TSE-1THOMAS S. EHRHARDT
Partner
Crown Point, IN
P: 219.794.1888
F: 219.794.1892
tsehrhardt@kopkalaw.com
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Thomas S. Ehrhardt has tried over 80 cases to verdict and is one of the firm’s most seasoned trial advocates. His trial experience, in both state and federal courts, includes heavy trucking, wrongful death, catastrophic personal injury, breach of contract, premises liability, first party bad faith, UM/UIM and claims under the Americans with Disabilities Act. Many of these matters involved multi-million dollar claims. In 2013 alone, Tom successfully resolved or settled aggregate claims exceeding 10 million dollars.

Mr. Ehrhardt has been associated with insurance and litigation defense firms for 20 years. His practice is concentrated in the fields of trial advocacy, transportation and logistics, to include heavy trucking, intermodal, cargo and hazardous material claims, and construction defect. Prior to attending law school, Tom worked in management for the nation’s largest privately held trucking company and LTL carrier. His “hands on” knowledge of the industry, from dispatch, driver safety requirements, day-to-day logistics, labor relations, break bulk operations and risk management provides Tom with a keen understanding of multiple transportation business models. More importantly, it provides instant rapport with the drivers and companies that Tom represents.

Tom is an active member of the firm’s transportation committee and ensures that each office has a proper Rapid Response Team ready to deploy at a moment’s notice to assist in early “on-site” catastrophic trucking losses. The Team members consist of attorneys, independent adjusters and professional engineers.

Several national fleets and insurance companies have Tom on call 24/7 to assist in rapid response situations as his enthusiasm for “boots on the ground” provides invaluable clarification to sometimes confusing information and distressing conditions. Tom is accustomed to arriving at accident scenes during all hours of the day and night. He and his Rapid Response Team members ensure that crucial evidence is secured and witness statements are obtained, thereby allowing clients and risk management professionals to assess preliminary exposure and available defenses. On several occasions, Tom has served as “parachute counsel” in the review and audit of high exposure or complex claims nearing arbitration or trial.

Tom enjoys speaking on topics including the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Act, risk management, tort claims and trial skills. While in law school, Tom externed for the Honorable James T. Moody of the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Indiana. In his spare time, Tom is active in his church, community and charitable foundations. He is also a member and President of the Board of Commissioners for the City of Hobart Parks Department and serves on several municipal strategic planning committees.

TRIAL AND CASE HIGHLIGHTS
  • Tom’s aggressive handling of rapid responses to emergency transportation claims has resulted in securing critical evidence from otherwise obscure sources. In two recent rapid response cases, Tom was able to secure surveillance video from nearby commercial establishments. The owners of each establishment initially claimed that the video cameras were focused on the perimeters of the property and would not capture scenes from adjacent roadways. After reviewing the video (within a few hours of the collisions), Tom was able to secure expanded video surveillance providing critical evidence supporting his driver’s version of events. In one video, the surveillance actually contradicted an adverse statement obtained from a purported “eyewitness”.

  • Tom has also tried multiple cases resulting in favorable jury verdicts. In a federal wrongful death case, Tom obtained a defense verdict after retaining several technical expert witnesses, dealing with multiple adverse witnesses, and facing contentious issues as to causation. The final pre-trial settlement demand was $8.5 million. After a five-day trial, the jury deliberated for less than an hour before returning a defense verdict.
  • In another wrongful death case, involving a minor, Tom was faced with multiple emotional distress claims from family members who actually witnessed or came upon the scene shortly thereafter. The family members were able to bring powerful emotional distress claims due to a then recent appellate decision allowing such claims. This was one of the first cases in Indiana applying the expansion of emotional damage claims even though the family members were not directly involved in the incident or traditional “zone of danger”. By engaging the case early and with aggressive litigation, the case settled for an amount well below the client’s reserve.

REPORTED DECISIONS
Harris v. A.C.&S., Inc., 785 N.E.2d 1087 (Ind. 2003)
Jurich v. Garlock, Inc., 785 N.E.2d 1093 (Ind. 2003)
Serna v. Malinckrodt Group, Inc., 824 N.E.2d 772 (Ind. Ct. App. 2005)
Malott v. State Farm Mutual Automobile Ins. Co., 798 N.E.2d 924 (Ind. Ct. App. 2003))
Armstrong v. Cerestar, 775 N.E.2d 360 (Ind. Ct. App. 2002)
Gregor v. Szarmach, 706 N.E.2d 360 (Ind. Ct. App. 1999)

MEMBERSHIPS
Lake County Bar Association
Defense Trial Counsel of Indiana
Defense Research Institute (DRI)
Indiana Motor Truck Association (IMTA)
Transportation Lawyers Association (TLA)
Trucking Industry Defense Association
(TIDA)

ADMISSIONS
Indiana
U.S. Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit
U.S. District Courts for the Northern and Southern Districts of Indiana
U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Illinois

EDUCATION
Valparaiso University School of Law, J.D.
University of Notre Dame, B.A., Government and International Relations

PUBLICATIONS
“Doctor Doctor Did You Hear the News”, TIDA Fall Newsletter

PRESENTATIONS
Multiple CLE Presentations and in-house seminars on risk management, FMCSA regulation compliance and trial advocacy.