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Nickerson v. City of Newark

Decided: June 15, 1987.

BELTON NICKERSON AND LEWIS BATTS, PLAINTIFFS,
v.
CITY OF NEWARK, DEFENDANT



Civil Action.

Villanueva, J.s.c.

VILLANUEVA

While crossing a street the two plaintiffs were injured when hydraulic hoses on a city sanitation truck burst, causing their eyes and faces to be sprayed with liquid. They brought this action for medical expenses, permanent disability and pain and suffering. The jury awarded them their medical expenses only.

Plaintiffs' attorneys now seek the reasonable value of their attorneys fees and expert witness fees of $400 for the plaintiffs, pursuant to the discretionary authority given to the court under N.J.S.A. 59:9-5.*fn1

The issues are whether this statute is for the benefit of the client or the attorney and whether the limitation of $100.00 for expert witness fees is for each expert witness or for all plaintiff's expert witnesses.

The court concludes that the underlying policy of this statute is to reimburse the client for his economic loss and not to give a windfall to any attorney retained under a contingent fee basis and therefore denies the request for attorney fees.

However, since the plaintiffs remain responsible for the payment of expert witness fees, fairness and justice dictate that they should be reimbursed the maximum authorized by the statute, which is a total of $100.00 for each plaintiff for his expert witness fees.

Although plaintiffs contended that they were injured by the spray from hydraulic hoses which burst on a Newark sanitation truck, the city generally denied the allegations but offered no evidence to dispute them.

An ophthalmologist, Dr. Herbert L. Glatt testified that both plaintiffs had "some permanency" of injury to their eyes, tearing or burning. Dr. Marc Roberts, a general practitioner testified that assuming that Mr. Nickerson continues to have pain in his neck arising out of the accident, the complaints are consistent with a permanent injury. Dr. Frank Riccioli, a psychiatrist, testified that as long as Mr. Batts has trouble with his eyes, he will be anxious and depressed.

The doctors who examined the plaintiffs on behalf of the city denied the plaintiffs' injuries were permanent.

Plaintiff Nickerson had $1,043 in medical bills. Plaintiff Batts had $1,230 in medical bills. The jury awarded both of them the full amount of their bills.

In answer to specific interrogatories propounded to the jury they found that neither plaintiff suffered the permanent loss of a bodily function and they could not recover any damages for ...


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