El Sheikh v. Chem Tainer and SCC Pumps In this product liability case, we won a $3,500,000.00 settlement for 29 year-old Tim El Sheikh, a mechanic who was burned over 40% of his body when a portable oil transfer tank exploded. The tank, as manufactured by defendant, Chem Tainer, contained an improper spark-generating electric pump supplied by defendant, SCC Pumps. Unbelievably, the tank displayed no warnings, or writing of any kind, to inform mechanics that the tank was supposed to be used for motor oil only. As a result, Mr. El Sheikh had no reason to know that it was dangerous to use the tank to transfer diesel-contaminated gasoline that he had drained from a truck tank. Mr. El Sheikh’s burns were so severe that he was placed in a medically-induced coma to reduce his pain. The defendants only settled the case after we defeated their motion for summary judgment and the judge ruled that the case should go to trial. The judge’s decision was so significant that it was reported in the newspaper. We were able to place part of Mr. El Sheikh’s settlement in a tax free annuity so that, in addition to a lump sum payment, he will receive monthly tax free payments for the rest of his life. As is customary in our handling of cases of this magnitude, we consulted with several experts including: a retired professor of engineering from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (the foremost engineering school in the United States); a Professor of Economics; an occupational rehabilitation specialist; a clinical psychologist; and a medical doctor who specializes in the treatment of burn victims.
Vera v. Rodriguez and Chrysler Financial In this motor vehicle accident case, on the eve of trial, we obtained a $2,500,000.00 settlement for 21 year-old Nestor Vera. Mr. Vera sustained a severe de-vascularizing crush injury to his left leg, with an extensive orthopedic component, when he was struck by defendants’ vehicle after he got out to push his van which had broken down on the Verrazano Bridge. The result that we obtained for Nestor in this case was particularly satisfying because of the significant percentage of responsibility for the accident caused by Nestor’s own unwise decision to get out of his van, rather than wait for a tow truck. Our very thorough pre-trial investigation disclosed that the defendant driver lied about how the accident occurred. On the day of the accident, the defendant driver told the police that he did not see Mr. Vera until it was too late to avoid him. The defendant driver claimed that he was forced out of his lane by a “phantom” vehicle that made a sudden, improper, lane change. However, later, when we deposed the defendant driver, he testified that he was following closely behind a tractor-trailer truck and, when the tractor trailer truck came to a sudden stop, he was too close to the truck to stop in time and swung out of lane striking Mr. Vera. As part of the tremendous amount of work that we did on this case, we conducted non-party depositions of the police sergeant who was at the scene of the accident and the manager of the Verrazano bridge. We also consulted with an accident reconstruction specialist with a Ph.D. in engineering, an economist, and doctors specializing in vascular and orthopedic surgery. Finally, it is interesting to note that Mr. Vera only came to our office because his original attorneys did not understand the full extent of the available insurance coverage and had urged him to settle for $100,000.00, a sum far less than we were able to obtain for him.
Scott v. Barone This case settled before trial for $2,750,000. While driving his Mitsubishi Eagle sedan on the Whitestone Bridge, our client, Mr. Scott, was sideswiped by the defendants’ 35,000 pound box truck. The impact of the truck sent Mr. Scott’s car into a rollover. Mr. Scott was trapped inside with his left arm crushed under the weight of the upside down car. He suffered a severely fractured left arm with nerve damage. He required multiple surgical procedures to repair his arm and to regain function of the nerves to his hand.
While he was in the hospital intensive care unit, Mr. Scott was approached by “investigators” who claimed to work for lawyers. The “investigators” wanted him to “sign up” with other law firms. Mr. Scott knew our firm because we had successfully represented his wife in a prior matter, and he rejected the “investigators’” illegal solicitations.
After Mr. Scott was discharged from the hospital, he came to our office where we performed a detailed intake. We fully investigated the facts of the case, commenced a lawsuit and prepared the case for trial. After we litigated the case for two years the insurance company for the truck driver, and the insurance company for the trucking company that owned the truck, decided that they were willing to settle.
The insurance companies’ first offer of $500,000.00 was ridiculously low. We advised Mr. Scott to reject the offer and we told the insurance companies that we were prepared to try the case before a jury. Finally, after several months of negotiations, the insurance company for the truck driver offered the full amount of the driver’s policy, $750,000.00, and the insurance company for the trucking company offered another $2,000,000.00.
Mr. Scott’s ability to use his left arm remains severely impaired. However, he was able to use some of the settlement money to start his own successful business.
Lombardi v. Resources Property, et al. We obtained a $10,500,000.00 jury verdict following a 3 week trial. The plaintiff was the administrator of the estate of a man whose head was trapped under a defective water hydraulic freight elevator, one of only fifty still in existence in the City of New York out of 35,000 elevators.The victim was conscious for a five minute period while being crushed to death. The death occurred at the Prince Building, 568-578 Broadway in Manhattan. The decedent, 62 years old at the time his death, had been the elevator operator at the building for 23 years prior to the accident. No contributory negligence was found.
