A worker who fractured several vertebrae in an on-the-job fall was awarded $7.68 million on Jan. 15 in Schultz v. Atlas Homes LLC.

The jury’s apportionment of some liability to the plaintiff reduced the sum, though the plaintiff now is seeking interest, fees and costs.

According to the plaintiff’s lawyer and electronic court documents, on April 27, 2015, plaintiff Duane Schultz was working at a residential construction site in Spotswood for a subcontractor to defendant Atlas Homes, the North Brunswick-based builder that owned the property and the general contractor at the site. While working on the second floor, Schultz fell backwards off the building, about 20 feet, said Schultz’s lawyer, James Pagliuca of Gill & Chamas in Woodbridge.

Schultz was hospitalized with three total vertebral fractures at the thoracic and lumbar levels and four rib fractures, and underwent a three-level fusion with the implantation of rods and screws, Pagliuca said.

The suit named Atlas and its owner, Arthur Lauri II. It claimed that the defendants violated Occupational Safety and Health Administration standards by failing to use fall-protection measures and temporary railings at the site. The defendants contended that the plaintiff’s own negligence contributed to the fall, and contended that it was the subcontractor’s responsibility to ensure the use of worker safety measures, according to documents.

After a six-day trial before Middlesex County Superior Court Judge Lisa Vignuolo, the seven-member jury attributed 85 percent of the fault to the defendants and 15 percent to Schultz, and awarded $7.5 million in non-economic damages. The judge added $177,709 in past medical expenses. Schultz’s liability reduced the verdict to $6.53 million.

A proposed order of judgment filed by Pagliuca on Jan. 17 seeks $697,305 in prejudgment interest, as well as attorney fees and costs, based on the offer-of-judgment rule because the verdict was more than 20 percent higher than a $1 million offer of judgment made by the plaintiff in 2016, according to documents.

The defendants were covered by Cumberland Mutual Fire Insurance Co. and defended at trial by William Bloom of Methfessel & Werbel in Edison. Bloom didn’t return a call about the case.

Pagliuca handled the case along with Andrew Chambarry of the same firm.

— David Gialanella

$925K in Drunk Driver v. Morotcycle Case

Pruscino v. Harshaney Jr.: A husband and wife whose motorcycle was struck by a drunken driver agreed to a $925,000 settlement in a personal injury case that was resolved pre-suit.

According to a police report and the plaintiffs’ attorney, Claudio Pruscino and his wife, Carol, were riding north on Lloyd Road in Aberdeen on June 6, 2018, when a Ford pickup truck driven by Charles Harshaney Jr. failed to yield when making a left turn. Harshaney, 65, of Dunellen, was an employee of Lochiatto Paving & Masonry, and the vehicle was registered to Vito Lochiatto.

Both Pruscinos were thrown from the motorcycle and complained of pain and head trauma. Claudio Pruscino, who was driving, had visible facial injuries and abrasions to his right arm. He underwent surgery with hardware for a fractured pelvis and for a fractured second toe. He also suffered multiple fractured ribs and traumatic rupture of the urethra, according to the couple’s attorney, Adam Epstein of Mazie, Slater, Katz and Freeman in Roseland.

Carol Pruscino complained of pain to her right leg and arm. She suffered a fracture to the right hand and extensive lacerations and contusions.

Harshaney was charged with driving while intoxicated, reckless driving and failure to yield the right of way. The Pruscinos made a claim on the $1 million auto and commercial policy for Lochiatto Paving and Masonry with United Fire Group of Cedar Rapids, Iowa. On Dec. 17, 2018, the Pruscinos agreed to accept $925,000 to resolve their claim, Epstein said.

An adjuster who worked on the case would not comment on the settlement. United Fire Group did not respond to a call about the case.

— Charles Toutant