Brain Injury Cases
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 driver’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 braininjury. 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.
Severe Brain Injury Leads to Dram Shop Lawsuit
In March of 2004, the plaintiff was a passenger in a vehicle being driven by his friend, who was intoxicated. The vehicle ran off the road, and plaintiff suffered and fractured skull and a severe brain injury. He spent nearly a month in the hospital and then underwent extensive cognitive therapy. Nevertheless, he was left with severe cognitive disabilities and is unable to work.
Plaintiff sued in Passaic County Superior court. He sued both the driver of the vehicle as well as the bars that served the driver. The claim against the bars were brought pursuant to New Jersey’s Dram Shop Liability Law. The parties agreed to settle the case prior to trial, and the insurers, U.S. Liability Insurance Group, State Farm, and Arrowpoint, collectively paid $850,000 for plaintiff’s injuries.
Canavan Disease is not Discovered Due to Defendants Negligence Leads to Wrongful Birth Claim
In May of 2003, the plaintiff went to Community Health Center in Toms River, New Jersey, in order to receive prenatal care for herself and her unborn child. During that visit, the intake nurse did not ask her the proper intake questions regarding her pregnancy. As a result, certain genetic testing was not done on the fetus. Plaintiff later gave birth to the child, which suffered from a rare condition known as Canavan disease. This is a very serious disease that damages the muscles, nerves, and brains of its victims, and is incurable. Most victims of this disease do not live past their 20′s.
The plaintiff sued the intake nurse, as well as her three midwives, in Ocean County Superior Court. Her claim was for wrongful birth. She claimed that if the proper questions had been asked, then the proper followup and testing would have been done, which would have uncovered the condition. The defendants denied liability and claimed that it was the plaintiff who erred in filling out the necessary forms, which resulted in the disease going undiscovered.
This case eventually settled, with the defendants collectively paying $2.5 million dollars.
Young Girl Struck By Car, Suffers Catastrophic Injuries
One night in May, 2005, 3 people were crossing a busy highway when they were struck by the defendant’s vehicle. They all sustained serious and permanent injuries, but the most severely injured was a 7 year old child. The two adults suffered broken legs and other injuries. The young girl suffered multiple broken bones, a transected aorta, and a severe head injury. The head injury caused serious and permanent brain damage and cost her her sight. She requires 24hr care and will for the rest of her life.
The victims sued the driver and the church where he was a preacher. They claimed that not only was he speeding, but he failed to use his headlights while he was driving, and also was not wearing his glasses at the time of the accident, although he was supposed to. Defendant denied liability and instead pointed the finger at one of the plaintiff’s, claiming that he should have known better than to lead the others across the busy street.
The case was eventually mediated and reached a settlement. The young girl will receive $7.8 million dollars, including an award to her mother for loss of her daughter’s services. One plaintiff received $600,000, and the third plaintiff ended up paying $150,000 for bringing the three out into the busy street.
Anesthesiologist Error Results in Severe Brain Damage for Infant
In February of 2004, a young boy underwent surgery to remove an extra finger on each hand. The boy was only 11 months old at the time. The surgery was performed at Columbus Hospital in Newark, New Jersey. The surgery went terribly wrong, and the young boy was left with severe and permanent brain damage. The cause was an anesthesiologist who failed to affix the oxygen mask appropriately to the young boy’s face during the surgery, causing him to be deprived of oxygen for several minutes.
The results were catastrophic for the young boy. While it could not be conclusively determined, plaintiff argued that he would be low functioning for the rest of his life. The parties settled this matter prior to trial, and the anesthesiologists insurance carrier, Princeton Insurance, paid the boy’s family $2,000,000, which was placed in a structured settlement for his benefit.
Delay in Caesarian Costs Child Her Life, Anesthesiologist to Blame
In December 2005, plaintiff gave birth to a little girl. The delivery was done via caesarian section. Unfortunately, the fetus was in distress during the delivery, yet the obstetrician-gynecologist delayed in conducting the C-section. That delay led to the little girl being born severely brain-damaged, and although she was immediately put on life support, nothing could be done, and she passed away a little over a week later.
The parents sued the doctor and Hackensack University Medical Center, where the delivery took place, in Bergen County Superior Court. The parents claimed that the delay by the doctor caused the injuries and ultimately the death of the infant, and therefore constituted medical malpractice. The doctor denied liability, and the hospital denied that it was responsible for the doctor’s actions. The case eventually settled, with the doctor’s insurer paying $650,000. The claim against the hospital was dismissed.
Medical Malpractice Action Against Physician Where Delayed Cesarean Caused Infant Brain Damage
In September 1997, a 30-week pregnant mother came to her obstetrician with complaints of abdominal pain. The fetal monitoring readings showed that the infant was in distress. The physician delayed in performing a cesarean action. The infant was born with brain damage that caused cortical blindness and cerebral palsy.
