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Here are the largest personal injury verdicts reported by the Law Journal from September 5, 2005, through July 3, 2006, ranked in order of their value as of date of verdict or settlement. Awards of the same value share a ranking. They do not include arbitration awards or unilateral decisions by governmental entities to compensate injured parties. Awards for multiple parties are ranked by their lump sum values. 1 Passaic Jury Awards $26.2M in Design-Defect Suit Boyle v. Ford Motor Co.: A Passaic County jury Sept. 26, 2005, awarded $26.2 million in a crashworthiness suit against Ford Motor Company. Michael Boyle of Swoyersville, Pa., was driving east on Route 46 in Little Falls on Jan. 10, 2002, when his car’s passenger compartment smashed into the rear of a higher-riding Ford F-800 truck. The plaintiff’s experts testified that the flatbed truck had a faulty under-ride guard, the metal bar designed to stop cars at their bumpers so they don’t crash through to the passenger compartments when they hit trucks from behind. Boyle’s lawyer, John North, says the evidence suggested that his car was traveling 22 to 31 miles an hour faster than the truck and that a crashworthy under-ride guard wouldn’t have snapped. Ford’s lawyer, Kelly Waters of Newark’s Wilson Elser Moskowitz Edelman & Dicker, presented evidence that the guards are added by installers, who are responsible for ensuring their crashworthiness. The installer and co-defendant, Garden State Engine and Equipment of Somerville, argued that it had tried but failed to obtain data from Ford about guard safety requirements and that the automaker was responsible, North says. The defense also presented evidence that Boyle would have suffered serious injuries even if the guard had worked. Boyle needed reconstructive surgery because of massive head fractures and suffers from slowed thought processes and depression, according to the trial evidence. Previously an ironworker, he now does menial work in his father’s fireplace supply store, says North, of Woodbridge’s Greenbaum, Rowe, Smith & Davis. The jury awarded Boyle $25 million for pain, suffering, impairment and loss of enjoyment of life; $279,000 for past lost wages; $1.6 million for future lost wages; and $2,400 for medical bills. The jury found Ford 70 percent responsible and Garden State 30 percent responsible and that Boyle’s injuries would have been 2.5 percent worse if the guard had worked. With the 2.5 percent reduction, the award is $26.2 million, and prejudgment interest $3 million, North says. Richard Russo of Rosenn, Jenkins & Greenwald in Wilkes-Barre, Pa., referred the case to North, who was assisted by Greenbaum Rowe’s Emily Kaller, John Nance and Laura Bilotta. North says Ford’s highest offer was $125,000 and Garden State’s $500,000. Waters and Garden State’s lawyer, Jeffrey Mazzola of the William Staehle firm in Morris Plains, decline to comment. Ford spokeswoman Kathleen Vokes says Boyle “was the sole cause of this accident and his injuries. Driving at approximately 60 miles per hour, he plowed into the back of an F-800 truck. “The sole eyewitness said Boyle’s lights were off and he made no attempt to brake. Boyle stated that he must have fallen asleep. Before filing this lawsuit, he pled guilty to an unsafe driving charge in connection with this accident. However, this plea was not admitted at the trial. Ford will appeal,” she says, adding that the chassis cab sold by Ford complied with all applicable regulations. Superior Court Judge Christine Miniman presided at trial. 2 Jury Hits Ford Motor Co. With $20.5M Verdict in Rollover Case Valentini Jr. v. Ford Motor Co.: A federal jury in Newark returned a $20.5 million verdict against Ford Motor Co. on Dec. 23, 2005, in a product liability suit by an Edison woman who suffered brain damage in the rollover crash of a Ford Bronco II. On July 6, 1995, Kimberly Valentini, of Edison, was driving her fianc�’s 1987 Bronco II on I-95 in Virginia when she swerved to avoid a collision with another car that passed her on the right. The Bronco flipped onto the passenger side and rolled four times before coming to rest right side up on the median. Although she was wearing her seatbelt at the time of the accident, Valentini suffered a severe impact to the frontal lobe area of her brain and fractures of the skull, neck, back, left wrist and left hand, and she underwent 15 separate brain surgeries, according to the suit. Now 35, she continues to suffer cognitive deficits, depression, obsessive-compulsive disorder and anxiety. Her brain injury damaged her self-regulation skills, so that she requires the daily supervision of a counselor trained in brain trauma in order to complete daily activities such as waking up, dressing and grooming, says one of her lawyers, Jeffrey Moryan of Connell Foley in Roseland. His co-counsel was Connell Foley’s John Lacey. Before the accident, Valentini earned $1,100 a week as a contracts administrator for a manufacturing company but she has been unable to work since the crash. Valentini’s father and guardian ad litem, Joseph Valentini Jr., filed the suit in 1997, but it was stayed from September 2000 to January 2002 while Valentini pursued medical treatment. The suit, filed in federal court based on diversity jurisdiction, alleged defective design, in that the vehicle had a propensity to overturn, and failure to warn drivers adequately of that danger. According to Moryan, Ford’s defense was that disclaimers in the owner’s manual and on the driver’s sun visor of