New Jersey Traumatic Brain Injury Settlements and Verdicts

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Competitive Weightlifter Suffers Brain and Spinal Injuries When Defendant Runs a Red Light

In January 2004, Plaintiff was driving on Burnt Tavern Road in Brick, New Jersey, when he collided with a car being driven east on Route 70 by the defendant. Plaintiff’s vehicle was hit on the driver’s side, a tire exploded and the rim of a wheel dug into the ground, causing his vehicle to flip over and land upside down over another car.Plaintiff suffered mild traumatic brain injury, a spinal injury and a nerve injury in his left foot. Following a long course of treatment, Plaintiff underwent a three-level lumbar fusion at L3-4, L4-5, and L5-S1, performed by a neurosurgeon from Somerset. Prior to this, Plaintiff had three facet injections and six epidurals (three cervical and three lumbar), performed by a pain management specialist. He also received pain management and a lumbar nerve block and a lumbar isogram, in addition to peroneal nerve release therapy. Plaintiff missed about 500 days of work over a four year period.

Plaintiff brought suit against defendant, alleging negligent operation of her vehicle and specifically her disregard of the red light that denied her the right of way at the time of the accident. Defendant did not deny that the light was red but stated at deposition that she was distracted and thought the light was green.

Before the accident, Plaintiff was a competitive weightlifter, capable of dead lifting 700 lbs. From plaintiff’s perspective, there was the forensically fortuitous circumstance that the chiropractor who had treated him over a period of years in connection with muscular sprains and strains connected with his sport, had examined him four days before the accident and saw him two days after his release from the hospital. The chiropractor also happened to be an expert in the sport of competitive weightlifting and was able to opine that power weightlifting, when done properly, does not involve the back at all, but rather involves the abdominal muscles. The doctor was prepared to testify that Plaintiff had no disc-related problems whatsoever, and that in all of the years that he had treated him, he had never found evidence of a disc related injury or condition.

Plaintiff also claimed damages related to his career as a competitive weightlifter. The World Natural Power Lifting Foundation had twice named him World Champion, in 2000 and 2002. Further he was training for another such competition, scheduled for two weeks after the accident. At the time of trial Plaintiff was under medical advice not to carry anything in excess of 20 pounds.

Before trial, the plaintiff and Allstate, the defendants insurance carrier, settled the case for $1,100,000 (the policy limit of the Allstate insurance policy was $1,250,000). The settlement was reached soon after arbitration and following a conference with the presiding civil assignment judge in the law division of Ocean County.

Police Officer Leaves the Scene of Car Accident and Plaintiff Is Beaten by Other Driver

In June 2004, Plaintiff, 60, an electrician employed by the Path Train system, was attacked at the scene of a car accident on Sip Avenue in Jersey City. The accident occurred when a vehicle operated by an ex-convict ran through a stop sign at the intersection of Emerson Avenue and struck Plaintiff’s vehicle. Plaintiff’s car sustained about $4,400 in damages but no injuries were sustained by any person in the collision.

Plaintiff called the police to report the incident and requested an officer at the scene. While waiting for the police, Plaintiff wrote down the license plate number and the names of the other driver and car owner.

The driver of the liable vehicle also placed a phone call, not to the police but to the owner of the car he was driving. The vehicle owner arrived on the scene before the police and was speaking to the vehicle driver when the police arrived. The police officer allegedly spoke through his passenger window to plaintiff and the vehicle driver and owner, and did not exit his patrol car. Allegedly, the vehicle owner told the officer that police were not needed at the scene. Plaintiff claimed that he called for the officer to stop and inspect the accident scene, but the officer drove around him and continued down Sip Avenue for about a quarter of a mile, towards Route 1 & 9.

According to Plaintiff, he was attacked by the driver and owner of the other vehicle after the police officer drove away from the scene. Allegedly, the driver struck the back of Plaintiff’s head with a pipe-like object and the two men beat him until he was unconscious, causing permanent brain injuries. Following the assault, the two men entered Plaintiff’s car and removed the piece of paper on which Plaintiff had written down their names and license plate numbers from the glove compartment.

The police officer later claimed that he left the scene of the accident because he couldn’t find a parking spot, and that he drove a quarter-mile away to a bagel store. He then returned to the scene of the accident on foot only to find Plaintiff laying on the sidewalk, bleeding and injured. The officer claimed that the vehicle driver and owner told him that they were the only two parties involved in the accident and that they had suffered no injuries. They explained Plaintiff’s presence by claiming that he had been a passer-by who fell and was injured on the sidewalk. The police officer and both the vehicle driver and the vehicle owner allegedly all left the scene of the accident in short order.