Lawyers for the infant filed suit in the Superior Court of New Jersey, Law Division, Monmouth County in Freehold, NJ. The medical malpractice lawsuit alleged that obstetrician failed to provide the proper standard of care and failed to immediately conduct a cesarean section when the infant was in distress. The defendant physician denied responsibility for the baby’s brain damage. After the March 2008 trial, the jury returned a verdict for the infant plaintiff for $19,000,000 in damages for future medical treatment, future lost wages and pain and suffering.
Mechanic Sustained Broken Skull and Killed by a Truck Accident at Cargo Terminal
In February 2005, a fifty year old mechanic was struck and killed by a truck, while he was working at cargo terminal in Elizabeth, New Jersey. Evidence was presented claiming that the truck driver was talking on his cell phone at the moment of the accident. The truck impact broke the mechanics skull and killed him.
A complaint was filed in the Superior Court of New Jersey, Law Division, Union County in Elizabeth, NJ. The lawsuit asserted a wrongful death claim that the mechanic experienced pain and suffering before his death, negligence claims against the driver for his negligent operation of the truck and his employer for inadequate training and supervision. The lawsuit also asserted the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (“OSHA”) violations against the defendant marine terminal for violations of the rules pertaining to the use of reflective vests and the requirement of traffic signals and safe walkways.
The defendants truck driver and his employer denied negligence as did the defendant terminal. The defendant terminal also argued that it was not subject to OSHA rules and regulations, because it was a rail yard and not a terminal.
Before the 2008 trial, the parties settled with the mechanic’s estate receiving $750,000 from the defendant truck company and $225,000 from the terminal for a total of $975,000.
Man Dies From Brain Injuries While in Hospital Due to Increasing Intracranial Pressure
In January 2003, a forty-five year old man died in the hospital after being in a coma for 3 days. A week beforehand, he had visited his family medical group complaining of headaches, was diagnosed with a sinus infection, and prescribed a nasal spray and antibiotics. A few days later he called the defendant medical group to inform them that his headaches had gotten worse. Upon learning of this his family physician instructed her staff to phone the pharmacy and get him a prescription of Ultram. Days after the man experienced serious pain in the morning and was driven to the hospital by his spouse.
That same morning he was seen by a triage nurse at the defendant hospital and registered pain at 5 out of 10 point scale and later 3 out of 10. He was also seen by a physician’s assistant who noted the headache but did not consider the possibility of intracranial pressure or a brain hemorrhage. The assistant ordered a CT scan of the patient with the approval of the attending ER doctor. The CT scan machine was not working that day at the hospital, so a back up CT scan machine located across the street was going to be used until it was determined that this machine was also not working. This caused a delay of hours in the examination and treatment of the patient.
By midday the patient was disoriented and confused, and the ER attending doctor was called to stabilize him. The doctor called for an immediate consult from neurology because signs suggested the patient could be suffering from a brain injury. The patient stopped breathing and had to be intubated. When the patient stabilized, he was sent to another hospital via ambulance for a CT scan. The patient arrived at the hospital in a coma.
The CT scan taken at the second hospital showed a severe hydrocephalus, which is a swelling of the ventricles of the brain and caused increasing intracranial pressure. The CT scan also showed a colloid cyst blocking fluid from leaving the ventricle and causing the hydrocephalus. The pressure in the patient’s brain was so severe at this point in time that it resulted in a brain stem herniation. A neurosurgeon was called to perform emergency surgery. The patient never awoke from his 3 day coma and died.
In 2004 a lawsuit was filed in the Superior Court of New Jersey, Middlesex County in New Brunswick, NJ. The suit asserted negligence against the defendant hospital which first examined the decedent as well as several physicians including the patient’s primary physician. The lawyer for decedent’s estate argued that if the patient had been transferred to the second hospital earlier the coma could have been avoided. The defendant hospital, doctors and the physician’s assistant were allegedly negligent because they failed to promptly transfer patient when he clearly needed a CT scan, the CT machines were inoperable, and the hospital did not have proper training and/or procedures to follow in such instances. Counsel also argued that the primary physician and the medical group were negligent, because they did not take a complete history of the patient.
The various defendants denied their negligence. Defendant hospital claimed that hospitals did not have policies ane procedures on the subject of inoperable medical equipment. The hospital argued that the hospital physicians and staff exercised common sense and acted appropriately under the circumstances. The defendant hospital doctor and defendant physician’s assistant argued that the patient’s condition was very rare and neither could have determined the increasing brain pressure and that nothing in his condition indicated the circumstances were urgent. All defendants argued that hospitals and doctors cannot be held responsible for unpredictable and sudden changes in the patients’ conditions.
After the trial in 2008, the jury returned a verdict awarding the decedent’s estate $1,650,000. The jury found the defendant hospital 80% liable and the defendant ER attending doctor was 20% liable for the wrongful death. The jury did not find the other named defendant to be negligent or to have caused and contributed to the patient’s deaths.