Dr. Michael M. Baden, former Chief Medical Examiner of the City of New York testified for the estate. (This is the same Dr. Baden who testified in the O. J. Simpson trial). According to Dr. Baden, it was clear from decedent's autopsy findings that his head was trapped under the elevator for nearly five minutes before he lost consciousness, during which time he struggled to avoid his fate, was in pain, and experienced emotions similar to the pre-impact terror suffered by airplane crash victims. Although not in evidence, police at the scene described that decedent was found clutching a crucifix.
Prestia v. Mathur This medical malpractice case, based on an erroneous diagnosis, was tried to verdict in the amount of $2,660,000.00. Plaintiff had a completely unnecessary surgery which consisted of opening her entire chest. The surgery was done because the defendants failed to perform a biopsy known as a Chamberlain's procedure and, as a result, failed to diagnose Hodgkin's Lymphoma, a condition which should have been treated by radiation and chemotherapy, not surgery. A frozen section performed during the surgery revealed that plaintiff actually had Hodgkin's Lymphoma, not a thymoma. Ultimately, plaintiff had radiation therapy which was the treatment that she should have had to treat her condition. The unnecessary surgery required the surgeon to cut through plaintiff's sternum which was invaded by the tumor and have part of the lining of both lungs (pleurae) removed. Part of the lining of her heart was also removed and had to be repaired with a permanent gore-tex patch. Plaintiff's incision was closed with multiple wires used to hold her sternum together. She was left with a permanent scar that was a half inch wide and stretched from just below her neck to the bottom of her chest.
Reece v. New York City Board of Education A jury awarded $2,000,000 in this case. Rhoda Reece, a Special Education teacher at Midwood High School fell on a wet, slippery, terrazzo floor immediately inside of the only entrance to the school. As a result of her fall, she suffered a bipolar fracture of her left hip. On the day that Mrs. Reece fell, the weather report predicted rain. Moreover, it was raining for at least 40 minutes before Mrs. Reece fell. Mrs. Reece fell because the defendant, despite being fully aware of how dangerously slippery wet terrazzo is, removed mats from the terrazzo entrance way of the school. As a result of her fall, Mrs. Reece suffered a bipolar fracture of her left hip. She was admitted to Maimonides Hospital where she had surgery for the implantation of a bipolar prosthesis. The surgery required a 14 inch incision. She remained in Maimonides for two weeks and then spent a week at Lutheran Hospital. She was home bound with an aide for three months, confined to the ground floor of her home, and out of work for a year. Several years after the prosthesis was inserted it began to fail and Mrs. Reece developed a leg shortening. As of the time of trial she was scheduled for a second surgery for the implantation of a full prosthesis. Since the trial, she has, in fact, as scheduled, had a second surgery. The surgery consisted of a total hip replacement performed by the same orthopedic surgeon who testified at trial. Mrs. Reece's treating physician also testified at trial that if she lives a further 10 years, well within her actuarial life expectancy, she will require a third surgery.
Price v. Syracuse University This action settled on the eve of trial for a present value of $1,500,000, $250,000 of which was structured. Plaintiff, a 23 year-old art student, was working on a metal sculpture and using an acetylene torch when her jumpsuit caught on fire. The accident occurred during a holiday period when classes were not in session, but people working in the art building heard plaintiff's screams and rushed to her aid.
Plaintiff suffered second and third degree burns over 18% of the body including the inner thighs and buttocks, just sparing the pubic area, resulting in hypertrophic burn areas and psychological injuries. Plaintiff was hospitalized for 1 1/2 months and underwent skin grafting. She has extensive scars at the burn and donor sites.
Plaintiff contended that Defendant negligently failed to provide proper training in the use of acetylene torches, and failed to implement a "buddy system." She also contended that Defendant did not inform her that there was a safety shower in the lab in which she was working. Plaintiff discovered safety inspection reports pre-dating the incident stating that the inspectors found that the shower should have been in a more accessible area. The reports also indicated that access to the shower was sometimes blocked by art projects and materials.
Burd v. Bi-County Construction and County of Suffolk Our client received a cash payment of $1,500,000.00 for her injuries resulting from a motor vehicle accident. Plaintiff, a 33 year-old nurse, was driving to work when a wheel of her car went off the right side of the road and dropped eight inches into an area of the road shoulder that had been cut away by defendant Bi-County Construction. Plaintiff lost control of her car which became airborne and struck an oncoming truck head on. Plaintiff's injuries included a fractured femur, ruptured medial collateral ligament and facial lacerations. Plaintiff has been unable to return to her job as a nurse.
