$790,000 for Auto Accident

Winecker v. Estate of Heritage:  The estate of a dump-truck driver who died in a two-vehicle crash in Hunterdon County paid $790,000 on Nov. 25 to the other driver, who suffered disabling orthopedic and intestinal injuries.  

Roy Heritage of Bloomsbury went through a stop sign on a country road in Holland Township on Aug. 10, 2000, and struck a car driven by John Winecker of Flemington, according to Winecker’s lawyer, Victor Rotolo of Clinton’s Rotolo and Midlige.  Heritage died and Winecker suffered orthopedic injuries.

Rotolo says the evidence showed that the loss of brake fluid from a leak caused brake failure that led to the accident.  Empty brake fluid containers found in the truck after the accident suggested the driver knew of the problem and had not had it fixed, Rotolo says.

Defense counsel Lane Ferdinand, who heads a firm in Springfield, says the defense stipulated to liability, but disputed the contention that the accident caused the full extent of his injuries to the plaintiff.

According to the plaintiff, the accident aggravated a pre-existing neurological condition, myasthenia gravis, characterized by muscle weakness, for which Winecker was hospitalized.  Steroids used to treat the condition led to a perforated colon, which in turn led to life-threatening complications when a colostomy reversal operation failed, Rotolo says.

The defense evidence suggested that some of Winecker’s health problems would have developed even if the accident had not occurred, Rotolo says.  The plaintiff is a retired school teacher who claimed no economic damages.

Rotolo says the settlement averted a trial after arbitrator James Garrabrandt, who heads a firm in Totowa, awarded $1.1 million.

- By Henry Gottlieb
New Jersey Law Journal
December 22, 2003

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