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Montalbano v. Coan

Superior Court of New Jersey, Appellate Division

October 9, 2013

ADELE MONTALBANO, Plaintiff-Appellant,
v.
ANGELA COAN and DANNY COAN, Defendants-Respondents.

NOT FOR PUBLICATION WITHOUT THE APPROVAL OF THE APPELLATE DIVISION

Submitted September 9, 2013

On appeal from Superior Court of New Jersey, Law Division, Passaic County, Docket No. L-2918-09.

Michael Wiseberg, attorney for appellant.

Zimmerer, Murray, Conyngham & Kunzier, attorneys for respondents (Robert Zimmerer, of counsel and on the brief).

Before Judges Ashrafi and Leone.

PER CURIAM.

In this slip-and-fall case, plaintiff Adele Montalbano appeals from the jury's verdict granting her net damages of $13, 000 and from the trial court's denial of her motion for a new trial on damages or an additur. We affirm.

Plaintiff was injured on Christmas day 2008 while at a family gathering at the home of defendants Angela and Danny Coan, her sister and brother-in-law. She fell on an outdoor deck and suffered a laceration to her head and injury to her knee. She was driven to the emergency room of a hospital. A physician used about thirty staples to close the bleeding wound in the back of plaintiff's head. Plaintiff was discharged from the hospital with a prescription for pain medication. She returned to defendants' home and rejoined the family meal. Family members observed her to be walking carefully and feeling substantial pain. She spent the night at defendants' home.

Two days later, plaintiff visited a primary care physician. The doctor ordered a CAT scan of her head and prescribed more pain medication. In early January 2009, the primary care physician ordered an MRI of the brain because plaintiff was still complaining of headaches. At that time, plaintiff also complained of pain in her left hand and in her left knee, and x-rays were taken. The x-rays of her left knee were normal except for mild degenerative changes. Subsequently, neither the CAT scan nor the MRI of the head revealed the cause of plaintiff's headaches. A few months later, plaintiff also complained of pain in her shoulder.

Plaintiff first saw an orthopedist in the latter part of January 2009. In February 2009, an MRI of the knee revealed a tear of the medial meniscus. In March 2009, arthroscopic surgery was performed to repair the torn meniscus. Plaintiff then underwent six weeks of physical therapy on the knee. The surgery also left small scars around the knee. Plaintiff was out of work a total of six weeks around the time of the accident and after the surgery. In September 2009, plaintiff saw the orthopedic surgeon for a follow-up examination, and x-rays revealed mild or moderate osteoarthritic changes in the knee.

At the jury trial in July 2011, plaintiff testified about her fall, her medical treatments, and her headaches and knee pain. She testified about limitations on her usual activities that she attributed to the injuries, including pain when she kneeled at church and inability to do household chores such as cleaning the bathtub. Although these limitations had lasted for some time after plaintiff was injured, they were resolved by the time of trial, and plaintiff could kneel again. She testified that she was all right except that she still suffered headaches periodically, sometimes once a week, sometime more often.

Plaintiff's primary care physician and the orthopedic surgeon testified about the conditions they diagnosed and their treatment of plaintiff's injuries. The orthopedic surgeon testified as an expert witness for plaintiff that her knee injury was caused by the Christmas day fall.

In the defense case, defendants testified that snow had been cleared from the deck before the Christmas gathering but they had not salted the deck or put down sand to treat its icy condition. A defense medical expert who had examined plaintiff about one year before the ...


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