$100,000 Verdict for Rear-end Accident

McGlasson v. Kandala, ESX-L-3910-11; Essex County Superior Court; Judge Randal Chiocca; July 30.

Facts & Allegations: Linda McGlasson claimed she was driving on Route 1 in North Brunswick on Aug. 13, 2009, when she was hit from behind by a car driven by Raghavend Kandala.

McGlasson was diagnosed with disc herniations at C5-6, C6-7 and L5-S1, and with radiculopathy at L5. She underwent chiropractic treatment and lumbar epidural injections.

McGlasson claimed she has difficulty standing for long periods of time, driving long distances and lifting heavy objects. She also claimed she was unable to continue participating in a local youth soccer league as a referee and can no longer go hiking, which had been a preferred pastime.

She sued Kandala, alleging negligence.

Kandala conceded liability, and the matter went to trial on damages. The parties entered into a $60,000-$14,000 high-low agreement.

McGlasson’s attorney argued that her injuries were permanent.

The defense argued that they were not and did not satisfy the requirements of the verbal threshold. The defense also argued that McGlasson’s disc herniations were caused by spine degeneration.

The jury found that McGlasson had suffered a permanent injury and awarded her $100,000. She received $60,000 under the high-low agreement.

Plaintiff Attorney:Ann Merritt, Tobin Kessler Greenstein Caruso Wiener Konray, Clark.

Defense Attorney: John Holly, Law Office of Robert Raskas, West Orange.

Demand: $35,000.

Offer: $17,500.

Insurer: GEICO.

Trial Details: trial length: 2 days; jury deliberations: 1 hour; jury composition: 3 males, 3 females.

This report is based on information from plaintiff counsel. Defense counsel did not return calls.


$99,000 Settlement in Rear-end Collision

Alvarez v. Cervone, MID-L-8841-11; Middlesex County Superior Court; July 22.

Facts & Allegations: On Jan. 7, 2010, Amparo Alvarez was traveling on State Street, through the intersection with High Street, in Perth Amboy, when her vehicle was struck from the rear.

She claimed that the accident aggravated her back condition and MRI studies confirmed a lumbar-disc herniation at L4-5, which, Alvarez’s doctors concluded, amounted to a serious aggravation of the existing condition, and had been proximately caused by the accident.

She underwent a laminar fusion at L4-5 that included decompression and the insertion of screw instrumentation.

Alvarez sued the driver of the other car, Frank Cervone, for negligence. Alvarez’s husband joined in the action, asserting a per quod loss-of-consortium claim.

Liability was not disputed, and the case focused on whether Alvarez’s injuries satisfied the requirements of the verbal tort threshold.

The defense maintained that Alvarez’s symptoms were the result of her existing degenerative spinal condition.

The case settled for $99,000, against $100,000 in available insurance coverage.

Plaintiff Attorney:Alan Grening, Garces & Grabler, Trenton.

Defense Attorney:Alicia Bottari, Law Office of John Kennedy, Piscataway.

This report is based on information from plaintiff counsel. Defense counsel declined to comment.


$85,000 for Auto-Accident Injuries

Gulla v. Newsome, MID-L-703-11; Middlesex County Superior Court; May 28.

Facts & Allegations: Peter Gulla was traveling on Route 9/35 in Sayreville on Dec. 24, 2009, when his vehicle was hit from the rear by a truck driven by Larry Newsome, who reportedly was working as an employee of Garda Atlantic Inc.

On Oct. 6, 2010, Gulla stopped to turn left on Route 9 in Woodbridge when hit from behind by a truck, believed to be owned by Avis Budget Group Inc., Budget Rental of Oklahoma, Budget Rental Co. and Atraf Moving Inc.

After the first accident, Gulla treated with a chiropractor for neck and back pain. MRI studies revealed disc herniations at L5-S1 and L1-2.

Gulla’s orthopedic surgery expert opined that 65 percent of his spinal damage was attributable to the first accident, and 35 percent to the second.

