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A Hunterdon County client has agreed to settle his case for $1.05 million, according to Craig Hubert, who represents David Mummey.
Mr. Mummey suffered severe, permanent head injuries as a result of an accident in June 2007. He was hired to unload a large piece of heavy equipment, a pavement sealer, from a tractor trailer to the ground. While doing so, he lost control of the equipment, which started to fall off the trailer, ejecting Mr. Mummey. He landed head-first upon a gravel driveway, causing brain injuries and cognitive losses.
According to Craig, the lawsuit was primarily based upon the manufacturer’s failure to warn, and adequately warn, his client as to the safe operation of the pavement sealer. “The manufacturer, Neal Industries, a Georgia corporation, had inadequate warnings on the machine and delivered the owner’s manual separately from the product, violating its duty to warn the end user,” Craig said. “Since we filed suit, the manufacturer has added warnings and relocated warning labels so that they are visible to operators. This case resulted in a safer product for future end users. Our client takes great satisfaction in the fact that his misfortune will result in a safer workplace for many men and women throughout the United States.”
Information obtained during the discovery process led Craig to Atlanta, Georgia to conduct sworn statements of the product manufacturer’s employees, including the design engineer. Craig subsequently found that the manufacturing plant’s retired manager was living in a remote area of Alabama. In order to obtain testimony critical to the case, Craig again traveled south, this time to depose the ex-plant manager in rural Alabama. Craig noted, “The testimony greatly strengthened the plaintiff’s position, resulting in a million dollar plus settlement.”
Michael Paglione recently settled a case against Montgomery Township for $3.575 million on behalf of a retired university professor who was rendered quadriplegic. The case made statewide news when it was filed in 2008.
The client fell backwards from the township’s senior bus while assisting a 93-year-old woman to remove her wheelchair. At the time of his fall, our client was a health and fit 71-year-old who regularly played badminton with his grandchildren and enjoyed riding his bike on country roads in Somerset County. Today he is a quadriplegic who needs 24-hour care.
Michael successfully argued that Montgomery Township was negligent in its transporting of its seniors. The bus was equipped with a handicap lift but the driver believed it was broken because she did not know how to operate it. The favorable resolution of this case comes after Michael successfully concluded three other cases this year totaling more than $2 million dollars.
A Somerset County woman, suffering from serious, permanent injuries after being struck by a pick up truck, settled her claims against the driver of the vehicle and her own insurance carrier, which provided underinsured coverage, for a total amount of $1.27 million dollars. Michael Paglione, a partner with the firm, represented the plaintiff.
The accident occurred in 2009 when our client was struck by a pickup truck after exiting her vehicle. The truck’s driver testified that he lost control of his vehicle after sliding on ice. The client suffered significant injuries to her right foot, requiring multiple surgeries and she continues to suffer from arthritis.
The truck driver had liability coverage of $500,000, an amount inadequate to fully compensate our client given the extent of her injury. Through an investigation Michael determined that the client’s husband had additional coverage available from his employer for an accident involving an underinsured motorist. Neither the client nor her husband was aware of the coverage which produced $770,000 in settlement proceeds.
Hahn v. Heisler
A retired Mercer County sheriff’s officer and his wife won a $6 million dollar judgment against the man who shot him, causing severe injuries that ended his law enforcement career. Szaferman Lakind partner Craig Hubert represents the plaintiffs, Joshua and Doris Hahn. The defendant, Vasil “Billy” Heisler, was convicted of attempted murder and weapons offenses in January in a Burlington County court. He was sentenced in June to fifty years in prison.
The total amount included lost wages, pain and suffering, punitive damages and losses incurred by Joshua’s wife, Doris Hahn.
In 2007, Joshua Hahn and his father encountered Heisler fighting with his sister in a Hamilton parking lot. Hahn tried to intervene when Heisler shot him in the chest. The bullet punctured both lungs and shattered a vertebrae in his spine. He later retired from the sheriff’s office due to his permanent disability.
“The judge found that Billy’s actions were intentional and that the conduct, in and of itself, showed intent to harm with reckless indifference to the value of human life,” Craig says. In support of the punitive damages judgment, Craig argued to the court that, “Billy has never shown any remorse for discharging a firearm into Josh’s chest.”
Szaferman Lakind is pursuing Heisler’s assets to satisfy the judgment.