the Bronco II provided ample warnings of the vehicle’s potential to overturn. Ford also maintained that replacement tires installed on the vehicle were larger than the original ones, thus reducing stability. Ford’s trial counsel were Frank Nizio of Wright, Robinson, Osthimer & Tatum in Detroit and Edward Stewart of Wheeler, Trigg & Kennedy in Denver. James Dobis of Dobis, Russell & Peterson in Livingston was Ford’s local counsel. Nizio and Dobis could not be reached last week and Stewart referred questions to Ford. U.S. District Judge Jose Linares presided at the 18-day trial. After a day and a half of deliberations, the jury found that the Bronco II had a design defect, that Ford’s warning of a rollover hazard was inadequate, and that those factors were proximate causes of Valentini’s damages. The jury awarded $1.513 million for past medical expenses, $13 million for future medical expenses, $300,000 for past lost income, $700,000 for future lost income, and $5 million for pain and suffering. The punitive-damages phase was bifurcated, but Moryan says he does not expect to seek punitives. A Ford spokeswoman, Cathy Vokes, said the company had not yet decided whether to appeal. In pretrial motions last fall, Moryan and Lacey sought to bring before the jury a transcript of a 1971 meeting between President Richard Nixon, Ford Chairman Henry Ford II and Ford President Lee Iacocca, at which vehicle safety and emissions regulations were discussed, in order to show that Ford resisted safety regulations. They withdrew the motion in the face of Ford’s opposition. The plaintiffs did prevail in another pretrial motion that sought leave to show the jury a 1982 “60 Minutes” episode describing Jeep vehicles’ propensity to roll over. It was relevant, Moryan says, because Ford engineers patterned the Bronco II after Jeep vehicles. 3 Middlesex Jury Awards $18.56M for Chemotherapy-Caused Paraplegia Weck v. Jhun: A Middlesex County jury ordered a hospital on March 23 to pay $18.56 million to a man who became a paraplegic after being injected with improper chemotherapy drugs. Anton Weck, of Freehold, was to receive his last chemotherapy treatment for leukemia on May 15, 2001, at St. Peter’s University Hospital in New Brunswick. Vincristine was to be taken intravenously and Methotraxate as a spinal injection, but Eun Mi Jhun, a probationary pharmacist, allowed some Vincristine, which is toxic to the spinal cord, to mix with the Methotraxate, says Weck’s attorney, William Levinson of Eichen Levinson & Crutchlow in Edison. William Crutchlow was co-counsel. Within two weeks, Weck lost all feeling in his legs. St. Peter’s initially diagnosed it as an inflammation of the peripheral nerves. Later tests at John F. Kennedy Medical Center in Edison found Vincristine in the spinal cord, Levinson says, though the defendants denied the drugs had been mixed improperly. Superior Court Judge Phillip Paley presided at trial. The jury found Jhun at fault and the hospital liable under the respondeat superior doctrine. It found no cause against Vishwas Sakahalkar, the oncologist who performed the injections. Weck, now 25 and a technician at the Middlesex County Cerebral Palsy Association, was awarded $17.5 million for pain and suffering, $518,000 for future lost wages, $475,500 for future medical expenses and $70,500 for past lost wages. The hospital and Jhun, insured by Princeton Insurance Co., were represented by Craig Combs Jr. of Morristown’s Giblin & Combs, who did not return calls. A hospital spokesman says a high-low agreement entered prior to the verdict will substantially reduce the recovery. She said the hospital will not appeal. 4 Middlesex Jury Awards $14M for Failure To Test for Genetic Trait Sharad v. Sanghavi: The parents of a boy born with a genetic disease that will require blood transfusions for the rest of his life were awarded $14 million on May 19 in a Middlesex County suit. Soham Sharad’s mother would have had an abortion had she known he would be afflicted with thalassemia, which affects the body’s ability to produce hemoglobin, says Dennis Donnelly, the lawyer for plaintiffs Aradhana and Suneel Sharad of North Brunswick. Soham, born in 2001, needs a transfusion every few weeks and almost daily treatment to rid his body of excess iron from the transfusions, says Donnelly, of Chatham’s Blume, Goldfaden, Berkowitz, Donnelly, Fried & Forte. The Sharads sued obstetrician Maya Sanghavi, of South Plainfield, and primary care physician Shubhangi Thakur, of Edison. Thakur tested Suneel in 1999 and learned he was a thalassemia carrier but did not test Aradhana, despite the fact that there is a 25 percent chance a child will have the disease if both parents are carriers, Donnelly says. Aradhana became pregnant in 2000 and blood work at six weeks showed anemia. Instead of testing for thalassemia, Sanghavi gave her iron. Sanghavi did not do follow-up testing nor tested the fetus, says Donnelly. Sanghavi’s counsel, Rudolph Socey Jr., argued that Suneel knew he was a carrier and that Aradhana would not have aborted if she knew she was a carrier, says Donnelly. Thakur said she relied on Sanghavi to test Aradhana if she became pregnant, he adds. The claim against Thakur was dismissed at trial. Sanghavi, who will pay $6 million for Soham’s future medical expenses and $4 million to each parent, is insured by MIIX for $2 million. Socey, of Lawrenceville’s Lenox Socey Wilgus Formidoni Giordano & Casey, did not return a call. Nor did Thakur’s counsel, Charles Daley Jr., of Toms River’s Orlovsky Grasso Bolger Mensching Halpin & Daley. Superior Court Judge Jamie Happas presided. 