Gulla claimed the first accident resulted in lumbar herniations that were exacerbated by the second. He brought a single negligence suit over both. He named, in the first accident, Newsome and Garda Atlantic, and Avis Budget Group, Budget Rental of Oklahoma, Budget Rental Co. and Atraf Moving in the second.

The driver in the first accident alleged that it occurred after Gulla changed lanes abruptly when a truck driven by David Moore (believed to be an employee or agent of Penske Truck Leasing and United Express Delivery) made a sudden stop in front of Gulla. As a result, Gulla also named those three as defendants.

Gulla did not dispute that he had changed lanes but said he did so safely. Moore denied making an abrupt stop.

All of Gulla’s claims involved the zero threshold because the defendants’ vehicles were commercial trucks.

After court-mandated arbitration, the case went to a three-member panel that mediated an $85,000 settlement: $65,000 contributed on behalf of Newsome and Garda Atlantic; $10,000, on behalf of Moore, Penske Truck Leasing, and United Express Delivery; and $10,000, on behalf of the Avis/Budget defendants. It was concluded that Atraf Moving had been improperly joined in the action.

Plaintiff Attorney:Frank Cofone Jr., D’Amico & Cofone, New Brunswick.

Defense Attorneys:Kristine Denning, Harwood Lloyd, Hackensack (for Avis Budget Group Inc., Budget Rental Company, Budget Rental of Oklahoma); Chris Kemprowski, Law Office of Michael Urciuoli, Somerset (David Moore, Penske Truck Leasing, United Express Delivery); Dawn Marino, Hoagland, Longo, Moran, Dunst & Doukas, New Brunswick (Garda Atlantic Inc., Larry Newsome).

Plaintiff Expert: Cary Skolnick, M.D., orthopedic surgery, Manalapan.

Defense Expert: None reported.

This report is based on information from plaintiff counsel as well as defense counsel for the Avis/Budget defendants and for Moore, Penske Truck Leasing, and United Express Delivery. Defense counsel for Newsome and Garda Atlantic declined to comment.


$50,000 Settlement for Slip and Fall

Armstrong v. Rite Aid Corp., MID-L-6455-11; Middlesex County Superior Court; Aug. 5.

Facts & Allegations: Kelly Armstrong was shopping at a convenience store/pharmacy in South Plainfield on May 30, 2011, when she allegedly slipped on a wet area, near a cooler in which ice was stored.

She did not fall completely to the floor as she was able to grab onto a counter.

Armstrong had suffered a knee injury about a year earlier, and had undergone arthroscopic surgery for a torn meniscus.

After the latest accident, Armstrong claimed, she began experiencing persistent knee pain. No additional surgery was recommended.

Armstrong sued the store’s apparent ownership entities for negligence. An investigation revealed that Angelo’s Ice Co. had made an ice delivery to the area of the store shortly before the accident. Angelo’s was also named as a defendant.

The store and Angelo’s blamed each other. Angelo’s and Armstrong contended that it was the store’s responsibility to maintain the area. The store argued that Angelo’s caused the spillage.

The case settled for $50,000: $26,500 contributed on behalf of the store’s ownership and $23,500 on behalf of Angelo’s.

Plaintiff Attorney:Gary Price, South Plainfield.

Defense Attorneys: Terrence Bolan, Bolan Jahnsen Dacey, Shrewsbury (for Eckerd Corp., Rite Aid Corp.); Jodi Mindnich, Zirulnik, Sherlock & DeMille, Hamilton (for Angelo’s Ice Co.).

Plaintiff Expert: David Lessing, M.D., orthopedic surgery, South Plainfield.

Defense Expert: Steven Fried, M.D., orthopedic surgery, New Brunswick.

This report is based on information from plaintiff counsel as well as defense counsel for the store’s ownership. Defense counsel for Angelo’s did not return calls.

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