PREMISES LIABILITY

$36,000 Settlement for Slip and Fall

Klein v. The Commons at Kingswood Association, MID-L-4776-11; Middlesex County Superior Court; Nov. 5.

Facts & Allegations: On Oct. 30, 2010, Marlene Klein allegedly tripped and fell on the brick paver walkway leading to her condominium unit at The Commons at Kingswood Station in East Brunswick.

She claimed that a paver had become dislodged and was missing and that the hole was covered by leaves, causing her to fall when she stepped into it.

Klein was diagnosed with a knee contusion and a lateral meniscus tear, for which she underwent arthroscopic surgery.

She sued the complex and its governing association, as well as the complex’s contracted maintenance company, Wentworth Property Management, and HB Maintenance, the subcontractor allegedly responsible for maintenance of the complex’s walkways.

The walkway leads to a cluster of four condominium units and allegedly is the only one in the complex that consisted of brick pavers.

Klein argued that complex officials had notice of the walkway’s defective condition.

The defendants blamed Klein for the accident, claiming she presumably knew of the defective condition and thus should have avoided it.

In addition, the Kingswood entities and the management company reasoned that some blame should be allocated to HB Maintenance, as the subcontractor ultimately responsible for walkway maintenance.

HB Maintenance, in turn, argued its responsibilities were for the paved walkways, not the brick one.

The defense’s orthopedic surgery expert was prepared to testify that Klein’s internal knee condition was degenerative in nature.

The case settled for $36,000, with $21,600 contributed on behalf of the Kingswood defendants and $14,400 on behalf of HB Maintenance.

Plaintiff Attorney:Todd Eder, East Brunswick.

Defense Attorney: Steven Batta, Dwyer Connell & Lisbona, Fairfield; Angela Maione Costigan, Costigan & Costigan, Moorestown.

Insurers: Merchants Insurance Group for HB Maintenance, QBE Insurance for The Commons at Kingswood Station and Wentworth Property Management.

Plaintiff Expert: None reported.

Defense Expert: Steve Hausmann, M.D., orthopedic surgery, Belford.

This report is based on information from plaintiff counsel. Defense counsel did not return calls.

MOTOR VEHICLE

$14,000 Settlement in Crash Suit

Whaley v. Patel, ATL-L-2998-12; Atlantic County Superior Court; Oct. 12.

Facts & Allegations: Latasha Whaley was driving west on the West White Horse Pike in Galloway Township on March 15, 2011, when she collided with another car at the intersection with South Cologne Avenue.

She claimed that the other driver, Devalkuma Patel, coming from the opposite direction on West White Horse Pike, tried to turn left onto South Cologne Avenue, resulting in the crash.

Whaley sued Patel and the owner of the vehicle he was driving, Arvindbha Desai, for negligence.

The defendants had a $15,000 auto liability insurance policy, and there was no underinsured-motorist-protection coverage available to Whaley.

The parties engaged in settlement negotiations shortly after an answer was filed, and following a minimal amount of discovery.

Whaley was taken to a local hospital by ambulance, was admitted with a diagnosis of internal injuries and remained in the hospital for several days for treatment of a lacerated spleen.

The case settled for $14,000.

Plaintiff Attorney:Thomas Reynolds, Reynolds and Scheffler, Northfield.

Defense Attorney:Stephen Sobocinski, Zirulnik, Sherlock & DeMille, Mount Laurel.

Insurer: Selective for both defendants.

This report is based on information from plaintiff counsel. Defense counsel declined to comment.

MOTOR VEHICLE

Defense Verdict in Auto-Accident Suit

Brancatella v. Nunamacher; OCN-L-3651-10; Ocean County Superior Court; Judge James Den Uyl; Sept. 13.

Facts & Allegations: On July 30, 2008, Benito Brancatella was driving on Jack Martin Boulevard in Brick when he collided with a vehicle driven by Jane Nunamacher, with the permissive use of owner Raymond Nunamacher.

Brancatella claimed that the accident occurred when Nunamacher made a left turn in front of him and that he suffered a cervical-disc herniation.

Brancatella alleged the accident caused a cervical-disc herniation at C5-6. He presented a cervical MRI that had been interpreted to reveal the herniation. He also presented a positive EMG in support of a diagnosis that he also had incurred radiculopathy.

Brancatella, who underwent chiropractic treatment, complained that his injuries limited his enjoyment of life and caused persistent pain and discomfort.

Brancatella sued the Nunamachers for negligence, alleging the defendant driver failed to yield the right-of-way in the intersection and negligently crossed the path of Brancatella’s oncoming vehicle.

His wife asserted a per quod loss-of-consortium claim.

The vehicle owner, Raymond Nunamacher, achieved summary judgment dismissal in December 2011. The case proceeded to trial as to the claim against Jane Nunamacher, who denied negligence and alleged that Brancatella entered the intersection after she had obtained the right-of-way for a left turn.

At trial, the judge granted a motion by Brancatella’s attorney that the court direct the jury to find 100 percent liability on the part of Jane Nunamacher.

The defense interposed the verbal tort threshold as a bar to Brancatella’s recovery of damages for bodily injury, contending that the accident caused no permanent injury and that the cervical pathology was due to a degenerative process.

The defense also presented surveillance video at trial that appeared to depict Brancatella enjoying physical activities, such as playing golf and riding a bicycle, without difficulty.

The jury returned a defense verdict of no cause of action, having determined that Brancatella had failed to prove by a preponderance of the evidence the existence of permanent injury sufficiently serious to surpass the verbal tort threshold.

Plaintiff Attorney: Edward Genz, Montenegro, Thompson, Montenegro & Genz, Brick.

Defense Attorney:Robert Ritacco, Leyden, Capotorto, Ritacco and Corrigan, Toms River.

Insurer: NJM for both defendants.

Trial Details: trial length: 3 days; jury deliberations: 40 minutes; jury poll: 6-0.

Plaintiff Expert: Richard Rada, D.C., chiropractic, Brick.

Defense Expert: Michael H. Gordon, M.D., orthopedic surgery, Wall.

This report is based on information from defense counsel. Plaintiff counsel did not return calls.

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.