Hard Digging For Evidence And Potent Legal Arguments Recover $4.125 Million For Survivors Of Shopping Mall Abduction And Murder Victim

Attorney John Blume brought a wrongful death action against the owners and managers of a New Jersey shopping mall in the tragic case of 38-year-old Gail Shollar of Piscataway, New Jersey, who was kidnapped from a South Plainfield shopping mall and murdered.

Mrs. Shollar, the mother of three children, had been shopping with her 3-year-old daughter just before their abduction from the parking lot. The child was found the next morning physically unharmed but emotionally traumatized. Mrs. Shollar’s body was found four days later. An itinerant New Jersey man, font Scott Johnson, was later convicted of the crime and sentenced to life in prison.

The defendants and their huge insurance company were represented by a large, skilled and experienced New Jersey law firm. They argued that the defendants had no knowledge that a random criminal was in the parking lot, and in fact had no knowledge whatsoever of Scott Johnson. Johnson was neither an employee nor a shopper at the mall. Some cases cited by the defense lawyers held that in New Jersey, property owners and managers are not liable for the random acts of unknown criminals. Further, the mall employed several security guards whose duties included checking on the parking lot. At the outset of the case, it looked difficult for the plaintiffs and their attorneys.

John Blume directed the Blume Forte team of investigators and researchers in digging up the vital facts in this case, and lawyers deposing the employees of the mall management company and the owners of the mall. These intensive efforts turned up evidence that the defendant companies had prior knowledge that the parking lot had been the site of numerous prior crimes; that the defendants had only one security guard on duty the night this incident occurred, and that guard, instead of patrolling the parking lot, was setting up a craft show inside the mall.

Mr. Blume argued that when commercial establishments benefit financially from consumers they invite to their businesses, the business owners have a responsibility to create a safe environment for those customers, and must implement reasonable safety measures to protect consumers from crimes which might occur there.

Mr. Blume recently settled the case for $4.125 million, which will be paid to the estate of Mrs. Shollar.

Ronald P. Goldfaden Named to Million Dollar Advocates Forum

Ron Goldfaden was recently certified as a member of the Million Dollar Advocates Forum, a prestigious group of trial lawyers. Membership is limited to those plaintiff’s lawyers who have won million dollar and multi million dollar verdicts, awards and settlements.

The organization, founded in 1993 has approximately 1,500 members nationwide, out of more than 600,000 practicing lawyers in the USA. Membership in the Forum acknowledges excellence in advocacy.

$2.2 Million Settlement For Transit Passenger Inured In Fall From Train.

Ron Goldfaden represented a 25-year-old import-export manager who was severely injured in a fall from a moving train, suffering head wounds, fractures to his hip, ribs and spine, and other injuries.As a result of the fall, the plaintiff uses a walker, cannot use his hand or leg and cannot work. The plaintiff was standing in the vestibule between two train cars at the time of the accident. He fell to the tracks when the train door opened unexpectedly.

The defense attorneys argued that he shouldn’t have been in such a dangerous place in a moving train, and that there are warning signs posted on the train to that effect. But Ron showed that the plaintiff was standing on the vestibule only because the train was extremely overcrowded, and that it was the train personnel’s duty not to allow such overcrowding.

Ron negotiated a settlement of $2.2 million dollars for his client.

Traffic Accident Case Settled for $1,050,000

A Monmouth County man injured in a traffic accident was represented by Ron Goldfaden. recently received a settlement of 1,050,000 dollars for injuries he sustained in a motor vehicle accident in 1994. Ron Goldfaden handled the case.

A confidentiality agreement with the defendants entered into as a condition of settlement prevents us from discussing many details of the case. We can report that the man sustained injuries to his neck, back and hands which prevents him from returning to work.

Ron achieved the $1,050,000 settlement just as the trial was about to begin.

$1.5 Million Verdict For Patient Injured During ERCP Procedure.

Carol Forte recently obtained a $1.5 million jury verdict against a gastroenterologist who performed a potentially dangerous procedure known as an ERCP without fully informing the patient of all of the risks of that procedure or alternatives to it.

The ERCP procedure involves passage of a scope through the esophagus into the biliary system, in order to look for stones in the bile ducts. After the ERCP, the patient developed severe pancreatitis, was hospitalized for eight months and underwent five surgeries.

The defense lawyers argued that the patient knew about the risks, and that the procedure was performed according to medical standards, and that the ERCP procedure was not the cause of the injuries suffered by the patient.

Carol argued that the patient would not have had this test had he known the serious risks involved, and introduced evidence to show that the patient’s injuries were a direct result of the test.

