In Coppola v. Yabon, a man involved in a crash while he was trying to avoid a car stopped on the New Jersey Turnpike was awarded $2.5 million on his under-insured motorist claim on March 9.
Shortly before 11 p.m. on Feb. 6, 2015, John Coppola was headed southbound from his Manhattan job to his Howell home, driving in the left lane, where a vehicle was stopped with no lights or flashers on. Coppola didn’t see the stopped vehicle until he was about 30 feet away, and tried to swerve away but struck the vehicle, sending his vehicle to the center lane, where he was struck by another motorist, Dr. Bruce Aronwald, according to Coppola’s counsel, Kathleen DiGiovanni of Levinson Axlerod in Howell.
Coppola, currently 47, sustained multiple fractures to his hip, requiring emergency surgery involving implantation of four plates and 13 screws, according to DiGiovanni. The suit claimed that Coppola will need a total hip replacement in the near future, and a revision surgery later in life, she said.
The suit named the operator of the vehicle stopped on the highway, Shaniya Yabon, and Aronwald. Yabon settled previously, and Coppola lodged an under-insured motorist claim against her carrier, Allstate. The UIM claim and claim against Aronwald went to trial.
At a four-day trial before Monmouth County Superior Court Judge Owen McCarthy, Allstate, standing in Yabon’s shoes, contended that the accident was caused by Coppola’s own negligence, as well as Aronwald’s, according to DiGiovanni. The jury found Yabon 100 percent at fault for the accident, apportioned no liability to Coppola or Aronwald, and awarded $2.5 million for pain and suffering. The six-member jury was unanimous on everything but the finding of no fault against Coppola, which was a 5-1 vote, DiGiovanni noted.
Aronwald’s counsel, Robert Borrelle of Schwab Haddix & Millman in Mount Laurel, confirmed the verdict.
Allstate’s counsel, Fred Regenye of the Westfield office of Kenneth Lipstein, didn’t return a call about the case.
— David Gialanella
Livery Passenger Gets $1.5M
Callaghan v. Hub Group: A Franklin Township man will receive $1.5 million as compensation for injuries he sustained when the hired car in which he was traveling collided with a guardrail.
Plaintiff Steven Callaghan, now 51, agreed to the settlement on March 5 with Knight Insurance Group, the carrier for defendant Hub Group Inc. and its employee, Zabeer Shah, said Callaghan’s attorney, Nicholas Leonardis.
The settlement came as the case was set to go to trial before Middlesex County Superior Court Judge Jamie Happas, said Leonardis, of Edison’s Stathis & Leonardis.
Callaghan was injured on Feb. 5, 2014. He was a passenger in a livery car owned by Hub Group and driven by Shah, according to Leonardis.
According to the lawsuit, there were snowy conditions at the time, and the roads were covered. Shah, Leonardis said, was driving on the New Jersey Turnpike at about 60 miles per hour. The lawsuit alleged that Callaghan repeatedly told Shah to slow down due to the dangerous road conditions.
Shah, Leonardis said, lost control of the car, which crashed into the guardrail.
As a result of the accident, Callaghan sustained a lumbar disc herniation that required a discectomy. He also sustained a left rotator cuff tear that required surgery, and a tear in the left knee miniscus that required surgery, Leonardis said.
Knight retained Asher Chancey of Goldberg Segalla in Philadelphia. He did not return a call seeking comment.
— Michael Booth
$900K For Paper Shredder Injury
Urgovitch v. Shred Tech: A man whose right foot was partly amputated after he attempted to clear a jammed commercial paper shredder agreed to a $900,000 settlement in his Passaic County suit on Feb. 28.
Frank Urgovitch, an employee of a company that sent a paper shredding truck to clients’ sites, was injured on May 22, 2015, when he was operating a shredding machine sold by Shred Tech of Cambridge, Ontario, Canada.
Urgovitch was inside the cargo area of his employer’s truck, operating the shredder, when some large engineering drawings caused the machine’s hopper to become jammed. Urgovitch climbed into the hopper—while the shredding device was operating—with the intention of standing on the jammed paper to free the clog. But his foot slipped and got pulled into the teeth of the shredder, said plaintiff attorney Andrew Rossetti of Rossetti & DeVoto in Cherry Hill. Urgovitch’s co-worker heard his screams and hit an emergency shutoff button to stop the shredder before his entire leg was pulled in to the machine, Rossetti said.
Urgovitch and his co-worker later said they had climbed into the hopper many times in the past to clear it, and were told by the company to do so, although representatives of his employer disputed that, Rossetti said. After the machine that Urgovitch was using was manufactured, but before his injury, Shred-Tech began installing barrier guards that would prevent such accidents, Rossetti said. Shred-Tech also recalled some of its older machines for installation of barrier guards, but only for its three largest customers and not for the machine bought by Urgovitch’s employer, according to Rossetti.
Urgovitch lost all five toes on his right foot in the accident, and surgeons amputated an additional half-inch portion of his foot beyond the toe line, said Rossetti.
Urgovitch is unable to continue at his job with the shredding company and is receiving disability benefits. He has a limp at times but is generally able to walk normally, Rossetti said.
Rossetti filed a products liability suit against Shred-Tech under a foreseeable misuse theory pursuant to the New Jersey Supreme Court’s 1993 ruling in Jurado v. Western Gear Works. The parties held a mediation with former Appellate Division judge John Keefe Sr., with the Keefe Law Firm in Red Bank.
Shred-Tech was insured by Zurich and represented by John Goworek of Cascio & Capotorto in Parsippany, who did not return a call about the case.
— Charles Toutant