$8,662,500.00 Settlement for Burn Injuries and Wrongful Death of Louis M. Acerra and Psychological Injuries & Claims and Portee v. Jaffe claim on behalf of decedent’s father, Richard Litwin
This settlement was reached at trial with a one day referral to the Honorable Eugene J. Codey, Jr., P.J.Cv.
The claim arose as a result of a recalled dishwasher that was defectively designed so as to allow caustic rinse aid to drip from its dispenser onto the wiring harness thereby causing degradation of the polyvinyl chloride (PVC) coating of live wires which lead to an ignition and house fire on June 12, 2009 in Shrewsbury, New Jersey. The evidence revealed the defect months later and made a formal request for recall protocol approval from the Consumer Product Safety Commission which was granted and published on February 1, 2007. The critical component, the replacement of the wiring harness was admittedly not replaced by the defendant. Consequently, continued degradation lead to the ignition inside the dishwasher causing a significant house fire in the first floor kitchen of the home during the very early morning hours of June 12, 2009. In attempting to escape the fire from his second floor bedroom, the decedent, Louis M. Acerra was overcome by smoke and collapsed in the first floor living area. He was found and rescued from the burning house by the Shrewsbury Fire Department some time thereafter. His father, the plaintiff, Richard Litwin was able to escape from a second floor window with the assistance of local police, who arrived prior to fire fighters, without suffering burn injuries. Thereafter, he witnessed his son’s body on fire as it was being removed from the home by the Shrewsbury Fire Department.
The decedent, Louis M. Acerra was taken to the Burn Unit at St. Barnabas Medical Center where his burns, which comprised over 56% percent of his body, were treated with multiple surgical procedures, which included multiple skin graft and reconstructive surgeries. He was released to home three months later in September of 2009. At the time of the fire, Louis Acerra was 28 years old, unmarried and unemployed. He underwent three more years of intense medical treatment for pulmonary issues resulting from smoke inhalation, treatments of his grafted skin, reconstruction of his severely disfigured right hand, and neurologic injuries. He unfortunately passed away on January 17, 2012 due to his injuries.
In addition to witnessing his son’s burning and smoking body being removed from the home, Richard Litwin, decedent’s father, sustained significant pulmonary and psychiatric injuries, including post-traumatic stress disorder, and has been continuously under treatment since the date of the fire. Mr. Litwin’s Portee claim, dismissed on summary judgment at the trial court level, was argued up to the Appellate Division generating new law in the Appellate Division resulting in the reinstatement of Litwin’s Portee claim.
Multiple liability and damages witnesses were filmed for trial prior to the trial date of January 12, 2015. After two days of oral argument concerning in limine motions the matter was referred by the Honorable David F. Bauman, P.J.S.C. to Judge Codey for further mediation as Judge Codey has previously mediated the claims. All claims were settled for the total amount of $8,662,500.00 with the assistance of Judge Codey on Tuesday, January 13, 2015. Confidentiality agreements precluded the distribution percentages and individual settlement amounts between all defendants.
Raymond A. Gill, Jr., Esq. and David J. Mahoney, Esq. of Gill & Chamas, LLC in Woodbridge, New Jersey represented the plaintiff, Estate of Louis Acerra in the Survivorship claim.