Early in the case, we conducted a non-party deposition of the first police officer to arrive at the accident scene. He testified that he had to threaten to arrest some of Bi-County Construction's employees to prevent them from interfering at and tampering with the accident scene.
Doe v. ABC, Corp. Mrs. Doe An X-ray technician was exposed to a high dose of radiation when the X-ray machine she was working with malfunctioned. As a result, 15 years later she developed thyroid cancer that was successfully treated. During the course of the lawsuit seeking damages for the thyroid condition, she developed breast cancer, also causally related to the prior radiation exposure. The case settled for $1,350,000 under a confidentiality agreement imposed on plaintiff by the defendant corporation.
Elam v. New York City Transit Authority We obtained a $867,000.00 verdict for Mrs. Elam after she fell on a defective step in the defendant's subway station. Mrs. Elam broke two bones in her right foot. Even though the jury's verdict was sustained by the Court of Appeals, we had to execute on the Transit Authority's bank accounts to obtain Mrs. Elam's judgment.
Doe v. XYZ Ins. Co. Plaintiff was a doctor who took out an occupation specific disability policy. As a result of a lifelong condition, he eventually was unable to practice medicine, first ceasing to perform surgical procedures and then, a year later, ceasing to practice altogether. The insurance company paid him $8,600 per month in disability benefits. However, after several years, the insurance company stopped paying benefits when it learned that the doctor had moved to a resort community and obtained videotape of the doctor engaged in a recreational activity on the beach. The insurance company claimed that the activity documented on the tape was inconsistent with the claim of total disability. We were able to obtain an $850,000.00 lump sum settlement for the doctor by proving to the satisfaction of the insurance company that the activity of performing surgery and the recreational activity engaged in by the doctor on the beach, were physically and functionally different.
Husejnovic v. Milosevic Following trial of this medical malpractice action, a jury awarded $750,000.00 to our client. Dr. Milosevic perforated the uterus of our 16 year-old client while performing an elective abortion. Despite her critical need for emergency surgery, the doctor refused to let an EMS ambulance take Ms. Husejnovic to the nearest hospital, St. Vincent's in Manhattan. At trial, it was revealed that the doctor had admitting privileges at St. Vincent's, a Catholic hospital that does not permit the performance of elective abortions. The doctor, afraid of losing his admitting privileges, had Ms. Husejnovic taken by private ambulance, after a delay of two hours, to a hospital in another borough.
Alessi v. Papillon This action settled for $565,000.00 after plaintiffs' depositions. While plaintiffs were vacationing in Hawaii, they took a helicopter tour of the island. Just after flying over the lip of a volcano, the engine failed. The pilot was able to perform an autorotative landing into a rain forest. Michael Alessi, a Korean war veteran with helicopter flight experience, videotaped the descent and crash which occurred through the rain forest canopy. Plaintiff's were airlifted from the crash site to a hospital. Plaintiffs were treated and released from the emergency room on the same day and subsequently returned to New York. Both plaintiffs were retired at the time of the accident. Mr. Alessi suffered a C5-C6 central disc herniation and a left rotator cuff tendinitis. Mrs. Alessi also suffered back injuries and post-traumatic stress disorder. Both plaintiffs were treated conservatively without surgery.
Plaintiffs' pro se attempt to engage in settlement discussions prior to commencing the action resulted in a settlement offer of $10,000.00.
In exchange for a pre-action stipulation precluding plaintiffs from seeking punitive damages (Papillon Helicopter had previously been featured on the news show "20/20" as an unsafe carrier) defendant consented to jurisdiction in the Eastern District of New York.
Pemper v. Methodist Hospital This medical malpractice action settled, after five days of trial, for $500,000.00. John Pemper was a 26 year-old drug addict admitted to Methodist after attempting to commit suicide by taking a heroin overdose. After admission, his condition deteriorated and, after six weeks of general neglect, due in part to the unfounded belief that he had AIDS and the fact that he was a known drug abuser, he experienced preventable complications which rendered him comatose. He died ten weeks later.
McEnaney v. Nassau County, et. al. The amount of the settlement in this action cannot be disclosed pursuant to a Court ordered confidentiality agreement. It is public record, and was widely reported in the press, that Nassau County issued a bond to pay the settlement. Mr. McEnaney was arrested but could not afford bail. After arraignment he was taken to the Nassau County Correctional Center. Upon arrival, he was placed in a bullpen to await processing. He was singled out to be the last prisoner to be processed for admission to the jail. He was taken to the "booking" room, verbally taunted and abused and then physically assaulted by at least four prison guards. He suffered a fracture of one of his facial bones which resulted in an area of permanent numbness around his eye. The action was settled in the Eastern District of New York during trial after cross-examination of a Nassau County Correctional Center officer, subpoenaed by plaintiff to testify as the first witness at trial.
