Articles Posted in New Jersey

Jury Verdict Research conducted a study and found that the median award in a personal injury case is approximately $100,000.  This is twice the national average.  The bad news for New Jersey PlaintiffsNew Jersey sign is that they only win in 36 percent of personal injury cases that go to trial.

New Jersey has a good sample size to work with to compute this data.  Over 130,000 civil lawsuits are filed every year.  I don’t have data on how many of them are personal injury cases.  But I can estimate: a lot.

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A New Jersey state court gave Novartis a defense verdict in a jaw injury lawsuit in this mass tort claim.

The issue in this cases is largely about warnings: what did Novartis have to communicate to doctors about the risks of Zometa with respect to osteonecrosis of the jaw (ONJ). The jury, by a vote of 7-1 vote, said Novartis provided an adequate warning.

No matter how you slice these cases, they are tragedies. The plaintiff in this case was prescribed Zometa to protect her bones after breast cancer. Then, she developed ONJ. Just awful.

New Jersey recently wrestled with a question of interest to all pet lovers. In McDougall v. Lamm, the plaintiff asked the court to decide what her pet was worth.

The facts of the case are simple, and our law firm frequently responds to calls like this. (We don’t handle them but we are glad to talk to you about it because we love animals, too.) The plaintiff’s dog was attacked by a larger dog, who picked it up, shook it, and dropped it to the ground, dead. The plaintiff saw her dog die. She filed a lawsuit against the attacking dog’s owner, who admitted that he was responsible for her damages. The court had to decide what her damages were.

The opinion touches on a number of issues, including the “zone of danger” rule (whether a plaintiff must be physically injured to recover for emotional damages received by watching another person suffer); the legal value of a dead pet; and whether a human can claim emotional damages for the death of a pet.

A few extra facts—the plaintiff told the court that she purchased her half-poodle/half-maltese nine years earlier for $200.00, and that she believed she could purchase a similar new puppy today for about $1,400.00. She of course testified that the dog was loved, knew many tricks, and was with her much of the day, particularly because she did not work out of the house.

The trial court dismissed the plaintiff’s emotional damages claim, noting that New Jersey did not recognize such a claim in the context of a pet’s death. The court rendered a verdict of $5,000, noting that the replacement cost alone would not compensate the plaintiff for the “loss of a well-trained pet.” Even though the court stated that it did not grant emotional damages, I think that’s what it did here. A quick internet review shows that these dogs live an average of 14-18 years, so this dog had another four to eight years of life. It cost $200.00. The purchase of a brand new dog, though untrained, would cost $1,400.00. I bet she could get a trained maltipoo for $2,000 without any trouble. It seems to me that the court awarded her $3,000 in emotional distress damages, without directly calling it that. Now, if the court believed that emotional distress damages were legally proper, maybe it would have awarded more. Sadly, it ruled (as did the appellate court), that such emotional damages were improper.

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Health Officials are reporting that the number of illnesses caused from individuals having consumed raw milk has risen to 35 people over four states. The confirmed cases of Campylobacter infection include 28 people in Pennsylvania, four in Maryland, two in West Virginia and one in New Jersey.

The tainted milk appears to have come from the Family Cow farm in Chambersburg, Pennsylvania, and health officials have said that consumers should discard raw milk bought from the Family Cow farm on or after Jan. 1. The farm has voluntarily suspended raw milk production.

The federal Food and Drug Administration warns that raw, or unpasteurized, milk can contain harmful bacteria, and Maryland law prohibits its sale. Still, dairy farmers have said that the demand is growing because of concerns about hormones in traditional dairy products.

Lieff Cabraser Heimann & Bernstein put our a press release on a Yaz lawsuit last month involving a 33 year-old woman who brought a state court claim in New Jersey.

Plaintiffs’ Yaz lawyers allege in the lawsuit that Yaz is a dangerous prescription drug sold without appropriate warnings about the risk of serious injuries. In this case, Plaintiff’s lawsuit claims that Bayer improperly advertised and over-promoted Yaz for treating acne while knowing that the risks of using Yaz for this purpose outweighed any benefits Yaz could bring. Obviously, there are other drug on the market that would seem to have a more favorable safety profile than Yaz.

The press release quotes the the Plaintiff bringing the Yaz lawsuit:

The Orlando Sentinel (via Overlawyered) has an interesting article taking a detailed look at statistics surrounding theme park lawsuits. This is not your garden variety media article of a legal trend. It has detailed breakdown of the lawsuits filed against theme parks, and through statistics and interviews, sets the game plan of Disney theme parks, and I think to a similar but lesser extent, its brethren when facing a lawsuit: wage elongated war, make discovery brutal for accident lawyers and their clients, and settle the cases you think you might not win – particularly those cases you might prolifically not win.

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There are NuvaRing lawsuits pending in an MDL (cases consolidated around the country in Missouri) and in New Jersey. Even though Organon is a New Jersey defendant, it sought to remove the NuvaRing cases because Organon was not “properly joined and served” under §1441(b) because Organon was not served with a tracking assignment number as required by New Jersey law.

No tracking assignment number? Who thinks of these things? Sure, strictly construed void of any sense of fairness or context, the statute the rule would preclude removal by an in-state defendant who has not been “properly joined and served” at the time of removal. But would a judge be such a foolish hypertechnical slave to the language beyond logic, reason and the legislative intent of the statute? Thankfully, no. The New Jersey District court found that strict adherence to the plain language of the statute would defeat the legislative intent and, accordingly, the law should not be interpreted to produce an absurd result.

Get the latest update as of August 2013 in these cases here.

In a 4-3 decision, the New Jersey Supreme Court affirmed last week the dismissal of a personal injury lawsuit filed by a minor league hockey spectator who was struck by a puck during warm-ups. The New Jersey high court ruled that the arena had complied with its obligation to protected spectators to the extent reasonable. The three dissenting justices contended that the arena should have posted warnings about the potential hazard of hockey pucks leaving the arena.

I think I agree with the outcome because I think there should be some sort of strict liability in these situations. But, taking off my personal injury lawyer and putting my citizen hat on, I agree with the majority opinion based on New Jersey law as it is presently constituted. Any reasonable person who attends a hockey game knows or should know that pucks might come flying off the ice. Providing a warning would be superfluous.

The New Jersey state legislature is considering a bill allowing wrongful death beneficiaries to recover damages for emotional harm. The bill, approved Thursday by the New Jersey State Senate Judiciary Committee by a 7-4 vote, would allow the families of those killed in auto accident, by medical malpractice, or other negligence to recover non-economic damages. Family members can only recover economic damages resulting from the death of a loved one.

Retired New Jersey Supreme Court Justice Alan Handler reportedly testified to this Senate committee that New Jersey’s Wrongful Death Act did not fairly and adequately compensate the families in wrongful death cases.

The New Jersey law may reflect common law traditions but it does not reflect anything resembling the modern view on appropriate compensation for the greatest pain in a wrongful death case – the loss of someone you deeply loved.