MOTOR VEHICLE

$300,000 Verdict in Three-Car Crash

Taub v. Vega, MER-L-1997-08; Mercer County Superior Court; Judge Douglas Hurd; May 29.

Facts & Allegations: Bernard Taub was driving on Princeton Hightstown Road in West Windsor on Sept. 6, 2006, when Daniel Vega, driving the car in front of him, allegedly made a sudden, sharp left turn, with no blinker or hand signal.

Taub claimed he had to slam on his breaks and then was hit from behind by a vehicle driven by Robert Skillman.

Taub was diagnosed with cervical-disc herniations at C4-5 and C5-6. He claimed the accident caused neuropsychological damage, resulting in exhaustion of $250,000 in PIP-funded medical expenses and $260,000 in boardable outstanding medical bills.

Taub sued Vega and Skillman for negligence and named Taub’s carrier, Allstate, under a claim for underinsured-motorist-coverage benefits; Vega’s vehicle was insured under a $50,000 policy, and Skillman’s vehicle under a $100,000 policy.

Taub’s wife asserted a per quod claim.

Vega reportedly was ticketed.

The complaint was amended to include a PIP claim against Allstate. During that dispute, Taub’s employer, Blumberg, which was incurring medical expenses, asserted a lien against any potential PIP proceeds. Taub also named Blumberg to compel Allstate to reimburse Blumberg and reduce the amount of its lien.

The PIP claim ended in resolution of the PIP medical payments and the employer-lien aspect.

Before trial, the parties stipulated to a $500,000 cap, leaving a liability-only trial.

Vega denied being negligent and contended that if Taub stopped suddenly, it was on account of his own negligence.Skillman claimed that the accident was unavoidable.

The parties agreed to dismiss the underinsured-motorist-benefits claim.

The jury found no negligence by Vega, but 40 percent by Taub and 60 percent for Skillman.

The recovery would have been $300,000 against Skillman, but under the cap, Taub recovered $100,000.

Plaintiff Attorney:Robert W. Rubinstein, the Rubinstein Law Firm, Hamilton.

Defense Attorneys:James Bride, Leary, Bride, Tinker & Moran, Cedar Knolls (for Robert Skillman); Jennifer Hindermann, Law Office ofRobert Raskas, Marlton (for Daniel Vega).

Insurer: Allstate for Skillman; GEICO for Vega.

Trial Details: trial length: 2 days; jury deliberations: 1 hour; jury poll: 6-0.

This report is based on information from plaintiff counsel and defense counsel for Vega. Defense counsel for Skillman declined to contribute.


Roy Curnow

INTENTIONAL TORTS

$250,000 Verdict in Assault Suit

Repetti v. McGowan, MON-L-934-10; Monmouth County Superior Court; Judge Paul Kapalko; July 25.

Facts & Allegations: Brian Repetti claims that when he went to the house next to his Belmar residence on Aug. 21, 2009, to complain about an accumulation of empty beer cans and cigarette butts, a fight ensued with neighbor Joseph McGowan.

Repetti claimed he seriously hurt his shoulder when he was thrown from the porch during the altercation.

Repetti sued McGowan, and his parents, for assault and battery and for negligence.

Repetti claimed that McGowan’s parents had gone away for about a week and left their son alone. Repetti testified that a couple of days before the incident, he saw beer cans and cigarette butts in his own yard, and tried to speak with McGowan, but McGowan ignored him.

On the day of the incident, Repetti became annoyed when he saw beer cans and cigarette butts in his own yard and went to the McGowans’ home.

According to Repetti, McGowan said he didn’t know what Repetti was talking about. When Repetti said he was going to speak with McGowan’s parents, harsh words were exchanged, McGowan told Repetti to leave the property, Repetti told McGowan to “make me,” and McGowan grabbed Repetti and threw him off the porch.

McGowan testified that Repetti came to his property “looking for a fight” and wedged his shoe in the doorway so McGowan could not shut the door.

The defense successfully requested that the court charge the jury that Repetti became a trespasser when he would not leave.

Repetti went to the hospital, where X-rays showed a displaced fracture of his distal clavicle. His arm was immobilized, and he was given a prescription for pain medication.

Repetti later had surgery — open reconstruction treatment to the coracoacromial ligament using anterior tibialis allograft. He also had a distal clavicle resection and release of the coracoacromial ligament with a transfer to the distal clavicle.

