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 injury cases 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 these 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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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 protect 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 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.

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