Despite the fact that the number of civil cases involving large monetary verdicts and settlements dropped slightly in the past year, experts say it’s too soon to spot a trend.
Between August 1, 2012 and this past July 31, 113 cases yielded recoveries — either jury verdicts or settlements — of $1 million or more, according to the 2013 New Jersey Legal Almanac released last month.
That’s a decrease from the 127 cases reported in 2012, and much closer to the 109 the almanac reported in 2011, but according to Almanac Editor and New Jersey Law Journal Executive Editor Pamela E. Brownstein, “There’s not a real pattern to it, because each case is freestanding . . . in any given year, there are various reasons why something goes to trial or goes to settlement.” (The law journal publishes the annual almanac.)
Brownstein did note some groupings among this year’s cases:
Here are this year’s top 10:
1. Fermin v. Toyota Material Handling U.S. A. Inc.
In this workplace accident case, which was moved to U.S. District Court in Newark, an employee became quadriplegic after being crushed by the forklift he was operating. His caregiver sister sued the forklift manufacturer, and the court ultimately approved a $33.9 million settlement.
2. Patterson v. Irvington Board of Education
An Irvington high-school student paralyzed after a beating at school won a $16.3 million verdict from an Essex County jury after the family sued the school district for negligence.
3. Domalewski v. Hillerich and Bradsby Co.
In this Passaic County personal injury case that made national news, a boy who was disabled after being struck by a baseball that had been hit with a metal bat sued the manufacturer of the bat, Little League Baseball, and a sporting goods chain. A $14.5 million settlement was reached in August 2012.
4. In re Pelvic Mesh/Gynecare Litigation
This medical malpractice suit heard in Atlantic County Superior Court resulted in an $11 million jury verdict, including $7.76 million in punitive damages. The plaintiff was a woman who claimed injuries after using Johnson & Johnson pelvic mesh products, which are used to support prolapsed pelvic organs and other conditions.
5. Chambers v. 440 Elizabeth Avenue Corp.
This personal injury case, which ended in a $10.5 million settlement, involved a seven-year old girl who was caught in a motorized parking-lot gate at an apartment complex and suffered permanent cognitive impairment.
6. NJ Transit v. Mary Franco and Carol Franco.
A Hudson County jury awarded $8.15 million in compensation to property owners in Hoboken and Weehawken whose property was condemned for use in the ARC tunnel project. ARC was ultimately canceled by the Christie administration.
7. Caesar v. Flemington Car and Truck Co.
An Essex County jury awarded $7.5 million to accident victims injured in a car rollover after an automobile dealer failed to recommend a tire replacement.
8. Escobar v. Newark Beth Israel Medical Center
An infant who came into the hospital severely beaten was released despite suspected child abuse. After his release, he was beaten again. The hospital settled for $7.4 million.
9. Shea v. American Honda Motor Co.
A roofer sued the owner of the Mount Laurel warehouse where he was working after he was electrocuted and thrown 20 feet. A Burlington County jury awarded him a $6.9 million.
10. Healey v. Department of Corrections
A Mercer County jury awarded two white corrections officers $6.855 million after they sued, claiming their African-American superiors singled them out for discipline and retaliation.