A man who needed spinal surgery after he fell on an apartment building stairway agreed to a $1.4 million settlement in his Union County suit, Hawkins v. Chelsea Estates, on Jan. 2.
Todd Hawkins, now 49, was visiting his father at the Chelsea Estates apartment complex in Elizabeth on March 8, 2015, when the concrete stairway broke apart under his foot, causing him to fall forward and down 10 steps to the ground below. Hawkins suffered lumbar disc herniations at L3-4 and L4-5, requiring lumbar spinal fusion surgery. He also had a right shoulder rotator cuff tear, requiring arthroscopic surgery, the suit claimed.
The concrete stairway was built in the 1950s and was in poor condition at the time of the accident, said the plaintiff’s lawyer, Nicholas Leonardis of Stathis & Leonardis in Edison. Chelsea Estates Apartments, which owned the property, and Community Property Management, which was under contract to provide maintenance, were the defendants.
Discovery revealed that the superintendent of the property reported the deteriorating stairway to the property manager, but nothing was done to make repairs before the accident, according to Leonardis. The defendants asserted that the plaintiff’s injuries were pre-existing and unrelated to his fall, according to Leonardis.
The settlement, calling for Chelsea Estates Apartments and Community Property Management to pay $1.4 million, was reached during a trial before Superior Court Judge Robert Mega.
The defendants were represented by Lori Brown-Sternback of Methfessel & Werbel in Edison. She did not return a call about the case.
— Charles Toutant
$1 Million for UIM Claim in Morris
Katchen v. Farmers Insurance of Flemington: A motorcyclist injured in an accident was paid the majority of a $1 million settlement from his under-insured motorist action in early January.
In December 2015, Robert Katchen, currently 48, was riding eastbound on Route 46 in Budd Lake when a motorist coming from the opposite direction, Anthony Yanakas, turned left in front of him, leading to a collision.
Katchen, a self-employed electrician who was on his way to do an estimate at the time, sustained fractures to his left femur, left tibia, right wrist, face, and transverse process at the cervical level, all of which required surgeries, said his lawyer, David Fried of Blume Forte Fried Zerres & Molinari in Chatham.
Yanakas would ultimately pay Katchen $25,000, the limit of his Allstate policy, Fried said.
Katchen lodged under-insured motorist claims against his motorcycle insurer, Rider Insurance, his personal auto carrier, GEICO, and Farmers Insurance of Flemington, the carrier for his business.
GEICO moved for summary judgment, contending that its policy excluded motorcycles, which Rider and Farmers opposed. Morris County Superior Court Judge Maryann Nergaard denied the motion, holding that the GEICO policy covered the accident. GEICO filed an appeal, which remained pending as of Feb. 13.
The parties settled during discovery, last Nov. 15, with the insurers agreeing to pay a total of $975,000—representing a $1 million settlement less the $25,000 already paid by Allstate on behalf of Yanakas. Each carrier agreed to pay a share of the sum based on the size of each one’s policy limit. Farmers agreed to pay $722,183; and Rider, $72,248. GEICO agreed to pay $180,570, pending the result of its appeal. If the ruling below is affirmed, GEICO will be responsible for that sum; if it is reversed, the $180,570 sum will be paid by Rider and Farmers, according to Fried.
Farmers’ and Rider’s share, totaling $819,430, as well as the $25,000 from Allstate, already has been paid, with the remainder to be paid when the appeal is resolved, Fried said.
Florham Park solo Murray Klayman, for Farmers, confirmed the settlement.
William Vaughan of Kriney & Vaughan in Springfield, for Rider, declined to comment.
Darren Kayal of Rudolph & Kayal in Manasquan, for GEICO, didn’t return a call about the case.
— David Gialanella
Sewer Worker Gets $950K in Cumberland
Perry v. Wolbert: A former employee of the city of Bridgeton will receive $950,000 in his Cumberland County suit as compensation for injuries he sustained when he was struck by a car while on the job.
On Jan. 30, plaintiff Wayne Perry, currently 51 and a Bridgeton resident, agreed to the settlement with State Farm Insurance Co., the carrier for defendant John Wolbert, also of Bridgeton, said Perry’s attorney, John Borbi.
Perry was injured on Aug. 25, 2014, while working for the Bridgeton Department of Public Works at a job site on Pearl Street in the city, said Borbi, of Marlton’s Borbi, Clancy & Patrizi.
Perry was working to repair a sewer main within a marked-off work zone when he was struck by Wolbert’s car, which breached the work zone, according to Borbi.
As a result of the accident, Perry sustained multiple lower leg fractures, which required an open reduction and internal fixation, Borbi said.
Perry continues to suffer from ongoing pain and limitations with the use of his leg, and was placed on disability retirement, Borbi said.
The lawsuit, which was scheduled to go to trial on Feb. 5, was resolved after a conference with Superior Court Judge Mark Cimino.
State Farm retained Catherine Mesiano of Hurvitz & Waldman in Pleasantville. She declined to comment.
— Michael Booth