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Middlesex County, NJ

In this action, the male plaintiff limo driver, age 46 at trial, contended that the defendant Port Authority negligently repaired a section of walkway, resulting in the edges breaking down and creating a tripping hazard. The plaintiff contended that as a result, he tripped and fell as he was helping a fare with luggage at JFK Airport. The plaintiff maintained that he suffered a large cervical herniation and that the graft used in conjunction with the initial fusion surgery broke, necessitating a second operation.

The evidence disclosed that it was snowing at the time of the incident and that several inches were covering the ground. The defendant contended that New York law should apply on liability, that the cause of the alleged incident was the snow, and that it should not be liable for a fall that occurred because of the condition of the walkway during a storm in progress.

The plaintiff’s expert engineer maintained that an inspection of the area reflected that the defendant had previously effectuated repairs to a pothole by simply pouring new asphalt onto the area. The plaintiff’s expert contended that the middle of the pothole was deeper than the edges and that unless the pothole was cut out before the placement of the new asphalt, the edges would tend to deteriorate, causing a tripping hazard. The plaintiff contended that such a result occurred, causing the fall.

The plaintiff contended that in view of the evidence that the defendant created the hazard, the plaintiff would not be required to show actual or constructive notice in order to prevail. The defendant denied that there was evidence that it had previously repaired the pothole and denied notice of any condition. The defendant also contended that if the incident occurred, the plaintiff slipped and fell because of the snow.

The defendant maintained that the plaintiff did not report the incident to the defendant at the time, and denied that it had, in fact, occurred. The plaintiff countered that rather than search for an individual to whom he could report the incident, he immediately called his supervisor, advised that the fall occurred, and that after he drove his next fare, he would be taking off the rest of the day. The plaintiff established that such advisements were provided to his supervisor. The plaintiff further pointed out that the Notice of Claim was filed approximately two and a-half months after the incident.

The plaintiff maintained that he suffered a large cervical herniation that was causing right-sided radiculopathy. The plaintiff contended that after a course of conservative treatment, including physical therapy proved to be inadequate, he underwent fusion surgery that entailed the insertion of a cage and a bone graft. The plaintiff maintained that the bone graft subsequently broke and the remnants migrated to the left side of the spinal canal. The plaintiff contended that he developed left-sided radiculopathy and required a second surgery.

The plaintiff maintained that although the surgery essentially resolved the left-sided radiculopathy, he will permanently suffer very significant pain, right-sided radiculopathy and weakness and can no longer work as a limo driver with duties that include carrying luggage. The plaintiff made no future income claims. The plaintiff also maintained that he currently receives epidural injections, but that such treatment only provides relief for six to eight weeks. The plaintiff’s orthopedist related the plaintiff can only safely receive an injection once per year and the plaintiff contended that he is in great discomfort most of the time.The jury found the defendant ________% negligent and awarded $________.

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