New Jersey Verdicts

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Lawsuit faulted drunk driver and bar for intersection collision

Amount:

$3,550,000

Type:

Verdict-Plaintiff

State:

New Jersey

Venue:

Middlesex County

Court:

Middlesex County Superior Court

Injury Type(s):

arm-fracture (fracture, ulna), arm (fracture, ulna);
arm-fracture (fracture, radius), arm (fracture, radius);
leg-limp; head; ankle-fracture (fracture, malleolus), ankle (fracture, malleolus);
ankle-fracture (fracture, bimalleolar), ankle (fracture, bimalleolar);
chest-fracture, rib;
other-plate; other-physical therapy; other-fracture, displaced;
shoulder-fracture (fracture, clavicle), shoulder (fracture, clavicle);
shoulder-fracture (fracture, collarbone), shoulder (fracture, collarbone);
arterial/vascular-hemorrhage; arterial/vascular-internal bleeding; surgeries/treatment-open reduction; surgeries/treatment-internal fixation; mental/psychological-cognition (memory, impairment), impairment (memory, impairment)

Case Type:

Motor Vehicle – Broadside, Passenger; Hotel/Restaurant – Dram Shop; Motor Vehicle – Intersection, Multiple Vehicle, Alcohol Involvement; Worker/Workplace Negligence – Negligent Service of Alcohol

Case Name:

Katherine Grecco v. Robert McGowan, Ryan Maines, The Office Beer Bar and Grill, Westfield Office Beer Bar, Jolly Trolley, Cranford Office Beer Bar, Peter Tyliczka and the estate of Peter Tyliczka,
No. MID-L-8606-11

Date:

February 8, 2018

Parties

Plaintiff(s):

Katherine Grecco (Female, 61 Years)

Plaintiff Attorney(s):

Craig M. Rothenberg;
Rothenberg, Rubenstein, Berliner & Shinrod, LLC;
Clinton,
NJ,
for
Katherine Grecco ■ Dean S. Pashaian;
Rothenberg Rubenstein Berliner Shinrod LLC;
Clinton,
NJ,
for
Katherine Grecco

Plaintiff Expert(s):

Anca Bereanu; M.D.; Neuropsychology; Morrisville,
PA called by:
Craig M. Rothenberg, Dean S. Pashaian ■ Jamie Williams; Ph.D.; Bioengineering; Lancaster,
PA called by:
Craig M. Rothenberg, Dean S. Pashaian ■ Okorie Okorocha; Alcohol Toxicology; Studio City,
CA called by:
Craig M. Rothenberg, Dean S. Pashaian ■ Steven Becker; Accident Reconstruction; Philadelphia,
PA called by:
Craig M. Rothenberg, Dean S. Pashaian

Defendant(s):

Ryan Maines, 

Jolly Trolley, 

Peter Tyliczka, 

Robert McGowan, 

Cranford Office Beer Bar, 

Estate of Peter Tyliczka, 

Office Beer Bar and Grill, 

Westfield Office Beer Bar

Defense Attorney(s):

Harry D. McEnroe;
Tompkins, McGuire, Wachenfeld & Barry, LLP;
Florham Park,
NJ,
for
Ryan Maines ■ Emery J. Mishky;
Margolis Edelstein;
Berkeley Heights,
NJ,
for
Jolly Trolley, Cranford Office Beer Bar, Office Beer Bar and Grill, Westfield Office Beer Bar ■ Joseph P. Kreoll;
Of counsel, Cruser, Mitchell, Novitz, Sanchez, Gaston & Zimet LLP;
Woodcliffe Lake,
NJ,
for
Robert McGowan ■ Richard C. Bryan;
Cipriani & Werner P.C.;
Mt. Laurel,
NJ,
for
Peter Tyliczka, Estate of Peter Tyliczka

Defendant Expert(s):

Eric Fremed;
Neurology;
Englewood Cliffs,
NJ called by:
Emery J. Mishky ■ John Brick;
Alcohol Toxicology;
Yardley,
PA called by:
Emery J. Mishky ■ Jacob Fisher;
Biomechanical;
Philadelphia,
PA called by:
Joseph P. Kreoll ■ Louis Rizio;
Orthopedic Surgery;
Livingston,
NJ called by:
Harry D. McEnroe, Emery J. Mishky, Joseph P. Kreoll, Richard C. Bryan ■ William Head;
Neuropsychiatry;
Staten Island,
NY called by:
Joseph P. Kreoll

Insurer(s):

Fireman’s Fund Insurance Co. for The Office
Western United Insurance Co. for McGowan

Facts:

