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Paraplegic Settles P.I. Suit for $4M Ortiz v. Continental Concession Supplies Inc.: A man rendered a paraplegic in a 2002 multivehicle accident on the New Jersey Turnpike settled his federal court suit for $4 million on March 1. Victor Ortiz, now 33, of Pennsauken, was rear-ended by a box truck, causing his car to strike the car ahead of him. The resulting back injuries left him paralyzed from the chest down, according to his lawyers, Sharon King and Stanley King of Woodbury’s King & King. Ortiz and the other car’s driver, Hector Rodriguez, 34, of Gloucester Township, sued the truck driver, Roberto Emiliani of Queens, N.Y., and his employer, Continental Concession Supplies Inc. of New Hyde Park, N.Y., in Camden County Superior Court. The defendants removed the case to federal court and cross-claimed against Ortiz over injuries to Rodriguez: a concussion and a minor spinal fracture. The case settled on the day jury selection was set to begin. Continental’s carrier, Zurich Insurance Co. of Schaumburg, Ill., will pay the $4 million to Ortiz. Four days earlier, Rodriguez agreed to accept $60,000 from Zurich and $5,000 from Ortiz’s carrier, State Farm of Bloomington, Ill. The settlement was reached in conferences with U.S. District Judge Joseph Rodriguez and U.S. Magistrate Judge Joel Rosen. Harold George of Trenton’s Sumners & George, represented Rodriguez. Jeffrey Segal, a partner at Rawle & Henderson in Marlton, represented Emiliani and Continental. � By Charles Toutant No-Cause Over Suicide Attempt Schwarz v. Carrier: A Morris County jury issued a defense verdict on March 1 to a clinic sued by the family of a cardiologist who attempted suicide while in its care. Teddy Schwarz, of Mountain Lakes, suffered severe brain damage in 1999 when he tried to hang himself in a bathroom at the Carrier Clinic in Belle Mead. The suit alleged that Schwarz, who had entered the clinic because he suffered a nervous breakdown, was left in a childlike condition by his suicide attempt and requires constant care. His family alleged that the clinic staff failed to watch him even though it knew he was suicidal. The plaintiffs presented lost earnings testimony of as much as $5 million at trial, two defense lawyers say. The defense argued that Schwarz was on a suicide watch, being checked every five minutes, and that it came as a surprise when Schwarz entered a bathroom and tried to hang himself. “It is virtually impossible to prevent what happened here to Ted Schwarz, even in the best of care. That’s what the jury understood,” said Sam Rosenberg of Reiseman, Rosenberg & Pfund in Morris Plains. He represented nurse Geraldine Collins. Also on the defense side was Raymond Fleming of Sachs, Maitlin, Fleming, Greene, Marotte & Mullen in West Orange, who represented nurse Renee Hardison and did not return calls; James Vasios of Vasios, Kelly & Strollo in Union, who represented Dr. Allen Gorsch and declines comment; and Debra Urbanowicz-Pandos of Duran & Pandos in Mountainside, who represented the Carrier Foundation, clinical social worker Bill Warner, nursing director Beverly Hobday and medical director Lawrence Goldberg. She was on vacation and could not be reached for comment. The carrier was Princeton Insurance Co. The plaintiff’s lawyer, Daniel Pomeroy, of Mortenson & Pomeroy in Springfield, says, “It’s a function of juries having problems with suicide cases. I think they view suicide [and clinical depression] as different from other diseases.” � By Jim Edwards $850,000 for Auto-Accident Death Estate of Escoto v. FedEx: The estate of an Ohio woman who was killed when a FedEx truck struck her stalled car on the Delaware Memorial Bridge will receive an $850,000 settlement. The estate of Lisette Escoto settled on Feb. 25 before the case was scheduled for trial before U.S. District Court Judge Freda Wolfson in Camden, says the estate’s attorney, Anne McHugh. Escoto, 26, died instantly on July 26, 2000, after her car was struck by the truck, driven by employee Ioan Antonia, says McHugh, a partner at Princeton’s Pellettieri, Rabstein & Altman. One of Escoto’s two passengers, Jose Rodriguez, also died; his family settled for $450,000. The other, Philip Munoz, was seriously injured and settled for $350,000. The three were driving from New York to Ohio on the New Jersey side of the Delaware Memorial Bridge when Escoto’s car stalled. Because there is no shoulder, Escoto pulled into the right lane. Antonia testified in a deposition that he did not see any flashing lights on Escoto’s car; one witness saw lights, one did not. Escoto died of head and chest injuries. Wolfson ruled before trial that because Escoto was only passing through New Jersey to return to Ohio, Ohio law — which allows an estate to sue for pain and suffering even though family members did not witness the accident — should apply. John Miller, a partner at Cherry Hill’s Kenney & Kearney who represented FedEx, did not return a telephone call seeking comment. � By Michael Booth $755,865 for Fall on Ice Jackson v. Whitehall Residence Retirement Homes: A Bergen County jury awarded $755,865 on March 3 to a woman who was unable to continue working as a nurse’s aide after she slipped on ice and fractured her leg. Yvette Jackson, of Hackensack, was walking from one building to another while visiting patients at the Whitehall Residence Retirement Homes, an adult care center in Rochelle Park, when she slipped and fell on Feb. 14, 2000. Jackson, now 32, fractured her right fibula and tore leg ligaments, says her lawyer, Donald Caminiti, a partner with Breslin & Breslin in Hackensack. She required three surgeries, including an open reduction and fixation, insertion and removal of a fibula-tibia screw, and the cleaning out of bone chips. Jackson continues to suffer pain and swelling but her doctor has recommended that she limit herself to sedentary work, says Caminiti. Instead of the $175 per week she earned as a nurse’s aide, she now makes about $100 as a babysitter. Jackson claimed that Whitehall was negligent for not clearing the ice. After Caminiti rejected a $60,000 settlement offer and a $152,000 arbitration award, the case went to trial on March 1 before Judge Isabel Stark. The jury awarded Jackson $650,000 for pain and suffering, $19,490 for past lost wages, $60,000 for future lost wages and $26,375 for past medical expenses. There is a worker’s compensation lien of $45,865. Whitehall’s lawyer, Martin Sullivan, a partner with Newark’s Wilson Elser Moskowitz Edelman & Dicker, did not return a call seeking comment. � By Mary P. Gallagher

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