of which are confidential.

Part-Time LPN Wins Verdict In Morrison County

Our client, a 39 year old part-time LPN at a nursing home, sustained aggravation of a previous low back injury when she was rear-ended at low speed in Little Falls. Our client had already been reduced to part-time status as a result of a work injury that had resulted in two surgical procedures, including a lumbar fusion at L4-S1. The rear-end accident aggravated her symptoms, and caused her to suffer chronic wide-spread pain syndrome. Her doctors recommended that she not return to her job. We settled her negligence claim for the Defendant’s policy limits of $50,000. We then brought an underinsured motorist (UIM) claim against our client’s automobile insurance carrier. The UIM carrier offered $0 to settle the claim. The jury returned a verdict of $216,936.00.

Wadena Resident Obtains Settlement For Disputed Railroad Grade Crossing Accident

Our 36 year old client was riding as a passenger in a motor vehicle that was struck by a train backing through a grade crossing in Wadena. Our client sustained crush injuries, lacerations, and fractures of his right foot and ankle when the coupler on the railroad car impaled the side of the motor vehicle. Burlington Northern denied responsibility for the accident, claiming that the driver of the motor vehicle ignored warning lights and drove around the lowered grade crossing gate as the train backed toward the grade crossing. The driver of the motor vehicle received a criminal conviction based on the testimony of railroad employees. In spite of this, we demonstrated that the electronic circuit identifying the train’s presence near the grade crossing was not activated until the train was approximately 40 feet from the grade crossing. The accident occurred at night. The rear of the train was not illuminated as it backed toward the grade crossing. No flagman warned approaching motorists of the approaching train. Newspaper photographs taken at the accident scene showed that the motor vehicle was in its proper lane of travel when it was struck by the train, based on skid marks from the tires of the motor vehicle showing how it was pushed sideways by the backing train. Utilizing the timing and sequence of the lights and crossing gate, we demonstrated that the vehicle our client rode in was entering the grade crossing before the warning signs and lights were activated, and that the slow moving train, which appeared to our client as "a wall of green" coming out of the darkness, intercepted the motor vehicle as it crossed the tracks. We obtained a $380,000 recovery for our client shortly before trial.

Hunter Obtains Settlement For Exploding Rifle Barrel Accident

Our 30 year old client purchased supplies for a muzzle loading black powder rifle at a sporting goods store. The store employee mistakenly provided our client with more explosive powder, which caused the barrel of the rifle to blow up when the primer spark ignited the gun powder. The explosion caused our client to suffer ringing in his ears, a partial avulsion of one of his fingers, and hand lacerations. We obtained a $132,000 settlement for our client.

Browerville Family Obtains Wrongful Death Settlement For Farm Accident

Our clients were the heirs of a 66 year old husband/father/grandfather, who was killed by the falling wing of a field cultivator. There were no witnesses to the accident, which occurred on a field approach to a rural road. Our investigation revealed that the field cultivator was subject to a number of dangerous design defects, which likely combined to allow the wing of the cultivator to fall on the farmer as he was preparing to do field work. We obtained a substantial settlement for our clients shortly before trial. The terms of the settlement are confidential.

Victim Of Pit Bull Attack Obtains Settlement

Our 47 year old client was visiting a friend when a pit bull owned by the woman’s son came from the basement through an open door and attacked our client. Our client was able to get her left arm up in time to stop the dog from reaching her throat, but the dog bit her arm. The dog then partially tore the thumb on our client’s right hand when she attempted to grab the dog’s collar. Our client retained full use of her arm and hand, but suffered extensive disfiguring scars. We obtained a $225,000 recovery for our client.

Family Physician Obtains Settlement For Pedestrian/Motor Vehicle Accident In Maple Grove

Our 52 year old client sustained skull fractures and a mild non-penetrating traumatic brain injury when she was struck by a vehicle while crossing a street. She returned to her practice within two months of the accident, but limited her caseload because of persistent vertigo and word finding difficulty. We obtained a combined liability and UIM settlement for our client in the amount of $1,500,000.

Secretary Obtains Settlement For Intersection Accident

Our 53 year old client was t-boned in an accident of Highway 15 and County Road 1 in St. Cloud. She sustained a concussion, leaving her with no recollection of the accident, as well as fractures to her pelvis, ribs, and wrist, and a rotator cuff tear. Liability was disputed. We demonstrated that the negligent driver’s version of the accident was inconsistent with the signage sequence established by the Department of Transportation at this intersection. We obtained a settlement for our client of $442,500. The Defendant further agreed to be responsible to pay our client’s medical insurance liens.

First Million Dollar Verdict In The History Of Stearns County

Our client, a young mother with two children, suffered a low back injury when rear-ended by another vehicle. She was diagnosed with a herniated lumbar disc, with radiculopathy. She rejected surgery, in spite of the recommendation of her surgeon, because she feared a poor result would prevent her from caring for her children. We settled her third-party liability claim for $30,000, the Defendant’s policy limits. Our client’s underinsured motorist (UIM) carrier offered $10,000 to settle her UIM claim. The jury returned a verdict of $1,050,000. This was the first million dollar personal injury verdict in the history of Stearns County.

Young Woman Obtains Settlement In One-Vehicle Rollover Accident

Our client, an 18 year old woman, was riding as a passenger in a motor vehicle traveling near Pequot Lakes. The driver overreacted after seeing a deer. The vehicle veered from one side of the road to the other, rolled, and ejected our client from the vehicle. Our client sustained multiple vertebral fractures, including a burst lumbar spine fracture requiring fixation and implanted bone. Our client recovered well from her serious injuries, and was able to return to school to complete her senior year with her classmates. We demonstrated that the driver was inattentive, and that he negligently responded to his late discovery of the deer by veering sharply instead of hitting the deer. We collected the combined liability and UIM coverage limits of $350,000, and established a trust to invest our client’s settlement proceeds.

Trucker Wins Verdict In Hennepin County

Our client, a trucker employed by a construction company, was injured on the job while walking beside his truck on Highway 7. He had just unloaded a piece of equipment from his flatbed trailer, and was preparing to unload a second piece of equipment, when he was struck from behind by a motorist traveling on Highway 7. Our client was walking in the traffic lane, but the truck’s amber lights were flashing, and our client was wearing his reflective gear. Our client suffered shoulder and knee injuries, both of which required minor surgery. He was able to return to work as a trucker without formal restrictions. We settled the third-party negligence claim for $60,000, and then presented an underinsured motorist (UIM claim) against the construction company’s insurance carrier. In the interim, our client settled his workers’ compensation claim. The carrier contested coverage, claiming that the trucker was a pedestrian and was therefore limited to bringing a UIM claim against his personal automobile insurance carrier. The District Court rejected this argument. The carrier also denied liability, claiming that our client was primarily at fault for the accident. The carrier offered $15,000 to settle our client’s claim at a mediation hearing just prior to trial. The jury returned a verdict in favor of our client in the amount of $386,000, which was reduced by the Court by the previous $60,000 liability payment, and further reduced by the jury’s finding that our client was 40% at fault for the accident. The case was settled in 2011, avoiding a potential appeal on the coverage issue and the consequence of prior workers’ compensation payments made to our client.