Tara Gill Nalencz

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Tara Gill Nalencz

Philadelphia

Tel (215) 575-4215

Fax (215) 563-2583

Bio

Tara Gill Nalencz focuses her practice on the defense of catastrophic loss matters. Her caseload regularly includes cases involving paraplegia, quadriplegia, traumatic brain injury, severe burns, death and multi-million dollar property damage. 

This complex trial practice includes high exposure cases involving a wide variety of industries and clients, including: construction, natural gas and oil, industrial machinery and equipment, electric arc furnaces and steelmaking, propane storage, pharmaceutical and medical devices, Dram Shop liability, and property management. A fluent Spanish speaker, Tara’s practice also includes international matters, such as defending hotel owners and operators in actions where the underlying accident took place outside the United States.   

In keeping with the Catastrophic Loss Group’s technological focus, Tara has developed strategies for the use of social media in litigation and has presented several times on related topics. Borrowing from her experience as an educator in order to reach judges, mediators, and jurors, she employs a multimedia approach to litigation that utilizes digital exhibits, dynamic graphics, video testimony, and 3D animations and models created with photogrammetry. Tara has also become skilled in all phases of e-Discovery, having handled multiple matters involving the collection, review and production of ESI containing documents numbering in the millions.

Selected Representative Matters:

Multi-vehicle high speed collisions, School Bus, Tractor Trailer, Spinal Injury (Philadelphia County, PA and PA Superior Court) – Plaintiff claimed that she had sustained injuries to her wrists and spine causing total disability when the school bus she was operating collided with two other vehicles on the westbound side of I-78. The other vehicles involved were a cargo van operated by Co-Defendant (Collision #1) and a tractor trailer operated by our client (Collision #2). Prior to trial, Plaintiff had undergone multiple surgeries on her spine, including a cervical discectomy and fusion with plating at C-6 and C6-7, as well as implantation and replacement of three spinal cord stimulators. At trial, the plaintiff’s boardable economic damages were in excess of $2.5 million. After the close of evidence, Plaintiff asserted that the sudden emergency doctrine, which relieves a driver from liability when confronted with a sudden or unexpected event, applied only to her. Tara successfully argued to the trial judge that given the facts Plaintiff should not receive such a jury instruction, giving it instead as to our client. Before trial, the plaintiff’s settlement demand was $5 million. There were no offers. The jury returned a verdict in favor of the defense, finding that Plaintiff’s own negligence was the overwhelming cause of her injuries. Following briefing and oral argument by Tara, the Pennsylvania Superior Court affirmed the defense verdict.

Construction Site, Fall from Height (Philadelphia County, PA) – Plaintiff was a 59-year-old union carpenter who fell 21 feet into the basement of a building under construction when he lost his balance while allegedly in the process of tying off. He sustained serious, life threatening internal injuries and fractures as a result of the blunt force trauma of the fall and underwent numerous surgeries as a result. Trial was scheduled to begin within a month of initial retention and there was an $8.5 million pre-trial demand. Despite intense pressure from the mediator and judge at the pre-trial conference, Tara was able to negotiate a global settlement with only a $1,100,000 contribution from our client, the target defendant.

Electric Arc Furnace, explosion, severe burns (Washington County, PA) – Two plaintiffs were severely burned when a half-ton electric arc furnace in which they were melting steel exploded. One plaintiff sustained full and partial thickness burns over 65% of his body and because of his burns and skin grafts 95% of his body was disfigured. The other plaintiff sustained burns over 22% of his body. The spouses of both plaintiffs had consortium claims. The Catastrophic Loss Group was retained after the close of discovery and production of expert reports. Nevertheless, an experienced OSHA expert was brought in late to evaluate the case and his report placed blame squarely on Plaintiffs’ employer. All plaintiffs agreed to settle the matter with the client for $200,000 following Tara’s cross examination of their main expert at a pre-trial Frye hearing to disqualify him. Following a nine day trial, the jury awarded Plaintiffs a total of $12.7 million.

Flesh-eating bacteria, international hotel, above-the-hip disarticulated amputation (Philadelphia, PA) – Plaintiff was a forty-four-year-old woman who traveled to the Caribbean with two friends to scatter the ashes of her recently deceased husband. Plaintiff alleged that she contracted necrotizing fasciitis (caused by flesh-eating bacteria) following an injury sustained while at the beach during her stay at a hotel owned and operated by Defendants’ subsidiary. Upon return to the U.S., Plaintiff underwent an above-the-hip disarticulated amputation, which she claimed was necessary because of an infection contracted at the hotel and a delay in diagnosis and treatment by a nurse stationed at the hotel. The original demand was $12.5 million.  Following extensive discovery in both Spanish and English and a forensic examination of the digital photographs taken by Plaintiff’s traveling companion, it was determined conclusively that Plaintiff had not visited the nurse when she originally claimed she had.  Prior to trial, the matter was settled for $425,000.

