John E. Keefe, Jr. and Stephen T. Sullivan, Jr. of Keefe Law Firm announced that they have settled a wrongful death action against New Jersey Transit Corporation and New Jersey Transit Rail Operations after a sixteen hour mediation with the Honorable L. Anthony Gibson (ret.).
On February 25, J.D. (real name has been withheld for privacy reasons) who was 37 years old, was working for Beaver Concrete Construction Company (hereinafter “Beaver”) as a laborer at the Seventh Street Bridge in Newark, New Jersey. Struck by an electrical arc from New Jersey Transit’s and/or New Jersey Transit Rail Operations’ (hereinafter collectively referred to as “Transit”) catenary line, J.D. was set afire. He suffered terrible second- and third-degree burns to approximately seventy-two percent of his body and other traumatic personal injuries. The arc, however, did not kill him. Instead, immediately following the accident, J.D. was conscious and communicated with his co-workers, who extinguished the flames devouring his body.
For a week, the surgeons at St. Barnabas Medical Center’s Burn Unit performed numerous medical procedures to save his life. During this time, J.D. was conscious and suffered constant and unrelenting excruciating pain, anxiety and psychological trauma. Tragically, after fighting for six days, he passed away.
Prior to the accident, J.D. was the active, vibrant, loving husband of his wife and two young children. J.D. was involved on a daily basis in his children’s lives. He loved sports and the outdoors and would go fishing with friends and family. His young family lost his services as a dedicated husband and father, including, but not limited to, maintenance, upkeep and repair of the family home, vehicles and yard; companionship; and his caring and compassionate guidance, instruction, and advice.
His spouse, individually and as Administratrix and Administratrix ad Prosequendum of the Estate of J.D., filed a survivorship and wrongful death action titled. In it, she alleged that Transit’s employees failed to inform Beaver’s work crew, including J.D., of the area where the catenary lines were de-energized. Further, Transit’s employees failed to position themselves where they could observe and protect Beaver employees from movement beyond the de-energized work area. Discovery revealed that Transit’s employees violated Transit’s unambiguous safety rules and procedures for protecting outside contractors. These violations were a direct cause of the accident that took J.D.’s life.
During a marathon mediation session, Messrs. Keefe and Sullivan resolved this matter with the assistance of Judge Gibson. Transit and several insurance companies, including Travelers, QBE Insurance Company and the Insurance Company of the State of Pennsylvania, agreed to settle for $10,000,000.00. In October, the Honorable Patricia K. Costello, A.J.S.C. approved the settlement, which included structures for his wife and her children. In her written Opinion, while discussing Keefe Law Firm’s skill and efforts in litigating and resolving the action, Judge Costello stated:
Counsel spent significant time, and employed significant skill, in representing plaintiff during litigation. It successfully navigated to completion a difficult settlement process between numerous liable parties and plaintiff’s own varied needs, including structured settlements for her children. Its efforts were unusual and exceptional.
In response to concluding this matter, Mr. Keefe commented, “The litigation’s resolution resulted from the dedication and enormous efforts of Keefe Law Firm’s attorneys and staff, the perseverance of J.D.’s spouse and her loyalty to J.D. and her children and the professionalism of New Jersey Transit’s counsel. This was a tragic, but wholly preventable accident. While the settlement is substantial, it resulted from a terrible loss. While I never had the privilege of knowing J.D., from the kind words spoken about him by family and friends, I believe he would be proud of his wife for her work in this matter and comforted in knowing that his family’s future is financially secure.”