Attorneys for a 61-year-old Hartford man, whose hip was shattered after an 800-pound commercial refrigerator fell on him while he was attempting to enter a convenient store, have secured a $424,900 settlement.
Eladio Balbuena was injured as he attempted to enter Town Market on Park Street in Hartford in May 2013, according to an amended lawsuit filed in January in Hartford Superior Court. Balbuena was entering the store to make a purchase when—at the same time—three to five movers lost control of the refrigerator, which was 20 feet long, according to Matthew Paradisi, an associate with Hartford’s Cicchiello & Cicchiello.
“The refrigerator fell over, crashing on to my client,” Paradisi said Tuesday. “My client’s body went through the glass of the refrigerator and the edge of actual metal casing of the refrigerator shattered his hips.” The injuries were so severe, Paradisi said, that Balbuena was forced to leave his job as a laborer at a furniture store.
The market, Paradisi said, initially tried to pin the blame on both Balbuena and the men who were moving the refrigerator.
Town Market said in court papers that Balbuena was negligent because he “placed himself in close proximity to a large refrigerator being unloaded from a truck, when he knew or should have known that it was unsafe for him to do so.” The defendant also said Balbuena “failed to obey instructions and warnings by the persons moving the refrigerator not to interfere in the process.”
But Paradisi said despite the court pleadings his team scored a major victory. “We were able to have the owner [Roque Jiminian] admit that my client did not, in any way, contribute to the accident,” the plaintiff counsel said.
Paradisi told the Connecticut Law Tribune that the store owner attempted to point the finger at the crew, who was trying to move the refrigerator.
“They hired several individuals off the street and paid cash to move the refrigerator into the store,” he said. “Through deposition, we were able to show that a significant portion of the work was done at the direction of the owner of the establishment.”
Store owner Jiminian is out of the country and was not available for comment. His attorney, Keith Rudzik of Howard Kohn Sprague & FitzGerald in Hartford, did not respond to a request for comment Tuesday.
Paradisi said the store should have at least had warning signs in the area during the delivery. “They left the business open during transport of this dangerous refrigerator unit,” he said. “They admittedly took no precautions to protect their patrons. There was no warning signs and they left the front door of the facility open where anyone could walk in.”
Paradisi said the parties held a two-hour mediation before Waterbury Superior Court Judge Salvatore Agati on July 25. The two sides settled the case for $424,900 on Monday.
The main injuries to Balbuena, Paradisi said, were to his hip and back. Balbuena had multiple hip surgeries and he sustained a 15 percent permanent impairment ratio to both his hip and back, his attorney said. Paradisi said his case was made stronger by several witnesses who gave statements before mediation. They included Arthur Wright, an economist out of Storrs, who said Balbuena’s earning capacity would be significantly impaired because of the incident. Wright has a doctorate in economics from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.
Balbuena, who is currently walking with a cane, incurred $106,000 in medical expenses, Paradisi said. He is scheduled to receive the money within the week, paid via the Connecticut Insurance Guaranty Association.