Barry Packin

A quadriplegic who claimed his condition resulted from a delay in diagnosing and treating a broken neck accepted $2.1 million in his medical malpractice suit, Gatesy v. Perotte.

On Jan. 26, 2008, Brian Gatesy, then 28, flipped and landed on his neck while roughhousing with friends. He awoke the next day with an asthma attack and neck pain. The Linden EMS squad took him to Robert Wood Johnson University Hospital in New Brunswick without immobilizing his neck, says his lawyer, Barry Packin of Nagel Rice in Roseland.

Emergency room doctor Shubert Perotte failed to look at the EMS report, which mentioned the neck pain and initially assessed Gatesy as an asthma patient, but after being called back about the neck pain and doing range-of-motion tests, placed him in a hard collar and sent him for an X-ray, Packin says.

The X-ray showed a fracture-dislocation at C6-7, leading Perotte to call neurosurgeon Jeff Pan and radiologist Mark Singer. Soon after, a CT scan showed a worsening of the fracture dislocation, posing a risk to the spinal cord, but no additional immobilization was provided, Packin says.

Gatesy complained to nurse Elaine Elliott of numbness in his upper extremities and by night had no movement in his legs or sensation below the T-1 vertebra. By the time he was put in traction to take pressure off his spine, the damage was done. He has no use of his legs and limited use of his arms and fingers, is confined to a wheelchair and requires around-the-clock care at a residential facility in Florham Park, says Packin, whose co-counsel was Bruce Nagel.

The settlement payments are $925,000 by Pan; $375,000, Elliott; $375,000 by her agency, Phoenix Health Care in Rochelle Park; $250,000, Robert Wood Johnson; $150,000, Linden EMS; and $25,000, Singer. The settlement was reached during jury selection.

The case was tried solely against Perotte, before Union County Superior Court Judge Lisa Chrystal, and ended in a no-cause verdict on July 1.

Herbert Kruttschnitt of Gerald Green's firm in Red Bank, representing Elliott, confirms the settlement.

Not returning calls were James Sharp of Sharp & Associates in Cedar Knolls, for Pan; Kenneth Brown of Wilson Elser Moskowitz Edelman & Dicker in Florham Park, for Phoenix; Thomas Pyle Jr. of Post, Polak, Goodsell, MacNeill & Strauchler in Roseland, for Robert Wood Johnson; Edward Thornton of Methfessel & Werbel in Edison, for Linden; and David Weeks of Ruprecht Hart Weeks & Ricciardulli in Westfield, for Singer.

Perotte's attorney, Sean Buckley of Buckley Theroux Kline & Petraske in Princeton, could not be reached.

— By Mary Pat Gallagher


David Mazie

$2M for Fall From Ladder

Fitzhugh v. Batavia:A cable television installer left quadriplegic by a 20-foot fall from a ladder accepted $2 million on Aug. 5 in a federal court suit.

Jack Fitzhugh was working in Fort Lee on Jan. 4, 2010, when the ladder slipped, allegedly because it had a worn foot pad, causing it to lose contact with the pavement.

According to Fitzhugh's safety expert, the footpad was worn but not replaced when the ladder was inspected in November 2009 by Batavia Services of Seaview, Texas, which was under contract with Fitzhugh's employer, Time-Warner Cable, to regularly inspect its ladders and make repairs where needed.

Fitzhugh, now 32, was left paralyzed below the shoulders and now lives in a nursing home, say his lawyers, David Mazie and Matthew Mendelsohn of Mazie Slater Katz & Freeman in Roseland. The lawyer for Batavia, Scott Haworth of Haworth, Coleman & Gerstman in New York, did not return a call.

— By Charles Toutant

$950,000 in Crash Suit

Roque-Ammirata v. Debruin: A woman who claimed debilitating back injuries from a rear-end crash settled her Essex County suit on July 12 for $950,000.

In October 2009, Marilyn Roque-Ammirata was stopped at a light on Ridgedale Avenue in Florham Park in a car driven by her husband when it was struck by another car.

She claimed negligent operation by the other driver, Diane Debruin of Maplewood, and alleged the collision aggravated three spinal discs she injured in a 2005 rear-end hit.

Roque-Ammirata, now 59, underwent a three-level spinal fusion. Formerly a quality control manager at St. Barnabas Medical Center, she now has to work from home to avoid strenuous activity, says her lawyer, Raymond Gill Jr. of Gill & Chamas in Woodbridge.

The parties settled after mediation with retired Appellate Division Judge Jack Lintner, now with Norris, McLaughlin & Marcus in Bridgewater.

Debruin's auto carrier, Palisades Insurance Co., will pay the settlement.

Her lawyer, Kevin Conyngham of Zimmerer, Murray, Conyngham & Kunzier in Saddle Brook, did not return a call.

— By David Gialanella

$950,000 for Motorcyclist's Injuries

Salmeron v. Hauatian: A Hudson County jury awarded $950,000 in damages to a motorcyclist struck by a car.

Angel Salmeron, now 31, of Guttenberg, claims he was riding on 63rd Street in West New York on March 6, 2009, when hit by a car driven by Jack Hauatian of Fair Lawn, who was pulling out of a parking spot.

Salmeron suffered neck, back and knee injuries, a disc herniation and bulge, and a meniscus tear in his left knee, says his attorney, Stephen Mennella, of Steven Haddad'sJersey City firm. Salmeron had chiropractic treatment for his neck and back.

Salmeron claims to have continuing pain, limited lifting and bending ability, difficulty standing or sitting for long periods, and knee pain when on the job operating a clutch-pedal on his tractor-trailer.

Mennella says Hauatian never answered the suit and was never served. His carrier, Allstate Insurance Co., filed an answer on his behalf, stipulating to liability but arguing that Salmeron had largely recovered.

The jury found Salmeron suffered permanent injuries and awarded $950,000.

Allstate assigned the case to Salvatore Iacopelli, of the office of Doreen Ryan in Cranford, to represent Hauatian. He did not return a call. Superior Court Judge Jeffrey Jablonski presided at trial.

— By Michael Booth