Carol Forte

A Mercer County judge approved a $6 million settlement in a suit blaming a doctor and nurses for a newborn’s brain injuries allegedly due to asphyxia, Kiesewetter v. Martin.

On Aug. 23, 2006, Ann Marie Kiesewetter, pregnant with twins, went to University Medical Center at Princeton with low blood pressure, according to her lawyer, Carol Forte of Blume Goldfaden Berkowitz Donnelly Fried & Forte in Chatham.

Only one of the fetuses could be tracked by electronic monitoring. Dr. Robert Martin instructed Nurse Bronwyn Smith to keep trying to find the other one. She tried for several more hours to no avail, Forte says.

Around 6 p.m., about three hours after Martin first saw her, Kiesewetter was taken to an operating room for a Caesarean section and it was discovered that one fetus was getting insufficient oxygen and was close to death, according to Forte. The child, Henry, suffered brain injuries resulting in a form of cerebral palsy; has cognitive issues; and his ability to walk, speak and be toilet trained is impeded, she says.

Kiesewetter sued Martin and his practice, Princeton Medical Group, Smith, Princeton Healthcare System, and nurses Dzung Kim Vu and Julie Greenfield, claiming Henry’s fetal distress should have been discovered and the Caesarean performed sooner.

The defendants disputed the extent of Henry’s injuries, said he was injured when Kiesewetter got to the hospital and claimed an earlier delivery would not have helped, Forte says.

The parties settled in January. Coverys, Martin’s insurer, agreed to pay $350,000, and Princeton Insurance Co., for the other defendants, $5.65 million.

Superior Court Judge F. Patrick McManimon approved the settlement on Wednesday.

Martin was represented by Gregory Giordano of Lenox, Socey, Formidoni, Giordano, Cooley, Lang & Casey in Lawrenceville; Smith by James Ronan of Ronan, Tuzzio & Giannone in Little Falls; Princeton Healthcare System by Beth Hardy of Farkas & Donohue in Florham Park; Princeton Medical Group by Thomas Heavey of Grossman & Heavey in Brick; Vu by Manasquan solo Joseph DiCroce; and Greenfield by Timothy Crammer of Crammer & Bishop in Absecon. None returned a call.

— David Gialanella

$3M for Bicyclist Hit by Police Car

Caicedo v. Caicedo: An Essex County jury awarded $3 million on April 26 to a bicyclist hit by a police car, though he will get only $2.4 million because he was found 20 percent liable.

Danny Caicedo, then 13, was riding on Broadway in Newark on June 29, 2010, next to two friends who were on the sidewalk, when he crossed the street and was struck by an unmarked Newark police car, says plaintiff lawyer Casey Woodruff, of Bramnick, Rodriguez, Mitterhoff, Grabas & Woodruff in Scotch Plains.

Caicedo’s friends said the car was going 45 mph and did not have its siren on. The car’s driver, Officer Fabian Caicedo, no relation, claimed he was going 30 mph with his siren on.

Woodruff says his client’s leg injuries required implantation of hardware, and his right leg was left an inch shorter than his left, causing a limp.

Superior Court Judge Francine Schott rejected Newark Assistant Corporation Counsel Avion Benjamin‘s motion for a jury charge on Tort Claims Act immunity for police actions related to public safety. Woodruff argued the officer was engaged in a ministerial act.

Benjamin did not return a call.

— Charles Toutant

$2.83M for Fall on Staircase

Billings v. BPO Elks: A Middlesex County jury on April 24 awarded $2.83 million to a South Amboy woman injured at an Elks lodge where she was a member, but she will recover only $1.7 million because she was found 40 percent responsible.

Alexis Billings, carrying a basket in one hand and a carafe in the other, fell down 17 steps at Lodge 1075 in Rahway on March 10, 2008. Her lawyer, Barry Eichen of Eichen Crutchlow Zaslow & McElroy in Edison, says she tripped on uneven carpet.

The defense argued that Billings was familiar with the stairs and fell because she was not paying attention.

She allegedly aggravated disc herniations in her lower back, at L3-4 and L4-5. Billings had a lumbar fusion and implantation of a metal cage and bone stimulator, then replacement and removal of the stimulator. She still has mobility problems, uses a cane and can’t return to work as a financial analyst, says Eichen, whose co-counsel was partner Edward McElroy.

The jury allocated fault 60/40 between the Elks and Billings. Of the $2.83 million, $1.6 million was for lost wages; $750,000 for pain and suffering; $369,000 for medical expenses and $120,000 for her husband’s loss of consortium. The Elks’ share is $1,703,400.

Eichen says the highest settlement offer was $900,000. The Elks’ lawyer, Thomas Wester of McDermott & McGee in Millburn, declines comment.

Superior Court Judge Joseph Rea presided at the trial.

— Mary Pat Gallagher

Daryl Zaslow

$1M in Medical-Malpractice Suit

Estate of Lujan v. Stephen: The parents of a boy who died from bacterial meningitis settled their Mercer County suit on April 17 for $1 million.

On April 8, 2008, Arron Lujan brought his 2-year-old son, Vaughn, suffering from fever, vomiting and fatigue, to Dr. Priya Stephen at Princeton Nassau Pediatrics. She diagnosed a viral infection and said to return in 48 hours if the symptoms didn’t improve, or sooner if they worsened, says plaintiff lawyer Daryl Zaslow of Eichen Crutchlow Zaslow & McElroy in Edison.

The next day, Lujan called Shawn Pierson, Vaughn’s regular pediatrician at the same practice. Pierson claimed he said Vaughn might require immediate care, but Lujan denied receiving that instruction, Zaslow says.

Vaughn saw a third doctor on April 10, was diagnosed with bacterial meningitis and was admitted to Robert Wood Johnson University Hospital. He suffered a stroke on April 17 and died two days later.

Lujan and his wife, Heather, claimed Stephen and Pierson deviated from medical standards by not ordering prompt medical care.

Zaslow says the parties settled at trial, before the plaintiffs rested; Stephen will pay $750,000, Pierson $250,000. They were insured by Princeton Insurance Co. and represented by Sean Buckley of Buckley Theroux Kline & Petraske in Princeton, who did not return a call.

— David Gialanella