Essex County Jury Delivers $5 Million Verdict for Fall at Wells Fargo Branch

Jury Box

In Sklar v. Wells Fargo, an Essex County jury on March 14 delivered a $5 million verdict to a Livingston man and his wife after the man fell on ice at a Wells Fargo Bank branch, permanently injuring his spine.

According to his lawyers at Laddey, Clark & Ryan in Sparta, the man, Bernard Sklar, claimed that he slipped and fell in 2017 on clear ice that had formed on a walkway at a Wells Fargo Bank branch in Livingston.

The dangerous ice had collected at the Wells Fargo branch because of gutter-drainage issues, the lawyers said.

As a result of his fall, Bernard Sklar, who was 72 years old at the time, suffered severe and permanent spine damage, the lawyers also said.

The Essex County Superior Court jury’s verdict, delivered on March 14, placed 90 percent liability on Wells Fargo Bank and 10 percent liability on Martin O’Boyle Landscaping Inc., which was a company Wells Fargo had used for snow and ice control services at its Livingston branch building, according to a news release and a Laddy Clark spokesman.

The jury awarded $4 million in compensation for Bernard Sklar’s pain, suffering, disability, impairment, and loss of enjoyment of life, along with $1 million for Ann Sklar’s loss of consortium, the attorneys said.

The Sklars were represented in the negligence case by partner Andrew Fraser and associate Tiffany Heineman at the Laddey Clark firm. They were also represented by Martin Liberman of Morristown, the release said.

Essex County Superior Court Judge Thomas Vena presided over the case and trial.

“It is clear the jury listened carefully to the evidence, followed Judge Vena’s instructions on the law, and did as best as they could to compensate Bernie and Ann for the damage inflicted upon their lives through no fault of their own,” Fraser said in a statement.

Added attorney Heineman, “We are so thankful to the men and women from our community who took time out of their lives to serve as jurors in this case. The fact that they return to the courthouse day in and day out to help administer justice is not lost on us as we try our case.”

Brian Kalman, a partner at London Fischer in New York, represented Wells Fargo Bank, and he could not be reached for comment.

Joseph Reardon of Leary Bride Mergner & Bongiovanni in Ceder Knolls represented Martin O’Boyle Landscaping. He also could not be reached.

— Jason Grant

Parkway Crash Nets $1.25M in Monmouth

Babcock v. Clearfield Motors: A woman who was seriously injured in a two-car crash on the Garden State Parkway agreed to a $1.25 million settlement in her Monmouth County suit on Feb. 21.

Andrea Babcock of Suffern, New York, then 49, was a passenger in a vehicle that Jorge Wilson was driving in the southbound express lanes of the highway in Holmdel on July 9, 2013, when another vehicle attempting to merge into their lane clipped the right side of Wilson's vehicle. The impact caused Wilson to lose control of his vehicle and veer off the roadway, said Barry Eichen, the attorney representing Babcock. The other vehicle was owned by Clearfield Motors Inc. of Dover, Pennsylvania, and driven by Casey Cabot, then 36, also of Dover.

Babcock sustained a ruptured spleen, three fractured ribs, a punctured lung, a torn shoulder muscle and a closed-head injury, said Eichen, of Eichen Crutchlow Zaslow in Edison.

Clearfield Motors agreed to pay $1.25 million on behalf of itself and Cabot about a week before trial was set to start.

The lawyer for Clearfield and Cabot, Glenn Montgomery of Montgomery Fetten in Bridgewater, confirmed the settlement.

— Charles Toutant

$1.25M in Middlesex Auto Case

Ross v. E/O Weiss v. Salvatore Ippolito:  A woman injured in an auto accident received $1.25 million to settle her Middlesex County suit.

Plaintiff Teresa Ross, who was 76 at the time of the accident and retired, sustained multiple rib and spinal fractures from a June 2017 car accident with the defendant.

The case was settled telephonically before going to trial in Middlesex County Superior Court. It settled on March 2, at the end of discovery.

Plaintiff Ross, now 78, of Englishtown, was represented by attorney William E. Wells Jr., of King, Kitrick, Jackson, McWeeney & Wells in Manasquan.

Defendant Emanuel Weiss of Monroe Township was represented by attorney Jessica Adams, who works out of the Mount Laurel office of the Edison-based law firm of Nancy Callegher.  Adams did not return a call for comment.

In 2018, Weiss passed away after the accident for unrelated causes. His estate was the ultimate defendant in the case and paid the entire $1.25 million settlement, according to Wells.

Third-party defendant Sal Ippolito, 88, of Jamesburg, who was the driver in the vehicle that Ross rode in as a passenger, was represented by attorney Joe Marabando at Hoagland, Longo, Moran, Dunst & Doukas in New Brunswick.

“My client did not contribute anything to the settlement,” Marabando said when reached by phone.

Wells said Ippolito was the driver but was not responsible for the accident that occurred in Monroe Township at approximately noon on June 6, 2017. According to court documents, Ross was a front seat passenger in a 2007 blue Chevrolet Cobalt that was travelling straight through the intersection of Perrineville Road and Municipal Plaza. Weiss, behind the wheel of a 2017 black Ford Escape, was making a left-hand turn at that same intersection.

The two cars collided, and both were totaled from the impact, according to Wells. He said Ross suffered multiple spinal fractures, multiple rib fractures, a right ankle fracture, and ultimately underwent surgery on the same ankle and on her lumbar spine.

Liability was contested.

Weiss claimed that the Cobalt that Ross rode in was making a right turn at Municipal Plaza and not heading straight through as she claimed, and should have yielded to Weiss, according to Wells.

“We maintained that Ippolito was instead traveling straight through the intersection with Ross as a passenger, and it was Weiss who made a left turn into Ross’s vehicle,” Wells said. "A pretrial settlement was reached during the course of discovery when it became undisputed that Weiss made a left turn into Ross’s vehicle.”

Wells said Weiss walked away from the accident uninjured, and Ippolito suffered minor injuries.

Ross, who was retired prior to the accident, is currently in a rehab facility, where she is anticipated to be in for the rest of her life, according to Wells.

— Suzette Parmley