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Ocean County Motorcycle Case Settles for $2 Million

Photo: Shutterstock.


A Bayville man, injured when his motorcycle was struck by another vehicle, settled his Ocean County suit, Worden v. Somebody Cares, for $2 million just before the case was to go to trial.

Settlement was reached on Jan. 10 during mediation with retired Judge Kenneth Grispin of Javerbaum Wurgaft Hicks Kahn Wikstrom & Sinins in Springfield. The case was set for trial on Jan. 21.

On Oct. 6, 2016, at about 2 p.m., in Manchester, plaintiff Robert Worden, then 45, was struck while heading eastbound on Route 530 on his motorcycle by defendant Raymond Brueno, an employee of Somebody Cares Inc. The suit claimed that Brueno, operating a company vehicle at the time, attempted to make a left turn from Pine Ridge Boulevard onto Route 530 and failed to yield to Worden’s right of way, and struck Worden’s motorcycle.

Worden’s lawyer, Kevin L. Parsons of Hanus & Parsons in Middletown, said his client suffered multiple injuries, including a right open ankle fracture with grade III dislocation, complex regional pain syndrome, and injury to his right shoulder, as well as numerous abrasions and lacerations. He underwent operations on his injured ankle, including skin grafting, and followed up with physical therapy, Parsons said.

Worden was an installer at B&B Heating and Air Conditioning in Lanoka Harbor, where he had worked for 20 years. Parsons said Worden was unable to return to work and is unlikely to return in the same capacity due to his injuries, and he will require future medical treatment. Worden was denied Social Security disability benefits and is in the process of appealing that decision, according to Parsons.

“This is a horrible accident,” Parsons said after reaching the settlement. “My client is going to be whole as much as money can do. He’s never going to get his life back, but he’ll be able to get his house paid for by some of the money and receive the medical treatment he needs.”

The defendants’ lawyer, Kevin McGee of McDermott & McGee in Millburn, disputed some aspects of Worden’s damages claim. The defendants’ neurological expert, Eric Fremed, M.D., of East Brunswick, opined that many of Worden’s current complaints and limitations were unrelated to his physical condition in nature, according to Parsons.

McGee did not return a call about the case.

— Suzette Parmley

$1.75M in Bergen Auto Case

Merlucci v. Ibelli: An Oakland woman will receive a $1.75 million settlement obtained through mediation before trial after bringing a lawsuit against a young driver who allegedly struck and seriously injured her in a Mahwah car collision, according to the injured woman’s attorney, Andrew Statmore of Fredson Statmore Bitterman.

Trial had been set for Feb. 25 in Bergen County Superior Court. The mediation was handled by retired Essex County Superior Court Judge Eugene Codey of Connell Foley in Roseland.

The plaintiff, Magnolia Merlucci, was driving a 2000 GMC sport utility vehicle on West Airmount Avenue in Mahwah in 2016 when she approached an intersection, entering the intersection because she had a green light, Statmore said.

At the same time, the defendant, Ariana Ibelli, who was then age 17, was driving toward the intersection from a different direction when her traffic light changed from yellow to red, according to Statmore, whose firm is based in Bloomfield.

Ibelli reportedly told the police the light in her direction was yellow. She also testified at her deposition that she didn’t slow down before entering the intersection while traveling about 30 miles per hour, Statmore said. The cars collided.

Merlucci, now age 55, alleged neck and shoulder injuries as well as post-concussive syndrome from hitting her head on her vehicle window, Statmore said. She eventually had an involved neck surgery that included fusion with cages and 12 screws. In addition, she received cognitive therapy and biofeedback.

Today she suffers from permanent injuries and complains of an inability to organize and manage her home, avoids socializing, is overwhelmed by visual stimuli, has severe memory impediment, is having difficulty reading, and continues to have headaches, neck pain radiating to her right arm, dizziness and balance problems, Statmore added.

Kenneth Foreman of Barone Mooney Newman & Foreman in Edison represented Ibelli. He declined to comment.

— Jason Grant

$800K for Rock-Climbing Fall

Cifelli v. High Exposure: A Bergen County judge on Dec. 18 approved an $800,000 settlement in a suit filed on behalf of a child who suffered multiple broken bones in a fall at an indoor rock-climbing facility.

Katherine Cifelli, then 11, was attending a party at High Exposure in Northvale on Aug. 27, 2016, and while climbing she lost her grip and fell approximately 30 feet from a climbing wall. Other rock walls in the climbing facility were equipped with automatic belays that would prevent a climber from falling, but the wall chosen by Katherine did not have one, said plaintiff lawyer Jacqueline Rosa of Seigel Law in Ridgewood.

The child suffered multiple fractures to her left leg. She underwent an emergency open reduction surgery with internal fixation. She regained full function of the leg but suffers some pain and has significant scarring, Rosa said.

The child's father, Nicholas Cifelli, filed suit against High Exposure. The rock-climbing center maintained that the child's father, who attended the party, did not properly supervise his daughter. Following two settlement conferences with Bergen County Superior Court Judge Lisa Perez Friscia, the parties agreed to an $800,000 settlement to be paid by New Hampshire Insurance Co., the carrier for High Exposure. Judge Walter Skrod approved the settlement on Dec. 18. The settlement provides a net recovery of $588,235, after payment of $196,078 in attorney fees and $15,686 in costs.

The lawyer for High Exposure, Peter Mueller of Harwood Lloyd in Hackensack, did not return a call about the case.

— Charles Toutant