New Jersey Legal News: Hackensack Apartment Complex Ordered to Pay $7 Million in Drunken Driving Injury Accident

As a New Jersey drunk driving defense attorney, my job is to represent individuals charge with DWI, drug DUI or refusal to take a breathalyzer test. Because state law is so harsh when it comes to convicted drunken drivers, the fines and penalties that a motorist can face following a DWI arrest, it makes very little sense to walk into a courtroom unprepared.

Regardless of whether one lives in Bergen, Passaic, Mercer or any of the other counties across this state, law enforcement and the judiciary have been cracking down not only on the driver who operates his or her vehicle while under the influence of alcohol or prescription drugs, but also bars and restaurants who might be over-serving their patrons.

Not long ago, a Hackensack apartment complex was hit with a multi-million dollar judgment in connection with an under-age driver who left a party drunk and drove his car into a pedestrian walking a dog. Based on news reports, the jury in the case settled on a $7.4 million judgment that found 20-year-old David Figueroa was allowed to consume alcohol at a party in a unit of the Excelsior Apartments prior to causing that a serious traffic accident.

That crash, according to court records, involved a prominent cardiologist, Henry Lau, who received multiple injuries including two broke legs, broken pelvis and back, as well as several broken ribs. The doctor also received a number of facial injuries. Lau spent a total of six months in the hospital and later in rehab following multiple operations for his injuries.

The accident happened on December 27, 2006, when Lau was out walking his dog along a stretch of Clinton Place during the early morning. Figueroa reportedly fled the scene following the accident but was apparently picked up by police not long after the incident. Charged with vehicular assault and leaving the scene of an accident, he was sentenced in May 2008 to two months in jail and five years probation, plus a total of 180 hours of community service.

Lau, who was a chief cardiologist at Hackensack University Medical Center, later sued the Excelsior Apartments claiming that building employees contributed to the accident by hosting a pool party where Figueroa was allowed to drink. The suit also named 21-year-old Gabriel Ortiz, the doorman at the luxury apartment complex that evening, alleging that he permitted the party to take place and that he also allowed Figueroa to consume alcohol.

In the end, jurors in the case found the owners of the Excelsior 55 percent at fault; Figueroa 25 percent at fault’ and Ortiz 20 percent. The Excelsior, however, will be responsible for the payment of the entire damages. According to reports, $5 million was awarded to Lau for pain and suffering, while more than $1.7 million was awarded in compensation for lost wages and medical expenses.

Apartment complex must pay $7.4M in DWI crash, NorthJersey.com, November 20, 2010