The verdict by the jury was in the plaintiff’s favor, in the amount of $600,000. The defendant’s motion for a new trial was denied by the court.

$1.25 Million Settlement for A Brachial Plexus Injury.
Carol Forte represented a child who was born with a severely injured arm. The child has little use of the arm.

The defense attorneys for the obstetrician who delivered the baby argued that the injured arm was a natural occurence and did not happen during delivery. Getting evidence in such a case against an obstetrician is very difficult.

But at the deposition of the obstetrician, Carol got him to admit that during delivery the child’s shoulder became stuck in the birth canal, and that he rotated the baby’s head 180 degrees in an effort to free the shoulder. Carol argued that the improper maneuver pulled several nerves out of the spinal cord and severely injured the child’s arm.

Carol negotiated a settlement of $1.25 million for the injury. The client’s HMO contributed to the settlement, an unusual occurrence.

Inadequate Resuscitation At Birth Results In $4 Million Settlement.

Michael Zerres recently represented a child who is now 12 years old, and who has a mild form of cerebral palsy. Michael sued the obstetrician who attended the child’s birth for causing the cerebral palsy.

At birth, the baby was two weeks overdue and when his mother arrived at the hospital for delivery there was evidence that the baby was in trouble. He was born severely depressed. The obstetrician, without a pediatrician present, inadequately resuscitated the child, worsening his condition. The settlement will pay over $4 million during the child’s lifetime.

$650,000 Settlement For Construction Worker Injured By Work-Site Cave-in.

A Lodi construction worker employed by a New Jersey borough to install water pipes was injured in a trench collapse. He suffered fractures to his pelvis and hip, underwent multiple operations, still walks with a cane and cannot work.

David Fried sued the borough as well as the engineer hired by the borough to monitor the pipe installation. The worker’s employer had a safety device on the job site, a steel trench box used to prevent such cave-ins, but it was not in use at the time of the accident. The borough and the engineer’s defense attorneys argued that the worker was experienced in such work, knew the safety device was present, and should have used it.

David successfully argued that the engineer was responsible for safety supervision and should not have permitted the plaintiff to perform his work without the safety device.

Failure to Diagnose Cancer Results in $600,000 Settlement.

Ken Elwood recently sued a pathologist at Christ Hospital and the Hospital itself on behalf of the estate and family of a 56-year-old woman. The woman had had a hysterectomy in 1995, and the pathologist who examined the slides of her ovaries and fallopian tubes after that surgery failed to notice that there were cancer cells present.

This led to an eleven month delay in the diagnosis of the cancer, allowing it to spread. The patient lost the chance of a possible cure or a longer survival.

The Hospital defended on the grounds that it had no way of knowing that its pathologist would act negligently, and had exercised proper supervision over its employee. On the surface, the Hospital’s argument was persuasive.

But Ken with the help of the Blume Forte staff had conducted intensive research and investigation into the background of this pathologist and his history at the hospital. Several depositions were taken. Ken’s research uncovered the facts that Two years before the misdiagnosis in this case, the hospital’s quality improvement committee had recommended that this pathologist not be appointed to the medical staff. Despite that recommendation, the medical executive committee appointed him anyway as the chairman of the department of pathology. Mr. Elwood argued that the hospital was negligent in hiring and retaining this particular pathologist.

Ken negotiated a $600,000 settlement on behalf of the woman’s estate, to which both the pathologist and the hospital contributed.

Profile: Kenneth Berkowitz – Applying His Legal Knowledge And Engineering Background To Win Product Liability Cases

Ken Berkowitz is known among New Jersey lawyers for his meticulous preparation of every case and relentless pursuit of discovery, particularly in the area of product liability. Ken has prepared and resolved dozens of cases for clients seriously injured by defective machinery or products.

Perhaps his success in handling these cases is to some extent attributable to his interest in engineering – he began his undergraduate studies as an engineering major. This background helps Ken to thoroughly understand the workings of many types of complicated devices and machines, so he can effectively prove how they were defective and how the client was injured.

For example, when a gas line entering a residence exploded and horribly burned a man over 65% of his body, neither the gas company nor the fire department offered any real evidence as to how and why the explosion occured. Most of the evidence was destroyed by the explosion and fire. How was a lawyer going to prove negligence on the part of the gas company?

Ken analyzed the entire gas line with the help of chemical engineers and an explosion expert. He discovered the cause of the accident to be a leak caused by poorly maintained gas lines. Armed with this information, Ken was able to obtain a $4.8 million settlement for that burn victim.

In a recent case Ken represented a 34-year-old baler operator. The baler was an elongated machine which forced remnants from coffee filters into a compressed bale. The accident occurred when the plaintiff’s hand was in the machine, which was in a “stop” position. The bailer started up, unexpectedly, amputating the three middle fingers of the operator’s right hand.