Flash fire, natural gas, fracking industry (U.S.D.C., Middle District of PA) – Plaintiff was employed by an independent contractor retained by the operator of a natural gas well to install specialized equipment necessary to the next phase of drilling. During the course of his work, natural gas escaped the well and was ignited, resulting in two flash fires.  Plaintiff was severely burned on his head, neck, upper torso, arms and hands. He spent over a month in a medically induced coma and underwent numerous skin grafting procedures. The Catastrophic Loss Group was retained five weeks prior to trial. Notwithstanding the shortened timeframe, an electrical engineer was retained to provide testimony that the tool selected and improperly maintained by Plaintiff was the actual cause of the accident, scientifically contradicting Plaintiff’s claims about the source of ignition. This potential testimony, coupled with Tara’s extensive collection of social media demonstrating that Plaintiff had resumed his prior hobbies and activities, was not nearly as limited in his functionality as he had claimed, and that he had returned to his prior job post-accident, but then voluntarily terminated his employment without requesting any kind of accommodation, caused the case to ultimately settle at mediation for less than one-third of Plaintiff’s original multi-million dollar demand.

Automobile, collision, total disability (Camden County, NJ) – Plaintiff was a 38-year-old woman who claimed to be totally disabled after the rented van in which she was traveling left the roadway and collided with a rock wall.  The Catastrophic Loss Group was retained to represent the company that had rented the van to the driver after discovery had concluded and expert reports were produced, just three months prior to the pre-trial conference. After reviewing and digesting over 10,000 pages of Plaintiff’s medical records, stretching back over thirty years, it was suspected that Plaintiff was afflicted with a mental illness (Munchausen syndrome) which caused her to exacerbate and exaggerate her own injuries to garner attention and sympathy. An expert psychiatrist was retained to confirm these suspicions and further research into Plaintiff’s daily activities revealed that she was in fact exaggerating the extent of her disability. The original demand was $25 million, but after disclosing the newly discovered information regarding Plaintiff’s mental issues and actual condition, Plaintiff accepted $2 million in settlement.

Legal Civic Activities:

In 2006, during her tenure as law clerk to the Honorable Annette M. Rizzo in the Philadelphia Court of Common Pleas, Tara was called upon by the judge to assist in creating a program for preschool aged children to educate them about the court system. Calling on her background as an educator, Tara drafted a script and lesson plans, local lawyers were tapped to play roles, two classes of preschoolers were subpoenaed to appear as jurors, and Judge Rizzo presided over the fairy tale trial of “Commonwealth v. Gold E. Locks.” The next year, another judge volunteered to preside over another trial and thus the First Judicial District’s Annual Law Day “Goldilocks” Program was born. Since 2006, the program has grown exponentially in partnership with the Young Lawyers Division of the Philadelphia Bar Association; Tara has written two additional scripts and numerous judges of the First Judicial District and Philadelphia-area lawyers have volunteered their time to conduct these fairy tale trials. Now every year, hundreds of Philadelphia-area elementary students serve as jurors. In the years since its inception, over 3000 children have participated. Today, there are even trials conducted entirely in Spanish. Tara continues to support the program since leaving her clerkship with Judge Rizzo assisting in planning and coordinating and participating as a volunteer at a trial each year.

Selected Presentations:

Anatomy of a Civil Case: Everything You Need to Know from Pre-Trial Motions to Closing Arguments, First Judicial District of Pennsylvania, Temple University Beasley School of Law State Court Honors Interns, Annually 2013-2019

Trial Lessons Learned in Fairy Tales: Skills to Persuade the Jury, CLE, Pennsylvania Bar Institute, December 2016

The Subpoena: Compliance, Privileges and Objections, CLE, City of Philadelphia Law Department, July 17, 2015

Behind the Black Robe: CLE Event Examining the Role and Responsibilities of Law Clerks and Judges, Drexel University, National Bar Association Women Lawyers Division, Philadelphia Chapter, 2013 & 2014

Persuasion, Power and Practice, CLE series on litigation, mediation and negotiation with Laura Sicola, PhD of Vocal Impact Productions, December 2013

Women@Thomson Reuters Panel Discussion on Networking, Social Media, and Success, Thomson Reuters, Philadelphia, PA, June 25, 2013

E-Discovery Challenges, Solutions & Trends, Panelist, Legal Intelligencer’s Litigation Summit, Sofitel Hotel, Philadelphia, September 13, 2012

Practice Areas

Bar Admissions

  • Pennsylvania
  • New Jersey

Court Admissions

U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania
U.S. District Court for the Western District of Pennsylvania
U.S. District Court for the Western District of Michigan

Education

Temple University School of Law (J.D. 2004)
Pennsylvania State University (M.A. 2001)
Dickinson College (B.A., cum laude, 1999)

Professional Associations

Temple American Inn of Court
Philadelphia Bar Association

Seminars, Speeches & Publications