Jackson V Jackson
Brian G. Paul recently convinced the Appellate Division to affirm a trial court judge’s decision that rejected a permanently disabled wife’s request for permanent alimony after twelve years of marriage. In Jackson v. Jackson, the wife, who suffers from mental illness, was receiving social security disability benefits before the parties married. She continued to receive them at the time of trial.
Relying upon a New Jersey Supreme Court case, Lynn v. Lynn, Mrs. Jackson argued that her permanent disability entitled her to an award of permanent alimony. By way of background, in Lynn v. Lynn, the New Jersey Supreme Court had previously held that a wife, who became disabled during a short term marriage of seven years, was nevertheless entitled to permanent alimony as a result of her being economically dependent on her husband for support. Mrs. Jackson argued that her circumstance was the same as Mrs. Lynn, in that she would never be self-supportive, and that Mr. Jackson should therefore have to pay her permanent alimony.
Brian argued in the Appellate Division that the Jackson case was distinguishable from Lynn v. Lynn. He emphasized that Mrs. Lynn had become permanently disabled during her marriage, meaning her economic dependency was a misfortune of the marital partnership. In contrast, Mrs. Jackson’s economic dependency was not created by virtue of anything that had happened to her during the parties’ marriage. Rather, she found herself at the end of the marriage with the same psychiatric difficulties as she did in the beginning of the marriage.
$2.75 Million Settlement in Trucking Accident Case
Michael R. Paglione, Personal Injury and Workers’ Compensation, recently negotiated a $2,750,000 settlement for a forklift operator injured in a workplace accident.
The accident occurred in 2004 as our client was loading cargo onto a tractor trailer at a loading dock. As he backed his forklift off the truck, the tractor trailer crept forward, away from the loading dock, causing the forklift, along with our client, to fall off the back of the trailer and crash to the ground.
As a result, our client’s arm was crushed and nearly amputated. He was forced to undergo multiple reconstructive surgeries, including vascular, orthopaedic and neurologic procedures. He was, nevertheless, left with residual nerve damage, limited digital motion, significant scarring and post traumatic stress syndrome.
The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) conducted an investigation and determined that the defendant truck driver had failed to properly set the brakes and chock the wheels before allowing our client to enter his trailer.
The case was mediated before a retired Civil Presiding Judge of the Superior Court. Settlements were received from NJ Manufacturers and AIG insurance companies.
Hughes v. Hughes
In the landmark case of Hughes v. Hughes, 311 N.J.Super. 15 (App. Div. 1998), the firm changed the standard for setting alimony in the State of New Jersey when it successfully argued before the Appellate Division that a marriage of 10 years is not a short term marriage under today’s standards, and that the wife in that case was therefore entitled to permanent alimony.
Click here to view the decision in Adobe Acrobat format (PDF).
Janine Bauer Wins PA Precedent Setting Case
Janine Bauer, Environmental Law, recently won $76,243 in attorney fees in a Pennsylvania Clean Streams Law case in which she represented Buckingham Township against Penn DOT and PA DEP. The Pennsylvania Environmental Hearing Board’s decision to award attorney fees in this case was precedent setting, according to the Board. It sent a clear message to Pennsylvania municipalities that litigation costs need not be a deterrent in pursuing legitimate challenges to DEP actions..
Two Pennsylvania townships – Buckingham and Solebury – challenged a federal Clean Water Act certification issued by PA DEP to PennDOT for the Route 202 Expressway project. This certification allows a project to proceed based on the “assurance” that it will comply with water quality standards, although PennDOT had not actually submitted evidence that it would comply, which the townships argued was required under the stricter state-level Clean Streams Law.
During the first year of the litigation, just before significant motions were to be argued before the Environmental Hearing Board en banc, PennDOT asked DEP to rescind the certification, and DEP agreed. Both agencies then claimed the townships’ challenge was moot (obsolete) because of DEP’s rescission of the certification.
The townships appealed the mootness ruling, and sought attorney fees under Section 307 of the Clean Stream Law, claiming that they won because the challenged certification no longer existed. They won a remand from the Pennsylvania Supreme Court, which characterized them as successful and instructed the Hearing Board to develop a factual record on the question of the award of attorneys’ fees. Janine tried the case on the merit of awarding attorneys fees against the agencies’ lawyers at the Environmental Hearing Board in July, with Paul A. Logan, Esq., who represented Solebury. In early December, the Board ruled that the townships were partly successful on the merits, based on the agencies’ rescission of the certification, and awarded all of the townships’ attorney fees for the appeal and trial (after remand) phases of the case.
