In Cook-Stubbs v. Simon Property Group, a Monmouth County jury awarded $3.22 million on March 8 to a plaintiff who fell on an icy sidewalk at a shopping center. But the plaintiff’s recovery was reduced to $2.74 million because the jury concluded she should shoulder 15 percent of the fault for the fall.
Terry Cook-Stubbs, now 62, was visiting at the Jackson Premium Outlets in the course of her employment on Jan. 30, 2014, when she slipped and fell on an icy sidewalk and fractured her right hip. She was an employee of Zales Jewelers and was delivering signs to the company’s store in the center. Cook-Stubbs underwent surgery to implant three screws in her hip, but she experienced ongoing pain and was unable to return to work. She later had the screws removed and underwent a replacement of the hip joint, the suit claimed.
Cook-Stubbs sued the owner of the center, Jackson Premium Outlets and CPG Partners; Valor Security, and Able Building Maintenance. The suit claimed that Valor Security and Able Building Maintenance were obligated to look out for icy conditions and take action if any were found.
The defendants claimed that Cook-Stubbs’ pain and suffering were not caused by her accident but by a pre-existing arthritis condition, according to her attorney, Kimberly Gozsa of Levinson Axelrod in Edison.
Following a 20-day trial before Monmouth County Superior Court Judge Lourdes Lucas, the jury returned a verdict of $2.75 million for pain and suffering, plus $373,580 for lost wages and a $100,000 per quod award to her husband, Harry Stubbs, for a total of $3.22 million. The jury apportioned 51 percent of liability to Jackson Premium Outlets, 16 percent to Valor Security, 18 percent to Able Building Maintenance and 15 percent to the plaintiff. That set Cook-Stubbs’ and her husband’s recovery at $2.74 million.
Andrew Stern of Fishman McIntyre in East Hanover represented Jackson Premium Outlets, CPG Partners and Valor Security. Richard Connors Jr. of Tompkins McGuire Wachenfeld & Barry in Roseland represented Able Building Maintenance. They did not return calls about the case.
— Charles Toutant
$724,000 Verdict in Phantom Truck Case
Rubury v. Liberty Mutual: A man whose vehicle was driven off the road by an unidentified tractor-trailer in New Brunswick was awarded a $724,000 verdict on Jan. 17 in an uninsured-motorist claim against his carrier, though the Middlesex County jury’s apportionment of 25 percent of the fault to the plaintiff capped the recovery, and the parties settled subsequently.
The net award to plaintiff Frank Rubury, of Sparta, was $543,005.
The verdict consisted of $401,000 in pain and suffering damages and $323,006 in lost wages.
On May 29, 2014, Rubury, 74 at the time, was driving to work when he was driven off the road by a phantom tractor trailer, he claimed. He suffered multiple broken ribs, a displaced sternal fracture and a hemothorax requiring surgery from the incident, according to his attorney Chip Dunne III of Dunne, Dunne & Cohen in Kearny.
Rubury was admitted to Morristown Memorial Hospital, where he stayed for approximately 10 days. He later received treatment for post-concussion syndrome and nerve testing for tremors that had inconclusive results, according to Dunne.
Rubury later entered rehabilitation for another 24 days and was placed on disability for six months. But Dunne said his client was unable to find another job after the accident.
Rubury made a claim for uninsured motorist coverage through Liberty Mutual, with whom he had a $250,000 policy. Liberty made minimal offers prior to trial and claimed possible liability on the part of Rubury, according to Dunne.
The case settled on Jan. 24, one week after the three-day trial concluded in Middlesex County Superior Court, Dunne said, though he declined to disclose the settlement amount.
Brian R. Lehrer of Schenck, Price, Smith and King in the firm’s Paramus office represented Liberty Mutual. Lehrer did not return calls about the case.
According to Dunne, Liberty Mutual argued that the plaintiff did not have a recollection of events at the scene of the accident; and had told a cardiologist at Morristown Memorial Center three days after the accident, and a neurologist a year after the accident, that he hadn’t slept well the night before the crash and fell asleep behind the wheel. Rubury denied having made those statements to either doctor and claimed Liberty misconstrued what he was saying when he was talking about being knocked unconscious.
— Suzette Parmley