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Bulk of $2.5M Auto Injury Settlement Borne by Drivers’ Employers’ Carrier Wu v. White: A woman who exited a crashed vehicle on the New Jersey Turnpike only to be hit by another car accepted a $2.5 million settlement on Feb. 18 for permanent leg injuries. Most of the award will be paid by Travelers Cos. of Hartford, Conn., the liability carrier for two companies whose employees were involved in the accident. Plaintiff Sophia Wu was returning home from John F. Kennedy Airport, having picked up her fianc�, Rakesh Kumar, on his return from a business trip for PricewaterhouseCoopers. Kumar, who was driving, lost control and struck a guardrail. The car that hit Wu was driven by Michael White, an employee of SP Industries of Warminster, Pa., who was returning from a business trip. Wu suffered a degloving and fractures to her left leg and underwent skin grafts from her thigh to repair her lower leg. She was left with a limp and cosmetic scars. Wu’s attorney, Anthony Campisano of New Brunswick’s Bucca & Campisano, claimed that Kumar and White were agents of their employers and named the companies as codefendants along with Kumar and White. Middlesex County Superior Court Judge Robert Longhi denied PricewaterhouseCoopers’ dismissal motion and the Appellate Division denied an interlocutory appeal. In mediation with retired Judge C. Judson Hamlin, now of counsel with Bedminster’s Purcell Ries Shannon Mulcahy & O’Neill, the two companies agreed to pay a combined $2.3 million. Kumar’s carrier, GMAC Insurance Holdings of Winston-Salem, N.C., and White’s, State Farm of Bloomington, Ill., each tendered their $100,000 policies. PricewaterhouseCoopers’ lawyer, Thomas Monte of Monte, Sachs & Borowsky in Sea Girt, confirms the settlement. PricewaterhouseCoopers and SP Industries have yet to determine allocation of the $2.3 million. Lawyers for the other defendants did not return calls. They are James Butler, a solo practitioner in Jersey City (for SP Industries); Kurt McCue, a partner at Slowinski Atkins in Newark (for Kumar); and Lawrence Quirk, a partner at Campbell, Foley, Lee, Murphy & Cernigliaro in Asbury Park (for White). � By Charles Toutant $1.45M for Auto Injuries King v. Grossman’s Kensington Carpet Co.: A Ventnor woman agreed on Feb. 20 to accept a $1.45 million settlement over car-accident injuries that prevented her from returning to work. On July 31, 2000, Debra King was stopped at a light on Tilton Road in Northfield when she was struck from behind by another vehicle. Her lawyer, Robert Sandman of Atlantic City’s Hankin, Sandman, Bradley & Palladino, says she suffered back injuries and underwent the insertion of screws and rods in her spinal column. King has not returned to her job as a deliverywoman for a news agency, Sandman says. The other vehicle was owned by Grossman’s Kensington Carpet Co. The carrier, the Ohio Casualty Insurance Co., retained James Savio, a Margate solo practitioner, to represent the company and its driver, employee Barbara Aste. Savio did not return a call seeking comment. The case was settled in mediation with retired Appellate Division Judge Philip Gruccio, two weeks before trial. � By Michael Booth $600,000 for Fire Fatality Estate of Kaba v. Washington Hill Corp.: The family of a man who died in an apartment fire accepted a $600,000 settlement on Feb. 13. Mohamed Kaba, 23, an immigrant from Mali, died on April 15, 2000, at a Newark apartment building where he had been sleeping in a third-floor apartment. The fire began in a discarded couch in the lobby. The fire alarm did not sound, but an occupant awakened Kaba. The occupants left by the fire escape but Kaba took the stairs. He died of burns and smoke inhalation after being conscious for 20 to 30 minutes, says Peter Chamas, of Woodbridge’s Gill & Chamas, who represents Kaba’s estate. Though arson appeared to be the cause, no one was charged, Chamas says. The defendants were building owner Washington Hill Corp., architects Leo Rutenberg and Christopher Juchnik of Kearny, and alarm installer USA Abel Electric & Alarm Services of Lyndhurst. The owner agreed to pay $500,000, the architects the remaining $100,000. Chamas said the couch in the lobby and alarm failure violated the fire and building codes. He also said the architects’ renovation plans did not separate the lobby and the second floor, which would have slowed the fire’s progress. Washington Hill’s lawyer, Stephen Hopkins, a partner with Livingston’s Braff, Harris & Sukoneck, says Kaba should have used the fire escape and that an arsonist might have disabled the alarm. Michael Suarez, a partner with Jersey City’s Suarez & Suarez who represents Rutenberg and Juchnik, did not return a call seeking comment. Chamas says the architects contended that the owner and the Department of Community Affairs approved the renovation. The case settled in private mediation with retired Judge C. Judson Hamlin, of counsel with Purcell Ries Shannon Mulcahy & O’Neill in Bedminster. The alarm company had no liability because it had no maintenance contract, says Hopkins. Its lawyer, Raymond Connell, a partner with Fairfield’s Dwyer Connell & Lisbona, did not return a call. � By Mary P. Gallagher $600,000 for Water Contamination Eckert v. Motiva Enterprises Inc.: Operators of a South Brunswick gas station paid $600,000 on Feb. 19 to settle a federal groundwater contamination suit. James and Eugene Eckert sued Shell Oil Co. and subsidiary Motiva Enterprises, claiming their well water was contaminated by gasoline from an adjacent Shell station at Route 1 and Finnegans Lane. The defendants removed the suit to U.S. District Court in Newark from Middlesex County in 2002. Plaintiffs’ lawyer Shari Blecher says her clients were notified of contamination by the state Department of Environmental Protection five years ago. The Eckert brothers hired Blecher after Shell asked them to sign an agreement allowing access to their property for tests. The agreement also would have released the defendants from liability, says Blecher, of Princeton’s Lieberman & Blecher. Blecher says the gasoline leaked into the water supply from an underground storage tank, requiring the Eckerts to connect to the public water system. The suit included counts for product liability and failure to warn based on the presence of methyl tertiary-butyl ether, a gasoline additive believed to cause cancer. The settlement was reached with the assistance of U.S. Magistrate Judge Madeline Cox Arleo. Shell’s lawyer, Jeffrey Moryan, a partner at Connell Foley in Roseland, did not return calls seeking comment. � By Charles Toutant

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