A Union County jury awarded $2.4 million on Aug. 8 to a driver who hurt his back when his car was struck from behind, in Mickens v. City of Elizabeth.

On Jan. 8, 2010, Jesse Mickens Jr. had just entered his vehicle at a parking lot in Elizabeth when it was hit by a maintenance truck owned by the city and driven by city employee Timothy Misdom.

Mickens, who had not yet put on his seat belt, lurched forward and suffered herniated discs that required surgery. He returned to work as a laborer but claims he cannot perform heavy-duty tasks, says his lawyer, Christopher Struben, of Michael Percario's law office in Linden.

The city stipulated liability, went to trial on damages only and argued that some of Mickens' injuries were caused by his work as a laborer. The jury found Mickens suffered a permanent injury and awarded him $2.4 million.

Superior Court Judge James Hely presided at trial.

The city, which is self-insured, retained Richard Brockway, of Union's La Corte, Bundy, Varady & Kinsella. He did not return a call.

— By Michael Booth

$750,000 for Fall at Work

Kavoleff v. Bristol-Myers Squibb: A carpenter allegedly injured in a slip and fall at a work site settled his Middlesex County suit for $750,000 on July 22.

It had snowed heavily two days before George Kavoleff, walking down a concrete ramp at Bristol-Myers Squibb in New Brunswick, lost his footing and fell in March 2009, says his lawyer, Todd Drayton, of Martin Kane Kuper in East Brunswick.

The suit alleged the ramp wasn't sufficiently cleared of snow and ice, asserted negligence claims against Bristol-Myers, general contractor Torcon Inc. and subcontractor Karabinchak Brothers Inc., which was responsible for maintenance.

Kavoleff, now 65, suffered disc herniations and bulges and shoulder and knee injuries and underwent two surgeries: a three-level decompression and fusion at the cervical level and a bi-level fusion and laminectomy at the lumbar level, both with hardware and bone grafts, according to Drayton.

The defense claimed Kavoleff was comparatively negligent and the injuries were attributable to a degenerative condition, Drayton says.

Scottsdale Insurance Co., Karabinchak Brothers' carrier, agreed to pay the $750,000 on behalf of the three defendants.

Karabinchak Brothers was represented by Gabriel Adamo of Milber Makris Plousadis & Seiden in Rochelle Park; Bristol-Myers by Danny Lallis of Pisciotti, Malsch & Buckley in Florham Park; and Torcon by D. Scott Conchar of William Staehle's firm in Morristown. None returned calls.

— By David Gialanella

$650,000 for Jail Death

On New Year's Eve in 2007, Steven Bell, 27, was placed in a holding cell after his arrest on a domestic violence charge. Though in seeming good health and medically screened on admission, he was found unconscious the next day in his bed, with foam and mucus coming out of his mouth, claims his executor and widow, Jamie Bell.

He was taken to a hospital and died 10 days later without regaining consciousness. The medical examiner found the cause of death was severe brain hemorrhaging and initially deemed it a homicide, but later classified it as undetermined.

The suit alleged Bell was beaten as a result of the policy of mixing detainees with violent offenders and the alleged 15-hour delay in providing medical care, even though other inmates allegedly alerted guards that he was in distress.

The settlement was reached on March 11 after conferences with U.S. Magistrate Judge Joel Schneider in Camden, with $250,000 payable by the county as its self-insured retention. A motion filed July 15 seeks approval on the proceeds' allocation.

The county’s lawyer, Judith Arnold of Kavanagh & Kavanagh in Millville, says Bell was not beaten and his jail problems resulted from encephalitis and low blood sugar.

Bell’s lawyer, Nancy Winkler of Philadelphia’s Eisenberg Rothweiler Winkler Eisenberg & Jeck, confirms the settlement but not the amount.

— By Mary Pat Gallagher

$625,000 for Trip and Fall

Sweeney v. Starbound Talent Competition: A woman who claimed injuries from tripping over a cable wire at a talent show accepted $625,000 on July 19 in her Middlesex County suit.

Maureen Sweeney of Staten Island, N.Y., was at Boardwalk Hall in Atlantic City on July 14, 2010, to watch her granddaughter perform when she tripped over an audio-video cable that ran from the stage into the audience and wasn't securely taped to the floor.

Sweeney fractured and dislocated her right shoulder, had a partial shoulder replacement and, now 64, has been unable to return to her office job, says her lawyer, Nicholas Leonardis of Stathis Leonardis in Edison.

Show producer Starbound Talent Competition, of Lanoka Harbor, and Boardwalk Hall each blamed the other for failing to properly secure the cable, says Leonardis.

After mediation with former Superior Court Judge Mark Epstein, now with Hoagland, Longo, Moran, Dunst & Doukas in New Brunswick, Starbound agreed to pay $375,000 and Boardwalk Hall $250,000.

Linton Turner Jr. of Mayfield, Turner, O'Mara & Donnelly in Cherry Hill, representing Boardwalk Hall, and Mark Hochman, of Steven Girtler's office in Wall, representing Starbound, did not return calls.

— By Charles Toutant