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Jury Awards $1.6M for Brain Damage Greer v. Naklicki: A Mercer County jury awarded $1.6 million on Jan. 26 to a 17-year-old who suffered brain damage in a car crash, but the defendant’s coverage limit may be $100,000. On Jan. 4, 2000, Brian Greer was riding in a car driven by his mother, Tracy Truch, when it collided with another vehicle at the intersection of Route 1 and Darrah Lane in Lawrence, their hometown. The plaintiff’s lawyer, Bruce Stern, a partner in Lawrenceville’s Stark & Stark, says Truch and two witnesses allege that the other driver, Michael Naklicki of East Brunswick, failed to heed a red light. Greer, now in special education programs because of cognitive impairment caused by the crash, has slipped from a B student to a C student. Naklicki said it was Truch who ran the light, but the jury found Naklicki 100 percent liable and awarded Greer $850,000 for pain, suffering and disability and $750,000 for future lost income. Defense counsel Mark Bongiovanni of Cedar Knolls’ Leary, Bride, Tinker & Moran, says damages were not disputed at trial before Mercer County Superior Court Judge Paul Koenig Jr. Coverage will be the key in any appeal, both lawyers say. An Allstate policy on the car included umbrella coverage of up to $1 million for household members of the owner, Nawlicki’s father. But the policy provided a $100,000 limit for nonhousehold drivers, and Nawlicki had moved out before the accident, Judge Andrew Smithson ruled before trial. Stern says he would argue on appeal that premiums collected by Allstate reflected the expectation that it would cover Nawlicki for the full amount. Peter Bariso Jr. of Secaucus’ Chasan, Leyner, Bariso & Lamparello represented Allstate. Brian Barr, of counsel to Atlantic City’s Cooper Levenson April Niedelman & Wagenheim, represented Truch. � By Henry Gottlieb $900,000 for Auto Injuries Bopp v. Electronic Data Systems Corp.: A motorist settled his Morris County suit for disabling back injuries in a car crash for $900,000 on Jan. 27. James Bopp, formerly of Hackettstown, was 27 when his Corvette was rear-ended in 1996 on Route 204 in Flanders while waiting to turn left, says his lawyer, Robert Anderson, a partner with Hanna & Anderson in Wall. Bopp was taken to the hospital, where he was told he had a lumbar strain that should resolve itself. Bopp continued working as a mechanic despite the pain and did not seek treatment until 1998, when doctors discovered he had spondylolisthesis, forward displacement of a disc. The condition is developmental but dormant in about 5 percent of the population but the car accident activated it, claims Anderson. Bopp delayed seeking treatment because of his move to Cape Coral, Fla., and his focus on his wife’s high-risk pregnancy, according to Anderson. Three surgeries to insert screws to stabilize his back left him with chronic pain, says Anderson. He is no longer able to work and has difficulty bending, lifting and sitting, says Anderson. Proximate cause was a major issue given Bopp’s underlying condition, and the fact that he did not seek treatment for the auto accident injury until after he hurt himself further lifting at work. Anderson says the accident triggered Bopp’s latent susceptibility to injuries from lifting. The car that struck Bopp was driven by Emanuel Martin Hernandez Ramos of Mexico City and had been rented from Avis during a trip for Electronic Data Systems Corp. of Plano, Texas. The settlement was reached by private mediation with Donald Hague, a former Middlesex County judge now of counsel at Woodbridge’s Wilentz Goldman & Spitzer. EDS will pay $800,000 and Avis the other $100,000, says Anderson. Both EDS and Avis were self-insured. EDS’s lawyer, Robert Hanlon Sr., a partner with Edison’s Hanlon, Boglioli & Hanlon, declines comment. Avis’ lawyer, Narda Zuniga-Dominach, an associate with Livingston’s Faust Goetz Schenker & Blee, did not return a call for comment. � By Mary P. Gallagher $800,000 for Fall in Medical Office Johnson v. Banks and Coastal Oral Surgery Inc.: An Ocean County jury awarded $800,000 on Jan. 27 to a Brick woman for injuries suffered from a fall