“It was an honor to represent Rosie who, due to her developmental disabilities, was unable to advocate for herself” and “it was especially rewarding helping such a great family and being successful on a case that was originally rejected by another law firm.” -- Peter J. De Frank, Esq.
Monday, October 10, 2022
An Essex County jury on Sept. 22 awarded $4.55 million to a woman who fell on the dance floor of a banquet hall while attending an event at the facility.
Rose Pietrobon, a 57-year-old, developmentally disabled woman with special needs, was attending a first communion on May 3, 2015, at the Hanover Manor located in East Hanover. While walking onto the dance floor, Pietrobon stepped on a piece of fruit on the floor and fell, according to her suit.
While two eyewitnesses confirmed seeing fruit on the dance floor, a disc jockey who frequently worked at the venue claimed he saw Pietrobon trip over her own feet, according to Andrew Fraser of Laddey Clark & Ryan in Sparta, who represented her along with Peter De Frank of the De Frank Law Group in Wayne.
Following the fall, the suit claimed, Pietrobon's mother saw someone cleaning the floor. Hanover Manor management reviewed surveillance video of the fall, but subsequently allowed the footage to be recorded over, and though there was an incident report made at the time of the event, it was not produced at trial, Fraser said.
As a result of her fall, Pietrobon suffered severe orthopedic injuries and life-altering disabilities, the suit alleged. An invasive hip fracture required partial hip replacement surgery. After the surgery, Pietrobon had a leg length discrepancy, which left her unstable on her feet and causing significant low back pain and a fear of falling, Fraser said. Prior to her fall, she was a relatively independent person, but afterward, she required around-the-clock, life-long care, Fraser said.
Although Pietrobon could not testify on her own behalf due to her disability, her attorneys called eyewitnesses to the accident, and her sister and guardian, Jasmine Pietrobon, to testify. Several experts were produced by the plaintiff, including a hospitality and food service industry expert, an orthopedic expert, a physiatrist and
rehabilitation expert, a rehabilitation needs and life care planning expert, and a psychologist, Fraser said. Counsel for the defense, John C. Simons and William G. McGuinn of Hoagland Longo Moran Dunst & Doukas in New Brunswick, called liability witnesses including the disc jockey, the maître d'hôtel and manager of the event, and Dan orthopedic damages expert.
Neither defense attorney could be reached for comment on the verdict.
Because the design of the banquet room, which required guests to walk across the dance floor with their food to reach their seats, the plaintiff's attorneys asserted claims of constructive notice and mode-of-operation.
They said the insurance carrier for the Hanover Manor, Mercury Insurance Co., "took a no-pay position and made no offer to settle the case.
The verdict came after a two-week trial before Superior Court Judge Thomas Vena. The jury delivered the verdict-consisting of $3.8 million in future medical expenses and $750K in noneconomic damages - on Sept. 22, and final judgment was entered on Oct. 3, according to electronic court documents.
"I am extremely pleased and frankly relieved that the jury returned a verdict consistent with the significant damages sustained by Rosie." Fraser said. "This money will be used to take care of Rosie as she continues to require constant care and supervision and learns to try and walk again with her artificial hip."
Attorney Peter De Frank said:
“It was an honor to represent Rosie who, due to her developmental disabilities, was unable to advocate for herself.”
-- Colleen Murphy
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