$3,000,000 – Disability Case for Former Policewoman

A Philadelphia jury has awarded $3 million to a 42-year-old former city policewoman and single mother of six; who claimed permanent disability after breaking her wrist during a department training session for bike cops.

In Lane v. Commonwealth, Andrea Lane filed suit against the parties involved in the 2003 repair of the cyclist/pedestrian path that runs under the I-95 overpass in Pennypack Park.

Lane alleged that loose dirt and construction materials lying near the path caused her fall.

According to court papers, the state Department of Transportation had contracted the path-repair project out to a number of private entities.

The commonwealth was let out of the case by stipulation of the parties, but Lane proceeded to trial as to defendants Neshaminy Constructors Inc., the project’s general contractor, and James J. Anderson Construction Co., a subcontractor responsible for excavation at the worksite.

While Neshaminy was found liable for the full amount of the verdict, lawyers involved in the case say that indemnification litigation stemming from Lane’s accident will continue in the coming weeks and months.

Lane has been represented by Ara Avrigian and Robert Mongeluzzi of Saltz Mongeluzzi & Bendesky and Ronald Kovler of Kovler & Rush.

Mongeluzzi said that although companies involved in the path-repair project are expected to do battle over indemnity, payment of Lane’s full award has effectively been secured.

Mongeluzzi and Neshaminy’s attorney, Jack Delany of Delany & O’Brien, said that Lane has agreed to forego a roughly $200,000 delay-damages motion in exchange for Neshaminy’s near-immediate tendering of the $3 million awarded by the jury.

Delany said he’s confident that his client will be able to recover from other parties the full amount of the verdict during the pending indemnification litigation.

Joseph Gibley of Gibley & McWilliams in Media, Anderson Construction’s lawyer in Lane, did not immediately respond to calls seeking comment.

In her court papers, Lane claimed that while riding along the path during the June 2003 bike officer training course, she came upon a portion of the path around the repair area that consisted of gravel and loose dirt, and piloted her bike off the path. She claimed that when she tried to get back onto the path, she was blocked by loose pieces of steel bar and wood, which she struck, causing her fall.

According to court papers, Anderson Construction had been responsible for the path-excavation phase of the repair project, while Neshaminy was general contractor-in-charge of the project as a whole.

According to Mongeluzzi and Delany, Lane had made a demand for $3.5 million early in the litigation, but raised that figure to $5 million after the trial got underway.

The trial began Jan. 12 before Judge Matthew D. Carrafiello, the attorneys said. The unanimous 12-member jury returned with its verdict Jan. 24 after roughly two and a half hours’ deliberations.

Mongeluzzi and Delany said that neither defendant attempted to poke many holes in Lane’s case.

“She was seriously hurt,” Delany said. “I don’t think anyone disputed that.”

Mongeluzzi said that the defense’s tactic of treating Lane with kid gloves was “the smartest decision they made at trial.”

“The jury loved her,” Mongeluzzi said of his client.

Since a defense expert suggested that despite her permanent wrist problems, Lane might be able to hold a sedentary job, the plaintiff’s side responded with testimony from Lane that highlighted an adulthood spent raising six children while working full time, according to Mongeluzzi

Lane told the jurors that her wrist often bothers her to such an extent that she knows she can no longer serve as a reliable full-time employee in any capacity, Mongeluzzi said.

While the Lane jury heard evidence relating to Neshaminy’s indemnification claim against Anderson Construction, the jurors didn’t have to decide any of the issues concerning that part of the case. Instead, according to attorneys involved in the matter, Carrafiello will personally rule on that decision in the coming weeks after considering relevant evidence presented at trial.

Delany said that Neshaminy currently has pending a case against Providence Steel Co., which allegedly placed at the worksite the rebar that reportedly caused Lane’s fall, according to court papers.

Delany said his client is also considering filing an action against an insurer who had agreed to cover both Neshaminy and Providence for the purposes of the path-repair project.

According to Delany, the trial in Lane went particularly smoothly for such a high-stakes case.

“This wasn’t litigation as warfare,” Delany said, praising the collegiality of Carrafiello and opposing counsel.

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