Raymond Gill

A passenger allegedly hurt in a bus crash agreed to accept $1.75 million to settle her Hudson County suit, Rothman v. NJ Transit.

Nancie Rothman, 51, settled on Oct. 25, shortly before jury selection was set to begin in Superior Court Judge Patrick Arre‘s courtroom, says her lawyer, Raymond Gill Jr. of Woodbridge’s Gill & Chamas.

On Dec. 29, 2008, Rothman was riding a NJ Transit bus from New Jersey to Manhattan through the Lincoln Tunnel. Her bus had stopped in traffic when it was struck from behind by another NJ Transit bus, driven by employee Alexander Prishchepov.

According to Gill, Rothman was thrown into the metal bracket on the seat in front of her and fell to the floor. She called her husband, Mark, who met her at the tunnel and drove her to the hospital. Gill says about 30 passengers were taken to emergency rooms.

Rothman allegedly suffered a torn rotator cuff in her right shoulder, displaced hips and a disc herniation, requiring surgeries and physical therapy over four years. A fabric saleswoman, she quit last year when it became impossible for her to carry samples, Gill says.

NJ Transit, which is self-insured, retained Louis Ruprecht, of Westfield’s Ruprecht Hart Weeks & Ricciardulli. He confirms the settlement amount.

— By Michael Booth

$1.06M in Workplace-Bias Suit

Royster v. New Jersey State Police: An Essex County jury awarded $1.06 million to an African-American state trooper who alleged he was subjected to racial bias at work.

Brian Royster claimed that the discrimination went on for several years and that when he complained, his superiors failed to investigate and retaliated by denying him promotions.

On Sept. 1, 2005, Royster sued the state police, its superintendent and various members, and the attorney general. He asserted claims under the Conscientious Employee Protection Act and Law Against Discrimination, the Civil Rights Act of 1964, and, for denial of his requests for accommodation of his ulcerative colitis, the Americans with Disabilities Act.

The defendants denied any wrongdoing and argued that Royster was a disgruntled employee.

All the defendants were dismissed except for the state police and Superintendent Rick Fuentes, and the only causes of action that went to the jury were the CEPA and ADA claims.

On Aug. 2, the jury awarded $1.06 million — $200,000 for emotional distress, $305,000 for lost pension benefits, $55,000 in back pay and $500,000 on his ADA claims.

Michael Reimer of Passaic represented Royster and Robert Hagerty of Capehart & Scatchard in Mount Laurel the defendants.

Essex County Superior Court Judge Rachel Davidson presided at trial.

— By Jon Steiger (VerdictSearch)


Robert Papa Jr. (l.) & Robert Corradino

$785,000 for Pedestrian Injury

Motta v. Latino American Car Services: A Passaic County jury awarded $785,000 to a pedestrian injured when she was hit by a taxi.

On Feb. 14, 2010, Franchesca Motta, then 17, was crossing Main Street in Paterson when the cab ran her over, dragged her and then ran her over again as it reversed gear.

She suffered a herniated disc, broken nose, torn meniscus in her left knee and burns to her stomach, pelvis, chest and legs, which later required skin grafts, according to her lawyers, Jack Corradino and Robert Papa Jr. of Corradino & Papa in Clifton.

Motta sued the taxi’s owner, Latino American Car Services of Paterson, and the driver, employee Bolivar Abreu.

At trial before Superior Court Judge Thomas LaConte, the six-member jury unanimously found in favor of Motta and awarded $785,000.

Her lawyers say they will try to recover the judgment, but the vehicle was covered only up to $35,000 — New Jersey’s minimum liability coverage for taxis — and the defendants have no significant assets.

However, Motta received $250,000 in personal injury protection benefits, which don’t set off the judgment.

Sheldon Goodstadt of Oxman Goodstadt Kuritz represented the defendants on behalf of First Keystone Risk Retention Group Inc. He says Latino American did not contest liability or the award.

— By David Gialanella


Carol Forte

$729,800 in Medical-Malpractice Suit

Basile v. Sungurov: A Sussex County jury found on Nov. 7 that a Newton man paralyzed after spinal manipulation by a chiropractor had damages of $14.59 million, but he will get only $729,800 because one defendant settled.

Marc Basile went to see Maxim Sungurov, a primary care doctor with Sparta Medical Associates on June 16, 2008, for neck pain and was diagnosed with a sprain and referred to a chiropractor, says his lawyer, Carol Forte of Blume Goldfaden Berkowitz Donnelly Fried & Forte in Chatham.

Forte declines to name the chiropractor, but court records show him to be Thomas DeGasperis of Sparta.

On June 19, 2008, the third day of treatment, Basile suffered a herniated disc at C5-6 that compressed his spinal cord, leaving him paralyzed from the chest down, Forte says.

Now 50, he cannot stand or walk and though he can move his arms slightly, he cannot open his hands, requires help with all daily living activities and is confined to a wheelchair, she adds.

At trial before Superior Court Judge William McGovern, the jury found damages consisting of $1 million for past pain and suffering; $5.25 million for future pain and suffering; $365,000 for past medical expenses; $6 million for future medical expenses; $200,000 for out-of-pocket expenses, including alterations to the home and supplies such as a van; $336,000 for future lost earnings; $445,000 for services provided by Basile’s wife, Donna, in caring for him; and $1 million on her per quod claim.

The jury allocated 95 percent liability to DeGasperis — who settled for an undisclosed amount — and 5 percent to Sungurov, who must thus pay $729,800.

Sungurov’s attorney, James Vasios of Vasios, Kelly & Strollo in Union, did not return a call. Neither did DeGasperis’ lawyer, John Mullahy of Kaufman Borgeest & Ryan in Parsippany.

— By Mary Pat Gallagher