$350,000 Settlement in Two-Truck Crash

Harnett v. Bancroft & Sons Transportation; 11-cv-04266-DMC-JAD; U.S. District Court; Judge Joseph Dickson, Newark; April 18.

Facts & Allegations: On June 26, 2009, Dennis Harnett, a tractor-trailer driver for the U.S. Postal Service, was backing into a parking queue at the postal facility in Kearny when another tractor-trailer, operated by Thomas W. Nelson, approached from the right.

The trucks collided.

Harnett claimed that Nelson violated his right of way, since Harnett needed adequate space to park, and that Nelson failed to follow regulations by not yielding.

Nelson contended that Harnett stopped before backing into the queue, giving Nelson the impression Harnett was allowing him to pass and that Harnett should have seen his vehicle.

Harnett went to the emergency room later that day; complained of neck and lower back pain, as well as headaches; and underwent X-rays and was treated and released. He followed up with physical therapy.

An MRI revealed a herniation at L4-5, and a second MRI revealed herniations at L2-3, L3-4 and L4-5. He underwent a lumbar microdiscectomy, physical therapy and injections.

Harnett claimed he still has lower back pain, cannot return to work as a truck driver and is too old to be retrained for another job. He further claimed he can no longer perform heavy lifting or household chores, play sports or go dancing with his wife.

Harnett sued Nelson and Bancroft & Sons Transportation, Nelson's employer and the truck owner, alleging Nelson was negligent and Bancroft vicariously liable. Harnett sought damages for his pain and suffering; his wife sought damages for loss of consortium.

Harnett's expert radiologist said the first MRI showed herniations at L4-5 and L3-4, but that the film quality was too poor to show the L3-4 herniation clearly or the L2-3 herniation.

The expert claimed the second MRI was of much higher quality, and illustrated all three herniations.

The defendants' experts testified that while the herniation at L4-5 was possibly from the accident, the herniations at L3-4 and L2-3, and the microdiscectomy, were not.

The defense further claimed that Harnett was able to return to work on a part-time basis.

The parties settled for $350,000.

Plaintiff Attorney:Harrison Gordon, Gordon & Gordon, Springfield.

Defense Attorney:Derek Barrett, Rawle & Henderson, New York City.

Insurer: Great West Casualty Co.

Plaintiff Experts: Francis Gamache, M.D., neurosurgery, New York City; Robert Kramberg, M.D., physical medicine, Wayne; Stephen Toder, M.D., radiology, Hoboken.

Defense Experts: Douglas Cohen, M.D., neurosurgery, New York City; A. Robert Tantleff, M.D., neuroradiology, East Hills, N.Y.

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


$85,000 Settlement in Collision

Tirone v. Betman, MID-L-3694-11; Middlesex County Superior Court; Judge Mathias Rodriguez; June 11.

Facts & Allegations: On May 20, 2009, Stephen Tirone was driving on Rahway Road in Scotch Plains, when a vehicle driven by Rachel Betman ran a stop sign and collided with his car.

Tirone was taken by ambulance to the hospital, where he was examined and released. He went to an orthopedic specialist for back and neck pain.

MRI testing revealed anterior and posterior protruded disc herniations at C3-4, C5-6 and C6-7; disc bulging at L4-5 and L5-S1; and a lumbosacral disc displacement and cervical and thoracic disc displacement.

EMG testing confirmed left and right S1 lumbar radiculopathy and L5-S1 lumbar radiculopathy consistent with Tirone's complaints of radiating pain to his lower extremities. There was also left cervical radiculopathy.

Tirone also suffered a concussion and was diagnosed with postconcussion syndrome, anterior supraspinatus tendonitis and subacromial/subdeltoid bursitis, and a left shoulder impingement.

Tirone received pain and epidural injections and underwent an L5-S1 percutaneous disectomy. Tirone sued Betman, alleging negligence. The defense did not dispute liability, but it argued that Tirone's injuries were barred by the verbal tort threshold.

The defense was prepared to argue that Tirone's injuries had resolved and were caused by degeneration.

The case settled for $85,000.

Plaintiff Attorneys:Craig Borgen, Cranford; Andrew Calcagno, Cranford.

Defense Attorney:Patricia Burke, Campbell, Foley, Lee, Murphy & Cernigliaro, Asbury Park.

Insurer: State Farm.

Plaintiff Expert: David Lessing, M.D., orthopedic surgery, South Plainfield.

Defense Expert: Steven H. Fried, M.D., orthopedic surgery, New Brunswick.

This report is based on information from plaintiff counsel. Defense counsel did not return calls.


$55,000 Verdict in Rear-End Collision

Roman/Rodriguez v. Tran, MID-L-541-12; Middlesex County Superior Court; Judge Martin Kravarik; May 30.

Facts & Allegations: Lourdes Roman was driving a sedan when struck from behind by a vehicle operated by Julliane Tran on Feb. 2, 2010.

Roman went to a local emergency room with complaints of neck and lower back pain. She had X-rays and was discharged. A chiropractor who diagnosed her with strained muscles at her cervical spinal level and bulging discs at L3-4 and L4-5. She underwent eight months of chiropractic treatment.

Roman's expert orthopedist said her lumbar disc bulges were caused by the accident.

Roman claimed she continues to have ongoing periodic pain and can no longer play with her children and do daily activities like house maintenance and laundry.

Roman sued Tran, alleging negligence, and vehicle owner Robert M. Tran, alleging vicarious liability.

Julliane Tran argued that she was unable to stop in time to avoid a collison.

The defense's expert orthopedist testified that Roman only suffered temporary strains and sprains.

The parties stipulated to a $50,000-$2,500 high-low agreement.

At the end of the defendant's case, the judge granted the plaintiff motion for a directed verdict on liability. The jury awarded Roman $55,000 in damages but she recovered $50,000 because of the high-low agreement.

Plaintiff Attorney: John Gregory Jr., Keefe Bartels, Red Bank.

Defense Attorney:Jeffrey Martin, law office of Edward Hoagland Jr., Edison.

Insurer: Farmers Insurance for Julliane Tran and Robert Tran.

Trial Details: trial length: 1 day; trial deliberations: 1 day; jury composition: 5 males, 1 females.

Plaintiff Expert: Arthur Becan Jr., M.D., orthopedic surgery, Camden.

Defense Expert: Steven H. Fried, M.D., orthopedics, New Brunswick.

This report is based on information from plaintiff counsel. Defense counsel declined to comment.

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