Six former students at the Gloucester County Institute of Technology agreed to a $660,000 settlement in Doe 1 et al. v. Gloucester County Institute of Technology, a federal suit claiming they were subjects of “upskirt” photos taken by a teacher at the school.

The settlement was reached after an Aug. 17 settlement conference with U.S. Magistrate Judge Joel Schneider, who sits in Camden.

The students are among 24 girls as young as 14 who were secretly photographed in class by Adam Mayr, an English teacher who used a special camera resembling a pen, the suit claimed.

Mayr, 39, of Washington Township, was arrested in March 2015, after a student , who thought his handling of the pen was odd, Googled on the term “camera pen” and saw a picture of the same type of pen used by Mayr, said Michael McKenna of McKenna Law in Cherry Hill, who represented two of the plaintiffs. The other four were represented by Richard Grungo of Grungo Colarulo in Cherry Hill.

Mayr appeared to treat female students more strictly than males, and would call them up to his desk to admonish them while using the pen camera, often clipped to a sheaf of papers, to photograph up their skirts or down their blouses, according to McKenna.

Mayr pleaded guilty to charges of official misconduct and invasion of privacy in connection with the photos, and was sentenced to 10 years in prison on Aug. 4. Judge Christine Allen-Jackson, who presided at sentencing in the criminal case, refused Mayr’s request for a civil reservation that would keep his guilty plea from being used in civil proceedings.

The settlement was reached on behalf of the school and the Board of Education of the Special Services School District and Vocational School District of the County of Gloucester. Mayr remains a defendant in the civil case, and plaintiffs are proceeding against him, said McKenna.

The students claimed the school and board were negligent in their hiring and supervision of Mayr, and they cited the fact that his conduct went undetected even though he stored all his upskirt photos on a school computer, according to McKenna.

Mayr began as an English teacher at the school in 2002, and his secret photography was believed to have gone on for about two years, authorities charged.

Jay Branderbit of Kent & McBride in Cherry Hill, who represented the school and the school board, did not return a call about the case.

— By Charles Toutant

Auto Case Damages Trial Ends in No-Cause

Catello-Onello v. Isa: A Bergen County jury returned a no-cause verdict earlier this year in a suit lodged by a motorist who claimed her spinal condition was caused by a 2012 rear-end accident in Paramus.

In May 2012, Jo-Ann Catello-Onello was driving a sedan in stop-and-go traffic on Route 17 near the Paramus Park mall. As she slowed for traffic, another motorist, Ulysses Isa, struck her from behind with his SUV, according to Isa’s lawyer, Caesar Brazza of Brazza Law in Morristown.

The suit claimed Catello-Onello sustained spinal injuries requiring a three-level fusion and revision, as well as tears in the left shoulder and knee.

Isa stipulated to liability, but contended that Catello-Onello’s injuries were entirely pre-existing and traceable to a prior fall in the 1990s, according to Brazza.

The owner of the SUV Isa was driving, Johanna Velazquez, tendered her full $25,000 policy early in the case. An under-insured motorist claim later was added against Catello-Onello’s carrier, State Farm. The matter proceeded to a damages trial against Isa only, Brazza said.

The parties went through nonbinding arbitration in May 2016, and Catello-Onello was awarded $1.71 million, though the defendants made no offer of settlement at any point, according to Brazza. After a nine-day trial before Bergen County Superior Court Judge Greg Padovano, which involved four plaintiff experts and three defense experts testifying as to whether Catello-Onello’s injuries were related to the 2012 auto accident, the eight-member jury unanimously reached a no-cause verdict on March 7, Brazza said.

State Farm’s counsel sat in on the trial because of potential exposure but did not call witnesses, according to Brazza.

Catello-Onello’s attorney, Natalie Zammitti-Shaw of Rosemarie Arnold‘s Fort Lee firm, didn’t return a call about the case.

Neither did Jennifer Sanyshyn of Foster & Mazzie in Totowa, for State Farm.