The defendants were going to claim at trial that another prisoner assaulted plaintiff, during an unwitnessed attack, while in the bullpen. During discovery, it was determined that one of the guards involved in the attack had been alleged to have been involved in numerous prior similar incidents and had several lawsuits pending or settled in which he was a named party. One week prior to trial, we learned that a witness statement, taken by the Internal Affairs Unit of the Correctional Center, given by the next to last prisoner to be processed that evening was withheld during discovery. That prisoner's statement supported plaintiff's claim and factual assertions. Additionally, the same guard named in previous cases has been named as a party in a subsequent attack in which a mentally retarded 18 year-old boy was beaten so severely that his spleen ruptured.
Dumornay v. City of New York and New York City Police Dept. This case settled for $300,000.00 during jury deliberations. Mr. Dumornay, while driving his car with three of his coworkers, was stopped by the police on suspicion of driving a stolen vehicle. Although the wrong license plate number had been reported over the police radio, all four occupants of the car were falsely arrested and imprisoned for approximately 20 minutes.
Salt v. Jahss This medical malpractice action was successfully tried to verdict against Dr. Melvin Jahss, a recognized authority on posterior tibial tendon disease. (Dr. Jahss edited the authoritative three volume textbook entitled "Disorders of the Foot and Ankle: Medical and Surgical Management (2d Ed.) and authored the chapters on posterior tibialis tendon problems which appear in that book.) Dr. Jahss diagnosed a posterior tibial tendon rupture in Mrs. Judith Salt and recommended a triple arthrodesis procedure of the right foot.
Plaintiff underwent the procedure at Hospital for Joint Diseases. After surgery, she never was able to return to work as a salesperson, continued to experience constant pain and further deformity of the foot, and required a special orthopedic shoe. Plaintiff alleged that her pre-existing conditions of peripheral vascular disease and decreased vibratory sensation were contraindications to surgery, that there were non-surgical treatments available for her condition, and that there was lack of informed consent.
The jury found for plaintiff against Dr. Jahss and awarded her $273,369.00. The jury award was for past damages only. Plaintiff moved for a new trial on damages only based on the verdict's inconsistency as a matter of law. Defendant moved to set aside the verdict. All post-trial motions were denied and a notice of appeal and cross-appeal have been filed.
In related post-trial motion practice, we obtained an order requiring Dr. Jahss' malpractice insurer, Group Council Mutual Company, to pay more than $300,000.00 into Court to stay execution of the judgment because the undertaking that it attempted to file was defective under New York Insurance Law.
Vuolo v. Bassani While walking to Albert Einstein Hospital, Ms. Vuolo, a medical student, was struck by a sports car driven by defendant Bassani and owned by his mother. Ms. Vuolo suffered facial lacerations, several broken teeth, and a fractured bone in her foot. On the eve of trial, this case settled for $245,000.00. (The defendants' total insurance coverage was $250,000.00.)
Moore v. Beth Israel Hospital, et. al. This action settled for $225,000.00. Decedent, a 32 year-old unemployed chronic drug addict and alcoholic was admitted to Beth Israel after a suicide attempt while a resident at a drug treatment halfway house. After an initial period of observation at Beth Israel, the hospitol removed the decedent from suicide precautions. The decendant told Beth Israel nursing staff that he was going to kill himself and requested a health care proxy form which was provided to him. Decedent filled out the form and requested that he not be kept on artificial life support. He signed the form in front of a hospital witness. At noon the same day, decedent was found unconscious in his room, hanging from a bed sheet tied to the door. He never regained consciousness and died. Decedent had two children but was divorced at the time of his death. The action settled after Justice Sklar granted plaintiff's motion to compel discovery of correspondence concerning decedent's in-hospital suicide between Beth Israel Medical Center and the New York State Department of Health.
Zlotnick v. Tully Construction Co., Inc. This action settled for $125,000.00 prior to jury selection. Mrs. Zlotnick, an 81 year-old widow fell while walking. She fractured her right wrist due to Tully Construction's failure to post signs or barriers warning of large holes and defects in the street where it was performing road repairs.
Rogers v. City of New York This was a false arrest action commenced in the Eastern District of New York and settled for $55,000.00. Mr. Rogers -- who was 42 years old, a homeowner in Brooklyn, a father of three, and a decorated Vietnam war veteran without any criminal history -- was walking home after leaving work as a New York City Sanitation employee. At 4:00 p.m on a spring day just a block from his home, he was suddenly surrounded by unmarked police cars and undercover officers with guns drawn. He was arrested in front of his family and neighbors and charged with facilitating a drug sale. In the language of the police, he was a "steerer" picked up during a routine buy and bust operation. Mr. Rogers was held in police custody, first in an unmarked van for four hours and then in a holding cell for 24 hours. When it was his turn to be arraigned in criminal court, the assistant district attorney decided not to prosecute and Mr. Rogers was simply released.