A Burlington County jury awarded $6.9 million on Feb. 6 to a worker electrocuted on a Mount Laurel warehouse roof, in Shea v. American Honda Motor Co.
On June 26, 2007, Charles Shea backed into a live wire leading to a spot on the roof where a condensing unit had been removed. The shock threw him about 20 feet, causing disc injuries, says his attorney, Alfred Falcione of Flynn & Associates in Cherry Hill.
Shea sued the warehouse owner, American Honda Motor Co.; Trane Air Inc., which was hired to perform building maintenance; and Falasca Mechanical Inc., which serviced the condensing unit 10 years earlier.
The jury found American Honda and Trane each 50 percent liable but no-caused Falasca and Shea’s employer, Jottan Roofing Co. of Florence, which American Honda had brought in as a third-party defendant based on an alleged indemnification agreement.
Shea, now 40, has undergone a disc fusion and insertion of a stimulator but still has pain and is unlikely to be able to return to work, Falcione says.
The jury awarded Shea $2.8 million for past and lost earnings, $2 million for pain and suffering, $2 million for future medical expenses and $110,365 for past medical expenses. Falcione says the award will be offset by a $131,000 workers’ compensation lien.
Superior Court Judge Patricia Richmond presided at trial.
American Honda and Trane were represented by Christopher Carton of K&L Gates in Newark, and Falasca by Robert Cerino of the law office of J. Mark Pecci II in Philadelphia. Carton and Cerino did not return calls. CNA Ins. Co., which provided coverage for Jottan, retained James Kane of Carroll, McNulty & Kull in Basking Ridge, who confirms the verdict.
— By Michael Booth
$5M for Premises Liability
Aeriel v. State-Operated School District for the City of Newark: The Newark school district and the state of New Jersey agreed to pay $5 million in an Essex County suit over the shooting of four people, three fatally, at the Mount Vernon School playground on Aug. 4, 2007.
The suit alleged that the district was negligent in failing to lock the playground, despite its reputation as a gang hangout. The area was poorly lit, security cameras were broken and a guard saw the open gate but did nothing about it, according to the Essex County suit.
The victims had been listening to music when they were assaulted, robbed and shot by six assailants, all of whom were convicted and imprisoned.
The plaintiffs are Natasha Aeriel, now 25, who survived, and the estates of her brother, Terrance Aeriel, then 18, and Iofemi Hightower and Dashon Harvey, both 20.
The suit was brought under a Tort Claims Act exemption for public entities that maintain property in a hazardous condition. The state Department of Education was a defendant because the district is under state control.
The settlement, which came after three-and-a-half weeks of trial provides for payment of $3 million by the state and $2 million by the district.
Superior Court Judge Paul Vichness presided at the trial.
The plaintiff lawyers were Ronald Riccio, Michael Marone and Robert Scrivo of McElroy, Deutsch, Mulvaney & Carpenter in Morristown. Riccio declines to say how the settlement will be distributed. The district’s lawyers were Vito Gagliardi Jr. and Eliyahu Scheiman of Porzio, Bromberg & Newman in Morristown. Scheiman, and the state’s attorney, Leonard Leight of Morgan Melhuish Abrutyn in Livingston, decline comment.
— By Charles Toutant
$5M for Industrial Accident
Johnson v. T. Glennon Inc.: A Jersey City man accepted $5 million to settle his suit alleging that machine failure led to an accident that crushed his legs.
On Oct. 31, 2006, Charles Johnson, then 36, was making repairs to a railroad track in Mansfield for his employer, T. Glennon of Hillsborough, when the brakes failed on a tamping machine, which removes and replaces ties. The six-ton machine ran over his legs, says his lawyer, Robert Gold of Gold, Albanese & Barletti in Morristown.
Johnson suffered leg fractures and extensive soft-tissue damage, and had 16 surgeries to debride wounds, set bones, and reconnect tendons and muscles. He also developed deep-vein thrombosis and pulmonary emboli, and still has a bone infection, which has required more than a dozen debridements since he left the hospital. He is 100 percent disabled and unable to work, says Gold.
Johnson alleged in the Middlesex County Superior Court that T. Glennon failed to properly maintain the machine.
Gold says testimony by the person hired to repair the machine — that he informed the company that the brakes were shot but was told replacements cost too much — would have overcome the workers’ compensation bar.
T. Glennon settled in June and paid the $5 million in September, says Gold. Since then, he has been dealing with workers’ comp liens, and on Feb. 6, sought approval of his fees because the settlement exceeds $2 million.
T. Glennon’s lawyers, Joseph Fuoco of McElroy Deutsch Mulvaney & Carpenter in Morristown and Victor Rotolo of Lebanon, did not return calls.
Products liability claims against machine maker Plasser American Corp. — based on lack of a dual brake system and a mechanism to warn when it was moving — will be mediated on March 6 by former Judge Mark Epstein, now with Hoagland Longo Moran Dunst & Doukas in New Brunswick.
Plasser’s attorney, Thomas Mulcahy of Purcell Mulcahy O’Neill & Hawkins in Bedminster, confirms the settlement.
— By Mary Pat Gallagher
$400,000 for Premises Liability
Beltran v. Gifford: An apartment-house resident who alleged that he broke his arm in a slip and fall on an icy sidewalk settled his suit for $400,000 on Jan. 25.
Jose Beltran claimed that JP Gifford LLC and JP Management LLC, which, respectively, owned and managed the Elizabeth building, failed to maintain safe conditions, such as by using rock salt, when he fell on Dec. 24, 2008.
Beltran fractured his right arm, underwent surgery and, now 64, has a severely restricted range of motion in his right hand and pain in that elbow, says Raymond Eisdorfer of Eisdorfer, Eisdorfer & Eisdorfer in Elizabeth, who represented the plaintiff along with co-counsel Allen Eisdorfer.
The Ocean County suit was settled with help from former Judge James Clyne, now of Benchmark Resolution Services in New Egypt.
The defendants’ counsel, N. Nicholas Hendershot of Duncan, MacDonald & Herforth in Moorestown, did not return a call.
— By David Gialanella