Cardiologist wins $7.4 million for injuries in Hackensack drunken driving crash
Friday November 19, 2010, 7:21 PM
BY KIBRET MARKOS, STAFF WRITER
A jury slammed the Excelsior Apartments complex in Hackensack with a $7.4 million judgment Friday, finding that an underage man was allowed to drink at a party there before causing a car crash that severely injured a prominent cardiologist.
“This verdict just shows you that people have no tolerance for those who serve alcohol to minors,” said attorney Rosemarie Arnold, who represented the doctor, Henry Lau, in the trial in Superior Court in Hackensack.
Lau, who was a chief cardiologist at Hackensack University Medical Center, was walking his dog in the early morning hours of Dec. 27, 2006, when a speeding car hit him on Clinton Place in Hackensack and fled the scene.
The crash broke both of Lau’s legs, his pelvis, back and several ribs. He also suffered severe facial injuries. He remained in the hospital and in rehabilitation for six months and underwent multiple operations, according to testimony at trial.
The driver, 20-year-old David Figueroa of Maywood, was later arrested and charged with assault by auto and leaving the scene of an accident. He was sentenced in May 2008 to two months in jail and five years of probation, along with 180 hours of community service.
Lau then sued the Excelsior Apartments, a pair of luxury high-rise towers on Prospect Avenue. Lau said in his lawsuit that building employees contributed to the crash by hosting a pool party where Figueroa was allowed to drink shortly before the crash.
The lawsuit also named a 21-year-old doorman, Gabriel Ortiz, alleging that he gave permission for the party to take place and allowed Figueroa to drink.
The issue before the jury was whether Ortiz was responsible for Lau’s injuries because he permitted a pool party in the building.
Jurors also were asked to decide whether the Excelsior, as Ortiz’s employer, was responsible for Ortiz’s actions.
Jurors found liability in both cases, assigning 55 percent of the responsibility to Excelsior, 25 percent to Figueroa and 20 percent to Ortiz.
The Excelsior, however, will be responsible for the payment of the entire damages. Under a state law on “joint and several liability,” a defendant who is assigned a large majority of the responsibility can be required to pay 100 percent of the damages.
Bruce Habian, the attorney who represented the Excelsior, did not return three phone messages.
The jurors awarded $5 million to Lau for pain and suffering, more than $1.7 million in compensation for lost wages and hundreds of thousands of dollars for medical expenses.
Joseph Tacopina, another one of Lau’s attorneys, said Lau, who is now 66, will continue to incur medical costs.
“He is going to need a cane for the rest of his life, and he will have to sleep on a special kind of mattress because of his injuries,” Tacopina said.
The jury also awarded $350,000 to Lau’s wife for “loss of services.” A person whose spouse is injured in such cases can sue under state law for “loss of services,” a broad category which covers enjoyment lost by one spouse as a result of the other’s injury.
Atty: Port Washington Family Files Lawsuit After 6-Year-Old Attacked By Dog In Schoolyard
Doctors Unable To Reattach Boy’s Ear; Espositos Suing For $30 Million
June 4, 2012 8:11 PM
PORT WASHINGTON, N.Y. (CBSNewYork) – The parents of a 6-year-old Long Island boy who said their son was attacked by a dog on a school playground is suing the dog’s owners for $30 million.
Andrew Esposito was playing in the schoolyard at Sousa Elementary School in Port Washington when a lab mix allegedly got away from its owners as it was being walked through the playground.
The 6-year-old’s father, Ed Esposito, said his son had gone up to pet the dog when he was attacked.
“I turn over and I see my son face down in the dirt,” he told 1010 WINS’ Steve Sandberg. “My wife runs over to him and starts screaming ‘his ear, his ear! Look for his ear!'”
There are signs prohibiting dogs from entering school grounds, according to the Esposito’s attorney, Rosemarie Arnold, who added the dog is known to be “aggressive” and “vicious.”
“There are children on the block that are afraid to walk to the bus stop because this dog growls and shows teeth,” Arnold said.
The Espositos put their son’s earlobe on ice and took it to the hospital, but doctors were not able to reattach it. Arnold called the boy’s injuries “catastrophic.”
“This is an adorable, 6-year-old boy who had his earlobe chewed off,” she said.
“He’s been telling everybody that his ear’s growing back, so he thinks that his ear’s growing back. He doesn’t understand what is going on,” Ed Esposito told CBS 2’s Don Dahler.
The lawsuit claims the dog’s owners, Michael and Deborah Levine, were careless and reckless.
The Levines live in Port Washington, but a person who answered the door Monday told CBS 2’s Dahler the couple had no comment, and neither did the Levines return calls asking for their side of the story.
Meanwhile, Andrew Esposito’s father said the boy’s brothers and friends are trying to lift his spirits.
“They’ve rallied around with other kids in the community to make him feel normal,” Ed Esposito said.
Animal Control officers told the Espositos they could do nothing about the dog after the alleged attack, because this was the first time it was accused of biting someone, CBS 2’s Dahler reported.
LI dog-attack horror
My son’s ear chewed off: dad
By LAUREL BABCOCK and DAN MANGAN
Last Updated: 3:59 AM, June 5, 2012
Posted: 1:26 AM, June 5, 2012
A Manhattan pediatrician whose 80-pound dog, Archie, is notorious for being “vicious and dangerous” took the pooch to a Long Island elementary school playground — despite signs banning dogs — where it promptly attacked a 6-year-old boy and chewed off his earlobe, a scathing lawsuit charged yesterday.
Then, instead of giving bleeding, screaming Andrew Esposito medical assistance, Dr. Deborah Levine said, “Everything’s going to be fine, It’s no big deal,” recalled Andrew’s dad, Edward Esposito.
Levine had brought the hulking black Labrador mix, Archie, on a leash on May 18 to Philip Sousa Elementary School in Port Washington, LI, where Andrew’s brother was playing a baseball game, Esposito said.
Levine, who is a professor of emergency pediatric medicine at NYU School of Medicine, owns the dog with her urologist husband, Dr. Michael Levine.
Suddenly, “I heard a noise, like something you hear in a bear attack — just a horrible noise,” Esposito recalled.
Esposito, 39, turned to see 45-pound Andrew lying face-down and crying in the dirt — with half of his right ear lying nearby.
Deborah Levine, still holding Archie’s leash, said, “He’ll be fine” — but Andrew wasn’t fine, even after being rushed to St. Francis Hospital and undergoing two hours of surgery, his dad recalled.
“They couldn’t reattach the half that was taken off,” Esposito said. He said his son now faces “many” plastic-surgery procedures.
The still-shaken Andrew since has been kept home from kindergarten — and “thinks his ear is growing back,” his dad said.
Esposito yesterday sued his now-ex-friends in Nassau Supreme Court, claiming the Levines’ recklessness led to Andrew’s permanent injuries.
“This child is going to be significantly disfigured for the rest of his life,” said Esposito’s lawyer, Rosemarie Arnold.
Arnold also said Archie “is known around the neighborhood as having vicious propensities.”
Deborah Levine refused to comment from her Port Washington home.
Additional reporting by Kieran Crowley