Numerous parties, including neighbors, passers by and even a Hudson County Sheriff’s prisoner transport vehicle made calls to request that assistance be sent to the area for the injured plaintiff. A Jersey City Medical Center ambulance and an intensive care medical unit arrived at the scene and transported the plaintiff to the Jersey City Medical Center. Witnesses assisted police who later investigated the crime scene, leading to the arrest of the driver and vehicle owner. The driver, who had seven prior felony convictions, pled guilty to aggravated assault and was sentenced to 42 months in prison. The police officer was disciplined by the police department for violating department policy and lost five days of “comp time.”

Plaintiff suffered traumatic brain and head injuries as a result of the pipe attack. His right eardrum was ruptured, and his right ear was left looking like a cauliflower. He also sustained cuts behind that ear and over his left eye. The frontal lobe of his brain was damaged, resulting in numerous cognitive deficits including short-term memory loss, emotional changes and an inability to follow or remember sequences. The impairments resulted in difficulty performing job duties as an electrician for the Path train system; he could not remember what tasks he was to perform such as turning off electric power switches, creating the possibility of electrocution. Plaintiff claimed economic damages because he had to retire two years early from his job. His family life also suffered when he could not remember directions, tasks, or messages, or even his grandchildren’s names. Even his activities around the home required monitoring by family members. In addition, he now suffers from depression for which he takes Wellbutrin.

The defendant’s psychiatry expert claimed that the plaintiff had no brain injuries but actually suffered from post-traumatic stress disorder, which was a pre-existing condition sustained during the terrorist attack of Sept. 11, 2001.

Plaintiff sued Jersey City and the police officer for negligence. The City filed a third-party suit against the vehicle driver and owner who assaulted the plaintiff, claiming that the two men had caused Plaintiff’s injuries. The city and the police officer involved also claimed that they did not cause Plaintiff’s injuries and owed him no ministerial duty. The defendant driver, who was serving his prison sentence at the time, defaulted on the city’s complaint. The vehicle’s owner denied involvement in the attack on Plaintiff. The police officer retired from the police department shortly before the trial was to begin.

Plaintiff’s claims against Jersey City and the police officer involved were settled during trial at the Hudson County Superior Court just before the closing arguments, for $300,000. The vehicle owner was granted a directed verdict of dismissal because the City failed to produce evidence of what injuries could be attributed to him.

Plaintiff Suffers Serious Brain and Bodily Injury in Drag Race

In November 2005, Plaintiff, then 17 years old, was a passenger in defendant driver’s sedan in North Bergen, when defendant driver’s vehicle struck another sedan, driven by defendant#2. The collision caused defendant drivers’s sedan to careen into a tree.

Plaintiff suffered a fractured right tibia, left ulna, jaw and right clavicle. He was hospitalized for 9 months and underwent multiple surgeries, including a craniotomy. He also suffered a serious brain injury. Today, Plaintiff suffers from scarring, and a limited range of motion in his arm. Luckily, plaintiff’s brain injury has improved to the point where he can attend college.

Plaintiff sued both drivers under a motor vehicle theory, and seeking compensation for unpaid medical bills as well as pain and suffering. Plaintiff’s counsel argued that both vehicles were traveling about 65 mph in a 45 mph zone, citing a police report. Defense counsel argued that the plaintiff precipitated the accident by urging the defendant to drive his vehicle faster. There was some factual dispute as to whether the parties were involved in a drag race. However, during a settlement conference with A superior Court Judge of Bergen County, the parties reached a $1.6 million settlement.

Motorcyclist Hit by Police Officer Suffer Brain Injury and Is Permanently Disabled

In October of 2005, Plaintiff, 38, was riding a motorcycle on Route 555 in Franklinville when a New Jersey State Trooper’s failure to adhere to traffic control devices caused the two drivers to collide. Plaintiff’s motorcycle hit the cruiser and the plaintiff went over the car’s hood. Plaintiff’s right shoulder and head hit the windshield. He sustained a serious and permanent brain injury. Plaintiff claims to have residual difficulty concentrating. He also sustained rib and pelvic fractures, and his spleen had to be removed because of rupture. He is no longer capable of running the septic-tank pumping business that he owns.