5 Atlantic Jury Awards Vioxx Users $13.5M, Finding Data Was Withheld From FDA McDarby v. Merck: A jury in Atlantic City April 11 ordered Merck & Co. to pay $9 million in punitive damages to a user of Vioxx, finding the drug maker knowingly withheld data from federal regulators about the painkiller’s cardiovascular risks. After a three-day trial on punitive damages, the jurors found clear and convincing evidence that Merck withheld material information about Vioxx from the Food and Drug Administration and that its conduct was deliberately meant to harm. The verdict came a week after the jury awarded $3 million in compensatory damages to John McDarby, 77, of Park Ridge, N.J., and $1.5 million to his wife, Irma, for loss of services. The panel denied damages to co-plaintiff Thomas Cona, 60, who had a heart attack in 2003 but could produce only three prescriptions for the preceding two years he claimed to have taken Vioxx. For both plaintiffs, the jury found that Merck committed consumer fraud through unconscionable commercial practices when marketing Vioxx to physicians; that it made misrepresentations that could have been misleading; and that it intentionally omitted material information about a link between Vioxx and increased risk of cardiovascular injury. Robert Gordon, of New York’s Weitz & Luxenberg, who represented McDarby with co-counsel Jerry Kristal, said this is the first punitive damages verdict against a pharmaceutical company under the 1995 New Jersey Product Liability Act, which generally caps punitive damages at five times the amount of compensatory damages. The award could thus have been as high as $22.5 million. Under the statute, 2A:15-5.17, the award of punitive damages requires the trial judge, Superior Court Judge Carol Higbee, to refer the case to state or county prosecutors for a criminal investigation. “This jury has sent a message out from the back yard of pharmaceutical land that they take their policing power seriously,” said W. Mark Lanier, who represented McDarby’s co-plaintiff, Thomas Cona. Merck withdrew Vioxx from the market in 2004 when a study showed it doubled heart attack risk after 18 months of use. The Atlantic City trial was the first involving plaintiffs who had used Vioxx longer than that period of time. A lawyer for Merck said that the Whitehouse Station, N.J., company was disappointed with the punitive damages verdict and will appeal. “Merck’s actions were proper and did not, in any way, call for this award as defined by New Jersey law,” said Charles Harrell of the Memphis office of Butler, Snow, O’Mara, Stevens & Cannada. “The evidence was clear that we provided the FDA with the information about Vioxx that we were required to provide. And, under New Jersey law, that means punitive damages should not have been awarded.” In her opening statements at the punative damages phase, Merck’s lead lawyer, Christy Jones, of Butler Snow in Jackson, Miss., told jurors that despite their verdict, there was no evidence that Merck intentionally did anything wrong. Merck had argued at trial that the data were statistically invalid and that no FDA regulation requires drug makers to submit invalid statistics. “They did not engage in deliberate and willful misconduct, deliberate acts that they knew would harm someone else,” Jones told jurors in her closing argument of the punitive-damages phase. “The doctors and scientists at Merck always acted in a way that they believed was appropriate. Don’t label them as killers. Don’t label them as guilty of willful and wanton misconduct.” Merck general counsel Kenneth Frazier added, “The jury heard irrelevant and prejudicial information from the plaintiffs’ attorneys about Merck and an appeal will be our next step. The evidence is that Merck acted ethically and in a responsible manner � from researching Vioxx prior to approval in clinical trials involving almost 10,000 patients, to monitoring and studying the medicine while it was on the market, to voluntarily withdrawing the medicine when we did.” Merck moved for a new trial May 4, arguing that Judge Higbee made legal and evidentiary errors and that plaintiffs’ counsel engaged in improper questioning and argument during the five-week trial. 6 Woman Left Brain Damaged Due to Medication Overdose Wins $8.35M Terris v. Cohen: A Cumberland County jury awarded $8.35 million on Thursday to a 63-year-old Vineland woman and her husband for brain damage caused by an excessive dosage of a painkiller. Sandra Terris was admitted to Newcomb Hospital in Vineland on May 26, 1999. She had fractured her pelvis and ribs in a car crash three days earlier and, following examination at another hospital, had been sent home. But Terris, a diabetic, was suffering from dehydration and low blood sugar, according to the suit. As Terris was still in pain from her injuries, a Newcomb orthopedist, with the approval of her attending physician, Alan Cohen, prescribed a 4 mg dosage of the painkiller Dilaudid. A nurse, Christine Roller, administered the drug at noon on May 27 but failed to mark it on Terris’ chart. A few hours later, a physical therapist came to Terris’ room, found her asleep, was unable to rouse her and reported her findings in written reports to Roller and Cohen. Terris woke up that evening but ate nothing and her vital signs were deteriorating. At midnight, nurse Mary Ann Harris gave Terris a second dosage of Dilaudid. At 12:54 a.m., a monitor attached to Terris went off, signaling she was in respiratory arrest. Terris suffered severe