“Unwinnable”: Newark Trial Team Obtains Unanimous “No Cause” Verdict in Challenging Matter on Behalf of NYC Mutual Housing Association

Newark, N.J. (May 8, 2023) – Newark Partner Afsha Noran and New Jersey Managing Partner Colin P. Hackett recently obtained a “no cause” verdict on behalf of multi-unit apartment owners and managers, notwithstanding that the trial judge initially deemed the matter an “unwinnable case” for the defense.

In this matter, Lewis Brisbois represented a large New York City mutual housing association that owned and managed a single multi-unit apartment building in Paterson, New Jersey. The plaintiffs – a mother and her two children – alleged that the housing association failed to maintain the property, which led to defective conditions and mold throughout their apartment. They further contended that the mold caused multiple pulmonary, nasal, and skin injuries. Despite the shortage of trial judges in New Jersey, this case proceeded to trial, with the plaintiffs’ significant six-figure demand in place.

Over the course of the four-day trial, the plaintiffs presented five witnesses: the plaintiff mother, the plaintiff 18-year-old child, the liability expert, and two medical experts. The client chose not to retain either liability or damages experts to counter those of the plaintiffs. As such, Lewis Brisbois’ trial team was left to defend the matter with an opening statement, a cross-examination of the plaintiffs and their experts, the testimony of the client’s property manager, and a closing argument.

During the trial, the defense team focused on attacking the veracity of the adult plaintiff and the medical experts, one of whom stated that he had yet to be paid for the reports he authored in the matter “because the case had not yet been settled.” Through the defense team’s cross-examinations, the plaintiffs’ medical experts revealed their lack of knowledge of the plaintiffs’ prior medical conditions, despite testifying that they had reviewed all the plaintiffs’ medical records. In addition to their strong cross-examinations, the defense also presented the client’s representative, who was responsible for the overall management of the 50+ unit apartment building, and who testified regarding the client’s years-long effort to remediate the conditions causing the mold. 

After deliberating for only 50 minutes, the jury returned a unanimous verdict in favor of Lewis Brisbois’ client. In doing so, the jurors determined that the plaintiffs failed to establish that the defendants’ negligence was the proximate cause of the mold in the subject apartment.

In discussing the importance of preparing for trial, regardless of the current shortage of trial judges in New Jersey, Ms. Noran noted, “[A]lthough we were surprised the matter was sent out given the situation . . . . whenever we appear for a trial call on any matter, we are always prepared to try the matter at that time if necessary.” Likewise, Mr. Hackett explained that the verdict was especially gratifying because the trial judge had expressed that a defense verdict would be unlikely. “The trial judge stated that the case was 'unwinnable' and that the client should pay the significant six-figure demand of the plaintiff,” he said. 

For more information on this case, contact the attorneys involved. Visit our National Trial Practice page to learn more about our trial capabilities.

Mr. Hackett is a member of Lewis Brisbois’ National Trial, General Liability, Products Liability, Construction, Transportation, and Asbestos Practices. He has served as first chair in over 60 jury trials involving general liability, transportation, product, environmental contamination, and professional liability claims in state and federal courts. 

Ms. Noran is a member of the General Liability, Products Liability, and Commercial Litigation Practices. She primarily concentrates on premises, products, transportation, and asbestos liability matters. 

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