Dughi, Hewit & Domalewski, PC, is pleased to announce that Brandon Minde was appointed to the New Jersey Supreme Court Working Group on the Duty of Confidentiality and Wrongful Convictions. Mr. Minde was appointed as the designee of the New Jersey State Bar Association. He is honored to be selected to join this working group consisting of esteemed judges and high ranking government attorneys, and is eager to get to work addressing these important topics.
Brandon is a partner with the firm, is certified by the Supreme Court of NJ as a Criminal Trial Attorney, and leads DHD’s criminal defense practice.
On October 8, 2019, the Appellate Division ruled that hospitals in medical malpractice actions can be required to produce a narrative statement identifying where, in the medical records, the facts of an “adverse event” are located even though the records are not lengthy and the facts of the event are evident and not buried in the records (so called Brugaletta Narrative named for the Supreme Court’s decision in Brugaletta v. Garcia, 234 N.J. 225 (2018).
Just last year, the New Jersey Supreme Court, in interpreting the New Jersey Patient Safety Act (“PSA”), N.J.S.A. 26:2H-12.23, refused to order the release of an investigative report developed during self-critical analysis, even if redacted. See Brugaletta v. Garcia, 234 N.J. 225 (2018). But, the Supreme Court commented that the PSA does not immunize from discovery information otherwise discoverable, such as the facts within the medical record which constitute the “adverse event” reviewed by the Patient Safety Committee. The Supreme Court held that, while plaintiff was not entitled to any part of the PSA-privileged Incident Report, plaintiff was entitled to a narrative summary of the factual information of the adverse event contained within the approximately 4,500 pages of medical records.
In the several months since the Brugaletta decision, these Brugaletta Narratives have become the subject of considerable motion practice as plaintiffs and defendants cannot agree on when plaintiffs are entitled to them – in all cases involving an adverse event occurring at a hospital (as urged by plaintiffs) or only in cases with voluminous records of complex medical cases (defense position).
Recently, the Appellate Division clarified when Brugaletta Narratives identifying the facts of an adverse event in a hospital records will be required. In Trella v. Bradish, MD (A-3039-18T3), the Appellate Division affirmed a Law Division decision ordering the defendant Newton Medical Center to provide plaintiff with a written narrative of any “adverse incident” in the hospital records. Defendant appealed, arguing that the Law Division erred in requiring a narrative because, unlike in Brugaletta, plaintiff’s medical records were neither voluminous nor complex and that the facts describing the adverse event were not discretely buried therein.
The Appellate Division, in a two judge decision, affirmed the Law Division’s order that defendant provide a Brugaletta Narrative, reasoning that nothing precludes the Court from ordering defendant to identify the facts of the adverse event in a hospital record, irrespective of the length or complexity of the medical chart.
Based on the Appellate Division’s decision in Trella, Brugaletta Narratives will be a routine discovery request by plaintiffs in medical malpractice cases, applicable to all cases involving an adverse event occurring in a hospital. Given that the facts of an adverse event are not privileged, and the lack of dissent in Trella, we do not expect the Supreme Court will take up this issue.
If it wasn’t for good forehand on the tennis court, Bill Wertheimer may never have become a distinguished trial attorney and a consummate trial judge. He had gone through Lafayette College in the early 1960’s as a member of the tennis team and an ROTC Candidate. Rather than immediately fulfilling his obligation to serve after college, he took a three year deferment to attend George Washington University School of Law. Upon graduation, he went into active duty status and was assigned to a Mechanized Infantry Division in Germany as a First Lieutenant. Some months later, he interviewed for another infantry position with the European Command Headquarters. The officer interviewing him was an inveterate tennis player, and Bill got the job so the officer could have a doubles partner. This led to a transfer stateside to Fort Dix where he was able to finally put his legal training to use, as he was assigned as Chief Trial Counsel at “Courts and Boards.” Finally, in 1968, young Lieutenant William L’Estrange Wertheimer made his courtroom debut, prosecuting a soldier for willfully disobeying a command given by a superior. Asked whether he won his first case, Bill responds, in true Wertheimer fashion: “I was a prosecutor in the military. Of course I won.” The soldier did six months in the stockade and a trial attorney was born. Interestingly, in the course of his year and a half in Courts and Boards he also came in contact with a JAG officer and future colleague, Ross Anzaldi.