brain damage due to loss of oxygen, according to the suit. Terris, formerly the manager of a Jiffy Lube, now lives in a nursing home, is unable to walk or speak and has the mental capacity of a child, says her lawyer, Lawrence Cohan, of Anapol, Schwartz, Weiss, Cohan, Feldman & Smalley in Cherry Hill. The complaint charged that Cohen was negligent for prescribing 4 mg of Dilaudid when the standard first dosage is 2 mg and that he failed to alert the nurses to watch for shallow respiration, a known side effect of the drug. The complaint charged Roller with negligence for failure to mark the first dosage on Terris’ chart and that Roller and Cohen were both negligent for failing to recognize that Terris was suffering from shallow respiration when they were unable to rouse her. The complaint also claimed both Roller and Harris failed to monitor Terris’ vital signs adequately. Superior Court Judge Michael Brooke Fisher presided at the month-long trial. Plaintiff’s lawyer Cohan says the defense claimed that the Dilaudid dosage was within the standard of care, that the inability to rouse Terris was not a serious problem and that her brain damage was more likely caused by a blood clot. The jury apportioned 70 percent of liability to Cohen, 30 percent to Roller and none to Harris. The jury awarded Terris $4 million for pain and suffering, $2.7 million for future medical expenses, $300,000 for past medical expenses and $350,000 for lost wages. The jury also awarded her husband, Elliot, $1 million for loss of consortium. Neither Cohen’s lawyer, Beth Wright of Reynolds, Drake, Wright & Marczyk in Marlton, nor the nurses’ lawyer, Thomas Heavey of Grossman, Kruttschnitt & Heavey in Brick, returned phone messages. Cohen’s carrier was MIIX and the nurses were covered by Princeton Insurance. 7 Delay of Blood Transfusion, Causing Brain Damage, Yields $8.25M Award Gomez v. Daneshvar: After prevailing in appeals and post-trial motions, an Absecon woman has collected $8.25 million in a suit over a delayed blood transfusion that led to brain damage. The recovery stemmed from a 2003 Atlantic County jury award of $22 million to Ana Gomez on her claim that blood was delivered to the operating room in 70 minutes, instead of the usual 20, because of understaffing at the hospital blood bank. At the time, she was giving birth at Atlantic City Medical Center. Gomez cannot use her limbs, cannot speak and requires full-time care, say her lawyers, Robert Ross and Jonathan Cohen of Kline & Specter in Cherry Hill. The jury apportioned 65 percent of the total to Atlantic City Medical Center, which had settled during trial for $250,000, the limit of its liability under the Charitable Immunity Act. The remaining 35 percent, or $7.7 million, was apportioned to blood bank director Ali Daneshvar. The third defendant, obstetrician Phyllis Perkins, who was covered by insolvent insurance carrier PHICO, settled at trial for the $300,000 coverage limit of the state Insurance Guaranty Fund, bringing Gomez’s total to $8.25 million. The funds were deposited into court pending defense motions and appeals. The hospital moved unsuccessfully to vacate the judgments, claiming its settlement offer was void because Gomez took too long to accept and that her experts were unqualified and had given net opinions. The Appellate Division affirmed Superior Court Judge Carol Higbee‘s order on the motion and the state Supreme Court denied Daneshvar’s certification petition Sept. 7, 2005. On Sept. 30, 2005, the trial court released the $10.6 million in escrowed funds and, on Nov. 30, 2005, it granted the plaintiffs’ petition for attorneys’ fees, closing out the case. Ross declines to disclose the fees. Atlantic City Medical Center’s attorney, Eric Wood of Fox Rothschild in Atlantic City, could not be reached. Daneshvar’s lawyers, Stacy Moore Jr. and Yves Veenstra at Parker McCay in Marlton, did not return calls. 8 Product Suit Over Martial-Arts Injury Settles for $7.5M in Monmouth Co. James v. Century Inc.: A martial-arts instructor who lost a leg due to an allegedly defective punching bag settled his product liability suit on Feb. 24 for $7.5 million. On Nov. 22, 1999, Richard James, 44, of Long Branch, was demonstrating a right-foot kick at his Franklin Township tae kwon do school when the bag’s foam outer layer came apart, causing him to land awkwardly and injure his left leg. The accident triggered reflex sympathetic dystrophy, with shooting pain and excessive sweating, and during surgery to relieve it, abscesses developed, James alleged. Finally, he underwent elective amputation of his left leg below the knee in 2004 to relieve the problems. James alleged the bag was defective because its hard plastic base and foam padding could not be bound with glue. The manufacturer, Century Inc. of Midwest City, Okla., alleged James used the bag improperly and failed to inspect it beforehand, says his lawyer, Raymond Gill Jr. of Gill & Chamas in Woodbridge. James, who had been a marathon runner, is running again with a prosthetic leg but is at risk of septic shock from the infection, Gill says, adding that James can no longer work as a martial-arts instructor. The Monmouth County suit settled after mediation with retired Superior Court Judge C. Judson Hamlin, of Bedminster’s Purcell, Ries, Shannon, Mulcahy & O’Neill. Century’s attorney, Thomas Wester of McDermott & McGee in Millburn, confirms the settlement. Century had $11 million in coverage from Chubb Group of Insurance Cos. James had a worker’s compensation lien of $131,470. 