Thomas Manzo

Partner Thomas Manzo resolved a case on behalf of his client who fell while at work as a teacher at a local private school. A career teacher of young children, Tom’s client slipped and fell on a wet floor when entering the school’s kitchen, where she sustained a fractured wrist and a concussion after striking her head during the fall. While workers’ compensation covered the client’s treatment bills and missed time
from work, Tom sought compensation for her injuries from the cleaning company for failing to properly remove excess water from the floor or post signs to warn of the potential danger.

Tom noted, “Many times, injured persons do not realize they may have rights against another party who is not their employer. In this case, we targeted the private cleaning company and were able to negotiate a settlement without taking the matter to trial.” Although the client’s fracture healed relatively well and did not require surgery, her head injury will require future treatment. Tom added, “Brain injuries often leave individuals with permanent changes in how they function and feel. We have seen even minor concussions lead to persistent headaches, difficulties with memory and hearing related issues. We are very glad that this settlement will help subsidize our client’s future medical needs.”

Partner Craig Hubert recently resolved a matter against a New Jersey school district where school employees fractured an autistic child’s arm during an improper restraint. The child who suffers from autism and is nonverbal, had both an IEP (Individualized Educational Plan) and a BIP (Behavioral Intervention Plan). During an expected and regular behavioral outburst, a teacher was called to the classroom to restrain the child. During this process, the teacher utilized an improper method of restraint and fractured the child’s upper arm. In light of the child’s disabilities and the likelihood that the arm would not heal without surgery, physicians operated to insert hardware in the form of metal plates and screws to stabilize the fracture and permit healing.

Through the discovery process, Craig learned that the teachers did not follow the behavioral interventions listed in the child’s BIP. Moreover, he learned during
depositions that the teachers had not familiarized themselves with the child’s IEP or BIP. Craig notes that these facts, along with implementation of an improper
restraint, helped to demonstrate the school’s liability for the injuries caused to the child. Through legal research and successful arguments in court, Craig was able to overcome the many governmental immunities that the district attempted to rely upon in litigation. In addition, he engaged a forensic child psychiatrist to help assess the psychological harm that this traumatic event caused to the child.

“We needed to dispel the fallacy that a nonverbal child who suffers from disabilities was unaffected psychologically and emotionally by trauma which occurred in the child’s classroom,” Craig related. “To the contrary, relative to this child’s understanding and experience of the world around him, this trauma is now part of him and it will cause him psychological and emotional issues going forward. For these reasons we filed the lawsuit.”

Craig notes that the case was pending trial when the COVID-19 pandemic struck. Based upon the client’s mental health and the uncertainties of a virtual trial, the parties to the litigation elected to pursue a mediation hearing in an effort to resolve the case. After two lengthy hearings, a negotiated settlement occurred.

Craig made certain that the substantial proceeds from the lawsuit were placed in a special needs trust, which will serve to provide enhanced services and care for the child well into his future.

Craig Hubert and Tom Manzo focus their practices on various personal injury matters. To contact either attorney please call (609) 275-0400. To contact Craig directly please email him at chubert@szaferman.com. To contact Tom please email him at tmanzo@szaferman.com.