in an oral surgeon’s office in 2000. While under semi-sedation at Coastal Oral Surgery in Toms River, Suzanne Johnson, 53, was asked to walk to an X-ray machine instead of using a wheelchair. She fell backward, hitting her head, according to her lawyer, Louis Santore of Secaucus’ Santore & Kenny. Santore presented evidence that Johnson developed a herniated disk that has limited her movements and curtailed her active lifestyle, such that she can no longer water ski, ride in the family boat or pick up her grandchildren. Santore and defense lawyer Stephen Schechner, who heads a firm in Millburn, says there was no dispute over liability. The central issue was whether the herniated disk was caused by the accident or spinal degeneration from a prior arthritic condition, which was revealed by a CAT scan taken right after the accident. Schechner says the claim against dental surgeon Kathy Banks was dismissed, making it a negligence case, not a malpractice matter. Judge Frank Buczynski Jr. presided at trial. The jury awarded $750,000 to Johnson and $50,000 to her husband for loss of services; prejudgment interest is worth $71,000. Schechner says the verdict was excessive and that he will seek a new trial. � By Henry Gottlieb No Cause After $1.5M Arbitration Rossi v. New York Life Insurance Company: After an arbitrator awarded $1.54 million to an electrician who said he was injured on the job, a Somerset County jury returned a defense verdict on Jan. 27. William Rossi of Hillsborough, now 41, sued New York Life Insurance Co. over a 1999 accident at the company’s office building in Lebanon. Rossi suffered neck and head injuries after falling five feet off a ladder left by a previous contractor. He claimed the ladder was unsound, that New York Life negligently failed to remove it and that company officials pressured him to destroy the ladder. During arbitration last March, Rossi was awarded $2.2 million, which was reduced to $1.54 million by a finding of 30 percent comparative negligence. New York Life made a post-arbitration offer of $100,000 that Rossi turned down. At trial before Judge Rosemarie Ruggiero Williams, defense attorney William Cunningham, of Florham Park’s Heim & McEnroe, presented evidence suggesting that Rossi’s ruptured neck ligament was not caused by the accident. Defense experts testified that the injury did not appear in X-rays from Rossi’s emergency room visit just after the accident and may have occurred instead during a two-week hunting and horseback riding vacation he later took in Montana. The plaintiff’s experts said the injury was undetectable because Rossi was strapped to a backboard when X-rays were taken. The jury found New York Life and Rossi negligent but found New York Life’s negligence was not the proximate cause of his injuries. Paul Caliendo, an associate at Gill & Chamas in Woodbridge, represented the plaintiff. Caliendo says no decision has been made on whether to appeal. � By Charles Toutant $415,000 for Auto Injuries Donaghue v. Martinez: A Toms River woman accepted $415,000 on Jan. 30 in her automobile-injury suit. Patricia Donaghue, 45, a homemaker, was waiting to make a left turn from Route 70 in Dover Township on Feb. 16, 2001, when a pickup truck equipped with a snowplow hit the back of her car. She claimed the crash caused a spinal injury, exacerbated a knee condition and caused headaches and cognitive problems. Donaghue filed suit in Ocean County against the truck’s driver, Raul Martinez, and the truck’s owner, Brinkman Group Ltd., a landscaping company in Bridgewater. After pleading guilty to careless driving in connection with the accident, Martinez left the state and could not be located, says plaintiff’s attorney Keith Cook, an associate at Gill & Chamas in Woodbridge. The parties reached the $415,000 figure during mediation on Jan. 19 with retired Superior Court Judge Edward Seaman. The defendants’ lawyer, Edward Drummond Jr., of Livingston’s Morgan, Melhuish, Monaghan, Arvidson, Arbrutyn & Lisowski, confirms the settlement but declines to comment. Brinkman was insured by OneBeacon Insurance of Boston. � By Charles Toutant

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