Jonathan Weiss
Jonathan Weiss (J. Albert Diaz)

Case: Janine Aris and Pierre Aris v. Seville C. Applebaum

Case no: 13-00740 CA 01

Description: Negligence and loss of consortium

Filing date: Jan. 8, 2013

Verdict date: Feb. 5, 2014

Judge: Miami-Dade Circuit Judge Norma Lindsey

Plaintiffs attorney: Scott Jontiff and Jeannie Jontiff, Jontiff & Jontiff, Miami

Defense attorneys: Jonathan Weiss and Mike Brand, Cole Scott & Kissane, Miami

Verdict amount: For the defense

Details: Janine Aris, then 80, was walking in a parking garage at the Cricket Club condominium in Miami when she was allegedly struck by a car driven by Seville Applebaum, then 90. Aris fell and hit her head on the concrete, suffering a traumatic brain injury. She was airlifted to Jackson Memorial Hospital.

Aris spent two months in a coma before returning home. Her medical bills totaled $500,000.

Aris and her husband, Pierre, sued Applebaum in January 2013, seeking $4.3 million. The case was put on a fast track for trial due to the age of both parties.

Plaintiffs case: The couple claimed Applebaum’s car hit her, causing her to fall. Aris testified at the seven-day trial that her memory was affected by the accident and she is permanently disabled. Crying and emotional, her daughter and a family friend testified Aris had changed and would never be the same.

Also taking the stand were the responding police officer and two paramedics, who testified about what they observed at the scene of the accident. Aris’ treating physician, Dr. Jonathan Jagid, a Jackson emergency room doctor, testified about how traumatic the injury was and her recovery. Dr. Sally Kolitz-Russell, a Miami neuropsychologist, testified Aris’ functional impairment was severe with memory loss and deficits to her executive functioning ability. Dr. Robert Kagan, a Fort Lauderdale neuro-radiologist, testified about severe structural damage to Aris’ brain from the accident.

Defense case: The defense called Applebaum to the stand, who testified Aris walked into the side of her car because she wasn’t paying attention, lost her balance and fell. Defense lawyers noted Aris had no orthopedic injuries, which was inconsistent with being hit by a car. Her only injuries were from hitting her head on the pavement, they argued.

The defense also called Dr. Richard Hamilton, a Miami neuropsychologist, who testified that while Aris suffered structural damage to her brain, it wouldn’t have a substantial effect on her daily functions for the rest of her life.

Outcome: Jurors deliberated for two hours before ruling Applebaum was not negligent.

Comments: “I thought it was a fair verdict,” Weiss said. “It’s an unfortunate situation, and the plaintiff suffered a real injury, and everyone is really sympathetic. But our driver didn’t do anything wrong.”

Post-settlement: Plaintiffs have filed a renewed motion for a directed verdict, a motion for judgment notwithstanding the verdict and a motion for a new trial.