Postsurgical studies showed a well-reduced fracture, but winging of the scapula was noted. Home exercise and therapy were prescribed.

A medical exam showed Repetti could not lift his left arm. An EMG revealed auxiliary nerve injury to the right-side deltoid and demyelinating secondary nerve-root damage in the cervical area. Additional diagnoses included trapezius strain.

Repetti claimed he was out of work for almost four months.

Repetti allegedly has complaints of occasional pain in his right clavicle and says it is difficult to reach behind him, and that his dominant (right) arm tires when he works out.

The defense argued that Repetti had been well treated and healed well.

The jury found that McGowan had negligently inflicted injury on Repetti, but that Repetti was 28 percent comparatively at fault, so the $250,000 award was reduced to $180,000.

Plaintiff Attorney:Roy Curnow, Spring Lake.

Defense Attorney:John Prindiville, Sea Girt.

Insurer: Allstate for all defendants.

Trial Details: trial length: 3 days; jury deliberations: 50 minutes; jury poll: 7-0; jury composition: 1 male, 6 females.

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

CIVIL RIGHTS

$200,000 Settlement in Suit Against Police

Vazquez v. City of Paterson, 13-cv-00433-WJM-MF; U.S. District Court; Judge William Martini, Newark; July 9.

Facts & Allegations: On March 15, 2011, Linette Vazquez was sitting in a booth at the Egg Platter diner in Paterson with three friends.

Three Paterson police officers — Andre Jackson, Michael Avila and Michael Mezey — were in a booth next to them. Vazquez claimed that the officers, without provocation, began addressing her with sexually explicit, misogynistic epithets, as well as profane and threatening language. Vazquez claimed another officer, Juan Rodriguez, then arrived at the diner and arrested her.

Vazquez claimed that she was taken to a local police station, where, while she was handcuffed to a bench, she was repeatedly struck, beaten, and choked by Avila.

Vazquez sued the city, the police department, the police chief, the officers and two sergeants, alleging that false arrest and use of excessive force against her amounted to civil rights violations.

The defense denied all of Vazquez’s allegations.

Vazquez claimed she suffered sprains to her neck and back, underwent physical therapy, has residual pain, suffered emotional distress and embarrassment, and often has flashbacks of the incident.

The city, which was self-insured, agreed to pay her $200,000 without admitting wrongdoing.

Plaintiff Attorney:Nancy Lucianna, Fort Lee.

Defense Attorney:Domenick Stampone, acting corporate counsel for the city of Paterson.

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

PRODUCTS LIABILITY

$112,500 Verdict in Rear-end Crash

Frank v. Gruenberg, MON-L-3507-10; Monmouth County Superior Court; Judge Katie Gummer; June 27.

Facts & Allegations: Katelyn Frank claimed she stopped to turn left in Freehold Township on Feb. 1, 2009, when she was rear-ended by a car driven by Susanna Gruenberg.

Frank went to a hospital emergency room several hours later, complaining she was nauseous and dizzy, and had back and neck pain.

She ultimately was diagnosed with lumbar herniations at L4-5 and a cervical disc protrusion at C5-6. She treated with an orthopedic specialist and a chiropractor, and had physical therapy.

Frank, who had been particularly active in cheerleading and other athletic activities, claimed she still has pain. Her orthopedic surgery expert said some of her injuries are permanent.

Frank sued Gruenberg for negligence.

Liability was stipulated before trial, which focused on damages only. The parties entered into a $100,000-$15,000 high-low agreement prior to trial.

The defense said there was no stenosis or root damage noted and no permanent injury.

The jury found Frank had suffered permanent injury and awarded $125,000, later nolded to the stipulated high of $100,000.

Plaintiff Attorney: John McLaughlin, Schibell, Mennie & Kentos, Ocean.

Defense Attorney:Sean Doherty, Law Office of Doreen Ryan.

Demand: None reported.

Offer: $25,000 (during trial).

Insurer: Allstate

Trial Details: trial length: 3 days; jury deliberations: 3 hours; jury poll: 6-1 (as to permanency); 7-0 (as to damages).

Plaintiff Expert: Cary D. Glastein, M.D., orthopedic surgery, Tinton Falls.

Defense Expert: Kevin Egan, M.D., orthopedic surgery, West Orange.

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

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 VerdictSearch.com or call 1-800-832-1900.