The Board stated that the townships’ actions had,”changed, or at least refined the law of fee shifting, they have set a precedent that will encourage bona fide appeals of DEP actions…. Hopefully more DEP errors will be caught and rectified now that appellants know that they will not necessarily lose their shirts in the process of prosecuting legitimate concerns.” The Board continued, “As a result of the Townships’ dogged perseverance, the Pennsylvania Supreme Court has sent out a clear message that that is not the way it is supposed to be.”
$1 Million Property Tax Appeal Settlement
Bob Gladstone, Of Counsel, recently obtained a recovery package in excess of $1 million in a property tax assessment appeal case.
Our client, a 150-acre shore area country club and golf course, filed an appeal of their property assessment over three years ago. Unable to reach a favorable settlement in advance of the trial date, Bob prepared the case for trial and retained experts in the fields of real property appraisal, wetlands delineation, environmental engineering and title issues..
Although the owners had struggled to maintain the country club and golf course in good repair, the surrounding neighborhood had deteriorated significantly over the years, making upkeep difficult. Additional factors that warranted consideration included the fact that the property was burdened by considerable wetlands and watercourses that restricted potential development, and the fact that there was only one realistic point of access to the property, which appeared to be limited to use for country club access purposes.
The municipality took the position that the property was valuable as a potential site for development of single-family homes or age restricted housing. It contended that the access restrictions were unenforceable and that the proximity of the various streams and wetlands actually enhanced the value of the property. It believed that the deteriorated condition of the neighborhood would be enhanced and renewed, were the property to be developed.
Bob was able to demonstrate that the likelihood of residential development was remote and speculative, and that the highest and best use of the property was to remain as a country club. Further, golfing facilities throughout the nation have struggled economically over the last several years.
Negotiations were pursued in earnest on the morning scheduled for trial, and resulted in a reduction of more than half the original property tax assessment. Past and future assessment reductions combined for a tax recovery package of more than $1 million for our client.
$425,000 Workers’ Compensation Settlement
Michael R. Paglione, Personal Injury and Workers’ Compensation, recently negotiated a $425,000 Workers’ Compensation settlement for a Szaferman Lakind client. This was the largest Workers Compensation settlement, pursuant to Section 20 of the compensation statute, in New Jersey for all of 2008.
Our client, a mason working for a local school board, was injured in 2000 when a brick and concrete wall fell on him, crushing his right foot. As a result of the accident, he suffered traumatic fractures to his right foot, and a meniscal tear of his right knee. Although he underwent surgery and physical therapy, our client’s pain persisted and he developed Reflex Sympathetic Dystrophy (RSD) also known as Complex Regional Pain Syndrome (CRPS). This chronic pain condition is incurable, and our client is now totally disabled, due to his injuries and further complications resulting from his injuries.
Award in Breach of Contract Case Exceeds $1 Million
Dan Sweetser won a jury award of $805,000 for our client, Intercon Enterprises, in Newark’s US District Court. With interest, the award amount totaled $1,085,000.
Intercon is a small importing company. In 1999, Kwan Kim, owner/operator of Intercon, learned of a great demand for fiber optic cable by US cable companies. He contacted LGIA, formerly of Ft. Lee, NJ, to inquire if its parent company in South Korea, LG Cable, was interested in exporting fiber optic cable to meet this demand. LGIA jumped at the opportunity and two years later, LGIA had about $100,000,000 in US sales.
Intercon had a verbal agreement with LGIA that it would receive a 2% commission on all sales to four major cable companies, including Comcast and Adelphia. The sales to these two companies alone totaled $50,000,000, but LGIA paid Intercon on only $10,000,000 of the sales. LGIA concealed the other $40,000,000 in sales from Intercon. Since Mr. Kim was not involved in the processing of orders, he did not learn of LGIA’s breach until 2004 when he accidently came across the additional sales.
