An Ocean County Superior Court judge on Feb. 22 approved a $2.7 million settlement for a student injured in a school bus accident, and for the student’s sister for witnessing the injury, in M.P., as guardian ad litem for D.P. and A.P. v. Toms River Schools Board of Education.

On Oct. 18, 20016, D.P., who was 8 years old, and A.P., who was 10 years old, were passengers on a school bus driven by Jody Simone and owned by the Toms River Board of Education. The bus was stopped on New Hampshire Avenue in Toms River, preparing to make a left turn into North Dover Elementary School, and when it made the turn, the bus collided with an oncoming car, said the plaintiffs’ lawyer, Norman Hobbie of Hobbie, Corrigan & DeCarlo in Eatontown.

Named as defendants in the suit were the board of education, Simone, and Austin Tobin, the driver of the other vehicle.

D.P., who had cochlear ear implants, sustained a closed-head injury that required replacement and repair surgeries for those implants and led to bilateral hearing loss and headaches, Hobbie said. A.P. asserted a claim under Portee v. Jaffe based on witnessing her brother’s injury.

Tobin previously agreed to tender his full $100,000 policy.

The parties had completed discovery and were approaching trial when the school district and the plaintiffs settled on Feb. 4 for $2.6 million, during mediation with Thomas O’Brien of Bathgate, Wegener & Wolf in Lakewood, a retired Ocean County Superior Court judge.

Ocean County Superior Court Judge Arnold Goldman approved the settlement on Feb. 22, according to court documents. The order provides for a $2.45 million award to D.P. and a $250,000 award to A.P., minus fees and costs of about $651,000 for Hobbie Corrigan. though the firm waived its fee in connection with A.P.’s Portee claim, the order said. Most of the net recovery is to be used to purchase annuities for the minor plaintiffs, according to the order.

The $2.6 million sum plus the $100,000 provided by Tobin pushes the gross recovery to $2.7 million.

Michael Kelly of Ronan, Tuzzio & Giannone in Tinton Falls, counsel to Tobin, confirmed that his client paid his policy limit in his portion of the settlement.

Ronald Pruseck of Carluccio, Leone, Dimon, Doyle & Sacks in Toms River, counsel to the school district, didn’t return a call about the case.

— David Gialanella

$626K Auto Verdict in Middlesex

Catena v. Borrelli: A Middlesex County jury reached a verdict on Feb. 7 awarding an Edison man $626,300 in damages from injuries stemming from a 2016 car crash.

According to the plaintiff’s lawyer, Michael Fusco of Levinson Axelrod in Edison, the lawsuit stems from a head-on motor vehicle collision in Monroe Township on June 21, 2016. The 54-year-old plaintiff Michael Catena was a passenger in his girlfriend’s car, which was hit by another vehicle attempting to make a left turn. Borrelli was previously determined to be at fault for the accident, Fusco said.

Catena sustained injuries to his neck, back and right knee, and underwent numerous treatments. His doctor had recommended surgeries, but Catena had exhausted the benefits on his auto insurance policy and could not pay for them until the award was handed up, according to Fusco.

The jury reached its verdict after three hours of deliberation and four days of trial in Middlesex County Superior court Judge Thomas D. McCloskey‘s courtroom.

The jury’s award included $26,300 for unpaid medical bills, $250,000 for pain & suffering, and $350,000 for future medical expenses, according to the Feb. 22 judgment order signed by McCloskey.

Mary Lou Dennis-Suckow of the Law Offices of Pamela Hargrove in Cranford represented Borrelli and did not return a call seeking comment.

— P.J. D’Annunzio