GOVERNMENT

$62,500 Settlement in Civil-Rights Suit

Alfieri v. Borough of Seaside Heights, No. 11-cv-00919-FLW-LHG; U.S. District Court; Judge Freda Wolfson, Trenton; Aug. 9.

Facts & Allegations: Joseph Alfieri claims he was in his Seaside Heights apartment on April 27, 2009, when police entered without his consent and assaulted him.

Alfieri sued the borough and officers Elijah Bryant, John Clarizio and John Dudas. Also named under a negligent-supervision theory were Police Chief Thomas Boyd and officers Stephen Korman and James Hans.

The evening before, Alfieri allegedly had been assaulted by his live-in girlfriend, who reportedly was arrested by Bryant. The girlfriend returned to Alfieri’s residence the next day and demanded her car keys, Alfieri claimed, but he told her to leave and return the next day.

It was this second dispute between the two that the police were responding to on April 27.

Alfieri’s complaint alleged that the police officers sprayed him with mace and choked and kicked him. He also claimed that excessive pressure was used in handcuffing him, resulting in injury to his wrist, and that he suffered facial injuries.

He also claimed that he has suffered humiliation and emotional distress as a result of the incident. His complaint invoked 42 U.S.C. §1983, and sought compensatory and punitive damages as well as the fee-shifting provisions of the statute.

The officers denied use of excessive force and said any force used had been reasonable in light of Alfieri’s failure to cooperate. They also disputed that Alfieri had suffered any ascertainable damages.

The case settled for $62,500, to be funded by the borough.

Plaintiff Attorney: Thomas Mallon, Mallon & Tranger, Freehold.

Defense Attorneys: Jared Monaco, Gilmore & Monahan, Toms River (for the Borough of Seaside Heights, James Hans, Stephen Korman, Thomas Boyd); Peter Van Dyke, Kelaher, Van Dyke & Moriarty, Toms River (for Elijah Bryant, John Clarizio, John Dudas).

This report is based on court documents and on information from plaintiff and defense counsel.

MOTOR VEHICLE

Defense Verdict in Car-Crash Suit

Ellis v. Showalter, ATL-L-003844-09; Atlantic County Superior Court; Judge James Isman; July 31.

Facts & Allegations: Faith Ellis alleged that she was driving through the Shore Mall Cinema lot in Egg Harbor on March 28, 2008, when her vehicle was struck on the passenger side.

She was taken by ambulance to a local hospital for pain in her back, neck and extremities. She was released and told to go to the orthopedic specialist who was treating her for injuries from a rear-end accident the previous October.

Her doctor concluded that 65 percent of her current complaints were from the second accident, 35 percent from the first.

Ellis did not have any MRIs after the first and before the second accident. Her treatment prior to the second accident suggested a cervical-disc herniation. A lumbar MRI taken after the second accident was negative. A cervical MRI after the second revealed a disc herniation at C5-C6.

Ellis sued Thomas Showalter, the other driver in the first accident, and Kathleen Holden, the other driver in the second accident, for negligence. She initially claimed that the injuries from the first accident were actionable, and that the second accident exacerbated them and caused new ones.

Soon after, Ellis allowed a voluntary dismissal against Showalter without prejudice, and proceeded to trial against Holden. Liability was stipulated during the trial.

The parties agreed to cap any damages award at $25,000, the amount of the court-mandated arbitration award the defense had appealed.

The defense argued there was insufficient proof to meet the verbal threshold for permanent bodily injury in the second accident.

The jury agreed.

Plaintiff Attorney: Theodore Smith, Pleasantville.

Defense Attorney: Darren Hibbs, Law Office of Anthony Castellani, Marlton (for Kathleen Holden); no attorney was reported for Thomas Showalter.

Insurer: GEICO for Holden.

Trial Details: trial length: 1 day; jury deliberations: 90 minutes; jury poll: 6-0; jury composition: 6 males.

This report is based on information from plaintiff counsel and defense counsel for Holden.

MOTOR VEHICLE

No Cause in Rear-End Collision

Said v. Ambrosini, MID-L-004642-10; Middlesex County Superior Court; Judge Travis Francis; June 28.

Facts & Allegations: Ayman Said was stopped in traffic on Route 27 in Edison on Dec. 27, 2009, when his car allegedly was rear-ended by the car behind him.

An MRI revealed cervical-disc herniations, for which Said treated with pain management that included 17 injections.

In addition, Said was diagnosed with a left shoulder labral tear for which surgery was recommended but declined. He underwent a rhizotomy nerve ablation, which injected an agent to destroy nerve roots at the source of pain.

Said sued the driver of the other car, Louis Ambrosini, for negligence.

Although liability was stipulated, the defense argued that the slight impact could not have caused permanent bodily injury.

Ambrosini testified that he was stopped behind Said’s vehicle and, while adjusting his sun visor, his foot lightened on the brake and his car moved forward, “tipping” the Said vehicle, according to the defense.

The defense noted that Said apparently had suffered cervical and lumbar injuries in accidents in 1997 and 1998. Reports from MRIs performed soon after those accidents indicated the beginning of a degenerative disc condition, it was argued.

Said responded that he was pain-free for 10 years after the two other accidents.

The jury returned a defense verdict.

Plaintiff Attorney: Vincent Glorisi, trial counsel for Edward Hamill, Old Bridge.

Defense Attorney: Frank Cofone Jr., D’Amico & Cofone, New Brunswick.

Demand: $50,000.

Offer: None.

Insurer: Allstate.

Trial Details: trial length: 4 days; jury deliberations: 30 minutes; jury poll: 6-0.

Plaintiff Expert: Irfan Alladin, M.D., pain management, Paterson.

Defense Expert: Kevin Egan, M.D., orthopedic surgery, West Orange.

This report is based on information from defense counsel. Plaintiff counsel declined to comment.

The cases that appear here are derived from VerdictSearch New Jersey, an affiliate of the New Jersey Law Journal. For more reports from VerdictSearch, or to request research, go to VerdictSearch.com or call 1-800-832-1900.