Wrongful Death Cases, Settlements, and Verdicts

Burlington Girl Drowns While Lifeguard Is on Duty, Family Sues for Wrongful Death

The body of the 14 year old decedent was found in June of 1999, at the bottom of the pool at the defendant’s apartment complex in Edgewater Park, New Jersey. Neither the other swimmers nor the defendant lifeguard of Oaklyn, New Jersey saw the girl drown. A wrongful death suit named the owner of the apartment complex, the lifeguard, and the company that employed him, as defendants.

The Burlington County jury found the lifeguard and his employer liable and awarded $455,000 to the estate, ($433,000 for wrongful death, $3,000 for medical costs and $19,000 for funeral costs). Liability was apportioned at 65% for the lifeguard’s employer, 30% for the lifeguard, 5% for the decedent and 0% for the apartment complex. After reducing the award to reflect the descendent’s comparative negligence, the net award is $432,250.

The trial judge in the Burlington County Superior Court granted a defense motion to bar expert testimony from two pathologists whom plaintiffs’ attorneys intended to call to testify about the girl’s suffering in her final moments, holding that such testimony would be speculative because no one witnessed the death. A separate survival action was not put to the jury.

Motorcyclist Killed by Trailer – Family Sues for Wrongful Death

In June of 2004, decedent, a machinist for the Star Ledger, was riding his motorcycle on Route 528 in Plumstead with a group of New Jersey Leathernecks to raise money for the family of a soldier killed in Iraq. An eastbound pick-up truck with a 15-foot trailer jackknifed, causing the trailer to roll onto decedent, killing him instantly.

Decedent’s estate sued the driver for negligence and wrongful death. The estate sought an award for future lost earnings of $1.2 million and an unspecified amount for wrongful death damages. At the time of the accident, decedent made $70,000 annually.

Defense counsel did not dispute liability or damages. The suit was commenced in Ocean County Superior Court, but settled prior to an answer being filed. The total value of the settlement was $1,189,019. Of the total, the defendant driver’s carrier (Farm Family Casualty) covered $289,019, and the insurance carrier for the trailer that defendant was pulling paid the additional $900,000.

Pedestrian Killed When Driver Has a Seizure and Loses Control of Vehicle

In August, 2000, decedent, a 51-year-old insurance agent from Florida, was walking on a Hoboken, New Jersey sidewalk when a car driven by defendant jumped the curb and struck him. The impact flung Plaintiff into the air, and he landed about 30 feet away. He sustained injuries to his head, spine, chest and abdomen and died on the spot.

His estate claimed wrongful death for his daughter’s loss of services, support and guidance. Defendant claimed that he lost control of the car because he had a seizure and that he did not remember the accident. But the estate put forth evidence that the defendant had a history of cerebral abscesses and three prior seizures and that it was negligence for him to drive while unfit.

The case was awaiting court arbitration in the Superior Court of Hudson County when the parties agreed to private mediation. The parties then settled for $700,000. Part of the settlement with insurer Liberty Mutual was structured, and part was used to purchase an annuity that would pay out $894,000 by the year 2038.

No Award for Husband’s Wrongful Death Claim for Wife Killed in Motor Vehicle Accident

In 2000, the plaintiff’s decedent, a homemaker in her 30s, was a passenger in a Mazda MPV in Roxbury, New Jersey, when the driver lost control of the car and it hit a tree, killing the decedent instantly.

Plaintiff’s husband sued the driver for wrongfuldeath and vehicular negligence He also sued the auto dealer/mechanic for design defect, negligent maintenance and wrongful death. The driver settled before trial and the case proceeded between the Estate of Plaintiff and the dealer/mechanic. The driver of the vehicle had just purchased it the day before the accident. She claimed that the brakes and tires were defective, causing the accident. Plaintiff’s counsel argued that the brake rotors had not been replaced or inspected by the defendant, and the tires were only minimally inspected. The dealer/mechanic countered that the vehicle was not defective and that wet street conditions along with the driver’s negligence were the cause of the accident.

The case went to trial in Morris County Superior Court, and at the conclusion of all evidence the jury found for the defense on liability and gave no award.

Speeding Truck Kills Passaic County Father of Three

Decedent, 41, was driving home from work traveling north on Skyline Drive in Ringwood, New Jersey. A truck owned by defendant was traveling south on Skyline Drive when the driver allegedly lost control of the vehicle. The truck went out of control, flipped onto its side and hit decedent’s car. The truck was carrying a full load of stones, which proceeded to spill onto Decedent’s car. Decedent died upon impact.

The plaintiffs alleged that the driver of the truck was operating the vehicle too fast for the conditions and thus lost control of the vehicle and that the trucking company that employed the driver was responsible because the driver was on the job at the time of the crash.

The parties settled the case for $757,000 prior to trial in the Passaic County Superior Court. The defense did not admit fault or dispute liability. The settlement was structured and provided for guaranteed payments to decedent’s three children upon their reaching the age of majority. Decedent’s widow received $230,000 cash.

Note: If the case had gone to trial, the plaintiffs could have received damages for wrongful death, but not emotional distress or pain and suffering. Under New Jersey law, Decedent’s widow and children were unable to recover for emotion distress damages unless they witnessed the accident.

For more information or to speak with a New Jersey traumatic brain injury lawyer, contact Keefe Law Firm.