A former competitive skier who slipped and fell in a hotel lobby agreed to a $4.75 million settlement in her Middlesex County suit, Dembitzky v. Hampton Inn Woodbridge, which was approved last Dec. 18.
When plaintiff Julie Dembitzky of Mirror Lake, New Hampshire, stepped off an elevator at the Hampton Inn in Woodbridge on March 26, 2015, the floor was wet, and she fell and landed on her right knee. Dembitzky was born without a left leg, and her prosthetic leg was broken when she fell. She suffered no broken bones but was diagnosed with a permanent injury to the articular cartilage of the right knee, requiring three surgical procedures, the suit claimed.
As a result of the injury, she is now limited in her ability to perform certain maneuvers that allowed her to get around her home and office without her artificial leg, which cannot be worn 24 hours per day, said her attorney, James Martin of Martin, Kane & Kuper in East Brunswick. She also has difficulty walking, standing, retaining her balance and negotiating stairs or uneven surfaces, Martin said. And she is no longer able to ski from a standing position and is learning to master “sit-skiing,” according to Martin.
Dembitzky, now 50, is a former member of the U.S. Paralympian Ski Team, who competed in downhill and slalom events and won three gold medals during her late teens, Martin said.
Dembitsky worked as a software trainer at the time of the accident, but her employer dismissed her after the injury because she could not travel, according to Martin. She took a new job that allowed her to work from home, but which paid less and provides no benefits, he said.
An employee at the hotel mopped the floor in front of the elevator shortly before the accident, and placed signs warning of the wet floor, but not in a position where they would be seen by people getting off the elevator, the suit claimed.
Dembitzky filed suit against Hampton Inn Woodbridge, Delco Development and Woodbridge Hotel Investors.
The hotel defendants claimed that warning signs were set up near the elevator that were sufficient to warn people stepping out of the elevator of a hazard, according to Martin. The defendants also said Dembitzky was not sufficiently cautious when stepping off the elevator, he said.
The parties agreed to the $4.75 million settlement on the eve of trial in November 2018. On Dec. 18, Superior Court Judge Jamie Happas approved the settlement, which included $1.5 million that was placed in a structured settlement to help the plaintiff pay for the periodic replacement of her prosthetic leg, according to Martin.
The defendants paid the cash portion of the settlement on Jan. 5, 2019.
Lynn Hershkovits-Goldberg of Viscomi & Lyons in Morristown, who represented the defendants, declined to comment on the case.
— Charles Toutant
Bergen County Auto Case Settles for $1.35M
Nuñez v. Katz: A suit involving a woman who underwent two spinal operations after a motor vehicle accident settled for $1.35 million on Jan. 9.
The case was scheduled to start trial in Bergen County Superior Court on Feb. 4.
The suit claimed that on Sept. 29, 2014, plaintiff Luz A. Nuñez was driving on West Century Road in Paramus when her car was struck by a vehicle owned and driven by Mordecai D. Katz. Katz attempted to make a left turn in front of Nunez when the two vehicles collided, according to Nunez’s attorney Jeffrey Hasson, who heads a firm in Teaneck.
Nuñez suffered multilevel disc bulges to her neck and a disc herniation to her lower back as a result of the impact, she claimed. She received three rounds of injections to her upper and lower back, and underwent a laminectomy and foraminotomy, both decompression surgeries, in her lower back, Hasson said. The plaintiff also later underwent lumbar fusion surgery with plates and screws implanted in her spine, he said.
Nuñez, 42, a customer service representative at the time of the accident, attempted to return to work but was unable to due to her injuries, according to Hasson, who handled the case along with Antonio D. Arthurs of his firm. Arthurs confirmed details of the case in a phone call.
Rey Villanueva of Golden, Rothschild, Spagnola, Lundell, Boylan & Garubo in Bridgewater represented Katz. He did not return calls about the case.
— Suzette Parmley