Christopher Pyne

A Princeton Junction woman who claimed she suffered serious injuries in a collision accepted $2.25 million to settle her Mercer County suit, Smith v. Brazel.

Catherine Smith was driving west on Cranbury Neck Road in Cranbury on June 12, 2009, when an eastbound car veered into oncoming traffic and hit her. The other driver, Ryan Brazel, was trying to avoid hitting stopped cars ahead of him, says Smith's lawyer, Christopher Pyne, of Stark & Stark in Lawrenceville.

Smith suffered head injuries, a ripped-apart bowel, other organ damage, open fractures in the ulna and radius bones, an abdominal hernia and a comminuted fracture of her right heel bone, Pyne says.

She has mild cognitive deficits, pain, scarring and difficulty with basic activities that bars her from returning to her job as a registered nurse, he adds.

The case settled for Brazel's $250,000 primary policy, paid June 6, and $2 million in excess coverage, paid May 30.

Defense counsel Marie Ramos-Wright, of Anthony Castellani's law office in Marlton, declines comment.

— By Mary Pat Gallagher

$1.25M in Car-Accident Suit

Poplawski v. Zakheim: A Hudson County jury awarded $1.25 million on May 29 to an injured driver, but a high-low agreement reduced it to $500,000.

Christina Poplawski claimed she was broadsided on Shafto Street in Clifton on May 14, 2008, when Suzanne Zakheim disregarded a stop sign on Scoles Avenue. Zakheim and her husband, Schlomo, who owned the car, claimed Poplawski hit them.

Poplawski claimed to have suffered spinal herniations at C5-C6 and aggravation of neck and back arthritis and underwent chiropractic treatment. Although she returned to work as an executive secretary, she continued to endure pain, says her lawyer, Marvin Walden,of Greenberg, Walden & Grossman in West New York.

Walden entered into a $500,000-$25,000 high-low agreement in light of his client's modest medical treatment and loss of wages of only a few days. As a result, the $1.25 million jury verdict after the six-day trial triggered the high.

Superior Court Judge Barry Sarkisian presided at the six-day trial.

Salvatore Iacopelli of Doreen Ryan's office in Cranford, representing the defendants, declines to comment.

— By Charles Toutant


Francis Dorrity

$1M in Medical Malpractice Suit

Snider v. Fritz:The widow of a 36-year-old man who died of pneumonia his doctor allegedly failed to diagnose accepted $1 million on May 20 to settle her Hudson County suit.

On June 12, 2009, Joel Snider went to John Fritz, his primary care physician, complaining of shortness of breath, fatigue and diarrhea. Snider suffered from diabetes and hypothyroidism, says plaintiff attorney Francis Dorrity, a Jersey City solo.

Fritz prescribed Levaquin, an antibiotic, and told Snider to return in four weeks, but Snider returned three days later, complaining of continued weakness and diarrhea and a 103-degree fever. Fritz diagnosed bronchitis and prescribed another antibiotic, Moxatag.

On June 17, Snider went to the emergency room at Christ Hospital in Jersey City, where an X-ray showed an advanced stage of bilateral pneumonia. He died on July 8, 2009, at Newark Beth Israel Medical Center from Acute Respiratory Distress Syndrome.

The suit alleged Fritz deviated from standards of care by failing to order an X-ray, to admit Snider to a hospital and to prescribe appropriate medication, and that the diagnosis delay caused his pulmonary functions to deteriorate.

The parties settled as jury selection was to begin before Hudson County Superior Court Judge Jeffrey Jablonski. Rosanna Snider, the widow, received the settlement from Fritz's carrier, ProMutual Ins. Co., on June 21.

Defense lawyer Sam Rosenberg, of Morris Plains' Reisman Rosenberg Jacobs & Heller, confirms the settlement amount.

— By Michael Booth


Gregory Noble

$690,000 in Whistleblower Suit

Almeida v. UMDNJ: An Essex County jury awarded a radiology technician $690,000 in his whistleblower suit against University of Medicine and Dentistry-University Hospital.

In September 2008, Fernando Almeida Jr. was told to perform an X-ray but refused to do so because he was unfamiliar with the requester, who did not schedule the X-ray or submit a written form, says his lawyer, Gregory Noble of O'Connor, Parsons, Lane & Noble in Westfield.

The patient had an infection and ultimately died, and Almeida was terminated, Noble says.

Almeida sued under the Conscientious Employee Protection Act, alleging he believed that administering the X-ray without proper documentation would have violated regulations. The defense contended that the X-ray should have been performed and Almeida's conduct did not amount to that of a whistleblower, Noble says.

On April 29, after a two-week trial, the jury unanimously found UMDNJ liable and awarded $175,000 for past wages, $250,000 for emotional distress and $265,000 in punitive damages.

On June 7, Superior Court Judge Randal Chiocca awarded $51,093 in prejudgment interest and $212,202 in attorney fees, including a 40 percent enhancement over the lodestar based on CEPA's fee-shifting provision. The judge also denied defense motions for judgment notwithstanding the verdict and for a new trial.

UMDNJ was represented by Deputy Attorney General Robert Preuss, who confirms the settlement through office spokesman Lee Moore.

— By David Gialanella