PREMISES LIABILITY

$400,000 Settlement in Sidewalk Fall

Gitelman v. Edison Glen Associates, MID-L-5261-11; Middlesex County Superior Court; July 9.

Facts & Allegations: Sava Gitelman, 61, allegedly fell to the ground, and suffered a displaced ankle fracture, on Feb. 6, 2011, after slipping on ice coating the sidewalk of the condominium complex in Edison where he resided.

He sued the condominium association and its management entity, with the entity identified as the snow-removal contractor.

Gitelman contended that he fell near where snow had piled up as a result of plowing and shoveling and that there was no evidence of a melting agent on the sidewalk.

The snow-removal contractor claimed that it properly removed the snow and spread melting agents.

The contractor contended that the association president had complained there was too much melting agent on sidewalks and that it was being tracked into his home, and directed the contractor to remove the agent from the sidewalks.

The association and its management entity blamed the contractor for the ice formation and said Gitelman should have been more cautious where he was walking.

Gitelman’s fracture required open reduction with the insertion of plates and screws.

The defense argued he was well- treated and well-healed.

The case settled for $400,000. The condominium defendants contributed $365,000, the snow-removal contractor $35,000.

Plaintiff Attorney:Nicholas Leonardis, Stathis and Leonardis, Edison.

Defense Attorneys:Kevin Conyngham, Zimmerer, Murray, Conyngham & Kunzier, Saddle Brook (for Snow Boss LLC); Anthony Guidice, Barry, McTiernan & Wedinger, Edison (for Edison Glen Condo Association Inc., Midlantic Property Management).

This report is based on information from plaintiff counsel and defense counsel for the snow-removal contractor. Defense counsel for the condominium defendants declined to comment.

MOTOR VEHICLE

$275,000 for Pedestrian Accident

Koppenjan v. Ilaria, BER-L-4136-11; March 18.

Facts & Allegations: Robert Koppenjan, 52, was crossing Union Avenue in Rutherford on June 23, 2010, when he was struck by a car driven by Michael Ilaria.

Koppenjan, who was legally blind, was crossing at an intersection, though there was no specifically delineated crosswalk. Koppenjan claimed he was walking with a red and white cane typical of those used by the visually impaired.

He suffered a broken leg and cuts to his face. Subsequent examinations revealed a torn meniscus of the right knee, which was eventually repaired by arthroscopic surgery.

He sued Ilaria for negligence, citing a statute that requires motorists to yield to blind pedestrians, regardless of whether they are crossing at an intersection. A member of Koppenjan’s immediate family had a derivative claim.

Ilaria said he did not see Koppenjan as he approached the intersection. The defense contended that Koppenjan was well-treated and that his injuries had fully healed.

The case settled for $275,000.

Plaintiff Attorney:Nicholas Leonardis, Stathis and Leonardis, Edison.

Defense Attorney:Anthony Tamburello, Schenck, Price, Smith & King, Paramus.

Insurer: New Jersey Manufacturers Insurance.

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

PREMISES LIABILITY

$125,000 Settlement in Beating Suit

Laughlin v. Maldonado, MID-6672-10; Middlesex County Superior Court; June 12.

Facts & Allegations: On Oct. 3, 2009, Dante Laughlin, a high school student, went to a party thrown by a friend at the Piscataway home of the Maldonado family; the mother reportedly was at home at the time.

Dante claimed that during the evening, the party was crashed by at least three juvenile gang members who indiscriminately began attacking people and eventually ran down Dante, who, while attempting to flee the house, was pursued and severely beaten.

Dante’s father brought an action on his son’s behalf against the Maldonados, for negligence.

The complaint alleged that the Maldonado home was functionally turned into a club for the event, with a cover charge collected at the door, and arrangements made for a doorman who would provide security.

A retired police officer retained as a security expert concluded that the character of the party had taken on aspects of a commercial enterprise, and that the Maldonados were ill-equipped to deal with the intervening situation of the errant gang members crashing the party.

Counsel for Dante alleged that the defendants’ response to the melee was to attempt to get everyone out of the house, and it was at this time that Dante was run down and beaten.

The Maldonados denied negligence and argued that the assault was unforeseeable.

Dante was hospitalized for 10 days and treated for facial fractures, a broken nose, a broken jaw, and lung and rib bruises.

He was later diagnosed with a residual temporomandibular-joint condition that his physicians have concluded is permanent. His other injuries reportedly resolved well.

The case settled for $125,000.

Plaintiff Attorney: Roger Ermola, Law Office of Michael Percario, Linden.

Defense Attorney:Mario Colitti, Viscomi & Lyons, Morristown (for Frieda Maldonado, Norma Maldonado).

Insurer: Liberty Mutual for the Maldonados.

Plaintiff Expert: Joseph Blaettler, security/premises liability, Brookside.

Defense Expert: None reported.

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

MOTOR VEHICLE

$125,000 Verdict in Rear-end Collision

Troutman v. Levin, CAM-L-162-10; Camden County Superior Court; Judge Stephen Holden; June 4.

Facts & Allegations: Phoi Tran Troutman was driving on Route 38 in Cherry Hill on Jan. 12, 2008, when her car was struck from behind by a vehicle driven by Edward Nice, with the permissive use of Brandi Nice.

Troutman allegedly was able to drive away and did not seek medical attention until 10 days later, when she went to an orthopedic specialist with complaints of back and neck pain.

She was treated conservatively for these symptoms, until a cervical MRI showed disc herniations at C3 through C6. An EMG also confirmed left-sided cervical radiculopathy consistent with Troutman’s complaints of persistent radiating pain to her left arm.

Epidural injections were recommended, but she declined. She continued to receive heat therapies, electrical stimulation, prescribed exercise and physical therapy.

Troutman sued the Nices for negligence.

Two additional defendants, Jeffrey Levin and Joseph Levin, were voluntarily dismissed from the case.

The Nices stipulated liability, and the case went to trial on damages, with the defense contending that Troutman’s complained-of injuries did not meet the requirements of the limitation-on-lawsuit tort threshold.

A pretrial court-mandated arbitration resulted in a $35,000 award to Troutman; the defense appealed and obtained a trial de novo.

Prior to trial, the parties agreed to cap any damages at the $50,000 policy limit.

The defense maintained that Troutman had suffered no permanent injury and that any complaints were due to a degenerative spinal condition.

The jury found that Troutman had suffered permanent injury and awarded $125,000, which was molded to reflect the $50,000 cap.

Plaintiff Attorney: Harry Kane Jr., Saffren & Weinberg, Jenkintown, Pa.

Defense Attorney:Rodd DeWitt, Law Office of Robert Raskas, Marlton (for Brandi Nice, Edward Nice).

Insurer: GEICO for the Nices.

Trial Details: trial length: 1 day; jury deliberations: 45 minutes; jury poll: 6-0.

Plaintiff Expert: Barry Gleimer, D.O., orthopedic surgery, Cherry Hill.

Defense Expert: None reported.

This report is based on court records and information from plaintiff counsel. Defense counsel for the Nices 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.