jury box

In Baran v. ASRC Federal, a federal jury in Camden awarded $3.5 million on March 7 to a woman who claimed her former employer made false and defamatory statements about her to a federal agency.

According to court documents, plaintiff Anna Baran worked as a software engineer at ASRC Federal in Moorestown, a defense contractor, in January 2013, when a company manager reported to Moorestown police that Baran had threatened to bring a gun to work and shoot three people. The manager also told police that Baran said, “Don’t be surprised if this building goes up,” according to the suit. Baran maintained that she never made any such statements.

After the company’s reports, Baran was placed under arrest, charged with various offenses, and taken by police to a hospital for a psychiatric evaluation, and the company fired her a few days later her arrest, the documents said. Ultimately a Superior Court judge dismissed the criminal charges against her. Yet the company reported the incident to the U.S. Joint Personnel Adjudication System, which collects information about people with security clearances. Baran had a security clearance but lost it after ASRC’s report to the federal agency. She also claimed the company reported the allegations about the gun threats to a prospective future employer, which she claimed led that employer not to hire her.

Baran claimed in her suit that she was fired in retaliation for her complaints that her supervisor was harassing her because of her Polish ancestry and for her stated intention to file a complaint with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission. But the jury rejected both of those claims. The jury did accept Baran’s claim that the company made a false and defamatory statement to JPAS about her alleged threats of workplace violence, even after the manager who reported Baran to police testified that the threats were legitimate. Baran was awarded $3.5 million in damages for the defamation following a trial conducted by U.S. District Judge Renee Bumb of the District of New Jersey.

Baran’s lawyer was LaTanya Bland-Tull of Hagerty & Bland-Tull in Moorestown. She was assisted by the firm’s Robert Hagerty.

ASRC was represented by William Leahy, Alexa Laborda Nelson and Greg Greubel of Littler Mendelson in Philadelphia. Leahy declined to comment and referred a reporter to an ASRC spokesman, Anton Pototski, who also declined to comment.

After the verdict, ASRC filed a motion for judgment as a matter of law, based on its contention that the defamation claim was time-barred, and a motion for remittitur of the award.

— Charles Toutant

$925K in Middlesex Med Mal Case

Hardy v. Nayal: A woman claiming her doctor negligently failed to send her for testing related to a prior tumor, ultimately leading to her losing vision in her one good eye, was paid $925,000 on Feb. 27 to settle her Middlesex County medical malpractice suit.

Plaintiff Maureen Hardy alleged that Eyad Nayal of Wayne Neurological Associates treated her for several years after she underwent surgery in 2007 to remove a tumor from the optic canal on the right side of her face. After the 2007 surgery, which rendered Hardy blind in her right eye, she began receiving follow-up treatment for pain from Nayal, a neurologist, and visited him 17 times from 2007 to 2014, said her lawyer, Susan Connors of Nagel Rice in Roseland.

The suit claimed that Hardy’s facial pain worsened during that time frame, and that Nayal was negligent in failing to refer her for radiology imaging. She was eventually tested in May 2014, on the order of a different doctor, and was found to have a recurring tumor, which necessitated additional surgery and which ultimately led to total loss of vision in her left eye, rendering her totally blind, said Connors, who handled the matter along with Bruce Nagel of the same firm.

Both Nayal and his medical group, located in Wayne, were named as defendants in the suit, which was venued in Middlesex County based on Hardy’s residence, according to Connors. Hardy claimed they defendants should have monitored her condition more proactively.

The defendants disputed negligence, contending that Nayal’s charge was to treat pain, and that Hardy should have consulted with a neurosurgeon for imaging, Connors said.

The defendants also contended that the suit was time-barred, according to court documents on the judiciary’s electronic database of civil cases.

The parties settled on Jan. 10, shortly before the scheduled Jan. 22 trial date. The defendants agreed to pay $925,000 of a $1 million policy covering both Nayal and the medical group, Connors said.

A stipulation of dismissal was entered on Feb. 26, according to the documents.

Counsel to the defendants, Michael Ricciardulli of Ruprecht Hart Weeks & Ricciardulli in Westfield, didn’t return a call about the case.

— David Gialanella