$165,000 Verdict for Stairway Fall

Burris v. Community Realty, ATL-L-3529-09; Atlantic County Superior Court; Judge James Isman; April 4.

Facts & Allegations: Michael Burris claimed that on Oct. 10, 2007, he was walking down stairs in his condominium building in Ventnor when a cap on a stairway post he was gripping broke, causing him to fall and suffer a herniated lumbar disc, among other injuries.

He was taken by ambulance to a hospital, treated for a concussion, claimed he was diagnosed with a disc herniation at L4-5, and later underwent fusion surgery and physical therapy.

Burris sued the building's ownership entity, Nashville Condominium LLC; the owners of the unit in which he lived, Stan Hines and John Katsock; management company Community Realty; and maintenance contractor Casablanca Construction. He claimed the defendants were responsible for the dangerous condition.

Nashville Condo initiated a third-party claim against Casablanca Construction, alleging there was a verbal agreement for Casablanca to conduct visual interior inspections. Nashville argued it had no notice of a defective condition.

The claims against Hines, Katsock and Community Realty were voluntarily dismissed. Casablanca Construction was dismissed on summary judgment after successfully arguing its contractual duty called for it only to provide janitorial/cleaning services, not inspections.

Burris' counsel argued that Nashville was responsible for maintenance and inspection, failed to have an adequate preventative maintenance program and negligently inspected the post.

Burris died suddenly in 2010. Estate counsel argued that Burris continued to have pain before his death and could not participate in sporting activities as before.

The defense's expert orthopedist said Burris' lumbar injury was pre-existing and questioned the necessity of the fusion surgery.

The jury found Nashville negligent and awarded $165,000.

Plaintiff Attorney:Robert Campbell, Mays Landing.

Defense Attorneys: Anthony Fiore Jr., Gage Fiore, Lawrenceville (for Nashville Condominium).

Trial Details: trial length: 5 days; jury deliberations: 3 hours; jury composition: 3 males, 5 females.

Plaintiff Experts: Russell Abrams, M.D., neurology, Cherry Hill; Andrew Glass, M.D., neurosurgery, Somers Point; George Widas, P.E., engineering, Medford.

Defense Expert: Joseph Bernardini, M.D., orthopedic surgery, Vineland.

This report is based on information from plaintiff counsel and defense counsel for Community Realty, Nashville Condominium and Casablanca Construction. Defense counsel for Stan Hines did not return calls.


$16,000 Verdict in Wrongful-Termination Suit

Marcano v. Laumar Roofing Co., PAS-L-2143-11; Passaic County Superior Court; Judge Garry Rothstadt; March 4.

Facts & Allegations: On July 31, 2010, roofer Rubercindo Marcano allegedly was severely burned at a Passaic County worksite when boiling roof tar splashed on his face.

He filed a workers' compensation claim, stating that his employer, Laumar Roofing, terminated his employment on his return from medical treatment on Oct. 3, 2010.

Marcano sued Laumar Roofing, contended that he was unlawfully terminated after the injury and the filing of the compensation claim. He also alleged that Laumar Roofing failed to pay him the prevailing wage and that he often worked more than eight hours a day.

The defense claimed that Marcano did not return to work for the 2011 season, that it did not terminate him in retaliation for his workers' compensation claim and that he was one of a large number of workers paid on the same basis and the only one who claimed he was not paid the prevailing wage.

Marcano sought back pay, front pay and compensatory damages.

The jury found in favor of the defense on the retaliation claim, but in favor of Marcano on his Prevailing Wage Act claim, awarding $16,000 — the difference between Marcano's prevailing wages owed and the prevailing wages already paid to him.

Plaintiff Attorney:Debra McGarvey, Ginarte O'Dwyer Gonzalez Gallardo & Winograd, Newark.

Defense Attorney:Patrick Collins, Franzblau Dratch, Livingston.

Trial Details: jury deliberations: 3 hours.

Post-Trial: The court awarded plaintiff counsel $57,837 in attorney fees and costs.

This report is based on information from plaintiff and defense counsel.


Defense Verdict in Fall During Blizzard

Walczak v. Target Corp., MID-L-4080-10; Middlesex County Superior Court; Judge Barry Weisberg; April 11.

Facts & Allegations: On Dec. 19, 2010, Rebecca Walczak allegedly slipped and fell on snow and ice outside a Target store in Clifton.

She was taken by ambulance to a hospital, where she was diagnosed with a fibula fracture in her right ankle and underwent open reduction internal fixation surgery. She also had physical therapy and claimed she has ongoing pain, as well as limitations in walking, running and bending.

Walczak sued Target Corp., Lipinski Landscape & Irrigation, Lipinski Snow Services and LoRe Sweeping for negligence, claiming they failed to remove snow and ice, causing her slip-and-fall. Target reportedly had contracted with Lipinski Snow Services to remove snow and ice from the property, and Lipinski Snow Services subcontracted LoRe Sweeping to perform the work. Lipinski Landscape & Irrigation was dismissed as it had been improvidently named.

The defense said there was a blizzard on the day of the incident, precautions were taken, LoRe was properly engaged in removing snow and Walczak should have been more careful while walking in the storm.

An expert orthopedist retained by defense counsel for Target and LoRe Sweeping argued she had made a good recovery.

The jury found that the defendants had not been negligent.

Plaintiff Attorney: Gregory Stathis, Stathis & Leonardis, Edison.

Defense Attorneys:Darryl Beckman, Beckman Roth Ogozalek & Perez, Gibbsboro (for Lipinski Snow Services Inc.); Brian Harris, Braff, Harris & Sukoneck, Livingston (for LoRe Sweeping Co. Inc.); Jeffrey O'Hara, Clyde & Co., Florham Park (for Target Corp.).

Trial Details: trial length: 6 days; jury deliberations: 1.5 hours.

Plaintiff Expert: Gregory Charko, M.D., orthopedic surgery, Woodbridge.

Defense Expert: Geoffrey Westrich, M.D., orthopedics, New York, N.Y.

This report is based on information from defense counsel for Target and LoRe Sweeping. Defense counsel for Lipinski Snow Services and 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 or call 1-800-832-1900.