Settlements & Verdicts 2014

Settlement: $300,000.00 – Illegal Discharge Of Female Firefighter from Cotuit Fire Department

The Plaintiff, 52, began working for the Department in 1994 , had risen through the ranks and was promoted to the position of a “senior private” in 1998. The petitioner had no history of discipline and a good working relationship with her commanders. In July 2008, a new chief was hired and later that year in September 2008, the Plaintiff was promoted to the position of Lieutenant.
Initially, the Plaintiff had generally good relations with the new Chief, which included her promotion to Lieutenant in the fall of 2008. However, matters began to deteriorate shortly thereafter. The first incident arose out the petitioner’s appointment to the position of
Lieutenant as the Chief wished to make the appointment probationary. However, it was the petitioners position that the appointment was not meant to be a promotion, but was merely a re-naming of the position of “first private”, as the duties and supervisory position of “ first private” and Lieutenant were identical. Based on the above the petitioner refused to sign a document prepared by the Chief acknowledging that the position was probationary.
A second incident arose shortly thereafter on an alleged complaint by Chief Olsen’s wife to Olsen that at a Christmas event someone complained that Pierce’s hair was too long, resulting in the Chief summonsing Pierce and instructing her and another female firefighter to draft a new hair policy. Because of the Christmas Holidays the date for the submission of the new policy to the chief was put off several times. In early January 2009, the chief, on his own initiative, issued a new hair policy. In response, Pierce forwarded an e-mail to the Chief critical of the policy, commenting that it appeared to have come from something written in the 1920’s. The chief re-visited the issue and a compromise was reached, however, this was the beginning of the end of the relationship between the Petitioner, her husband and the Chief.
In March 2009, the Chief circulated a draft “Familial Relations Policy”, which affected only the plaintiff and her husband, who was also employed as a firefighter in the department. Among other things, the policy prohibited non-emergency assignments of family members to the same shift.
Meanwhile, in April, 2009, the Plaintiff got into an argument at the Fire Station with the then Union President, a subordinate firefighter, for capitulating in his job as Union President, after she had learned that he had just had a secret meeting with the Chief, during which he had supported the draft familial relations policy. Although no complaint was made by either party to the Chief requesting discipline, the chief, on his own, decided to investigate the matter. At the same time that the chief chose to investigate the matter involving the Plaintiff he was involved in a dispute with Plaintiffs husband over his support of a write in candidate,for fire commissioner, who was opposing the incumbent former Union firefighter The Chief made it clear to the Captain that he was unhappy . While this was ongoing he requested that the plaintiffs husband to participate in the investigation of the April 10th incident involving the Plaintiff, his wife.
The upshot of the investigation was a shock, for on June 8, 2009 Pierce was demoted from Lieutenant to firefighter.
The relationship between the Chief and the Pierce’s continued to deteriorate over the following year with claims by the Plaintiff that the Chief was retaliating against them. The culmination of these conflicts led to a claim being filed by the Plaintiff with the Massachusetts Commission Against Discrimination MCAD against the Chief, alleging sex discrimination and a hostile work environment. In 2011 and 2012, the Chief continued his antagonism toward the Plaintiff culminating in her termination on April 10, 2013

The complaint was put on hold, as the plaintiff, through her attorneys, filed a lawsuit against the Chief and the District based on a violation of the open meeting law in her demotion and retaliation for her firing and sex discrimination. The trial on the lawsuit was commenced by Attorney Brian Cunha in November 2014 and settled after two days of trial.

As an additional part of the the settlement the Plaintiff was paid an additional (4)four months of salary which allowed her to qualify for her full retirement benefits including health care coverage.

12/20/14 Settlement $100,000.00 Motorcycle accident

A 33 year old woman who was a passenger on her fiance’s motorcycle which was traveling through an intersection when a truck ran a red light resulting in a collision which caused both the operator and the passenger to be ejected. The woman suffered a broken arm and could not return to her employment. She was to be promoted the week the accident occurred. The case settled for the full policy limits of $100,000.00. The case settled within two months of the accident due to the expedient and diligent work of our firm. We were also successful in obtaining an additional $5,000.00 in MedPay coverage and resolved the case without any medical liens.

11/15/14 Settlement $200,000.00 Slip and Fall Supermarket

A 69 years old female who was caused to slip and fall as a result of spilled detergent on a supermarket floor recently was awarded $200,000 as a result of a mediated settlement obtained by Attorney Karen Alegria from Brian Cunha & Associates. At the time of this accident she lived with her husband of 14 years in Smithfield, Rhode Island. The Plaintiff was the caretaker of her husband who had Alzheimer’s disease. Prior to this accident, they spent almost every day together and were active in their grandchildren’s lives. As a result of the accident, the plaintiff suffered two broken arms and was hospitalized and then transferred to a nursing home for a period of time to recover, as she was unable to care for herself or her husband. The case was settled at Mediation for $200,000.00 within nine months.