Wertheimer completed his required service and was discharged in 1969, becoming a clerk in the law firm of Lum, Biunno and Tompkins. Working for the Lum firm he was quickly thrown into the “Upper Court” as it was then known, trying Products Liability, Professional Malpractice as well as the occasional plaintiff’s case. One of the largest clients was the railroad companies and it became a specialty for Bill. A tireless worker, Bill was known as a ‘work hard play hard’ guy, and quickly rose through the ranks at his law firm, eventually becoming partner in 1976.
The year 1973 was a momentous time for the nation and for Bill Wertheimer. Spiro Agnew resigned, the Watergate scandal raged, the United States Supreme Court decided Roe v. Wade, Billy Jean King was the best tennis player in the world, Secretariat won the Triple Crown, and Bill Wertheimer was set up on a blind date with Kate Lynch. The two fell in love and married. Nearly forty years later, they are still happily married with two grown sons, each of whom also married an Irish girl named Kate, and two adorable grandchildren. Like all grandchildren should be, they are the ‘apple of Bill’s eyes.’
Getting married and having children did not slow Bill Wertheimer down as a litigator. He was constantly in court trying cases. One day in 1984 he was trying a case in Union County when Assignment Judge William Di Buono called him into chambers. Judge Di Buono wanted to know if Bill would consider a career on the bench. There were seven vacancies, and although Wertheimer wasn’t politically active, they were trying to put together a package. After discussing it with Kate, he agreed to be considered. Some months later he was approved, and came on the bench, along with Judges John Pisansky, Jack Boyle, James Walsh, Miriam Span, Walter Barisonek, and Albert Lechner. Twenty-Seven years later, he was the last of that illustrious group to retire.
In 27 years on the bench, Judge Wertheimer served with distinction in the Civil and Criminal Divisions. He was Presiding Judge of both, and did a short stint in the Appellate Division. He was in the Appellate Division for three months, and hated it, before asking to come back. He found the Appellate Division too ‘monastic’ in his words. Truth be told, he belonged where he was always happiest, in the courtroom.
The Honorable William L’E. Wertheimer was the consummate trial judge. He was always in charge of his courtroom. Having been a trial attorney, he was now a trial attorney’s judge. He believed strongly in letting attorneys try their cases. His feeling was that there was usually a good reason why an attorney did or did not ask a question, and he wasn’t going to interfere with their trial strategy by asking his own questions. He let them do their jobs. When attorneys were arguing motions, he would probe them to find the strengths and weaknesses of their positions, but he was careful not to embarrass them. He would go out of his way to attempt to make everyone comfortable, many times by using humor. That humor was most often directed at himself. Judge Wertheimer could sometimes give an attorney the ‘business’ but he was just as happy being on the receiving end. He was big enough, man enough and Judge enough not to be offended by anything offered in a good natured way.
Perhaps the thing people know the least about Judge Wertheimer is how selfless he is. The truth is that he had his time in and could have retired years before he did this past February. However, as most readers of this article know, we are in the midst of a critical shortage of Judges here in Union County. Judge Wertheimer could have retired and started his post-retirement practice, but refused to turn his back on his Assignment Judges and his colleagues by leaving the bench shorthanded. He thus hung in there until his mandatory retirement at age 70.
Having retired, Judge Wertheimer has joined the law firm of Dughi, Hewit & Domalewski where he will focus on mediation and arbitration, and be available as a discovery master. He will also have more time to spend with his grandchildren and Kate. Alas, time has taken its toll on his right shoulder, so that magnificent forehand that spurred his career is no longer on display at the Westfield Tennis Club. Speaking for all of his colleagues as well as the many trial attorneys who had the honor of appearing before him, he is and will continue to be sorely missed.