8 Judge Approves $7.5M Settlement for Agency’s Role in Child’s Death Estate of Williams v. Division of Youth and Family Services: The State of New Jersey has agreed to a $7.5 million settlement in an Essex County suit charging that negligence by the Division of Youth and Family Services contributed to the starvation death of 7-year-old Faheem Williams. The boy’s body was found in the basement of his Newark home on January 4, 2003. His twin brother, Raheem, and their younger brother Tyrone Hill, then 4, were found locked in another room in the basement, dirty, malnourished and suffering from burns. The investigation concluded that the three were scalded with water and had been left alone for long periods, and following their discovery the surviving boys were hospitalized for two months. Eric Kahn of Javerbaum, Wurgaft, Hicks & Zarin filed suit against the state on their behalf. He cited evidence that DYFS had received 10 reports of abuse or neglect at the boys’ home during their lifetimes, and that DYFS caseworkers made numerous visits to the home but never saw the boys on those visits. In December 2001 the file was closed based on a caseworker’s conclusion that the children were safe. DYFS director Gwendolyn Harris issued a report acknowledging that agency policy was violated when the caseworker concluded the children were safe without seeing them. Judge Donald Goldman appointed guardians ad litem for the two surviving boys � Morris Billingslea for Raheem and Judith Rodner for Tyrone, and Raymond Connell as administrator ad prosequendum for the estate of Faheem. The state agreed at a mediation session with retired Superior Court Judge Alvin Weiss on October 27, 2005 to pay $1 million to the estate of Faheem, $2.75 million to Raheem and $3.75 million to Tyrone. The state also agreed to waive Medicaid liens of approximately $500,000 for Tyrone and $400,000 for Raheem. The settlements were approved by Governor Richard Codey and Attorney General Peter Harvey on around November 15, 2005. Goldman approved the settlement following a friendly hearing on February 10 of this year. On March 30 Assignment Judge Patricia Costello denied Kahn’s fee application, which sought 20 percent of the net settlement after the fees for the guardians and administrator and other expenses are deducted. Noting that Kahn failed to submit reports of his hours spent on the case or of costs incurred, she concluded that the case involved no novel issues or expert witnesses and little dispute over liability, and that the settlement was concluded in one mediation session. Costello ruled that Kahn was entitled to fees as set by R. 1:21-7 for the award to the estate and for the first $2 million awarded to the surviving boys, but she found he was not entitled to any fees for the award in excess of $2 million. Kahn says his firm does not keep records of hours on contingency fee personal injury cases but he has not decided whether to appeal Costello’s fee ruling. 9 Judge Approves $6.56M Settlement For Infant Struck by Falling Sign Arce v. Children’s Place: A Mercer County judge on Dec. 7, 2005, approved a $6.56 million settlement for an infant who suffered brain injuries when a store sign fell on his head. On Feb. 27, 1997, a 30-inch Plexiglas sign struck Alexander Arce, then six week old, at the Children’s Place in the Quaker Bridge Mall in Lawrenceville, fracturing his skull, damaging the left side of his brain and leaving him with comprehension and reading difficulties, the suit charged. Plaintiffs’ attorney, Bruce Stern, of Lawrenceville’s Stark & Stark, says poor design and manufacturing deficiencies led the sign to fall. By the terms of the settlement, which Judge F. Patrick McManimon approved at a friendly hearing, the retail store’s insurers, Fireman’s Fund Insurance Co. and Royal Insurance Co., will contribute $5.215 million, according to Stern. The insurers for the two companies involved in the design and manufacturing of the sign � Zurich North America (for California-based Impac Inc.) and National Union Fire Insurance Co. (for Riverside-based MedLaurel Inc.) � will contribute $1 million and $350,000, respectively. The defense lawyers were: Donald Chierici Jr., of Moorestown’s Chierici, Chierici & Smith (Fireman’s Fund and Royal); William Hopkin Jr., of Westmont’s Tomlin, Hopkin & Ferrucci (Zurich); and Joseph Collins, of Marlton’s Daniel & Dochney (National Union). Collins confirms the details of the settlement. Chierici and Hopkin did not return calls. 10 Clergyman To Get $6 Million for Injuries in Two-Truck Accident Kelly v. CTX-TL Inc.: A minister who lost an arm and allegedly suffered brain damage in a highway accident settled his claims for $6 million on Jan. 23. Crawford Kelly Jr. of Hartford, Conn., was driving a rented truck on the New Jersey Turnpike on Feb. 8, 2005, when a tractor-trailer hit him from behind. Kelly’s vehicle spun around, scraped the guardrail, ripped off the door and most of his left arm and flipped over the rail, crushing the cab roof. Kelly fractured his skull and, now age 57, is mentally impaired and needs 24-hour care, says Kenneth Fulginiti of Philadelphia’s Duffy & Keenan, who assisted his partner, Thomas Duffy, as plaintiff’s counsel. Kelly, who lives in a North Carolina nursing home, filed suit in Newark federal court based on diversity jurisdiction against CTX-TL, a Hoboken trucking company that employed the tractor-trailer’s driver, Pettegrew Robertson Jr. The suit alleged that CTX was negligent in supervising Robertson, who altered his log to conceal that he was driving more hours than allowed. The defense argued that Kelly, who had no current license, was driving too slowly and without brake lights, and that a prior stroke caused the brain damage, says Fulginiti. Defense attorney Thomas Wagner, who heads a Swedesboro firm, did not return a call for comment. The case settled at a conference with Magistrate Judge Susan Wigenton for the full primary and excess policies. 