Joseph K. Cobuzio is the managing partner of Tompkins, McGuire and primarily concentrates his civil litigation practice in the following areas of: premise, products, commercial trucking, construction, property casualty, and professional liability: architects and engineers, as well as workers compensation defense. Mr. Cobuzio is the Chair of his own litigation group. He is a Trial Attorney with extensive experience in both State and Federal court. In addition to heading one of our litigation teams he also is the Chair of the Firm’s Workers’ Compensation Group consisting of three senior attorneys with combined experience of over 25 years each.
Over the last 27 years he has either assisted or served as lead trial attorney in numerous Civil cases through trial and the Appellate procedure in State and Federal courts. Additionally he has served as lead trial attorney on well over 200 trials before the Department of Labor, Division or Workers Compensation. Mr. Cobuzio's most recent civil trials include:
1) Quick v. Equity Residential Management Corp., pp. Div. Plaintiff broke her leg requiring open reduction and internal fixation along with complications of infection requiring hardware removal. The case arose out of a slip and fall on ice. Mr. Cobuzio represented the snow and ice removal contractor. Following a 4 day trial the jury returned a verdict for the plaintiff against the property owner and a no cause against the snow and ice contractor. The matter was appealed and retried where the jury returned a larger verdict against the property owner which the App. Div. reversed, finding that the trial court erred in setting aside the initial award and granting plaintiff's motion for a new trial on damages. The verdict finding Mr. Cobuzio's client not negligent was upheld.
2) Ricetti v. General Foam Civ-Law equity 105-E. This was a Breach of contract case tried in Pennsylvania arising out of site contamination and remediation issues pertaining to the sale of commercial property formally a manufacturing facility. The issue revolved around the defendant's breach of their responsibility for an ongoing obligation for site remediation and allegations of misrepresentations in the purchase agreement. Mr. Cobuzio represented defendant. The matter was no cause following a full trial.
3) Fernandes v. DAR Development Co.,et al. currently before the Supreme Court of New Jersey. This is a personal injury case in which plaintiff, a plumber employed by the general contractors subcontractor, was harmed when the sanitary sewer line trench he was excavating collapsed around him. Mr. Cobuzio represented the general contractor at trial. They were the only defendant. The allegations were that the general contractor committed various OSHA violations in particular the failure to require the employer /subcontractor to utilize a trench box. The trial was approx. 2 weeks. The damages alleged were a fractured hip requiring replacement; erectile and urological dysfunction, nerve transposition in the hip, chip fractured shoulder and multiple herniated disc causing radiculopathy. Plaintiff was alleged to be totally disabled. The jury returned a verdict finding for the plaintiff for suffering and awarded damages in the amount 600k. Medical and economic losses were compromised and stipulated so verdict was molded. The total verdict was 825k. Mr. Cobuzio appealed the verdict with regard to the issue that the trial judge failed to allow an instruction on comparative negligence to the jury. The Appeal was denied and the Supreme Court has granted certification. The argument was held last fall. Interestingly, The New Jersey Association for Justice has been granted leave to file an Amicus brief advising the court that they believe the issue is of great importance to their practice.
In addition to his litigation and Appellate practice, Mr. Cobuzio has given many lectures and presentations in many areas of practice, both litigation and workers compensation, over his career on many topics to third party administrators, insurance carriers and self- insured entities, the following is a representation sample:
Mr. Cobuzio has also successfully handled or participated in Appellate matters in the New Jersey Supreme Court, Appellate Division as well as the Third Circuit, here are some:
Carteret Savings Bank v. Shushan 919 F.2d 225. The Plaintiff Carteret Savings Bank sought review of this transfer of this legal malpractice action by the United States District Court for the District of New Jersey pursuant to 28 U.S.C. Sec. 1406(a) to the Eastern District of Louisiana. The district court transferred the case because it concluded that it did not have personal jurisdiction over the defendant lawyers who were represented by Mr. Cobuzio's firm. Carteret appealed from the order of transfer and from the denial of its motion for re-argument, modification or certification of the transfer order for appeal under 28 U.S.C. Sec. 1292(b). Alternatively, Carteret filed a petition for a writ of mandamus under 28 U.S.C. Sec. 1651 asking the Court to direct the district court to vacate the transfer order and "reverse" the district court's jurisdictional determination.
Kaur v. Standex Intern. Corp, 2009 WL 2016073 (D.N.J. 2009). The matter was venued in Federal Court. This was a severe amputation case with reattachment of the hand arising out of allegations of product defect of an industrial chop saw. Mr. Cobuzio represented the product manufacturer and achieved summary dismissal of warnings and manufacturing defect claims against major industrial products manufacturer. Remaining claims were later favorably settled at trial.
