Following a two-week jury trial and four hours of deliberation, Mary L. Maloney obtained a defense verdict for our client, U.S. Elevator, in the matter of Cobb v. County of Passaic and U.S. Elevator, in the Superior Court of the State of New Jersey, County of Passaic, before Judge Anthony J. Graziano. The verdict of “no negligence” on the part of U.S. Elevator was rendered by an eight-person jury on December 20, 2013. Plaintiff’s last settlement demand was $650,000. The offer prior to, and during, trial was $20,000.
The 40-year-old male plaintiff claimed that he slipped and fell on oil on the floor of the elevator shaft at the Passaic County jail while performing pest control services for his employer. His claims of the presence of oil on the floor of the shaft, which was a walk-in space, as well as his prior complaints of oil, were confirmed by trial testimony of witnesses for the Passaic County Jail. Plaintiff also claimed that U.S. Elevator violated the terms of its contract with the County by failing to leave the space in a “broom-swept condition.”
The case was defended by Ms. Maloney on the grounds that the oil was a necessary by-product of the hydraulic elevator and that the elevator company was unaware of anyone but its employees entering the elevator shaft. The jury found that the elevator company was not negligent and non-suited the plaintiff.
The injuries alleged by plaintiff were tears of the right meniscus for which resulted in three arthroscopic surgeries. Plaintiff’s orthopedic expert, Peter DiPaolo, M.D., testified that plaintiff required a total knee replacement, with additional replacement(s) needed as plaintiff ages, due to the 15-year life span of the artificial replacement joint. Also claimed were post-traumatic arthritis of the right knee, disc bulges and protrusion at T9-10, and an inability by plaintiff to return to work in any capacity.
Plaintiff offered the expert testimony of engineer John Posusney, P.E., who opined that U.S. Elevator violated certain OSHA and other related regulations. Ms. Maloney was able to persuade the jury that U.S. Elevator was not negligent in its maintenance of the elevators and that OSHA regulations were not violated.
Defendants relied upon the testimony of orthopedist Mark Berman, M.D., who confirmed the necessity of the first surgery based on his review of the films, but opined that the second and third surgery were unnecessary and that a total knee replacement is not indicated.