11 Middlesex Jury Awards $4.3M for Doctor’s Role in Paralyzing Stroke Hoffman v. Karpanos: A Middlesex County jury awarded $5.4 million Nov. 2, 2005, for a paralyzing stroke caused by a cardiologist’s failure to prescribe a blood thinner. But the award was reduced by 20 percent, to $4.3 million, because of the patient’s pre-existing heart disease. Mark Hoffman, 49, of North Brunswick, passed out at his job as a quality assurance inspector in October 1998, says his lawyer, William Crutchlow of Edison’s Eichen Levinson. Hoffman saw cardiologist Alexander Karpanos of Edison, who diagnosed him with heart disease but did not prescribe a blood thinner. Hoffman later developed a blood clot that traveled to his brain, causing a massive stroke in 1999 that left him with a paralyzed left arm, hand and leg and with cognitive disabilities. He no longer is employed, says Crutchlow. Karpanos’ carrier, the Princeton Insurance Co., retained Michael Lazarus, of Edison’s Lazarus, Billek & Yesalonis, who did not return a call for comment. Superior Court Judge Mathias Rodriguez presided at the trial. 12 $4M for Workplace Accident Valentin v. Lansing Lathe Co.: A factory worker who lost an eye and suffered other injuries in an accident settled his Passaic County product liability suit Sept. 12, 2005, for $4 million. Hector Valentin was operating a lathe at EC Electroplating in Garfield on Nov. 17, 2000, when his shirt got caught in the mechanism and he was dragged into contact with its moving parts. He claimed that the machine should have had a safety guard over its spinning face plate. Valentin lost his left eye and suffered broken facial bones and cognitive impairment and was left with permanent scars on his face and torso, says his lawyer, Marc Saperstein of Davis, Saperstein & Salomon in Teaneck. Now 24, he has not worked since the accident and his broken facial bones preclude implantation of a prosthetic eye. The settlement will be paid by S&S Machinery of Brooklyn, which imported the lathe from Italy. S&S was represented by John Devlin, head of a Westmont firm, who did not return calls. 12 Jury Awards $4 Million for Failure To Timely Diagnose Artery Disease Estate of Rodriguez v. Abramowitz: An Atlantic County jury handed up a $4 million verdict on May 31 in a medical malpractice suit over a casino worker’s fatal heart attack, but a high-low agreement will cap recovery at $800,000. Amilcan Rodriguez Sr., 50, a doorman at The Sands in Atlantic City, died while being airlifted from Newcomb Medical Center in Vineland to Presbyterian Hospital in Philadelphia for an emergency cardiac catheterization. Rodriguez’s estate, represented by Richard Grungo Jr. of Archer & Greiner in Haddonfield, sued Rodriguez’s primary care physician, Jodi Abramowitz of Linwood, and a consulting cardiologist, Mahesh Ghayal of Mainland Heart Consultants in Galloway Township. Superior Court Judge William Nugent presided at the two-week trial. The jury found that for the 14 months Rodriguez was her patient, Abramowitz failed to conduct an EKG that would have diagnosed his coronary artery disease. At one point, she diagnosed him as suffering from malignant hypertension (dangerously high blood pressure), yet sent him home. But the jury also found Rodriguez 20 percent liable for having delayed a visit to the cardiologist for six weeks after Abramowitz told him to go. Expert witnesses on both sides testified that had he done so, he could have undergone lifesaving arterial bypass surgery. When Rodriguez finally saw Ghayal for a consultation, Ghayal conducted an EKG, found mildly abnormal readings and scheduled a follow-up stress test and EKG for a date three weeks later. Rodriguez was hospitalized and died three days after his visit with Ghayal, but the jury found Ghayal did not deviate from the proper standard of care in his reading of the EKG or in the post-diagnosis procedure he ordered. The jury assessed damages against Abramowitz in the amount of $2 million for Rodriguez’s pain and suffering and $2 million for the loss suffered by his surviving adult children. The high-low agreement provided for minimum recovery of $200,000 and a maximum of $800,000, says Abramowitz’s lawyer, Joseph Di Croce, a Manasquan solo. The doctor’s carrier is Princeton Insurance Co. The lawyer for Ghayal and Mainland Heart Consultants, Margate solo James Savio, says the high-low agreement was concluded after the jury reached a verdict but before the verdict was read in court. 