A foreman for a plumbing, heating and air conditioning company who was seriously injured in a job site fall agreed to a $5.35 million settlement in his Middlesex County suit, Ward v. Aurolife Pharma, on March 16.

Brian Ward, now 60, was working at Aurolife Pharma USA in Dayton on Sept. 3, 2014, when he plunged 20 feet through a mezzanine onto the floor below. Ward was installing industrial equipment at the facility when he fell through an unguarded, 6-by-6-foot hole in the mezzanine floor, the suit alleged.

Ward fractured his pelvis, requiring implantation of a plate and screws. He also had fractures of the lumbar spine, ribs and left foot, and sustained a traumatic brain injury. He now walks with a limp and has been unable to return to his job as a construction foreman, and his lost wage claim was roughly $1 million, said plaintiff lawyer Barry Eichen of Eichen Crutchlow Zaslow in Edison.

Eichen said Aurolife Pharma, a drug manufacturer, was in charge of the hiring of subcontractors. Aurolife and general contractor MWK & Co. each claimed the other was responsible for safety on the site, including providing protective measures around the open hole, according to Eichen. The defendants also argued that Ward was responsible for his own safety and was negligent because he had been on the mezzanine 10 times prior and was aware of the unsafe condition of the unprotected hole, said Eichen, who was assisted by Christopher Conrad of his firm.

The settlement calls for Aurolife Pharma to pay $4 million, while MWK agreed to pay $850,000, and TriSteel Fabricators will pay $500,000.

Aurolife Pharma was represented by Randy Faust of Faust, Goetz, Schenker & Blee in Livingston.

MWK & Co. was represented by Michael Marrone of McElroy, Deutsch, Mulvaney & Carpenter in Morristown.

Tri-Steel Fabricators was represented by Kristin Vizzone of Stephen Gertle‘s office in Wall.

Faust, Marrone and Vizzone did not return calls about the case.

— Charles Toutant

$2.85M for City Worker’s Injury

Pridgen v. City of Elizabeth: A former employee of the city of Elizabeth, who was injured when the street sweeper he was operating allegedly malfunctioned, will receive $2.85 million as compensation in his Union County suit.

The plaintiff, Jerry Pridgen, who lives in Elizabeth, agreed to the settlements with four defendants on March 19 after mediation with Robert Margulies of Margulies Wind in Jersey City, said Pridgen’s attorney, Edward Capozzi.

Pridgen was injured on May 8, 2013, as he was operating a 2005 Johnson MX450 street sweeper on South Street in Elizabeth, according to Capozzi, of Brach Eichler in Roseland. A rear hopper, which Pridgen did not see, was locked in the raised position. The street sweeper struck a train overpass, and Pridgen was ejected from the machine, Capozzi said.

As a result of the accident, Pridgen sustain a traumatic brain injury with hemorrhaging, a skull base fracture, a right orbital fracture, multiple spinal fractures and a transverse process fracture, Capozzi said.

Pridgen, after being released from a hospital, was sent to a physical rehabilitation facility, Capozzi said.

Following the accident, a city employee wrote a memo indicating that the street sweeper likely malfunctioned as it was equipped with a limit switch that should have prevented the sweeper from moving forward or in reverse with the hopper raised, Capozzi said. The city then retained an expert who inspected the sweeper and determined that the sweeper had malfunctioned, Capozzi said.

The lawsuit alleged that after the inspection, the city sold the street sweeper for scrap and additionally sold a second, identical street sweeper for scrap prior to allowing the plaintiff or any other parties inspect the machines, Capozzi said.

Pridgen brought product liability claims against the manufacturer, Global Environmental Products Inc. of Canada; the distributer, U.S. Municipal Supply Inc. of Huntingdon, Pennsylvania.; and Johnston North America Inc. of Mooresville, North Carolina, whose name appeared on the street sweeper. The plaintiff also brought claims against the city for spoliation, fraudulent concealment and an intentional wrong claim.

The city agreed to pay $1.65 million in damages, and an unidentified carrier added $500,000, Capozzi said. Global Environmental’s carrier, Travelers Insurance Co., agreed to pay $650,000. Earlier, U.S. Municipal Supply’s carrier, Penn National Insurance Co., agreed to pay $25,000. Johnston’s carrier, which was not identified, paid another $25,000.

A workers’ compensation lien of $268,000 was waived.

The city and its carrier retained Robert Varady of La Corte, Bundy, Varady & Kinsella in Union. Travelers retained Lisa Marie DeRogatis of the Morristown office of William Staehle to represent Global Environmental. Jerald Oleske of Oleske & Oleske in Stirling represented U.S. Municipal Supply. Peter Oliver of New Brunswick’s Hoagland, Longo, Moran, Dunst & Doukas represented Johnston.

Oleske confirmed the amount of his client’s settlement. The others did not return phone calls seeking comment.

Corey Dietz, also of Brach Eichler, assisted with the representation of Pridgen.

— Michael Booth