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Cruz v. Scorpio Contracting Co.: A Middlesex County judge approved a $3.6 million settlement on Jan. 31 to a carpenter left a quadriplegic in a workplace accident. Enrique Cruz, of Old Bridge, was injured on March 18, 1999, at a store renovation in Woodbridge Center. While installing a 12-foot-high piece of sheetrock from atop an eight-foot ladder, he fell, hitting his head on a concrete floor and compressing his spine. At the time, Cruz was employed by North Atlantic Construction Co., a subcontractor of West Creek-based Scorpio Contracting Co. According to Cruz’s lawyer, Frank Hlavenka Jr., a partner with Hlavenka & Weisberg in Woodbridge, there should have been a scaffold enclosed with a railing and a pre-job safety meeting to instruct carpenters on the need to use scaffolding while installing the drywall. In addition, the day before the accident, Scorpio’s project manager asked its foreman to remove Cruz from the job, saying Cruz did not seem to know what he was doing but the foreman did nothing. Cruz, now 54, has no feeling below the C-3 vertebrae. He can raise his arms to shoulder level but has no movement in his fingers or anywhere else below his neck. He is confined to a wheelchair and requires full-time home health care. Cruz sued Scorpio, the shopping center and Pacific Sunwear, the retailer whose space was being renovated. Claims against those other defendants were dismissed. Superior Court Judge Ann McCormick helped bring together the settlement with Scorpio, which came a month before the case was to be tried. The settlement will be paid by Boston-based OneBeacon Insurance under a $1 million primary policy and a $5 million excess policy, says Hlavenka. Of the total $3.6 million, Cruz will receive a $290,000 lump sum. Another $878,000 will purchase an annuity that will pay $80,000 per year for at least 15 years. Another $1 million will go into a medical trust to be administered by the compensation carrier. Travelers Insurance, the workers’ compensation carrier, will receive $750,000 in compromise of its $1.6 million medical lien. The balance will go to pay attorneys’ fees and costs. Richard Maggi, a partner with McDermott & McGee in Millburn who represents Scorpio, did not return a call seeking comment. Related insurance litigation is pending before McCormick. — By Mary P. Gallagher $2.5M for Construction Defects Rose Arbor Condominium Association v. Kalian Corporation Inc.: Members of a Morris Plains townhouse condominium association voted on Feb. 6 to accept a $2.5 million settlement of their construction defect suit against the developer. Contributing to the settlement will be 25 contractors brought in as third- and fourth-party defendants. Bad construction at Rose Arbor condominiums, built in 1993, caused a number of expensive problems, according to a complaint filed by plaintiffs’ lawyer E. Richard Kennedy of Montville’s Kennedy, Wronko & Kennedy. The roof leaked; the heating, ventilation and air conditioning did not function properly; and badly performed drainage and grading work caused dangerous flooding in the buildings, the plaintiffs charged. Partner Dennis Drasco and associate Bernadette Condon of Roseland’s Lum, Danzis, Drasco & Positan also represented the association. Kennedy says the association vote approves a Jan. 6 agreement put on the record during pretrial proceedings before Superior Court Judge W. Hunt Dumont. Bruce Helies, the lawyer for Kalian Corp. Inc. of Middletown, says his evidence showed the problems were not as costly to repair as the plaintiff alleged and that a particularly bad storm in the winter of 2000, not faulty work, caused most of the problems. Helies is with Manasquan’s Wolff, Helies, Duggan, Spaeth & Lucas. Kalian will pay $800,000 of the settlement. A $260,000 contribution will be made by a number of roofing contractors referred to in the litigation as the Ten-Gir Group, represented by Richard Snyder, a partner in Livingston’s Morgan, Melhuish, Monaghan, Arvidson, Abrutyn & Lisowski. Three defendants will pay $200,000 each. They are the architects, Kaplan, Gaunt & DeSantis, represented by Jeffrey Intravatola, a partner at New Brunswick’s Hoagland, Longo, Moran, Dunst & Doukas; HVAC contractor DeBru Enterprises, represented by David Hardaker, an associate in the Law Offices of Stephen Gertler in Wall Township; and a mason, Jocama Contractor Corp., represented by Stephen Petrillo, an associate in Short Hills’ Gartner, Bloom & Greiper. Contributions from other defendants will range from $5,000 to $175,000. — By Henry Gottlieb $1.5M for Failure To Replace Signs Hernandez v. Department of Transportation: A motorist injured in a head-on collision with another car agreed last Monday to a $1.5 million settlement of his suit against the state Department of Transportation for a lack of signage. Rafael Hernandez of Belleville was driving east on Route 7 in Kearny in April 2000 to Jersey City when his car was struck by another driven by Heathcliffe Pilgrim, an employee of Nobil Petroleum Testing Co. Pilgrim was delivering jet fuel samples to Newark International Airport. Pilgrim had wrongly entered Route 7 heading west and ended up in the eastbound lane. Four signs, stating “Do Not Enter,” “Keep Right” and “Wrong Way,” had been knocked down years before and the DOT had not replaced them. The signs would have alerted Pilgrim that he was heading into oncoming