Counsel for the state disputed the extent of Plaintiff’s injuries and contended that he was comparatively negligent for wearing a helmet that was not approved by the U.S. Transportation Department.

Plaintiff sued the police officer and the state, claiming that the trooper ignored both the sign and a blinking light controlling the intersection as he entered the roadway. Plaintiff also named the New Jersey Treasury, the Department of Fleet management and the New Jersey State Police as defendants.

After three days of trial in the Cumberland County Superior Court, the state and Plaintiff reached a settlement agreement in the amount of $1.5 million.

Plaintiff Suffers Brain Injury When Car Crosses into His Lane, Causing Flip-over Accident

In March of 2004, Plaintiff was driving a scrap metal truck southbound on East Creek Mill Road in Maurice River Township when he was involved in a collision with a northbound vehicle driven by defendant. His vehicle flipped over several times.

Plaintiff sustained a brain contusion of the frontal lobe and a concussion. He also suffered a broken nose and herniation of a lumbar disc. Lastly, he experienced radiating sciatic pain after suffering a sacroiliac sprain. He underwent physical therapy.

The defendant conceded that Plaintiff had suffered the sacroiliac sprain in the accident but denied that he had suffered a herniated disk and challenged the severity of his brain injury. Also, defense counsel claimed that Plaintiff’s lumbar injury was actually a bulging disc, a less severe condition.

Plaintiff sued defendant for negligence. He sought damages for his injuries as well as punitive damages. He claimed that the incident was caused by the defendant swerving into his lane, and that he turned in time in order to avoid a head-on collision.

Prior to trial, defendant conceded to liability and Plaintiff withdrew his claim for punitive damages. Also before the trial, the parties entered into a high/low agreement with a range of $375,000/$125,000.

At trial, the jury in the Cape May County Superior Court awarded Plaintiff $600,000 in damages, which was reduced to $375,000, per the previously agreed upon high/low agreement.

Delayed Treatment Post-surgery Caused Irreversible Brain Damage and Death

During the winter of 2003, Plaintiff, 68, underwent a thyroidectomy for papillary thyroid carcinoma at Clara Maas Medical Center in Bellville, New Jersey. Four hours after surgery, plaintiff went into respiratory arrest as a result of a blood clot in her airway. Treatment was delayed when the laryngoscope in the crash cart had dead batteries and spare batteries weren’t immediately available. The individual responsible for packing and checking the laryngoscope was never identified. To make matters worse, the wall-mounted suction device in Plaintiff’s room failed to operate, and a suture set was not immediately available.

As a result, Plaintiff sustained irreversible brain damage, resulting in her death eight days later. Plaintiff’s counsel maintained that Plaintiff was conscious and in pain for at least part of that time.

Plaintiff’s son sued Clara Maas Medical Center, as well as the surgeon and treating medical personnel, the unknown individual who was responsible for packing the laryngoscope, the supervisor of the hospital’s central supply department, and the supervisor of the pharmacy department. He sought an unspecified amount for wrongful death, pain and suffering prior to death and loss of parental consortium. Plaintiff’s counsel maintained that the hospital and its employees failed to insure spare batteries were packed with the laryngoscope, creating a delay in Plaintiff’s care. Hospital employees failed to inspect the suction device and failed to carry out the surgeon’s order that a suture set be placed in Plaintiff’s room. Plaintiff’s counsel maintained that Plaintiff began to show signs of respiratory distress 30 to 45 minutes prior to the code being called, and that the on call nurses failed to communicate this to doctors. Finally, plaintiffs counsel claimed that all the defendants failed to treat Plaintiff in a timely manner.

The defense denied the allegations. The hospital and its employees claimed that they had policies in place calling for spare batteries to be packed with laryngoscopes. Defense counsel for the surgeon claimed that he was not informed of Plaintiff’s respiratory arrest. The individually named nurses and employees denied having responsibility for inspecting the suction tube and placing the suture set. All of the defendants denied treatment was unreasonably delayed.

Defense counsel claimed that Plaintiff was not conscious prior to death. Defense counsel also claimed pathology from the thyroidectomy indicated that the cancer had spread, and defense oncology expert gave Plaintiff a 40 percent to 50 percent five-year survival rate. Defense also argued that state law limited the hospital’s liability to $250,000.

All of the parties except the surgeon settled just prior to trial in Essex County Superior Court for a total of $1.3 million. The family dropped the claims against the surgeon.

For more information or to speak with a New Jersey traumatic brain injury lawyer, contact Keefe Law Firm.