At trial, LGIA admitted it entered into a verbal agreement with Intercon, but denied that Intercon was owed any additional commissions. The jury did not believe LGIA and rejected its defense. After three hours of deliberations, the jury found that LGIA promised to pay Intercon a 2% commission on all sales to Comcast and Adelphia and returned a verdict for $805,000, the full amount claimed by Intercon. (September, 2008)
Appellate Court Upholds Dismissal of Official Misconduct Charges Against State Employee
Bob Lytle won a favorable decision from the NJ Appellate Court, which upheld the dismissal of criminal charges against a former NJ Division of Taxation employee for allegedly accepting gifts and services from a contract vendor.
Our client was one of six State officials indicted by the Division of Criminal Justice for allegedly accepting gifts and services from a contract vendor. The charges contained in the indictment alleged that our client committed official misconduct by accepting $360 in spa treatments form a vendor, and failing to report the “gift”. After hearing oral arguments, Superior Court Judge Thomas P. Kelly dismissed the charges against all of the State officials. The State of New Jersey appealed the decision.
The Appellate Court agreed with the Superior Court’s finding that there was no basis for criminal charges against our client, although they reinstated charges against several of the co-defendants. Our client, who had been suspended from her job for two years, was reinstated and received back pay and restoration of all benefits accrued during the suspension.
$7.5 Million Award in Mesothelioma Case
Following a two-week trial, Arnold C. Lakind, along with co-counsel, Moshe Maimon of Levy Phillips & Konigsberg, LLC, obtained a $7.5 million verdict on behalf of our client, a Linden woman, in a lawsuit filed against Exxon Mobil Corporation. Our client contracted mesothelioma as a result of exposure to asbestos fibers while laundering her husband’s work clothing. Although our client also worked for Exxon, we were able to overcome the workers’ compensation bar to civil suits by virtue of her exposures occurring in the home. (2008)
Favorable Settlement in Insurance Fraud Civil Case
Robert E. Lytle was successful in brokering a settlement between the State of New Jersey, Office of Insurance Fraud Prosecutor, and a South Jersey chiropractor. Our firm was retained by the chiropractor to represent him in a suit filed by the State seeking civil penalties in excess of $125,000 for violation of the New Jersey Insurance Fraud Prevention Act. The case settled, with both parties agreeing to the payment by our client of a $22,500 civil penalty. (2008)
Trial Court’s Denial of Alimony Reversed
Brian G. Paul won a reversal of a Trial Court’s denial of a multi-millionaire wife’s request for alimony. The parties in this case were married for nearly 26 years, during which the wife served as homemaker and primary caregiver to the parties’ three children, while her husband concentrated on advancing his career and increasing his employment earnings to more than $800,000 per year. Post-separation, both of the wife’s parents died, leaving her a substantial inheritance. After a trial in which our firm did not represent the wife, the trial court concluded that the wife did not have a need for alimony.
The Appellate Division agreed with Brian’s argument that the trial court had failed to follow controlling legal principles and abused its discretion when denying the wife alimony. The Appellate Division remanded the matter back to the Trial Court for a proper determination. The husband, unhappy with the Appellate Division’s decision, filed a petition seeking to have the New Jersey Supreme Court review the case, but the Supreme Court denied his application. (2007)
Favorable Verdict in Million-Dollar Franchise Suit
Daniel S. Sweetser successfully defended a restaurant franchisor and its franchising company against a million dollar lawsuit filed by one of their franchisees. The franchisee alleged that our clients breached the franchise agreement and committed fraud. After a two-week non-jury trial in Atlantic County before Chancery Judge William Todd, the Superior Court held that our clients did far more than what the law and the agreement required of them and dismissed the franchisee’s claims. (2007)
Client Receives $200,000 Settlement in Sexual Molestation Case against School District
Three days into a federal civil rights trial, Daniel S. Sweetser successfully obtained a $200,000 settlement for our client against a local school district. During our client’s freshman year at a local high school, she was sexually molested by a school employee. Dan sued the school district under the federal civil rights law, claiming the school failed to properly respond to previous complaints about the employee acting inappropriately with other female students. Dan also sued the employee, but felt it imperative to establish the case against the school district because of the unlikelihood that his client would ever be able to collect damages from the employee, due to his poor financial condition.
