In Gosselin vs. PVSC Sewerage Commission, a former employee of a contractor for the Passaic Valley Sewerage Commission is to receive $2.28 million as compensation for burn injuries he sustained when he was struck by an electrical arc.
Plaintiff Ronald Gosselin, now 57, of Meriden, Connecticut, and the commission agreed to the settlement on Oct. 4, said Gosselin’s attorney, Stephen Sullivan Jr.
The lawsuit originally had been filed in Essex County Superior Court but was removed to federal court because of party diversity, said Sullivan, of the Keefe Law Firm in Red Bank.
Gosselin was injured on May 5, 2014, while working at a commission facility in Newark, according to Sullivan.
At the time of the accident, Gosselin was employed by a contractor for the commission, High Voltage Maintenance Corp. Gosselin was standing on a mechanical lift and preparing to clean insulators when an electrical arc of 138,000 volts struck him and engulfed him in flames, Sullivan said.
Gosselin’s co-workers used fire extinguishers to put out the fire to his body, but he suffered second- and third-degree burns to at least 47 percent of his body, primarily to the left side, shoulder and elbow, Sullivan said. Gosselin sustained severe, disfiguring and permanent injuries and scarring; experiences daily, disabling pain; and will need medical care for the remainder of his life, Sullivan said.
According to Sullivan, the case had not been scheduled for trial and settled after mediation with Patricia Costello of West Orange’s Chiesa Shahinian & Giantomasi, a retired New Jersey Superior Court judge.
The commission retained James Dronzek of Chasan Lamparello Mallon & Cappuzzo in Secaucus. He declined to comment.
— Michael Booth
$1.5M Settlement in Dram Shop Case
Soto v. 8th Avenue Ventures: The estate of a woman killed in a drunken-driving crash agreed to a $1.5 million settlement in a Monmouth County dram shop suit on Sept. 26.
Tiffany Soto, 26, died on April 20, 2014, after she was ejected from her car in a collision and thrown into the Shark River in Belmar. The accident occurred after she and her boyfriend, Edwin Martinez, then 24, left the Connolly Station Restaurant and Tavern in Belmar. The suit claimed Martinez, who was driving, was served drinks at the bar even though he was visibly intoxicated.
As Soto and Martinez were leaving the bar, he got into a fight with other patrons, and broke their car window with a tire iron, before the two left in Soto’s car, with Martinez driving, said the estate’s lawyer, Kathleen DiGiovanni of Levinson Axelrod in Howell.
After driving a block away, Martinez collided with another car at an intersection. His car struck a curb and utility pole and jumped over an embankment before it flipped onto its roof in a parking lot. Soto, who was not wearing a seat belt, was ejected from the vehicle and thrown into the Shark River. She died, with the cause listed as drowning and blunt force head trauma, according to DiGiovanni.
Martinez had a blood-alcohol concentration of .207, more than twice the legal limit for driving, when his blood was taken at a hospital two hours after the crash, DiGiovanni said. He pleaded guilty to vehicular homicide and drunken driving.
Soto’s estate sued 8th Avenue Ventures, Connolly Station’s corporate entity, for negligently serving Martinez after he was visibly intoxicated, citing as evidence eyewitness accounts of Martinez’s behavior, security video from the bar, and his blood-alcohol level.
Lawyers for the bar maintained that Soto’s failure to wear a seat belt contributed to her death, and that any conscious suffering she experienced was minimal, according to DiGiovanni.
The bar agreed to pay $1.5 million following mediation with former Superior Court Judge John Keefe, now with the Keefe Law Firm in Red Bank.
Daniel McMeen of Golden Rothschild Spagnola Lundell Boylan & Garubo in Bridgewater. who represented Connolly Station, did not return a call about the case.
DiGiovanni represented the estate along with Mark Kaminski, also with Levinson Axelrod.
— Charles Toutant
$400K in Auto Case vs. Fire Dept.
Edman-Sutton v. City of Newark: An Essex County jury awarded $400,000 on Sept. 25 to a woman struck by a fire department vehicle while driving in Newark.
The accident occurred on April 23, 2015, when Hajeema Edman-Sutton was driving east on Varsity Road, through the intersection with Sanford Avenue. Jihaad North, a community relations officer for the Newark Fire Department, was driving a marked department sedan north on Sanford through the intersection and struck Edman-Sutton’s vehicle on the driver’s side rear quarter panel, causing her vehicle to skid and strike a utility pole, according to her lawyer, Richard Reinartz of the Reinartz Law Firm in Hackensack.
Each driver claimed to have a green light. The suit claimed North at the time of the collision was pursuing another vehicle that had bumped him at a different intersection, was not authorized to be in pursuit, and was not using his siren or lights. The defense challenged the extent of Edman-Sutton’s claimed injuries, Reinartz said. The suit claimed North was speeding and was acting outside the scope of his duty at the time of the accident.
Edman-Sutton, currently 31 and a single mother, sustained disc herniations at the cervical and lumbar level, which were treated with chiropractic care and two epidural injections, she claimed. At the time of the accident, she was training to be a physician’s assistant, and has since graduated and begun working, according to Reinartz, who noted that the suit included no claim for lost wages.
The suit named the city, the department and North. Following seven trial days, including jury selection, before Essex County Superior Court Judge Garry Furnari, the six-member jury found unanimously in Edman-Sutton’s favor on liability and causation, and by a 5-1 vote awarded $400,000, all for pain and suffering, according to Reinartz.
Newark Assistant Corporation Counsel Steven Olivo represented the defendants at trial. Reached by phone, he deferred comment to First Assistant Corporation Counsel Avion Benjamin, who didn’t return a call about the case.
— David Gialanella