Medical Malpractice and Personal Injury Law Blog

Determining Who Is Responsible in Wrongful Death Claims: the Case of a Pizza Factory Man

Posted by Briggs Bedigian | Mar 16, 2020 | 0 Comments

Just over five years ago, Roy Wejnert of Maywood, New Jersey, was killed at a pizza factory. On January 21, 2015, an electrical panel fell on him. According to NJ.com, he was 

told by a supervisor to remove components from an old electrical control panel. The panel was 7.25-feet high, more than 5-feet wide, more than a foot deep and weighed nearly 1,000 pounds... As Wejnert removed electrical circuit boards and other components, the panel fell on him. ...

The police report states Wejnert was found "unconscious on the floor with an electrical panel box laying on top of him." When officers arrived, they found employees performing CPR on Wejnert. He was pronounced dead a short time later.

His surviving spouse, Linda Wejnert, filed a wrongful death and survivorship lawsuit in Bergen County Superior Court against two businesses: D.O. Properties and McCain Foods.

The problem was this: McCain Foods had sold and transferred ownership of the property to D.O. Properties, and this transfer occurred a few months before the accidental death.  McCain argued it was not liable because it no longer owned the plant. The lower court agreed. By an August 17, 2018 order, it granted McCain Foods' motion for summary judgment and effectively dismissed the plaintiff's wrongful death and survivorship action. Thus, there would be no liability on the part of McCain Foods.

But the plaintiff appealed.

Now, a New Jersey state appeals court ruled Wednesday, March 18, 2020, that the plaintiff offered sufficient evidence and from that evidence, a "rational jury" could still find McCain Foods liable even though it had already sold the plant at the time of Wejnert's death. 

What does this case represent to other cases, even those in Maryland and Pennsylvania?

It's simple: on the outset, it may appear the McCain Foods could not be held liable. Some victims, even some attorneys, may not have pursued McCain Foods. But the plaintiff presented evidence showing that McCain Foods had

decommissioned the panel when it owned the plant, knew or should have known that it failed to safely store the panel, and failed to disclose the dangerous condition of the panel when it sold the plant to D.O. Productions.

This evidence was vital to the case. But so was the plaintiff's persistence to go after the responsible parties. Now, a jury may indeed hear the case and decide on the facts and evidence. 

How to Know Who Is Liable in a Wrongful Death Claim?

In some cases, it's pretty clear who is liable for an accident that may have caused the death of another person. In other cases, it may not be as clear until a little fact-finding is done or an investigation is undertaken.

That's where an experienced personal injury and wrongful death attorney comes in. He or she will have the insight and resources to look deeper into a case and identify the facts that tell what actually happened. These facts will point to culpability. It's important because victims deserve to receive just and fair compensation for their loss, pain, and suffering. If you have suffered the loss of a loved one by way of an accident, make sure you contact an experienced wrongful death attorney to schedule a free initial consultation. During the consultation, you can discuss the facts as you know them now and learn ways more facts may be uncovered.

About the Author

Briggs Bedigian

H. Briggs Bedigian (“Briggs”) is a founding partner of Gilman & Bedigian, LLC.  Prior to forming Gilman & Bedigian, LLC, Briggs was a partner at Wais, Vogelstein and Bedigian, LLC, where he was the head of the firm's litigation practice.  Briggs' legal practice is focused on representing clients involved in medical malpractice and catastrophic personal injury cases. 

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