Thomas Vesper

A couple injured in a rear-end collision won a $1.19 million jury verdict in their Atlantic County suit, Gonzales v. Hugelmeyer.

Anthony and Valerie Gonzales were in stop-and-go traffic on the Atlantic City Expressway in April 2008 when struck from behind by another car.

The defense denied liability — contending that Anthony, who was driving, cut into Ellen Hugelmeyer's lane and stopped suddenly — and attributed the injuries to pre-existing conditions.

Anthony, then 66, aggravated a degenerative back-disc condition, which was previously asymptomatic but afterward caused ongoing pain and limited movement, says his lawyer, Thomas Vesper of Westmoreland Vesper & Quattrone in Atlantic City.

Valerie, then 54, who also had a back condition, suffered herniations to two cervical discs and a lumbar disc, as well as left-arm nerve damage, says her lawyer, Stephen Barry of Barry, Corrado & Grassi in Wildwood.

Before trial, Valerie settled with Hugelmeyer's insurer, GEICO, for about $15,000. She and Anthony pursued underinsured-motorist claims against their carrier, Allstate Ins. Co. Anthony pursued claims against Hugelmeyer.

At trial before Superior Court Judge Joseph Kane, the jury faulted Hugelmeyer and awarded Valerie $810,000 and Anthony $380,000.

The outcome of pending bad-faith litigation against both insurers will determine which one pays the award.

Michael Malia of King, Kitrick, Jackson & McWeeney in Brick tried the case on behalf of both defendants. He did not return a call. Neither did Hugelmeyer's attorney, Kathleen Drew of Anthony Castellani's firm in Marlton.

— By David Gialanella


Peter Chamas

$1M for Construction Accident

Ramos v. Lucash Montgomery Builders: A carpenter who claimed he suffered hip and back injuries in a 24- foot fall at a construction site settled his Somerset County suit for $1 million.

On Aug. 19, 2009, Ruben Ramos was on a scaffold that collapsed, allegedly because a bracket came loose. The scaffold was constructed by Ramos' employer, Studs R Us, a subcontractor.

Ramos sued Lucash Montgomery Builders, alleging it was the general contractor and failed to ensure that the scaffold had a guardrail system and that workers wore harnesses.

Lucash Montgomery answered that the lack of a rail was not the proximate cause of the accident. It also said it was not the general contractor, having been discharged a month earlier.

Ramos suffered a fractured right hip, a fracture at C7 and a lumbar strain. He underwent open reduction and internal fixation surgery and, now 39, continues to experience significant pain in his right hip.

Lucash Montgomery settled on June 25 after mediation with former state judge Jack Lintner, of Norris, McLaughlin & Marcus in Bridgewater.

Ramos was represented by Peter Chamas of Gill & Chamas in Woodbridge.

Lucash Montgomery's lawyer, Mark Bongiovanni of Leary, Bride, Tinker & Moran in Cedar Knolls, did not return a call.

— By Charles Toutant

$926,000 for Crash Injuries

Krug v. Heitz: A woman who claimed disabling lower-back injury from car crashes two months apart won a $926,000 verdict on July 12 against the drivers at fault in both. But a settlement with one of them during trial reduced her total recovery to $794,500.

On April 6, 2010, Patricia Krug was stopped in traffic on Brick Boulevard in Brick. She was hit from behind by John Bachler, who had been hit from behind by Michael Heitz, says her lawyer, James Maggs of Maggs & McDermott in Brielle.

The second accident occurred June 30, 2010, on Central Avenue in Seaside Park, when Scott Larew tried to turn left in front of Krug and hit her vehicle.

Krug sued all three drivers in Ocean County Superior Court, though Bachler was let out on summary judgment.

She alleged the first accident herniated a disc at L4-5 and the second aggravated it and herniated adjacent discs, at L3-4 and L5-S1. She had fusion surgery at L4-5, will need surgery on the other herniations and, now 51, has been unable to return to work as an EMT, says Maggs.

Liability was conceded but Heitz argued there was no herniation until after the second crash. Larew blamed the first accident.

Krug refused Larew's pretrial offer of his $100,000 policy but accepted when he repeated it after the jury charge.

Larew's lawyer, Stephen Spudic of Britt Riehl & Spudic in Freehold, confirms the settlement.

At trial before Superior Court Judge James Den Uyl, the jury awarded Krug $576,000 for lost wages and $350,000 for pain and suffering, allocating damages 75 percent, or $694,500, to Heitz and 25 percent, or $231,500, to Larew.

Heitz's attorney, Michael Kelly of Ronan Tuzzio & Giannone in Tinton Falls, did not return a call. Maggs' partner John McDermott was co-counsel.

— By Mary Pat Gallagher