NJ Law Journal

Suits & Deals

Accident Victim Settles for $1.26M

Chapman v. Kaminiski: After an unusual settlement conference appearance by an orthopedic surgeon, a Monmouth County automobile accident victim settled his case for more than $1 million.

On Tuesday, Monmouth County Superior Court Judge Florence Peskoe filed an order settling a suit by Stephen Chapman, 41, of Keansburg, against BSMT Inc., an Eatontown trucking firm, in which Chapman will receive a $957,500 insurance payment. BSMT, which is known commercially as IFS Air Freight, also will pay Chapman a total of nearly $300,600 in installment payments, including interest, during the next five years.

According to court papers and attorneys in the case, Chapman was waiting to make a left turn on Route 70 in Dover Township in March 1993 when a BSMT truck driven by employee Kenneth Kaminiski struck Chapman’s car in the rear. The crash forced Chapman’s vehicle into the opposite lane. An elderly Lakehurst woman, Elizabeth Platt, was killed when her car slammed into Chapman’s car.

Chapman has had six operations on his arm and ankle, and must wear surgical supports permanently, according to his attorney, Manasquan solo practitioner Douglas Hanna. More surgery is expected, Hanna says. Chapman, who hasn’t worked since the operation, has limited arm movement and can walk only short distances.

Hanna says that the settlement was sparked by the appearance of an orthopedic surgeon he brought to a Nov. 1 settlement conference before Peskoe. Expert appearances at an early stage of litigation aren’t unheard of, by are unusual. BSMT’s attorney, Red Bank solo practitioner John Madden, says that the defense didn’t know about the appearance in advance, but consented. “From a defense council standpoint,” says Madden, “it is good to hear what a doctor has to say.” He added: “To [Hanna’s] credit, it helped resolve the case.”

The Nov. 7 agreement, Hanna says, “was a fair settlement for everyone.”

Kaminiski, of Brick, pleaded guilty to careless driving in January 1994 and was fined $200 plus costs by Dover Township Municipal Court Presiding Judge James Liguori.

BSMT’s policy limit, according to Hanna, was $1 million. The company, he says, settled an earlier unrelated case with Platt’s estate for $42,500, and the $957,500 Chapman received is the balance of the policy. Though Kaminiski is the lead defendant, Hanna says he wasn’t pursued because his only insurance was through his employer.

BSMT’s installment payments represent $250,000, plus interest, which is in excess of its insurance; as part of the settlement, the trucking firm’s president, Sam Capalbo, agreed to cooperate with Chapman’s efforts to obtain a $250,000 life insurance policy on Capalbo to insure the payments.

The settlement requires Chapman to pay $100,000 of his award to Palisades Insurance Co. to satisfy a PIP subrogation lien.

John Carton, of Asbury Park’s Carton Witt Arvanitis & Bariscillo, was retained by BSMT’s insurer, New Jersey Manufacturers Insurance Co., to represent the defendants, was traveling last week and unavailable for comment. Brian O’Toole, of Whippany’s O’Toole & Couch, who represented Palisades’ interests on a PIP lien, did not return a call requesting comment. - By Russ Bleemer