A 49 year old Lafayette, New Jersey woman has agreed to a settlement of $375,000, in a premises liability law suit filed against Newton Memorial Hospital, Sussex County, which occurred while she was a volunteer at the hospital on January 8, 2009. On the day of the incident, Cynthia Sparling was performing volunteer services in the Central Supply Department at the hospital, where she served for several years as a volunteer, approximately 30 hours per week. As she was walking in the vicinity of the hospital's decontamination department, she tripped over a portion of a large piece of plastic covering which was loosely draped over a dialysis cart sitting next to the entrance door to the location. She lurched forward striking her right shoulder on another nearby door, injuring her right wrist, and fracturing four ribs.
Her attorney, Amos Gern, Esq., of Roseland, advises that she was immediately taken from the scene of the accident and admitted to the hospital's emergency department where an x-ray of the right shoulder revealed a comminuted three-part fracture of the humeral head and neck. Within a few days, she consulted her local orthopedic physician for severe pain in the right shoulder and wrist, with limited sensation in her right hand. She was diagnosed with a closed fracture of the proximal humerus with fragmentation and radial nerve palsy. After further diagnostic x-rays and CAT scans, she was found to have a markedly comminuted fracture of the surgical neck of the humerus with mild displacement of the distal fracture fragment, and four subacute right rib fractures.
She then consulted additional orthopedic shoulder specialists who ordered an EMG nerve studies revealing severe diffuse acute right brachial plexus injury, with deficits in the radial nerve and axillary nerve, and ulnar nerve distribution.
She was then recommended by her local shoulder specialist to see a brachial plexus specialist at Hospital for Special Surgery, where she was continued in a sling and cock-up wrist splint. She was found to have significant atrophy throughout the arm, which was braced, and essentially dysfunctional. Following physical therapy, serial EMGs revealing continued nerve damage, together with complications from the displaced fracture of the shoulder, it was determined that a salvage surgical procedure would be done to do tendon transfers in an effort to restore further functionality to the right arm and hand. Unfortunately, this procedure provided limited functional recovery.
Prior to this accident, plaintiff was on Social Security Disability for various unrelated conditions including a right kidney transplant, a total right hip replacement, prior fracture of the right leg, systemic lupus, and an auto immune condition known as progressive and multifocal leukoencephalopathy (PML). Nevertheless, Ms. Sparling had worked virtually full time as a volunteer at the hospital performing duties similar to that of its regular work force.
The plaintiff was represented by John J. Ratkowitz and Amos Gern, partners at Roseland's Starr Gern Davison & Rubin, PC. The defendant, was represented by Glenn A. Farrell, Esq. of Sachs Maitlin Fleming & Greene in West Orange, New Jersey. The defendant, Newton Memorial Hospital was insured through ProMutual Group in Morristown. The case was settled following a mediation with retired Judge Daniel P. Mecca of Paramus and a more recent settlement conference with the Hon. William J. McGovern, III, JSC, in the Sussex County Superior Court. A peremptory trial date had been scheduled for early February 2012.
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