A Middlesex County jury awarded $9.6 million on Oct. 11 to a boy who is blind, confined to a wheelchair and unable to speak due to injuries at birth, Stetson v. Nunez.
The recovery is reduced to $6.24 million, however, because of his mother’s pre-existing conditions.
Michael Stetson was born in March 2002 with cerebral palsy and fluid in his lungs at Hackensack University Medical Center, says his lawyer, Danielle George of Phillips & Paolicelli in New York.
The suit claimed obstetrician David Nunez and maternal fetal medicine doctor Manuel Alvarez negligently failed to detect placental insufficiency, insufficient oxygen to the fetus, elevated blood pressure and other distress signs.
Superior Court Judge Heidi Willis Currier presided at the trial.
Nunez and Alvarez were found negligent and Michael’s injuries were found to have been caused by Nunez’s departures from the standard of care.
The jury awarded $6 million for future medical costs, $1.5 million in future pain and suffering, $1 million in lost wages, $500,000 for past pain and suffering, and $110,475 for past medical costs. Giovanna Stetson was awarded $500,000 for emotional distress.
The jury attributed 35 percent of the damages to Giovanna’s pre-existing conditions, cutting the award by $3.36 million.
Defense counsel were Kenneth Brown of Wilson Elser Moskowitz Edelman & Dicker in Florham Park, for Nunez; James Sharp of Sharp & Mahoney in Cedar Knolls, for the hospital; and Robert Evers of Marshall Dennehey Warner Coleman & Goggin in Roseland, for Alvarez. None returned a call.
— By David Gialanella
$4.15M in Medical Malpractice Suit
Hatcher v. Jacobwitz: A Morris County judge approved a $4.15 million settlement on Oct. 25 in a suit by the parents of a child, now 19 years old, born with cerebral palsy and brain damage.
Liza Hatcher claimed that when she arrived on Nov. 10, 1993, at Morristown Memorial Hospital at 12:30 p.m., she was hooked up to monitors and told after half an hour that she was not in active labor and could leave. Hatcher returned around 4 p.m., having received a message from the hospital that the fetal heart rate was abnormal.
Obstetrician David Jacobwitz did a Caesarean section at 6:06 p.m. Hatcher claimed her son, David, was denied oxygen before birth, causing brain damage. Jacobwitz did not detect fetal distress, which should have prompted an earlier C-section, says plaintiff lawyer Daryl Zaslow of Eichen, Crutchlow, Zaslow & McElroy in Edison.
Superior Court Judge Thomas Manahan approved the settlement, with $3.75 million paid on behalf of the now-deceased doctor, and $400,000 on behalf of the hospital and nurses.
Rachel Schwartz of Giblin & Combs in Morristown, for Jacobwitz’s estate, and Michael Bubb of Bubb, Grogan & Cocca in Morristown, for the hospital, did not return calls.
— By Charles Toutant
$3M for Motorcycle Accident
James v. Hup: A motorcyclist allegedly injured when he fell to avoid hitting a truck accepted a $3 million settlement.
Jordan James said that on May 15, 2010, a dump truck pulled in front of him on Asbury-Anderson Road in Washington Township, Warren County, causing him to ground his bike.
James’ suit, filed in Warren County Superior Court, alleged that truck driver Craig Hup ignored a stop sign. Hup was an employee of Hup & Sons of Glen Gardner, which owned the truck.
James allegedly degloved his buttocks, back and legs, requiring reconstructive surgeries and skin grafts, and suffered spinal injuries, causing a dropped left foot that gave him a limp.
James received his settlement on Aug. 26. Hup & Son’s carrier, Peerless Ins. Co., retained Edward Thornton, of Edison’s Methfessel & Werbel, who confirms the settlement amount, to be offset by a $286,972 health-care lien, says plaintiff attorney James Dunn of Levinson Axelrod in Flemington.
— By Michael Booth
$2.9M in Whistleblower Suit
Mooney v. Atlantic City: A former Atlantic City police chief who claimed he was constructively discharged after complaining about city operations was awarded $2.9 million on Oct. 16.
John Mooney, of Galloway, said he was demoted to deputy chief after complaints over the city’s decision to remove K-9 units from streets, attempt to view police internal affairs records and interference with a probe. He retired in 2010 at age 54 and sued.
The city argued that Mooney’s demotion was part of a budget crisis. But the jury awarded $3.77 million: $815,476 in lost earnings under a contract that ran through 2012; $2,704,917 in lost earnings until the time he would have otherwise retired; and $250,000 for emotional distress, humiliation and loss of reputation.
Superior Court Judge Nelson Johnson molded the verdict to $2.95 million, deducting the $815,476 because the contract period overlapped the time period for the $2.7 million. The jury also found wanton and reckless conduct justifying punitive damages but did not award any additional sum.
Johnson, before sending the case to the jury, had found no liability against two individuals, Mayor Lorenzo Langford and former Public Safety Director Christine Petersen.
Mooney’s lawyer was John Donnelly of Donnelly Clark in Atlantic City. Alex Keoskey and William Lundsten, of DeCotiis FitzPatrick & Cole in Teaneck, represented the city and Petersen. They could not be reached for comment.
— By Mary Pat Gallagher