13 Hudson County Jury Awards Paralysis Victim $3.8M Verdict Smith v. Badin et al.: A woman left paralyzed from a spinal abscess won a $3.8 million verdict on Feb. 2 from a Hudson County jury that found her internist and four other doctors failed to treat her condition properly. The verdict against the five doctors, all affiliated with Greenville Hospital and Jersey City Medical Center, came after a two-week trial at which Superior Court Judge Peter Bariso presided. Michelle Smith, 49, had initially sought treatment for pneumonia from Jersey City internist Michael Badin in July 2000. Her pneumonia worsened and turned into a spinal abscess. In February 2001, she was first admitted to Greenville Hospital, was admitted eight more times over the course of 13 months and was treated by all five doctors, says her lawyer, Frank Nostrame, a Jersey City solo. The pressure on her spine increased as the abscess worsened, and in September 2001, she was rushed to the University of Medicine and Dentistry’s Medical Center in Newark, where she was told she had permanently lost the ability to feel and move her legs, says Nostrame. The jury held three of the doctors � Badin and neurologists Sharmalie Perera and Antwan Ahab � 25 percent liable each; internist Adelia Moustiatse was found 20 percent liable; and radiologist George Veliath was found 5 percent liable. Because Smith reached confidential settlements with Ahab, Moustiatse and Veliath before trial began and with Perera before the verdict, she will collect only 25 percent of the award, or $956,173, from Badin, the only doctor not to settle. Badin’s lawyer, William Buckley of Pisciotti, Malsch & Buckley in Florham Park, confirms the settlement but declines comment. Perera’s lawyer, Hugh Francis of Morristown’s Francis & Berry, did not return a reporter’s call. 14 Failure-To-Diagnose Case Settles For $3.5 Million in Passaic County Pugliese v. Rametta: Two doctors agreed on Oct. 20, 2005, to pay $3.5 million to settle a claim that they failed to diagnose an arterial occlusion and so caused a patient’s paralyzing stroke. On May 17, 2002, Andrew Grossman, an emergency room doctor at Chilton Memorial Hospital in Pompton Plains, told John Pugliese, then 42, of Wanaque, that the numbness in his arm, face and neck was a pinched nerve, according to evidence proffered by Pugliese’s lawyer, David Mazie, of Roseland’s Nagel Rice & Mazie. Pugliese’s own physician, Mark Rametta of Ringwood, made the same diagnosis a few days later, Mazie says. Pugliese really was having a transient ischemic attack (TIA), a warning that he had an occlusion of the carotid artery, Mazie says. If treated properly, Pugliese wouldn’t have suffered the September 2002 stroke that has left him partially paralyzed, Mazie says. Pugliese was a maintenance worker. Under the settlement, reached after four days of trial in Passaic County before Judge Anthony Graziano, Grossman, covered by PMSLIC, will pay $1.5 million, and Rametta, covered by Princeton Ins. Co., will pay $2 million. Rametta’s lawyer, Craig Combs Jr. of Morristown’s Giblin & Combs, says the case settled only because the injuries were so serious. He says the defense evidence suggested the plaintiff’s account of what he told Rametta was inaccurate and that Pugliese did not suffer a TIA. Grossman’s lawyer, Robert Donnelly Jr. of Cranford’s Dughi & Hewit, did not return a reporter’s call. 14 $3.5M for Fatal House Fire Adelaida Ortiz v. John Pittenger Builder, Inc.; Maria Cruz v. John Pittenger Builder, Inc.: A post-verdict settlement will bring a total recovery of $3.5 million to a woman and her daughter for injuries and loss of life suffered in a house fire. On Oct. 21, 2005, a Monmouth County jury returned separate verdicts of $3.25 million for Adelaida Ortiz, whose 5-year-old daughter perished in the blaze, and $2.01 million for Ortiz’s mother, Maria Cruz, who was severely burned. After the verdicts, the plaintiffs agreed to settle their suits against the landlord of their Section 8 housing unit in Neptune for a total of $3.5 million, based on high-low damage caps agreed upon during the trial. The fire occurred in January 2001. At the time, Ortiz’s daughter, Jasmine Rashid, had been sleeping in the downstairs bedroom with Cruz and Ortiz’s infant grandson. She was fleeing the burning building until she got frightened by an exploding window and ran for cover. Ortiz and Cruz managed to rescue the infant and help two older children escape but could not find Jasmine in time to rescue her. Cruz was badly burned and spent six weeks in a coma. The plaintiffs charged John Pittenger Builder Inc. of Monmouth with failure to install hard-wired smoke detectors as required by code. The apartment had only three broken, battery-operated smoke alarms. “They should have had hard-wired interconnected smoke detectors in the hallways as well as the four bedrooms,” says Ortiz’s attorney, Anthony Malanga Jr. of Belleville’s Gaccione, Pomaco & Malanga. “Once one sounds, they all sound. It’s an early warning system for people who are sleeping.” The landlord claimed that Cruz caused the fire by lighting a candle before she went to sleep and had unsuccessfully tried to name her as a defendant. Malanga says the high-low settlement began when it became clear that the jury was sympathetic to finding Cruz partially at fault. The landlord had sought to dismiss Ortiz’s suit, which was based on negligent infliction of emotional distress, because she did not observe her daughter burning, and did not receive psychological treatment. Direct observation is one of the four requirements for such a claim under Portee v. Jaffe, 84 N.J. 88, 101 (1980). But in a decision last December, Superior Court Judge Louis Locascio ruled that a Portee claim “is viable even without psychological counseling and without actually seeing a relative ablaze, so long as the bystander is sensorially aware of the relative burning to death.” Malanga says Andover Insurance Co. of Andover, Mass., will pick up the first $1 million in each settlement, and Fireman’s Fund of Minneapolis will cover the rest. Cruz was represented by Charles Uliano and David Levine of West Long Branch’s Chamlin, Rosen, Uliano & Witherington. The landlord’s lawyer, Martin McGowan Jr. of Edison’s Methfessel & Werbel, confirms the settlement. 