A worker rendered paraplegic after falling off a scaffold at a construction site agreed to settle his Essex County suit, Criollo v. Clark Developers, for $8.225 million on Jan. 22.

Jose Criollo, then 46, was employed by Empire Home Improvements when he was working at a jobsite in Clark on Nov. 15, 2013. Criollo was working on a scaffolding tower when dust and debris from above fell into his eyes, causing him to take a step backward and fall to the ground below.

Criollo was diagnosed with a fractured spine at T12-T13, with a complete spinal cord injury. He underwent emergency surgery and remained hospitalized for more than a month, followed by four months in a rehabilitation facility, according to his attorneys, Michael Gallardo and John Ratkowitz of Ginarte Gallardo Gonzalez Winograd in Newark.

He alleged in his suit that Clark Developers, the controlling contractor on the site, breached acceptable standards of construction site safety by failing to have an accident-prevention plan, failing to appropriately train workers, failing to require workers to wear fall protection, and failing to arrange regular inspections of the scaffold by an OSHA-competent person. The scaffold was not fully planked, was missing guardrails and had no access ladder, according to the attorneys.

They said Clark Developers pursued a contract indemnification claim against Empire Home Improvement. After two mediation sessions with John Keefe Sr., a former Appellate Division with the Keefe Law Firm in Red Bank, the parties settled. Under the settlement, Clark Developers agreed to pay $7.275 million, and Empire’s payment was $950,000 for a total of $8.225 million.

Clark Developers was represented by Frank Kontely III of Hoagland, Longo, Moran, Dunst & Doukas in New Brunswick. Empire was represented by Anthony Pasquarelli of Sweet Pasquarelli , also in New Brunswick. Kontely and Pasquarelli did not return calls about the case.

—Charles Toutant

Auto Case Settles For $1M at Trial

Ottens v. Industrial Consulting Corp.: A Hawthorne woman will receive $1 million as compensation for injuries she sustained when her car was struck by another.

Plaintiff Mary Anne Ottens, now 58, agreed to the settlement with Selective Insurance Co., the carrier for defendant Ilenia Ladd, and her employer, Industrial Consulting Corp., on Feb. 14, during the second day of trial in Bergen County, said Ottens’ attorney, James Kimball.

Ottens was injured on Feb. 4, 2014, as she was driving on Van Winkle Avenue in Hawthorne, said Kimball, of Seigal Law in Ridgewood.

As Ottens stopped at a stop sign at Lincoln Avenue, her car was struck by a car driven by Ladd and owned by Industrial Consulting, Kimball said. Ladd’s car, he said, was unable to come to a stop because of ice on the roadway.

As a result of the accident, Ottens sustained cervical and lumbar injuries, which required her to undergo four surgeries, including fusions, Kimball said, adding that she still has ongoing pain and disabilities.

The lawsuit went to trial in Bergen County, but settled on the second day of testimony. Kimball said the defense had argued that Ladd drove properly under the circumstances, given the ice on the roadway.

Superior Court Judge Estela De La Cruz had been presiding over the trial.

Selective retained Jill Flynn of the East Hanover office of Zirulnik, Sherlock & DeMille. She did not return a call seeking comment.

— Michael Booth

$900K For Child Injured in Crash

Longland v. Robert  F. Nowicki: An Ocean County judge on Feb. 2 approved a $900,000 settlement reached on behalf of a boy who was injured as a backseat passenger in a vehicle rear-ended by a motorist who lost consciousness behind the wheel.

On the afternoon of April 8, 2013, Aiden Longland, then 4, was riding in a vehicle in Barnegat that was heading eastbound on West Bay Avenue and stopped at a red light at Barnegat Boulevard North. The vehicle was struck from behind by another motorist, Robert Nowicki, 77, causing a chain reaction that involved four total vehicles, said the Longland family’s attorney, Charles Kenny of LoPiano Kenny & Stinson in Hoboken.

Aiden sustained femur and tibia fractures that required surgery and implantation of hardware. Now 9, Aiden has recovered well but has some scarring and must avoid some contact sports, Kenny said.

The suit claimed negligence against Nowicki, who raised the “blackout doctrine” under Model Civil Jury Charge 5.30(e), contending that he was not liable for the crash because he lost consciousness, though the plaintiffs argued that Nowicki knew that his blood-pressure medication could make him drowsy, according to Kenny. Ocean County Superior Court Judge Mark Troncone denied the plaintiffs’ motion for summary judgment on liability, as well as a motion for reconsideration, Kenny said.

In late 2017, while the matter was scheduled for trial, the parties settled following conferences with Judge Craig Wellerson, the presiding civil judge in the Ocean vicinage. The $900,000 settlement is to be paid by Nowicki’s insurer, Allstate, Kenny noted.

Wellerson approved the settlement in a friendly hearing on Feb. 2.

John Prindiville of Sea Girt, counsel to Nowicki, didn’t return a call about the case.

— David Gialanella