9/19/14 Jury Verdict: $100,000

After a three day Trial in the New Bedford Superior Court, a jury rendered a $100,000.00 verdict for the Plaintiff who was represented by Attorney Sharon Sybel from Brian Cunha & Associates, against the owner of a pit bull whose dog caused serious injuries to the Plaintiff .

The incident occurred on April 5, 2011 when the female Plaintiff, 46, a tenant of the Defendant, went to the first floor apartment to return borrowed keys. After the Plaintiff knocked on the door, the Defendant’s girlfriend opened the door and the Defendant’s two pit bulls ran out into the hallway where the Plaintiff was standing. One of the dogs bit the Plaintiff on the right foot causing injury.

Critical to the case were photographs of the Plaintiff’s injured foot taken just after the incident. (As in many cases, prior to surgery, the orthopedic surgeon took several photographs of the Plaintiff’s foot that were shown to the jury during the course of the Trial.) Attorney Sybel was able to secure those photos for trial. The impact of these photographs undoubtedly aided the jury in understanding the significant pain and suffering sustained by the Plaintiff which was reflected in their verdict.( The lesson to be learned is that photos are very important and can speak a thousand words)

The Defendants defense at trial was that the defendant was not liable as prior to the attack the Plaintiff had teased the pit bulls. The Defendant also attempted to introduce evidence of the Plaintiff’s prior criminal record and character to negatively influence the jury.

Crucially in this case Attorney Sybel was able to successfully convince the judge that the plaintiffs criminal record was irrelevant to the real issue before the court as to whether the dog had bitten the Plaintiff and whether the plaintiff was at fault and that the sole reason that the Defendant was attempting to introduce this evidence was to prejudice the jury against the Plaintiff. The judge sided with Attorney Sybel and disallowed the prejudicial evidence

Again critically, at the completion of the trial, Attorney Sybel also successfully argued to the trial Judge that the defendant had failed to introduce sufficient evidence that the Plaintiff had teased or tormented the dogs to allow the jury to decide the issue. The Judge agreed and found as a matter of law that the Plaintiff did not tease the dogs and found the Defendant responsible for the dog bite, leaving the jury to decide damages After a three day Trial in the New Bedford Superior Court, a jury rendered a $100,000.00 verdict for the Plaintiff who was represented by Attorney Sharon Sybel from Brian Cunha & Associates, against the owner of a pit bull whose dog caused serious injuries to the Plaintiff .

5/12/2014 $300,000.00 – Settlement Workers’ Compensation-auto mechanic

The employee was working as an auto mechanic in Fall River Massachusetts when he fell while working on a transmission. This occurred when he had the transmission out on a dolly and, when he fell, the transmission also fell and landed on top of him. He had initial complaints of pain in his right buttock, right groin, right hip, low back and left leg. He was seen at Charlton Memorial Hospital Occupational Health Service and allowed to return to light duty work. However, when he returned, he was required to lift a heavy object and immediately experienced worsening of his complaints which again disabled him from work.

Now his worsened groin complaints were found to be an aggravation of previous bilateral work related hernias which had been surgically repaired several years earlier. His worsened back complaints also now involved decreased strength in his left leg which led to a fall on stairs. This further complicated his medical complaints and resulted in surgery for a torn ligament in his knee. His worsened groin complaints led to repeat exploratory surgery and when no physical complications could be identified during surgery, he was referred to a major Pain Management Center in Boston. Periodic steroid blocks helped to alleviate his pain complaints.

This employee had no legal representation until three months after his injury when his employer’s insurer discontinued payments of his disability benefits. Once disability benefits were stopped, and the employee had no income, he sought the assistance of Attorney Honey Polner at Brian Cunha & Associates, P.C.

The insurer had discontinued the workers compensation benefits for the back injury by reliance on the insurer’s right to discontinue payment within the first (six) 6 months of the claim. Furthermore, the insurer denied any liability for symptoms related to the groin complaints. The effect of the discontinuance and denial of liability deprived the employee of related medical care as well as the loss of income. Brian Cunha & Associates filed a formal claim on his behalf with the Department of Industrial Accidents. Through the efforts of Attorney Polner at Brian Cunha & Associates, all benefits were obtained, the employee was able to receive medical care for his back and leg complaints as well as medical coverage for all complications related to his bilateral hernias before the case was settled for $300,000.00. Medical care continues to be covered as long as it remains related to these claims.

4/1/14 $105,000 Settlement: Rear end collision-back injury

The employee was a home care nurse whose car was rear-ended while she was traveling during work to a patient assignment. In the collision she suffered low back injuries. She had difficulty in obtaining ongoing medical coverage from her employer’s workers’ compensation insurance carrier and consulted Brian Cunha and Associates for legal assistance.

Although her case was made somewhat complex because of her history of a prior but ongoing injury to her upper back, our attorneys were able to obtain ongoing workers compensation benefits for her new low back injury. In addition, the bodily injury claim against the driver who struck her was resolved with a $50,000.00 settlement, the full amount of the driver’s personal injury insurance policy coverage.

