Motor vehicle collisions are a common source of devastating injuries in New Jersey, but not all injury claims are the result of two cars crashing into each other. Occasionally, the vehicles involved in a serious accident never see a highway; they are used to transport various kinds of heavy objects that cannot efficiently be moved by hand. The recent settlement of a lawsuit brought by a baggage handler at Newark Liberty International Airport demonstrates how serious injury and significant compensation can be generated by off-the-road vehicles.
The plaintiff in the case was a 55-year-old woman was responsible for moving oversized bags from a baggage room beneath the terminal to the planes. The bags were hauled on carts called “tugs,” and the plaintiff was responsible for moving the tugs to the planes. Once the tugs reached the planes, another company, Omni-Serv, was responsible for returning the tugs to the baggage room. On the day of the accident, the plaintiff was resting on an empty tug waiting for more luggage. An Omni-Serv employee was returning an empty tug to the baggage room when it struck the tug on which plaintiff was sitting.
The plaintiff claimed that the Omni-Serv employee was negligent in attempting to move her tug through a space that was too narrow. Plaintiff claimed that she suffered a severe low back injury that required two extended back surgeries, a two-level laminectomy and decompression and later a two-level fusion. Ultimately, the plaintiff was forced by pain and limb numbness to retire. Expert depositions were underway when the parties settled the case. The defendants disputed plaintiff’s evidence, especially the testimony of her expert witnesses. The defendants agreed to pay the plaintiff $3.4 million, and the sum was paid to the plaintiff on April 2. The court was advised of the settlement on May 8.
This case shows how an accident that may not appear to be serious can cause significant pain and disability. The case also shows how many cases involving serious injury are settled, that is, the parties agree to compromise their claims and either pay or accept a compromise sum in settlement. Negotiating a settlement that will avoid a court hearing is one of the most valuable services that a knowledgeable trial attorney can render to a client.