Recent Litigation Results

21May 2019

Sweeney & Sheehan partner J. Michael Kunsch obtained a defense verdict in a product liability case following three days of trial before Judge Mariani in the Middle District of Pennsylvania. Plaintiff claimed injury resulting from an alleged defect in a stepladder. The defense established that the ladder was not defective and did not cause the incident.

12Feb 2019

Sweeney & Sheehan Partner J. Michael Kunsch obtained summary judgment in the Eastern District of Pennsylvania following a successful Daubert challenge of plaintiffs’ liability expert in a product liability case. Plaintiffs asserted claims of strict liability, negligence and breach of warranty against the manufacturer and seller of a fiberglass stepladder. The husband-plaintiff fell off the ladder in the master bathroom of his home while painting a skylight. He had positioned the ladder on a tarp, and claimed the ladder feet slipped and caused his fall. The ladder contained a warning to “Set all four feet on a firm level surface. Do not place on unstable, loose or slippery surfaces.” Despite the presence of that warning, plaintiffs’ engineering expert opined that the ladder should have had a specific warning about the danger of the ladder slipping when placed on a tarp on a smooth tile surface. The Court found the expert’s opinion did not satisfy the Daubert reliability and fit requirements, noting that he made no inspections of the ladder or scene, performed no tests, cited no relevant industry standards, offered inconsistent opinions, and simply accepted plaintiff’s testimony about how the accident happened. After precluding the expert, the Court further found that no reasonable jury could conclude that the ladder was defective and entered summary judgment.

01Oct 2018

Sweeney & Sheehan Associates Elizabeth Weber and Joseph Hauschildt recently prevailed in New Jersey’s Appellate Division in Larry Pitt v. Tyrus Chi, LLC and Michael P. O’Connell, a case involving allegations of violation of the Consumer Fraud Act (CFA), common law fraud, and defamation per se. Mr. Hauschildt, a former Appellate Division clerk, wrote the brief, and Ms. Weber argued the case.

Plaintiff was an owner at a condominium complex in which defendants operated a café. Plaintiff dined at the café on many occasions. On one specific occasion, plaintiff and defendant discussed plaintiff’s insufficient tipping. As a result of this conversation and at plaintiff’s recommendation, the next time that plaintiff dined at the café, defendant included a gratuity on plaintiff’s bill as a separate line item. Plaintiff was told of the gratuity before he paid and refused to pay the gratuity as listed. A dispute arose between plaintiff and defendant, and defendant asked plaintiff to leave the café. Plaintiff refused and defendant called police to remove the plaintiff. Defendant reported to the dispatcher that plaintiff was causing problems and refusing to leave the café. He also reported that plaintiff was pushing his dining companion. Police responded and plaintiff eventually left the café. He did not pay any gratuity. Defendant banned plaintiff from the café as a result of the incident.

The Appellate Division found that plaintiff was unable to prove that he suffered an ascertainable loss as a result of the incident as required to support a CFA claim. The Appellate Division also dismissed plaintiff’s common law fraud claim because no misrepresentation was made to the plaintiff concerning the gratuity. Finally, the Court dismissed plaintiff’s defamation per se claim because he was unable to prove that the statement made to the police by the defendant was false. Moreover, plaintiff provided no competent evidence to support his contention that the statement made to police denigrated his reputation.

 

 

20Jun 2016

Associates Neal Thakkar and Joe Hauschildt recently prevailed in New Jersey’s Appellate Division in Lassandro v. Pep Boys, a case involving the intentional wrong exception to the exclusive remedy provision of the Workers’ Compensation Act. Under the Act, if an employee is entitled to recover workers’ compensation benefits, he is barred from suing his employer in tort unless the employer committed an intentional wrong. To overcome the bar, the plaintiff must prove that the employer’s act was substantially certain to result in injury or death, and that the resulting injury was plainly beyond what the legislature intended to immunize. This is a formidable standard that permits a plaintiff to recover in tort only under the most egregious of circumstances.

Here, the plaintiff was a service technician at Pep Boys, and he was injured while loading a vehicle onto a lift when the lift suddenly dropped, causing him to fall and injure his knee. The lift’s safety mechanisms had been disabled by another technician for convenience, but not at the direction of management. There had been no prior close calls with the lift, and the modification did not increase profit or productivity at the expense of safety. The evidence did show, however, that Pep Boys should have been aware that the safeties were defeated, and that it permitted the condition to exist for at least two years.

Plaintiff recovered workers’ compensation benefits, but sued Pep Boys for damages. The trial court denied summary judgment, but the Appellate Division granted leave to appeal and reversed. In its opinion, the court found that while Pep Boys’ conduct was arguably negligent, creating a risk of injury by omission is not tantamount to acting with the substantial certainty that an injury would result. Further, the court held that the injury suffered by plaintiff was not one that plainly beyond what the legislature intended to immunize, as the nature of the plaintiff’s employment led to the risk of injury.

Joe Hauschildt, a former Appellate Division clerk, wrote the brief, and Neal Thakkar argued the case. The opinion can be found here: http://www.njlawarchive.com/201606101025091314065283

23Dec 2015

Sweeney & Sheehan Partner Robyn McGrath obtained a defense verdict in a malicious prosecution case tried to a jury in Atlantic County, New Jersey. The case was based upon allegations by Plaintiff, president of an HVAC contracting company ,that the Defendant owner of an equipment supplier wrongfully filed a criminal complaint against Plaintiff personally when the Plaintiff’s company bounced several checks. After a three day trial, the jury returned a verdict in favor of the Defendant after only five minutes of deliberation.

23Dec 2015

In November 2015, Sweeney & Sheehan Partner Frank Gattuso prevailed with a defense verdict at a trial before Judge Millenky in Camden County Superior Court. A jury of 8 persons unanimously rendered a verdict of “no cause” in an automobile liability case where liability was stipulated. After a 5 day trial where there was a significant amount of legal argument made during the trial concerning the admissibility of evidence, the jury felt that the plaintiff did not have permanent injuries related to the accident and found in favor of the defense.

13Feb 2015

New Jersey managing partner Andy Siegeltuch recently obtained a defense verdict in U.S. District Court for the District of New Jersey on behalf of a security officer for the Camden County Board of Social Services in a federal civil rights case. The officer had been accused of choking unconscious, kicking and dragging the plaintiff, a customer of the Board, following a verbal encounter between the two. The plaintiff asserted the officer used execessive force during the encounter, in violation of his 4th Amendment rights, a claim the jury rejected.

 

30Dec 2014

In a case where a sexual harassment plaintiff who was allegedly raped by her immediate supervisor accepted an offer of judgment approximately one-tenth of her settlement demand, plaintiff’s counsel filed a fee petition seeking more than $1.2 in attorneys’ fees. Firm partner, Robyn McGrath, successfully argued to the court that the plaintiff’s attorneys’ engaged in double billing, billing for unnecessary work, and overcharging for almost every task.

Continue reading

26Dec 2014

The New Jersey Appellate Division affirmed a summary judgment order obtained by Partner, Robyn McGrath, and Senior Associate, Denise Montgomery, in a case where a fifteen year old special education student was shot on the grounds of his school. The trial court granted summary judgment to the defendant school on the grounds of charitable immunity. On appeal, plaintiff argued that the trial court had erred in holding that the conduct of the defendant school and its employees did not constitute gross negligence as a matter of law and that the question should be decided by a jury.

Continue reading