Neither the employer company nor the manufacturer of the baler was forthcoming with any evidence that the baler was defective, and suggested it was probably operator error in accidentally starting up the machine.

To help the jury understand exactly how that accident occurred, Ken hired a model maker to build a replica of the machine (see photo above). He also hired engineers to examine the machine with him; together they discovered the defect responsible for the accidental start of the machine, and reasonable ways in which the machine could have been made safer.

In another example of Ken’s combined legal and engineering expertise, he obtained a $1.8 million judgment on behalf of a person injured while operating a defective soil remediation system. A rotating part of the system pulled the plaintiff’s right arm into the machine causing serious fractures and permanent damage to his arm.

As is common in such cases, both the employer and the machine manufacturer argued that the accident was the result of operator error or negligence, and that the machine worked perfectly. There was no apparent evidence of machine malfunction.

Ken conducted an exhaustive discovery process, during which he found overwhelming evidence against the machine manufacturer. Based on the evidence he discovered, Ken was able to convince the court, prior to trial, to enter a summary judgment for $1.8 million against the manufacturer of the defective remediation system.

Ken’s knowledge of engineering, extensive trial experience and negotiating skills make him an extremely effective legal advocate for those people injured by defective products.

$600,000 Settlement Obtained Baby’s Brachial Plexus Injury
Ken Berkowitz represented a child who weighed 11 pounds 7 ounces at birth, and suffered from brachial plexus injury. The child has limited movement of his arm.

Ken sued the obstetrician who delivered the baby, claiming a negligent delivery. The defense attorneys argued that with such a large baby, complications such as this are common, and the obstetrician exercised due care during delivery. In such cases, hard evidence is very difficult to find, and without good evidence of malpractice, the defense might have won the case.

But after much investigation, research and depositions, Ken found evidence that the baby’s should became stuck in the birth canal during deliver, and that obstetrician severely pulled on the child’s head and neck to effect delivery. Ken argued that as a result of that pulling, the nerves of the brachial plexus were injured.

After a week-long trial, and during jury deliberations, Ken negotiated a $600,000 settlement.

Hudson County News

Hudson County Managing Partner John Molinari has been certified as a Civil Trial Attorney by the Supreme Court of the State of New Jersey. This Certification is awarded after an applicant demonstrates significant trial experience, passes a written examination and submits recommendations of judges and other lawyers.

Congratulations to John Molinari, who is the tenth attorney at Blume Forte to be so certified.

Blume Forte welcomes Dr. James DesPasquale to our office.
A board certified internist, Dr. DesPasquale will be helping us evaluate and prepare our cases. He is a valuable new addition to the firm.

Food For Thought: The Settlement Offer Versus the Pending Verdict

Despite the best efforts of the experienced attorneys at Blume Forte, not all juries see every case the same way we do. It is not uncommon for a defendant to make a settlement offer during a trial, and when that happens, the attorney handling the case for the plaintiff is in the best position to assess whether the offer is reasonable in light of all the circumstances.

Recently, one of our attorneys prepared and tried an exceptionally difficult case. During the course of the trial, he was able to convince the defense to more than double their initial offer, to $450,000. Based on his many years of experience and his ability to assess the situation at trial, our attorney strenuously urged the client to accept the money offered.

Unfortunately, the client rejected his advice, the $450,000 offer, and demanded more money. The jury awarded only $10,000.

In Brief…

  • Improper Management of Infant’s Delivery.
    Mitchell J. Makowicz negotiated a $475,000 settlement for the family of a child who suffered birth injuries. During the last week of the mother’s pregnancy, fetal conditions indicated that additional testing was necessary, but the doctor did not order it. There was also an improper delay in delivering the infant. As a result, the baby sustained brain damage.
    $25,000 For Victim Of Dog Bite Victim Who Was Required
  • To Take A Series Of Painful Anti-Rabies Injections.
    Linda O’Connell negotiated a $25,000 settlement for a woman who was slightly bitten, but who was forced to take a series of painful rabies shots. The rabies shots were necessary after the woman learned that the dog had broken loose from its owners and had roamed free for 24 hours prior to the bite.
  • TMJ Condition Aggravated in Auto Accident: $55,000 Settlement.
    Jeff Zenna obtained a $55,000 settlement for a woman who aggravated an already existing jaw injury, in a car accident. Previously she had suffered temporomandibular joint damage in an incident when a door struck her in the face. Mr. Zenna convinced an arbitrator that she was entitled to additional compensation as a result of the re-injury.