Stephen Nehmad

Anthony Bongiovanni

The state Department of Environmental Protection executed a $9.7 million purchase of open space in Atlantic County, a deal made public on Jan. 17.

The 5,079-acre tract adjacent to U.S. Route 50 in Estell Manor, though privately owned, had been maintained as a state wildlife management area used for hiking, hunting, fishing and bird watching. The land links Estell Manor Park with the Tuckahoe, Gibson Creek and Maple Lake wildlife management areas.

Lenape Farms Inc. owned 4,970 acres, for which it received $9.4 million. Another entity, HBH Associates, received $334,000 for its 109 acres.

The DEP provided $6.5 million through its Green Acres program. The nonprofit Nature Conservancy, based in Arlington, Va., provided $3.2 million, including a $2.3 million grant from the state Pinelands Commission and a $264,000 grant from Chester-based nonprofit Conservation Resources Inc.

Lenape Farms and HBH were represented by Stephen Nehmad and Anthony Bongiovanni of Nehmad Perillo & Davis in Egg Harbor Township.

The DEP was represented by Deputy Attorney General Sean Moriarty of the Division of Law’s Environmental Permitting and Counseling Section.

— By David Gialanella

$863,000 for Bus Accident Injuries

Singh v. Berry: A Burlington County jury on Jan. 17 assessed $863,000 in damages for a bicyclist who lost the lower half of his left leg after it was run over by a school bus, but the award was halved due to comparative negligence.

Swaran Singh, then 77, was hit on Feb. 23, 2009, as the bus, owned and operated by the Florence Township Board of Education, turned right onto Railroad Avenue from Delaware Avenue. The bus’s right rear tire ran over Singh’s leg, says his attorney, Bruce Stern of Lawrenceville’s Stark & Stark.

Stern says it was unclear whether Singh was on the sidewalk or in the street at the time of impact. Nevertheless, the suit alleged that driver Sherrie Berry, a school district employee, should have taken greater precautions to avoid him.

The jury found Berry and Singh each 50 percent at fault, so the $863,000 in damages for pain and suffering were reduced to $431,500.

Utica Ins. Co., the carrier for the school board and Berry, retained Robert Gold, of Morristown’s Gold, Albanese & Barletti. He did not return a call.

Superior Court Judge Marc Baldwin presided over the trial.

— By Michael Booth

$500,000 for Trip and Fall

McCaffrey v. Pinnacle Federal Credit Union: A Somerset County jury awarded $500,000 on Jan. 14 to a woman who claimed she developed chronic foot pain after tripping on the grounds of an office complex.

Maureen McCaffrey of Franklin, then 45, was visiting Pinnacle Federal Credit Union in Somerset on Nov. 16, 2007, when she tripped on a six-inch wide gap in a curb, says her lawyer, James Dunn of Levinson Axelrod in Edison. She twisted her ankle and heard a snap as she fell, he says.

McCaffrey fractured the fifth metatarsal of the small toe on her right foot, which was placed in an air cast to heal. She later developed reflex sympathetic dystrophy in the foot, apparently triggered by March 2008 surgery to remove a bone chip from the injured area. The RSD has caused disproportionate pain, swelling, discoloration and hypersensitivity, which McCaffrey treats with medication, Dunn says.

McCaffrey sued Pinnacle, property owner Cottontail Holdings LLC and management company GVA Williams Co. in Somerset County. At trial before Superior Court Judge Fred Kumpf, the jury found Cottontail and GVA each 100 percent liable but attributed no fault to Pinnacle or McCaffrey. It awarded $500,000 in noneconomic damages.

Defense lawyers Lori Brown Sternback of Methfessel & Werbel in Edison, for Cottontail and GVA, and James Pantages of Stein, McGuire, Pantages & Gigl in Livingston, for Pinnacle, did not return calls.

— By Mary Pat Gallagher

Craig Laughlin

$405,000 for Fall From Balcony

Dabreau v. Columbian Club of Freehold: A woman who allegedly suffered broken bones and a back injury in a fall agreed to a $405,000 settlement of her Monmouth County suit on Dec. 31.

Christine Dabreau, now 22, of Farmingdale was attending a party at the Knights of Columbus Hall in Freehold on July 31, 2009. She leaned against a railing on an elevated landing at the rear of building and it gave way, causing her to fall five feet onto concrete below, according to her lawyer, Craig Laughlin of Gale & Laughlin in Hazlet.

Dabreau broke her left arm, requiring open reduction and internal fixation, and sustained a lumbar disc herniation, nasal bone fractures and facial lacerations that left permanent scars, he says.

The plaintiff’s engineering expert opined that the railing collapsed without warning and was a hazardous condition. A defense expert countered that the railing, which was removable, did not break but had been loosened or altered by Dabreau or others attending the event.

The parties agreed to the settlement after mediation with former Superior Court Judge Thomas O’Brien, of Bathgate, Wegener & Wolf in Lakewood. The lawyer for the Knights of Columbus, Terrence Bolan of Bolan Jahnsen Dacey in Shrewsbury, confirms the settlement.

— By Charles Toutant