The case was tried in the United States District Court in Trenton before Senior Judge Anne Thompson. After three days of trial and completion of the plaintiff’s case, the school district initiated settlement discussions and ultimately agreed to pay our client a $200,000 settlement. (2007)
A Superior Court Judge sitting in Mercer County approved a $25,000,000 class action settlement in the matter of Hopewell v. Standard Guaranty Insurance Company. Plaintiffs were represented by Arnold C. Lakind, who directs litigation at Szaferman Lakind. The case grew out of credit insurance policies issued in 1999 by the three defendants, Standard Guaranty Insurance Company, Union Security Life Insurance Company and American Security Insurance Company, to some 37,000 New Jersey residents.
Credit insurance policies are regulated by the State of New Jersey, Department of Banking and Insurance. An insurer may not sell a credit insurance policy unless it is first filed with, and approved by, the Department. In this case, American failed to obtain the Department’s approval of its credit interruption of income policy.
The litigation began when one of our clients, an unemployed school bus driver, came to meet with us. She explained that she had recently filed a claim with American seeking payment of her Citibank credit card debt under her Interruption of Income policy. She asked that we assist in her efforts to learn why the benefits that she received were significantly less than the amount she had expected; in some months only slightly more than the premium she was paying. When we learned that our client’s earlier policy had been replaced by the less beneficial 1999 policy issued by American, our client decided to cancel her credit insurance coverage. However, her requests, and later ours, went unheeded.
In December 2000, we filed the first of what would be three class actions against the credit insurers. All three cases have settled. The most recent settlement, in the Hopewell matter, makes all of the credit insurance customers whole. It contains seven items of relief. First, the credit insurers must pay additional benefits to each of their customers who filed claims for benefits. The added benefits are in an amount sufficient, when added to benefits previously paid, to bring the total payments under American’s unapproved 1999 policy to the level they would have been had American not replaced the plaintiffs’ earlier policy, which had been approved by the Department of Banking and Insurance. The insurers must also refund to each insured who files a claim an amount sufficient to reduce their total premium payments to the level they would have been under their earlier approved policy. In addition, the class receives interest on each payment. The insurers are required to replace their unapproved policies with new approved policies, to afford large prospective premium discounts, to calculate benefits more favorably to their claimants, and to promptly cancel policies when requested to do so. (2007)
Szaferman Lakind prevailed on an appeal to the Supreme Court of New Jersey seeking to reverse a judgment against a Monmouth County accountant charged with violating a non-solicitation agreement. Our client had been employed by a larger firm and subject to a non-solicitation agreement. When our client became dissatisfied with the quality of services rendered by the firm, he left to open his own practice. In conjunction with that effort, he sent notices of the establishment of his practice to clients whom he serviced at the larger company. The larger accounting firm instituted an action for damages and prevailed in the trial Court, recovering a $71,000 judgment. We were retained to handle the matter on appeal to the Appellate Division and eventually the Supreme Court. In May 2007, the Supreme Court vacated the Judgment in part, reducing the award by $21,000. (2007)
Szaferman Lakind prevailed on an appeal before the Superior Court, Appellate Division, on an issue of first impression. Our client, JAT Properties, was a local developer of Taco Bell and similar franchises.
Represented by Arnold C. Lakind, JAT received a use variance from the City of Trenton Board of Adjustment to construct and operate a restaurant with a drive thru lane on property adjoining the Sovereign Bank Arena. The property was located in the City designated Roebling Complex Redevelopment Area. The Roebling Complex Redevelopment Plan permitted restaurants but prohibited restaurants with drive thru lanes, such as our client’s Taco Bell.
The City of Trenton Board of Adjustment granted approval of the variance to allow a drive thru lane, and the City Council affirmed. Seven local organizations, joined by an individual plaintiff, appealed, first to the Law Division and then to the Appellate Division, arguing, among other things, that a land use board could not grant a variance from the provisions of a redevelopment plan. The Law Division affirmed the grant of the variance and plaintiffs then appealed to the Appellate Division. The Appellate Court issued an opinion, Frank Weeden, Trenton Historical Society, et al. v. City Council of the City of Trenton, JAT Properties,LLC., affirming the decision of the Law Division in all respects. In a decision of first impression, the Court held that a Board of Adjustment could grant a variance from a local redevelopment plan. In addition, the Court found that the record before the Trenton Board of Adjustment contained ample evidence to warrant grant of the variance. (2007)
Jeffrey P. Blumstein successfully protested the proposed award of a multi-million dollar, multi-year State contract to provide facility management services to several large State-owned buildings. Our client is an experienced firm who had provided similar services to the State for these same buildings. However, public policy required that when their current contract expired, a new contract be put out for competitive bidding. The first bids received had been set aside by the State and the bidding process begun again. Our client then submitted the second low bid for the contract, but believed it was actually the lowest bidder, price and other factors considered.