— By David Gialanella

$475K for Parking Lot Fall in Morris

Luzniak v. Kraft Foods Global Inc.: A man who fell in an icy parking lot settled his Morris County suit for $475,000 on Aug. 24, according to a report from Law Journal affiliate VerdictSearch.

According to information provided by the plaintiffs’ counsel, on April 1, 2015, plaintiff Frank Luzniak, a systems engineer in his 40s, parked his vehicle in the parking lot of a Kraft Foods Global facility in Whippany. After he stepped out, he was closing the driver’s side door when he slipped on a patch of black ice about 12 feet long. He landed on his neck and left shoulder. He claimed injuries to his neck, back, left shoulder, left ankle, and both wrists.

Luzniak sued property-owner CLF Parsippany LLC; property-manager Cushman & Wakefield Inc.; and security contractor Guardsmark, LLC/Universal Protection Services, LLC. He also sued Kraft Foods Global Inc. and snow-and-ice removal-services contractor A-L Services Inc. and its owner, Bill Schneyer, but all three were dismissed prior to trial.

Luzniak alleged the companies were responsible for a dangerous condition on the premises resulting from negligent maintenance. Specifically, he claimed the companies failed to spread salt in the parking lot, allowing snowfall from the previous day to melt and freeze overnight.

The defendants denied liability, arguing that Luzniak was contributorily negligent in failing to watch where he was walking and to avoid ice in the parking lot.

Luzniak did not seek immediate medical treatment, believing his pain and soreness to be temporary injuries from the fall. He subsequently took a planned work trip lasting eight weeks. When he returned to New Jersey, he sought chiropractic treatment and consulted with his primary care physician. He also treated with an orthopedist.

Luzniak was ultimately diagnosed with herniations at cervical intervertebral discs C5-6 and C6-7; mild Grade I spondylolisthesis with foraminal stenosis at L5 with neuropathy; a Type II SLAP tear of the left (nondominant) shoulder; subscapular impingement and tendinosis of the subscapularis tendon of the rotator cuff; a sub-acute Hills-Sachs deformity; acromioclavicular joint arthrosis; peroneal tendinitis in the left ankle; and bilateral carpal tunnel syndrome.

Luzniak initially treated for his neck injuries with epidural injections of a steroid-based painkiller and physical therapy. When this was deemed ineffective, he underwent a two-level cervical discectomy and fusion at C5-6 and C6-7 with nerve-root decompression. He required temporary use of a cervical collar and had additional physical therapy.

Luzniak underwent arthroscopic shoulder surgery with subacromial decompression, acromioplasty, and compressive bursectomy. He required lumbar epidural painkilling injections for his low-back injury.

In September 2016, Luzniak’s course of treatment for his injuries concluded. He continues to experience pain and complains of permanent scarring at the surgical sites.

Luzniak’s wife, Maryann Luzniak, made a loss of consortium claim.

Luzniak’s expert orthopedic surgeon found in a report that he sustained permanent, progressive injuries to the cervical spine as a result of the fall. Luzniak’s expert radiologist found that his shoulder injuries were causally related to the fall and may require further treatment in the future.

The defendants disputed damages, arguing that Luzniak’s injuries were unrelated to the fall.

The parties agreed to a $475,000 pretrial settlement during mediation before retired Judge Maurice Gallipoli.

A-L Services Inc. and Cushman & Wakefield each agreed to pay $217,500, while Guardsmark/Universal Protection Services paid $40,000.

Each defendant carried an insurance policy with $1 million in coverage.

The plaintiffs were represented by Christopher L. Musmanno of Einhorn, Harris, Ascher, Barbarito & Frost in Denville.

James Scott Murphy of Garrity, Graham, Murphy, Garofalo & Flinn in Montclair represented Guardsmark/Universal. Cynthia Moline of the Law Office of Steven J. Tegrar in Parsippany represented A-L Services Inc. Rocco T. Casale of Schwab Haddix & Millman in Mount Laurel represented Cushman & Wakefield. Defense attorneys didn’t respond to a reporter’s calls.

— from VerdictSearch reports