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Realty firm wants new trial after $2.5M award

Shavertown man awarded damages after becoming disabled from a fall.

WILKES-BARRE – In a case in which a Luzerne County jury awarded a Shavertown man $2.5 million in damages after he became disabled due to a fall, attorneys for the realty company that was sued are asking for a new trial.

Joseph Murphy, an attorney for Corgan Realty Co., Corgan Contracting Co. and its owner, Michael Corgan, filed court papers Wednesday asking for a new trial because the jury should have ruled in favor of Corgan.

The lawsuit involves Robert Smith, who was awarded $2.5 million in damages for past and future medical expenses and lost earnings, as well as money for pain and suffering, after Smith alleged in a lawsuit that he stepped into a foot-wide gap on a property owned by Corgan and fell, causing damage to his neck, back and right shoulder.

Murphy said in court papers that Corgan and Corgan Realty, who were owners of the property on Johnson Street in Wilkes-Barre Township, had hired Monk Heating and Air Conditioning Co., for which Smith worked, to complete work.

Murphy said that because the company was hired to do subcontractor work, Corgan and Corgan Realty did not owe Smith a duty at the time of the accident.

Court papers said Corgan and Corgan Realty were not responsible for telling the HVAC company how to walk over the gap and that they were aware of the gap for two or three days before Smith’s accident on Nov. 22, 2002. Papers stated it was established at the trial two weeks ago that Smith was straddling the gap just before the accident and stepped into it after forgetting it was there.

Murphy also said in court papers that the $2.5 million verdict was “plainly excessive and exorbitant.”

Attorneys for the realty company also allege county Judge Joseph Musto erred in charging the jury on the law, including giving the jurors an “incomplete definition of factual cause.”

Musto set a hearing date for Dec. 22 for attorneys in the case to argue the issues.

The $2.5 million verdict was awarded after four days of trial.

According to court papers, Smith was working as a heating, ventilation and air-conditioning technician for Monk Heating and Air Conditioning Co. when the accident happened.

While Smith was working in a warehouse on the property, the suit alleges, the defendants installed a new concrete step unit at the entrance, but it had been placed about a foot away from the threshold of the door so additional work could be completed near the doorway.

When leaving the building on Nov. 22, 2002, Smith stepped into the foot-wide gap and fell, causing severe and permanent damage to his neck, back and right shoulder. The suit alleges the fall and injuries were caused by the defendants allowing the dangerous condition to exist.

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