Jeff filed a bid protest on behalf of our client. The protest stated that the company that submitted what appeared to be the low bid was materially non-responsive to the strictly enforced requirements of the Request for Proposal, and therefore it was not a proper bidder. After reviewing the matter, the Director of the Division of Purchase and Property issued an Opinion overturning the proposed contract award. The Director agreed that the other company’s bid was materially deficient, and, therefore, legally no bid at all. This left our client as the lowest responsive and responsible bidder on the contract, and it was awarded the contract. (2007)
Brian G. Paul won a reversal in the Appellate Division on a precedent-setting interstate child support case. Under Pennsylvania law, a child becomes emancipated on the latter of their 18th birthday or their graduation from high school, meaning there is no obligation for parents to contribute to college expenses. In contrast, New Jersey courts have the authority to delay emancipation until after a child graduates from college, and to require parents to contribute to the cost of their child’s college education.
The parties in Marshak v. Weser were divorced in the State of Pennsylvania. The oldest child was emancipated upon her graduation from high school under Pennsylvania law. Subsequently, both parties and their children relocated to New Jersey. Upon the youngest child’s graduation from high school, Mr. Weser filed a motion to have the child declared emancipated under Pennsylvania law.
Because all parties had moved from Pennsylvania to New Jersey, both parties agreed that New Jersey had obtained jurisdiction over the case under UIFSA, the Uniform Interstate Family Support Act. UIFSA is a model act that all 50 states have been required to enact by the federal government to help insure that different states do not enter conflicting orders when dealing with interstate child support cases. While the parties agreed New Jersey had jurisdiction to decide the case, the parties disagreed on whether New Jersey law or Pennsylvania law controlled the issue of emancipation. The Trial Court concluded that New Jersey law applied, and ordered the father to continue paying child support and to contribute to the cost of college. Brian filed an appeal on the father’s behalf.
The Appellate Division noted that, when amending the UIFSA model Act in 2001, the drafters had included an official comment clarifying their original intention that the law of the state that enters the initial child support order would govern the issue of emancipation. Although New Jersey had not yet enacted the 2001 amendment, the Appellate Division agreed with Brian’s argument that the official comment to the amendment was instructive of the legislative intent when enacting the prior version of the statute. The Appellate Division further agreed with Brian’s argument that it was incumbent upon the Trial Court to consider other state court decisions on the issue, so that the overall legislative goal of maintaining consistent results in the administration of interstate child support cases was met. Brian pointed out that appellate courts in other states, including Pennsylvania, had previously concluded that the issue of emancipation must always be determined in accordance with the law of the state that enters the initial child support order. The Appellate Division proceeded to vacate the Trial Court’s order requiring our client to provide continued support for his younger son, and ordered that our client’s motion for emancipation be granted in accordance with Pennsylvania law. (2007)
Szaferman Lakind obtained a $3.65 million settlement on behalf of an auto mechanic who contracted mesothelioma as a consequence of brake work, and a $7.5 settlement on behalf of the owner of a battery company who contracted mesothelioma as a result of exposure to asbestos from a battery experiment. (2007)
Lionel J. Frank obtained a variance from the Hamilton Township Zoning Board of Adjustment to allow construction of a new care program for seniors in the Greater Mercer County area. LIFE St. Francis is a new, community based long-term care program that allows elderly individuals who would have no option other than a nursing home to receive comprehensive care while remaining in their homes.
Szaferman Lakind was retained by St. Francis Medical Center to procure approval from Hamilton Township of its plan to retrofit an existing building in the township into a facility that would service up to 300 elderly clients. Hamilton’s existing zoning laws do not allow for a facility of this type at the location selected by the Medical Center for LIFE St.Francis. Lionel was successful in obtaining Use and Bulk Variances, as well as Final Site Plan Approval for the facility, which is expected to open in the Fall of 2008. (2007)