On Oct. 1, 2011, plaintiff Katherine Grecco, 61, a secretary, was a passenger in a Cadillac Eldorado traveling on Clifton Street in Westfield. As her car went through the intersection with Tice Place, its front, passenger side was struck by a 2009 Honda Accord. Grecco’s boyfriend, Peter Tyliczka, who was driving, was killed. Grecco claimed injuries to her head, right wrist, left ankle, ribs and left collarbone. Grecco sued the driver of the other car, Robert McGowan, alleging he was drunk and ran a stop sign. She also sued a passenger in his car, Ryan Maines, alleging Maines interfered with the operation of McGowan’s car. In addition, Grecco sued two affiliated bars where McGowan had been drinking that night, The Office Beer Bar & Grill, in Cranford, and the Jolly Trolley, in Westfield. Grecco alleged that servers at the bars kept supplying McGowan with drinks after he was visibly intoxicated, in violation of state dram shop laws. Also named as a defendant was Tyliczka and his estate, but they were dismissed after it was determined he had not been negligent. Maines was dismissed after it could not be determined if he had interfered with McGowan’s driving. The plaintiff also withdrew claims against the Jolly Trolley. The case proceeded to a trial against The Office and McGowan. An expert in alcohol toxicology for Grecco testified that, based on witness accounts and receipts of what McGowan bought at each bar, McGowan was visibly intoxicated when he was served his last beer. The conclusion was also based on McGowan’s blood-alcohol content two hours later, from a blood sample taken by authorities. McGowan had at least a total of 4.5 pints of high-alcohol beer at the bars. The Office disputed whether McGowan was visibly intoxicated while he was served there. An expert toxicologist for the bar testified that McGowan would not have been visibly drunk when he was served, but conceded that he was drunk at the time of the crash. In 2016, McGowan pleaded guilty to second-degree vehicular homicide and was sentenced to four years in prison.

Injury:

Grecco was taken by ambulance to University Hospital in Newark, where diagnostic tests showed she had a bimalleolar fracture of her left ankle; fractures of her right (dominant) arm at the distal radius and ulna; fractures of four left ribs; and a fracture of her left clavicle, or collarbone. She also had intracranial bleeding. The fractures of the sixth and seventh ribs were displaced and had to be reset, but other than that there was no treatment for the rib fractures. Grecco had open reduction and internal fixation surgery on her ankle and wrist. Two plates and 11 screws were placed in her ankle and a pin and screws were implanted in her wrist. She was in the hospital for a couple of weeks as doctors monitored and treated her head injury. Afterward, she went to a rehab facility for about five weeks, then continued home therapy for five to six weeks. She received daily sessions of physical, cognitive and occupational therapy while in the hospital and rehab center. She had to relearn how to walk. An expert in neuropsychology for Grecco, who examined her and her records, testified that her head injuries were causally related to the accident. Grecco, the expert said, has permanent cognitive impairment that slows her speech and information processing and causes balance problems. Grecco testified that she limps, has problems with memory and balance and has weakness in her right arm. The residual effects limit her daily activities and she was unable to return to work. She sought damages for lost wages and medical costs and for pain and suffering. An expert in neuropsychiatry retained by McGowan, who examined the Grecco and her records, said that although she was injured in the crash those injuries had resolved. The expert said her cognitive deficits were related to previously undiagnosed Parkinson’s disease, based on a physical exam of her. An expert in neurology retained by The Office, who also examined Grecco and her records, said she was still exhibiting cognition problems from surgery which she had several years before the accident to remove a brain tumor. She might have had a brain injury in the accident, the expert said, but it likely resolved and her current and future problems were either caused by the tumor surgery or another illness, such as Parkinson’s disease. A defense expert in orthopedic surgery said Grecco had no residual medical issues. The defense counsel for both defendants also disputed whether Grecco was wearing her seat belt at the time. An expert in biomechanics said there was no evidence she was wearing her seat belt, due to the fact that she was found in the backseat of the car but she was in the front seat at the time of impact. An expert in accident reconstruction for Grecco, however, said she was wearing a seat belt, based on marks on the seat belt from her body. Moreover, the biomechanics of the collision were consistent with her anticipated movement. Grecco’s expert in biomechanics testified that abrasions on the seat belt fabric were consistent with her wearing a seat belt at the time of impact.

Result:

The jury found McGowan was 60 percent liable for the crash and The Office was 40 percent liable. Grecco was awarded $3.5 million. At a punitive damages hearing two weeks later, she was awarded an additional $50,000 against McGowan.

Trial Information:

Judge:

Phillip Lewis Paley

Demand:

None

Offer:

$300,000 (The Office); $100,000 (McGowan; insurance coverage’s limit)

Trial Length:

3
 weeks

Trial Deliberations:

7.5
 hours

Post Trial:

The Office agreed to settle its portion of the award for $1.4 million, equal to 40 percent of the total award.

Editor’s Comment:

This report is based on information that was provided by plaintiff’s counsel and counsel for The Office and McGowan. The remaining parties’ counsel were not asked to contribute.