However, our attorneys were of the opinion that her losses warranted a higher damage award and were able to attain an additional bodily injury settlement under the plaintiff’s own auto insurance carrier. Our attorneys at Brian Cunha and Associates were able to obtain an additional damage award of $105,000.00.

3/20/14 $500,000 Jury Verdict Awarded To Nurse Injured At R.I. Veterans Home

“This case is a wake-up call to all nursing home operators that they have to be vigilant in routinely inspecting and maintaining their premises,” said Attorney Brian Cunha.

PROVIDENCE, R.I., March 20, 2014 /PRNewswire/ — After a week-long trial, a six-person jury sitting in the Providence Superior Court yesterday rendered a $500,000 verdict against the State of Rhode Island in favor of Victoria Roach of Newport, who was injured in 2008 at the R.I. Veterans Home in Bristol.

The State of Rhode Island owns and operates the 260-bed, nursing care facility. Roach was assigned to work at the home on a per diem basis as a licensed practical nurse; she was employed by Mass Medical Associates, a temporary placement agency for nurses.

The case was heard before Superior Court Justice Patricia Hurst. Roach was represented by Brian Cunha and Karen Alegria of Brian Cunha & Associates. The State of Rhode Island was represented by Assistant Attorney General Matthew Shaw.

While on duty on November 10, 2008, the plaintiff was seriously injured when she slipped and fell on soapy water or cleaning fluid left on the floor of a resident’s bathroom. Roach was dispensing medication at this time to a totally disabled resident. She was attempting to dispose in the bathroom sink a small amount of liquid used in administering medication to her patient. In so doing, she entered and fell in the resident’s bathroom.

Roach’s lawyers, Brian Cunha and Karen Alegria of Brian Cunha & Associates, presented evidence at trial that the cleaning spill was not adequately wiped and cleaned beforehand -even though one or more CNAs had responsibility for doing so immediately preceding the accident. Evidence was also presented at trial that one or more CNAs had failed to adequately inspect the area as required.

Plaintiff’s counsel proved that Roach was severely injured as a result. She suffered a torn ACL and torn meniscus that resulted in surgery to repair her knee, and she was unable to return to work for an extended period of time.

Brian Cunha & Associates concentrates in personal injury law with offices in Rhode Island and Massachusetts.

3/14/14 Settlement: $245,000- Workers Compensation/ Wrist Injury

On or about August 8, 1991, an employee who worked as a nursing assistant at the Catholic Memorial Home experienced a snapping sensation in her neck followed by pain in both hands while assisting a falling resident. She was evaluated for a neck injury and/or hand injuries and was ultimately diagnosed with bilateral carpal tunnel syndrome. She was disabled from work and retained Brian Cunha & Associated to aid her in receiving Workers Compensation benefits which were ultimately awarded to her.

Her injuries were followed by two surgeries on her left wrist. Her symptoms continued and Attorney Honey Polner from Brian Cunha & Associates was able to obtain permanent total disability benefits.

The employee moved out of state but continued to receive weekly benefits until March 11, 2014, at which time Attorney Polner was able to obtain a settlement in the amount of $245,000.00.

FALL RIVER, MA, FEBRUARY 10, 2014: Settlement: $125,000.– Slip and Fall

On July 17, 2009, the Plaintiff, Brenda Amorin, was descending the outside stairs to her apartment when she was caused to slip and fall because the stairs contained numerous cracks and there was no hand railing.

As a result of her fall the Plaintiff sustained a fracture to her right ankle.

Ms. Amorin retained the services of Brian Cunha & Associates approximately 10 days prior to the expiration of the three year statute of limitations for bringing negligence law suits in Massachusetts. As such, a complaint was prepared by Attorney Sharon D. Sybel and suit was filed against the owner and landlord the next day.

Fortunately for the Plaintiff, the outside stairs were in the same condition almost three years later. Attorney Sharon D. Sybel took photographs of the stairs and was able, at the Defendant/Landlord’s deposition, to have him agree that the stairs were unchanged since 2009. The photographs clearly showed that the stairs were in deplorable condition. Despite this, the Defendant/Landlord insisted that they were in good condition.

Although the Defendant/Landlord stated that the stairs were in good condition, he re-built the entire stairway after suit was filed.

Brian Cunha & Associates trial strategy was to have the jury see the photos and determine that the Defendant/Landlord was not credible and that he negligently failed to maintain his property to provide a safe ingress and egress for the Plaintiff and his other tenants.

From the outset, the Defense asserted that the Plaintiff was negligent because she was wearing flip flops at the time and had lived at the apartment for two weeks prior to the fall and during that time had used the stairs. .

The case settled for the above amount just prior to trial and after extensive negotiations.

The importance of this case is that it is imperative, that if you are injured due to a defect, to immediately seek an attorney to document and photograph the defect. In this case the Plaintiff was fortunate that the stairs had not been changed, had they been, it would probably have been very difficult to prove this case

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