14 Hospital’s Insurers To Pay $3.5M In Chemotherapy-Overdose Suit Velasquez v. Newark Beth Israel Medical Center: The family of a leukemia-stricken boy who died after a chemotherapy overdose settled its suit against a hospital for $3.5 million on June 1. Eddie Velasquez, 12, of North Bergen, was on his last round of chemotherapy at Newark Beth Israel Medical Center in January 2002 when he was given three times the correct amount of doxorubicin. His arms and legs swelled, his skin darkened and he had bleeding sores in his mouth and throat, says the family’s lawyer, Francis Dorrity, of Dorrity & Associates in Jersey City. Doctors at the hospital halted the chemotherapy but their failure to restart it two weeks later allowed the leukemia to return, says Dorrity. On March 22, Eddie’s parents moved him to Hackensack University Medical Center, where chemotherapy was resumed, but he died on April 9. The family sued Newark Beth Israel and 11 employees: the doctor who wrote the mistaken order; two other doctors who allegedly failed to put Eddie back on chemotherapy; two pharmacists who allegedly filled the orders for the drug; and six nurses who allegedly failed to verify the dosage administered. At a conference in May with Hudson County Assignment Judge Maurice Gallipoli, the defendants admitted the overdose and the case was set for trial on causation and damages, says Dorrity. Dorrity says the defendants’ position was that leukemia would have killed Eddie even without the overdose. The family contended the cancer was in remission, with full recovery likely. The defendants’ trial lawyer, Jay Scott MacNeill of Roseland’s Post Polak Goodsell MacNeill & Strauchler, did not return a call for comment. Dorrity says the $3.5 million settlement will be paid out of the hospital’s $2 million primary policy with Princeton Insurance, with the other $1.5 million from excess carrier AIG. He adds that the defendants will apportion fault among themselves. 15 Three Doctors Pay $3.37M in Suit Over Comatose Patient Bouhoutsos v. Ford: The wife of a man who has been in a coma more than four years accepted $3.375 million on Nov. 4 from three doctors who treated him. According to the suit, filed in Hudson County, Milton Bouhoutsos, now 72, was placed on a respirator after he arrived at the emergency room at Jersey City Medical Center on Dec. 29, 2000, dizzy, combative and having trouble breathing. A fifth-year resident took Bouhoutsos off the respirator and treated him with sedatives that depressed his circulation and exacerbated the real cause of the problem, severe hypertension, and he lapsed into a coma on Jan. 1, 2001. The plaintiffs’ lawyer, Scott Parsons of Parsons, Powell & Lane in Old Bridge, says his damages expert was prepared to say his client’s life care needs were $5 million, while the defense figure would have been $1 million. He also would have sought damages for Bouhoutsos’ loss of enjoyment of life and for loss of consortium by Chrysoula Bouhoutsos, his wife and guardian, says Parsons, whose co-counsel was his partner William Lane. Superior Court Judge Carmen Messano entered a $2.375 million judgment against resident Michelle O’Shea and $500,000 each against attending physicians David Ford and Phillip Lisagor. Defense lawyers Sam Rosenberg of Reiseman, Rosenberg & Pfund in Morris Plains and Joseph Garrubbo of Garrubbo, Capece, D’Arcangelo, Millman & Smith in Westfield decline comment. Parsons says the defense was prepared to show that sedatives were the proper treatment for the symptoms. He says the resident contended that the attending physicians approved her course of treatment, but they denied they had. 16 $3.3M for Quadriplegia in Accident Coles v. Belmar: Belmar Borough will pay $3.3 million to a former ship’s mate who became a quadriplegic in a diving accident, under a settlement a Monmouth County judge approved on Nov. 7. Stacy Coles, now 29, of Middletown, broke her neck jumping off a dock on a dare into an empty boat slip on the night of Aug. 10, 2002. The slip, unused since 1993, had become shallow from the buildup of dirt and silt and was no more than two feet deep, compared with five feet or more in neighboring slips, and the suit said the borough created a dangerous condition and failed to warn the public or rope off the slip, according to Coles’ lawyer, Michael Schottland of Freehold’s Lomurro Davison Eastman & Munoz. Schottland says Belmar argued that Coles was drunk and acted recklessly by diving in the dark. Its counsel, John Kane of North Brunswick’s Martin Kane & Kuper, did not return a call for comment. On Sept. 23, Superior Court Judge Louis Locascio denied Belmar’s motion for summary judgment, finding Coles was not a trespasser and Belmar was not immune under the Tort Claims Act or the Landowner’s Liability Act. Though an ordinance barred swimming in the marina, the borough was aware people swam there and ladders helped them exit the water, Locascio found. He noted that the borough roped off boat entry to the slip but did not rope off the other end to keep people out. Lomurro Davison partner Thomas Comer argued the motion for the plaintiff. Former Superior Court Judge Douglas Wolfson, now with Greenbaum, Rowe, Smith & Davis in Woodbridge, mediated the Oct. 21 settlement. Of Coles’ $2.59 million share, $825,000 will buy a structure with a $1.27 million payout. Taylor, Cole’s 8-year-old daughter, will receive $310,000, of which $235,000 will buy a structure paying at least $554,000. Coles’ mother Diane will get $400,000.

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