siren Credit: ArtOlympic/

A jury in federal court in Newark awarded $2.17 million on May 2 to nine former Jersey City police sergeants who claimed they were denied promotions due to violations of the First Amendment and the New Jersey Law Against Discrimination.

In Montone v. City of Jersey City, plaintiff Valerie Montone claimed in a suit that the police department would not promote any sergeants to the rank of lieutenant from November 2004 to July 2006 because she was on the promotion list and the police chief did not want to promote her.

Montone claimed she was denied a promotion because she supported the mayoral candidacy of Lou Manzo in the 2004 general election. Manzo lost the mayoral election to Jerramiah Healy, who appointed Robert Troy as police chief, a position Troy held until his retirement in July  2006.  Montone asserted that Troy refused to promote her because of her support of Manzo, because she had prevailed in a prior sexual harassment complaint against the police department and because she assisted another female officer in bringing her own sexual harassment claim against supervisors in the department.

Montone filed her suit in 2005 bringing claims under the First Amendment and the New Jersey Law Against Discrimination. The city, Healy and Troy were defendants. Eight other sergeants who were also on the promotion list at the same time filed a separate suit in 2006, claiming they also were hurt by the defacto moratorium on promotions. The cases were consolidated for trial, but the complaint was initially dismissed. Then the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit reinstated the First Amendment claim and the Appellate Division of Superior Court reinstated the LAD claim.

After a seven-day trial before U.S. District Judge Stanley Chesler, the jury awarded $276,834 in economic damages to Montone. The other eight plaintiffsJohn Astriab, Clyde Banks, James Buckley, William Cullinane, Richard DeStefano, David LaBruno, Ezio Scerbo and John Whaleneach received awards ranging from $19,390 to $299,370.

Jon Green and Laura LoGiudice of Green Savits in Florham Park represented Montone, along with Lisa Manshel, also of Florham Park. Susan Fellman of Breuninger & Fellman in Scotch Plains represented the eight other plaintiffs.

Domenick Carmagnola of Carmagnola & Ritardi in Morristown, who represented Troy, and Richard Gantner of Cleary Giacobbe Alfieri Jacobs in Oakland, who represented the city and Healy, did not return calls about the case.

— Charles Toutant

$1.6 Million for Auto-Truck Accident

Kasar v. Binder Machinery Co.: A former dental hygienist will receive $1.6 million as compensation for injuries she sustained when her car was struck by a tractor-trailer.

Plaintiff Michell Kasar, 38, of Piscataway, agreed to the settlement June 14 with the Hartford Insurance Co., the carrier for defendant Binder Machinery Co., after mediation before retired Superior Court Judge Mark Epstein, who is now with New Brunswick’s Hoagland, Longo, Moran, Dunst & Doukas, said her attorney, Harold Parra.

Kasar was injured on Aug. 6, 2014, as she was driving south on Interstate 287 in Somerville, said Parra, of Cahn & Parra in Edison.

Kasar’s vehicle was struck from behind by a tractor-trailer owned by Binder Machinery Co. of Cedar Brook and driven by an employee, William Desantis, Parra said. The impact, Parra said, forced Kasar’s vehicle into the rear of another car driven by Kanhubai Patel of Edison.

Kasar sustained cervical spine injuries that required a fusion, a discectomy, rehabilitation and physical therapy. She has not been able to return to work, Parra said.

Hartford retained Matthew Mahoney, of the law office of Linda Bauman in East Windsor. He did not return a call seeking comment.

$1.125 Million for Rear-Ender

Uppaluri v. Ivyland Construction Co.: A driver who suffered a neck injury when her car was rear-ended by a dump truck agreed to a $1.125 million settlement of her Middlesex County suit on June 4.

Surekha Uppaluri was stopped for a traffic signal on southbound Route 1 in West Windsor in August 2015 when her car was struck in the rear by a loaded, tri-axle dump truck owned by Ivyland Construction Co. The truck driver alleged that Uppaluri cut in front of the truck and then abruptly stopped for a yellow traffic signal without leaving enough room for the truck to stop, said plaintiff’s lawyer Edward Rebenack of Rebenack, Aronow & Mascolo in Somerville.

Uppaluri denied changing lanes before the crash. She was issued a summons for careless driving but it was later dismissed, said Rebenack.

Uppaluri suffered neck and back injuries and had lumbar and cervical epidural injections. But the neck symptoms continued, and she later underwent cervical fusion surgery at two levels.

Uppaluri was granted an order for partial summary judgment, finding it breached its duty of care when it hired the driver of the truck. Evidence produced by Uppaluri showed the driver had a criminal history, traffic violations and evidence of aggressive behavior at previous jobs, Rebenack said. However, the issues of causation and damages were left for trial.

Rebenack was assisted by Tyler Hall, also of Rebenack, Aronow & Mascolo.

Toni Ann De Gennaro of Juengling & Urciuoli, of Woodbridge, who represented Ivyland, did not return a call about the case.

— Charles Toutant