traffic, says Hernandez’s attorney, Martin Kronberg, a solo practitioner in Maplewood. Hernandez’s injuries included a broken leg and hip, and a lacerated liver and spleen. He still has pain and walks with a slight limp, says Kronberg. Pilgrim was not significantly injured. His insurance company, Progressive, settled for the full extent of his $25,000 policy more than a year ago. His lawyer was Julie Kennedy, an associate at Kent & McBride in Woodbridge. Nobil was insured by One Beacon Insurance of Boston, represented by Leonard Leicht, a partner with Morgan, Melhuish, Monaghan, Arvidson, Abrutyn & Lisowski in Livingston. He declines to comment, citing firm policy. The DOT was represented by Deputy Attorney General Paul Stevenson. He did not return a call at press time. The settlement was reached before Judge Camille Kenny of Hudson County. — By Jim Edwards $800,000 for Medical Malpractice Davis v. Staggers: A Middlesex County jury awarded $800,000 on Feb. 3 to a Piscataway woman who suffered paralysis after hip replacement surgery. According to plaintiff’s attorney William Gold, a partner at Bendit Weinstock in West Orange, Carolyn Davis’s right leg became paralyzed below the knee after a 1999 operation by orthopedic surgeon Buel Staggers, now deceased. The operation stretched the right leg 1-1/2 inches, damaging her sciatic nerve. Now 59, Davis suffers pain and loss of sensation in her leg, wears a lift on her left shoe and has difficulty walking. She worked as a prison guard before the operation but was moved to a desk job because of her injuries. After two days of trial, Judge Douglas Hague issued a directed verdict for the plaintiff on liability. He instructed jurors that their views on the statewide doctors’ strike over malpractice insurance rates, which started the same day, should not be a factor in their deliberations. After an hour, the jury returned with the $800,000 award for pain and suffering. No economic damages were sought. The defense lawyer, Scott Heller, a partner at Giblin & Coombs in Morristown, says he has filed a motion for a new trial and remittitur on the ground that sufficient evidence existed for the jury to have found for the defendant. — By Charles Toutant $500,000 for Auto Accident Garcia v. D’Angelo: A 17-year-old girl will receive $500,000 for injuries suffered as a passenger in a car that crashed. Superior Court Judge Michelle Hollar-Gregory in Newark approved the settlement at a friendly hearing on Feb. 4. Ashley Garcia, of Livingston, was a passenger of Anthony D’Angelo, 17, of Livingston, on Oct. 24, 2001, on Beaufort Street when he lost control of the car. She suffered fractured vertebrae and a burst pancreas that, despite corrective surgery, will function only at around 50 percent, says her lawyer, David Fried, a partner at Jersey City’s Blume, Goldfaden, Berkowitz, Donnelly, Fried & Forte. D’Angelo’s carrier, the American International Group, retained Robert Haines, a partner at Secaucus’ Stevens & Schwab, to represent D’Angelo. Haines says he could not recall the specific amount of the settlement, but did not dispute Fried’s account. — By Michael Booth $450,000 for Auto Accident Berardinelli v. Jaeckel: Under a Jan. 31 settlement, a former bookkeeper will receive $450,000 for injuries in a three-car accident that left her incontinent. New Jersey Manufacturer’s Insurance Co., agreed to the settlement after Union County Superior Court Judge Ross Anzaldi found its insured, Brian Jaeckel, 46, of Kenilworth, 100 percent liable, according to plaintiff’s lawyer David Fried, of Jersey City. The accident occurred on Galloping Hill Road in Kenilworth in June 2000. Jaeckel’s car hit another car driven by Robert Hough, of Springfield, who in turn collided with the plaintiff, Nancy Berardinelli, of Springfield. She suffered several herniated discs in her lower back that left her with permanent incontinence of the urinary tract and bowel, says Fried. Now 30, she is unemployed. New Jersey Manufacturer’s counsel, Edwin McCreedy of McCreedy & Cox in Cranford, confirms the settlement. — By Michael Booth $210,000 Discrimination Settlement Tarver v. New Jersey: The state agreed on Jan. 21 to pay $210,000 — and even more for the plaintiff’s legal work — to settle a civil rights complaint by a state police technician who alleged she was replaced because of her age and race. Margaret Tarver of Willingboro was a forensic analyst for the state police starting in the 1970s. But she was passed over by a younger white woman with less experience to head the DNA testing unit in the mid-1990s, and the state then eased Tarver out of DNA work and gave her less interesting tasks, according to the complaint by Linda Wong and Daniel Fleming of Princeton’s Wong Fleming. The plaintiff’s evidence showed that a supervisor used a racial epithet about Tarver in a conversation with other state police employees. Tarver, who is also an attorney, is president of the Association of Black Women Lawyers of New Jersey. The settlement, reached before trial in Mercer County Superior Court, includes $189,000 for the plaintiff’s legal fees and $35,000 for expenses. Defense lawyer Steven Ritardi, a partner in Roseland’s Lum, Danzis, Drasco & Positan, says his evidence showed that no racial epithets were used against Tarver and that decisions affecting her career were based on merit. — By Henry Gottlieb

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