Dughi, Hewit & Domalewski, P.C. is proud to announce that Craig A. Domalewski has been selected, once again, for inclusion in the 2020 edition of Best Lawyers®, the oldest and most respected peer-review publication in the legal profession, for commercial litigation.
About Best Lawyers®
Best Lawyers is the oldest and most respected peer-review publication in the legal profession. A listing in Best Lawyers is widely regarded by both clients and legal professionals as a significant honor, conferred on a lawyer by his or her peers. For more than three decades, Best Lawyers lists have earned the respect of the profession, the media, and the public, as the most reliable, unbiased source of legal referrals anywhere.
Bail reform is a hot topic and the public safety assessment (PSA) is a pretrial risk assessment that was introduced through the Criminal Justice Reform Act. In an article published by New Jersey Lawyer magazine, attorneys Brandon Minde and Elizabeth Farrell explore how effective representation for your client now requires an understanding of the PSA and its role in the detention analysis.
This article was originally published in the June 2019 issue of New Jersey Lawyer, a publication of the New Jersey State Bar Association, and is reprinted here with permission.
Partners Craig Domalewski and Herb Kruttschnitt successfully obtained a dismissal with prejudice of a lawsuit filed against a nursing home by a former resident alleging negligence and fraud arising from an alleged improper referral to a home health care company. The firm thoroughly investigated the plaintiff’s allegations and, after establishing a factual record which refuted liability, vigorously defended the case and obtained a dismissal with prejudice for our client.
For forty years, Dughi, Hewit & Domalewski, P.C. has provided high-quality legal services to hospitals, nursing homes, physicians and other healthcare providers in a wide array of litigation, transactions, and regulatory matters.
Social media (e.g., Facebook, Twitter, Instagram) has impacted Americans’ lives in unpredictable and material ways and, unsurprisingly, now impacts preparing for and trying cases. As social media touches many aspects of the practice of law, effective and ethical advocacy now requires that every trial attorney develop social media literacy. In an article published by New Jersey Lawyer magazine, attorneys Brandon Minde and Elizabeth Farrell explore the role of social media in their recent federal trial and expand upon the lessons learned during the trial to help readers better prepare and navigate the use of social media in litigation.
This article was originally published in the April 2019 issue of New Jersey Lawyer, a publication of the New Jersey State Bar Association, and is reprinted here with permission.
Dughi, Hewit & Domalewski is proud to announce that it has added five attorneys to its civil litigation and trial team, including Mark Petraske and Herb Kruttschnitt as partners. Mark and Herb are highly-respected, experienced trial attorneys with outstanding records of courtroom success.
The firm is also pleased to announce the opening of a new office in Moorestown, New Jersey, to support our growth and to provide better service to our clients in South Jersey.
Shawna Bishop has also joined the firm as counsel. Shawna brings over seven years of experience and concentrates her practice on civil and complex litigation. Adam Ortlieb and William Meiselas have also joined the firm as associates. Both and Adam and William are experienced litigators and provide additional litigation support to the firm’s trial practice.
Dughi, Hewit & Domalewski is excited to add these five talented lawyers and the South Jersey office, which will allow us to continue providing our clients with the highest level of legal representation.
Trial partner John Dughi secured a defense verdict on behalf of a defendant neuroradiologist alleged to have injured the plaintiff’s nerve root during a lumbar puncture, resulting in permanent and severe back pain and headaches. The plaintiff was a 43-year-old married father of four and former high school and Ivy League scholar-athlete, claiming these injuries interfered with essentially all aspects of his life, from his career to his family life, and prevented him from engaging in any physical and athletic activities. Plaintiff’s last settlement demand was $5,000,000. Cyndee Allert sat second chair to Mr. Dughi in securing the win. The case was tried to a jury in the Union County Superior Court over the course of 7 trial days. Wolfe v. Volvovsky, Docket No. UNN-L-3204-14.