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Hudson County, NJ

This was a case involving a then 44-year-old plaintiff longshoreman whose duties including going aboard the defendant’s container ship vessel to conduct inspections of various hatch covers to check if they were unlocked for the subsequent use of cranes that would be used to unload cargo. The plaintiff maintained that as he was walking in a passageway, the grating suddenly deflected approximately six inches, resulting in his losing his balance and falling. He contended that the combination of the residuals from this injury and pre-existing conditions, including a partial foot drop and severe knee arthritis, caused a very significant diminution in earning capacity.

The evidence revealed that in order to conduct a full inspection of sections of grated flooring, a relatively lengthy process that would be required and regular procedure called for such inspection on a six month interval. The plaintiff maintained that the marine environment placed the flooring in particular significant chances of rusting and weakening. The supports of the flooring were hidden from view and the plaintiff contended that once signs of earlier weakness were noted, earlier complete inspections should be performed. The plaintiff’s engineer contended that a post-accident inspection reflected that among the indications of the need for earlier inspection was rusting. The expert maintained that such weakness would gradually develop.

The defendant denied that it was presented with signs that an earlier inspection was required, and also that the conditions causing the deflecting would develop gradually. Additionally, the plaintiff’s expert utilized a section the grated floor during his testimony, demonstrating before the jury that it deflected a significant amount upon pressure being placed on it, and the plaintiff argued that this factor lent substantial additional support to his claims.

Regarding damages, it is felt that despite prior conditions, including a partial foot drop and extensive knee arthritis that was suffered by the overweight plaintiff; he worked and earned a very good living in this physically rigorous occupation. This placed him in an especially favored light before the jury and enabled him to argue that unless he had suffered the lumbar herniation that required surgery in the subject incident, the stoic and hardworking plaintiff would have continued, despite the difficulties inherent in the prior conditions, and that the subject injuries constituted the "straw that broke the plaintiff’s back," much more persuasive. The plaintiff maintained that he developed severe lumbar radiating pain and weakness and a herniation at L5,S1 was confirmed by MRI. He underwent a lumbar fusion, and contended that although the surgery provided significant improvement as to the radicular symptoms, it left him with extensive weakness as well as some residual pain.

The evidence also reflected that the plaintiff suffered injuries, including a partial foot drop and knee injuries in a motorcycle accident that occurred when he was 18 years of age. He contended that despite the prior injuries and the development of knee arthritis that prompted the recommendation for a total knee replacment that would be indicated once the plaintiff, who stood approximately 5 ft. 9 inches tall, and weighed between ________ and ________ pounds lost sufficient weight, he was able to work in this physically rigorous job.

The plaintiff maintained that with a significant amount of overtime, his earnings exceeded $________ per year. He has not worked since the incident, and maintained that he will permanently be able to perform the physically rigorous work that is necessary for him to command significant earnings.

The defendant maintained that the underlying conditions prevented him from working until age 65 as claimed, even if the incident did not occur.

The plaintiff contended that the jury should consider that he had been able to work in this field despite the underlying conditions, and argued that it was likely unless he suffered the herniation in the subject incident, which, the plaintiff maintained, was clearly the straw that broke the camel’s back.The case settled during trial for $________.

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