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Retrial Results in Nearly Double Award for Elevator Free-Fall Victim

A New Jersey jury awarded a carpenter and his wife $8 million on Tuesday in a retrial over injuries the man sustained when an elevator he was in plummeted 2 ½ stories.  The latest jury award is nearly twice what the couple was awarded in the first trial in 2012.  Schindler Corp., which maintained the elevator in a hotel complex in Morristown, NJ, had appealed for a retrial.

Richard Tufaro, 55, of Montague, NJ, was injured on August 19, 2005.  Tufaro was working on a remodeling project in the main lobby of Headquarters Plaza in Morristown.   According to court documents, Tufaro got on the elevator to return to his truck at the end of his work day.  The elevator went into a free fall and activated an emergency braking system that abruptly stopped it between floors.  Tufaro testified that he “felt like (he) was going to go through the floor of the elevator.”  Tufaro was thrown into a metal panel, resulting in spinal injuries that included herniated discs in his neck and back, as well injuring his shoulder so severely it required surgery.  The injuries have left Tufaro unable to return to work fully.

Tufaro and his wife, Sharon, filed a lawsuit against several defendants, and eventually went to trial against Schindler Corp.  On March 14, 2013, The Tufaros won a $5.79 million award, but Schindler successfully appealed the decision because of errors made by the trial court.  In March, 2013, the state appeals court threw out the award, saying that the incomplete verdict form only listed compensation amounts.  Schindler’s attorneys argued that a proximate cause question was not included in the verdict summary form, effectively precluding that issue.

The New Jersey Supreme Court sent the case back to Superior Court in Morristown after refusing to review an Appellate Division decision in June, 2013.  The jury found Schindler had improperly maintained the elevator, resulting in the malfunction that left Tufaro permanently injured.  The jury awarded $5.5 million to Tufaro, $2.25 million to his wife and $250,000 to cover medical expenses.

The Tufaro’s attorney, Andrew Fraser of Laddey, Clark & Ryan, said he was “incredibly pleased for the Tufaros,” and hoped the award would help make up for what had happened to the couple.  James DeNorscia of Sonageri & Fallon, who represented Schindler, was unavailable for comment.

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