By: Richard L. Smith
The law firm of Stark & Stark reported that one of their attorneys had secured a verdict totaling $1.87 million for a 62-year-old woman after she tripped and fell at the historic Cranbury Inn in Cranbury, NJ.
At the date of the incident, officials at the law firm said on Nov. 4, 2017, Ms. Debra Forman was attending a wedding and tripped and fell on a fireplace erected in the newer part of the building.
According to the law firm, Ms. Forman fell forward, landing on her face, resulting in non-displaced fractures on her nose and a non-displaced right humerus fracture.
A few days after being discharged from the hospital, she exhibited post-concussion symptoms and later developed knee pain. It was also later determined that she had suffered a traumatic brain injury from the accident.
After an investigation, officials said the Inn served as its own general contractor on the hearth extension that caused Ms. Forman’s fall, which was raised 1.375 inches.
The building’s site inspection by a liability expert after the accident determined the hearth was a tripping hazard and was five times what the ASTM standards, the ADA, and the building code required (.25 inches).
Officials said the Honorable Christopher D. Rafano, J.S.C., presided over the case in New Brunswick, NJ. After two weeks of trial, Debra Forman was awarded $1.35 million for pain and suffering, $402,596 for her loss of earning capacity, and her husband was awarded $120,000 for his loss of consortium.
“I am thankful that the jury saw the truth in this case and that her reputation was vindicated,” stated Attorney Evan J. Lide.
“When Debbie tripped over the raised fireplace hearth extension, she did, in fact, suffer a traumatic brain injury that has had devastating consequences for her and her family.
This verdict means so much to Debbie and her family and I am proud of the work and resources dedicated by our team.”
Lawfirm officials said some of Ms. Forman’s injuries were not immediately known and many of her symptoms developed over time. Some of her pre-existing conditions (like migraines and a knee injury) returned or were exacerbated by the fall.
Other injuries, like one to her bicep tendon that required surgery three years after the incident, were directly related to the injuries suffered immediately following the accident.
Officials said the Defense argued that Ms. Forman was faking many of her injuries.
Another interesting component of this case was that the ASTM and ADA standards are voluntary. The Township of Cranbury, where the Inn is located, did not adopt them and were, therefore, not legally binding.
The plaintiffs, however, were able to argue that the legality of the standards ultimately did not matter because the hearth posed a dangerous condition that lacked any visual cues which would have drawn attention to the potential hazard.
Evan J. Lide is a Shareholder and Stark & Stark’s Personal Injury Group member. He is also an expert Civil Trial Attorney as certified by the Supreme Court of New Jersey.