Chartwell Obtains Defense Verdict in NJ Jury Trial



John M. Wutz

JOHN M. WUTZ is a partner in the Philadelphia office of the Chartwell Law Offices, LLP.  His practice includes representing large national self-insured companies, domestic insurers and the Lloyd’s of London leading and following markets in the defense of premises liability, insurance fraud, wrongful arrest, automobile, products liability and general liability claims. Mr. Wutz is responsible for managing all aspects of litigation including development of litigation strategies, management and performance...

After a five day jury trial in Burlington County, New Jersey, John M. Wutz from Chartwell’s Philadelphia office obtained a complete defense verdict on behalf of a national Fortune 500 retailer in a premises liability case.   The Plaintiff and her husband instituted an action in the Superior Court of New Jersey seeking damages against the retailer for personal injuries, loss of consortium and in excess of $20,000 in lost wages.

 

Plaintiff alleged that she slipped and fell on wet asphalt in the store’s parking lot during a rain storm.  Her injuries included a transverse fracture of the left patella and a fracture to Lisfranc joint of the right foot.  Plaintiff, who was 49 years old at the time of the accident, required surgery to both the knee and foot as well as a subsequent surgery to remove screws from her right foot.  Plaintiff’s injuries left her with a significant extensor lag in the left knee, an altered gait and other residual complaints.  

 

In support of her claim, Plaintiff retained an engineer as a liability expert who opined that the retailer was negligent by installing parking medians in the parking lot that changed the natural drainage and created a slipping hazard.  He further noted that “contaminants” from the store’s tire bays (where they installed and changed vehicle tires) could have been washed out of the garage causing a slipping hazard.  Finally, he opined that the retailer violated the ASTM standards by failing to include an additive to the paint it used in its crosswalks, which caused the crosswalks to be slippery and hazardous during rain storms.  He concluded generally that these failures created a hazardous condition on the premises.  Chartwell was successful in debunking each of these theories of liability during trial.  

 

Through cross examination, the expert was forced to concede that the retailer retained its own engineering firm to draft plans prior to the installation of the parking medians and that those plans were approved, after comments and amendments, by the Township Zoning Board, the County Conservation District and the County Planning Board.  Further, the expert admitted that the exact spot Plaintiff fell was not in the area where the water was being “channelized” by the medians.   The expert was also forced to  acknowledge that he never actually inspected the tire bay and could not state that “contaminants” actually left the tire bay or that they caused or contributed to Plaintiff’s fall.   Finally, the expert was forced to concede that he did no independent testing of the paint in the crosswalk to determine how slippery it actually was.  He did no co-efficient of friction testing and conceded that there was no industry standard as to what was slip resistant or not in a private parking lot in New Jersey.   Thus, Chartwell argued that the retailer could not have violated an industry standard because no such standard existed.  

 

The pre-trial demand was for $600,000.  This was the third time in a row that Mr. Wutz was successful in obtaining a defense verdict for a Chartwell client in a premises liability matter.  He was assisted with Eric Gibbs, Esquire as well as paralegal Kathy Robb and legal assistant Jaclyn Doyle in the preparation for and presentation of the retailer’s defense.  

 

Chartwell Law defends major companies in liability matters throughout Massachusetts,  Rhode Island, New York, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Tennessee, and Florida.  For more information visit:   www.chartwelllaw.com

 



Chartwell Obtains Defense Verdict in NJ Jury Trial.pdf