verdicts-and-settlements-article

Kukin v. Dolberg

$2 million Settlement

Date of Verdict: May 9.

Court and Case No.: C.P. Montgomery County, 2015-12138.

Mediator: Dan Brookhart.

Type of Action: Deck Collapse.

Injuries: Fractures, emotional stress.

Plaintiffs Counsel: David Woloshin, Dina Ronsayro and Jordan Schlossberg of Astor Weiss Kaplan & Mandel; and Terry Goldberg and Jason Weiss of Haggerty, Goldberg, Schleifer & Kupersmith

Defense Counsel: Frederick Lachat of Margolis Edelstein; Justin Bayer of Kane, Pugh, Knoell, Troy & Kramer; Glenn Campbell of William J. Ferren & Associates; Marc Zingarini of McGivney, Kluger & Cook; Stephen McManus of McCormick & Priore; Robert Balch of Post & Schell.

Comment:

More than 10 persons injured when a deck collapsed on them during a party outside a Poconos home have settled their claims against several entities for $2 million.

Earlier this month, 12 plaintiffs, who suffered injuries ranging from broken bones to bruises, agreed to settle their claims with six defendants involved in the construction, maintenance and inspection of the problematic deck. The case, captioned Kukin v. Dolberg, had been filed in the Montgomery County Court of Common Pleas, and was settled May 8 during mediation with Dan Brookhart as the mediator.

“What I certainly learned from this case is the importance of deck inspection. The importance of deck inspections when it’s built and having it inspected on a regular basis,” said Astor Weiss Kaplan & Mandel attorney David Woloshin, who, along with Dina Ronsayro and Jordan Schlossberg, represented five of the plaintiffs.

Terry Goldberg of Haggerty, Goldberg, Schleifer & Kupersmith, who, along with Jason Weiss, represented seven of the plaintiffs, said it was fortunate to be able to get the six defendants involved in mediation together.

According to the plaintiffs’ mediation memo, a total of 13 people, including nine children and four adults, were on the deck of the Albrightsville, Pennsylvania, home when it collapsed.

The memo said that defendant Twin Builders had been commissioned to build the home, and the project was finished in August 2004. The company, the memo said, had subcontracted with defendant Meckes Builders to build the deck and defendant McArdles Building and Remodeling to do the framing work.

Defendants Brian and Elizabeth Miller bought the house in early 2013, with defendant DiMaria Realty acting as the realtor and Safeguard Home Inspection performing the inspection.

According to the memo, Safeguard noted in the summary section of its report that several deck joists were beginning to pull away and the additional joist headers needed to be installed. However, the memo said the company failed to identify any of the problems with the deck in the detailed section of the report.

About a year after the inspection, Irina Dolberg leased the house from the Millers, with DiMaria acting as the lease agent, the memo said.

Dolberg was hosting a party for her children and their friends in July 2014, when the collapse occurred. According to the memo, the deck separated from the house, and overturned, trapping several people.

The memo contended that the deck had been improperly installed in a way that allowed storm water to get into the joists, which caused them to rot and decay. The seven plaintiffs sued for negligence, negligent hiring and supervision, breach of warrant and negligent inflection of emotional distress.

According to the complaint, one plaintiff, Jessica Kukin, who was 14 at the time, suffered a fractured femur, and another plaintiff, Yelena Tsytsylin, who was a grandmother, sustained a knee and vertebra fracture. Some of the more severely injured children were taken by helicopter to a nearby hospital, and many contended that they suffered lasting physical and emotional damages.

The defendants denied any negligence, and raised statute of repose arguments, since the deck had been built nearly 12 years before the incident.

According to the memorandum of understanding, Twin Builders contributed $650,00, Meckes added $487,500, McArdles gave $462,500, the Millers contributed $300,000, and both Safeguard and DiMaria gave $50,000 to the settlement.

According to Woloshin, after the mediation, the parties reached an additional $15,000 settlement with the previous owners of the house.

—Max Mitchell, of the Law Weekly