Aversano v. Palisades Interstate Parkway Commission (A-54-03) 180 N.J. 329, 851 A.2d 633. In this case, Mr. Cobuzio represented the family of a teenager who unfortunately fell from the Palisades cliff in a public park. The case went to the Supreme Court to determine whether a public entity is immune from liability under the New Jersey Tort Claims Act (TCA), N.J.S.A. 59:4-8. Mr. Cobuzio asserted that the subsequent acts or omissions of the public entity contributed substantially to reducing the decedent's chances of survival since they failed to act timely in his rescue. The Supreme Court reversed the Trial Court and remanded the matter for trial at which time the matter was settled favorably at Trial.
Owens v. Gelhaus, App. Div. (per curiam) Plaintiff, was injured when, while riding his bicycle, he ran into a wire cable while cutting across defendant's property, a privately owned amusement park, in order to reach a paved walkway after the park was closed, Mr. Cobuzio represented the Amusement Park and Plaintiff appealed the grant of his motion for summary judgment dismissing his complaint. Agreeing with the trial court that plaintiff was a trespasser and that defendants had not breached the minimal duty owed to him where they had posted signs that bicycles are not allowed on the property and had conspicuously placed a barrier to entry onto its premises at closing time, the panel affirmed the dismissal.
Van Winkle v. Lefrak Newport Realty Corp., App. Div. (per curiam) Plaintiff filed suit after he was injured when he fell through a hole in the concrete flooring that was covered by plywood that gave way while he was working on a high-rise construction project for defendant Lefrak as a subcontractor employed by defendant Riverside/ICC. Mr. Cobuzio represented the employer for both affirmative claims and in defense of contractual claims for indemnity. Summary judgment for the contractor was affirmed because plaintiff's proposed expert reports were properly excluded as untimely and plaintiff has failed to specify what duty owed to him was breached and who breached it. In addition, Summary judgment for defendant Riverside/ICC was affirmed because it is, in fact, one entity with plaintiff's employer, and thus N.J.S.A. 34:15-8, which precludes plaintiff from recovering damages on a negligence claim against his employer, also precludes his claim against ICC. Also, even if they are separate entities, plaintiff failed to show how ICC, as opposed to Riverside, violated a duty owed to him or breached that duty by failing to use the proper standard care.
Quick v. Equity Residential Management Corp., App. Div. This was a slip and fall on ice. Mr. Cobuzio represented the snow and ice removal contractor. The Jury returned a verdict after a four (4) day trial in favor of Mr. Cobuzio's client and against the property manager/owner. The Judge set aside the damage award. The matter was retried on damages only. The verdict was greater. The matter was appealed by the property manager as against all parties. The Appellate Division found the first verdict, although low, was supported by the evidence presented at trial and did not shock its collective judicial conscience, the panel reversed the damage award in the second trial, finding that the trial court erred in setting aside the initial award and granting plaintiff's motion for a new trial on damages.
Welcome v. Just Apartments, LLC et al, App. Div. (per curiam) In this personal injury action Mr. Cobuzio represented the general contractor in a construction site. The plaintiff, and employee of a subcontractor was severely burned while installing gas powered dryers in a newly constructed apartment building. The Appellate Division reversed as premature the trial court's determination that the opinions of plaintiff's experts - that exposed electrical wires and the absence of gas regulators caused the explosion in which plaintiff was burned - were net opinions, as they did not have an opportunity through testimony to explain fully the basis for their conclusions. The Appellate Division also affirmed the grant of summary judgment in favor of one of the general contractor's construction superintendents.
Gabriele, etc., et al. v. Lyndhurst Residential Community, LLC, et al., App. Div. (per curiam) 2008. Pyramid Construction, who prevailed at the trial level with a ruling that Essex Ins. Co., its commercial general liability insurer, was obligated to defend and indemnify them as a prime contractor on a construction project, in connection with claims asserted against it in litigation for the wrongful death of a subcontractor's employee. The trial court agreed with Pyramid that the policy was, at best, ambiguous, and that it was entitled to coverage. In affirming, the panel pointed out the apparent facial conflict between the policy's declarations page, which indicates unrestricted coverage for subcontractors, and the exclusionary language upon which Essex relied. The language of the policy also created an ambiguity, and so the policy should be interpreted to conform to the reasonable expectations of the insured.
DeLucca v. Givuadan Roure Corp., App. Div. Docket A-5671-08T15671-08T1. Plaintiff Louis N. DeLucca was injured when he slipped and fell in the loading dock area of his employer's, Givuadan Roure Corp., place of business. Plaintiff filed a personal injury cause of action against defendant, Mr. Cobuzio represented the snow and ice removal contractor, Duke's Landscape Management Mulch and Pro, Inc. (Duke's Landscape), alleging that it negligently performed its duties to clear the loading dock area of snow and ice. On Duke's Landscape's motion for summary judgment, the Law Division dismissed plaintiff's complaint finding, as a matter of law, that Duke's Landscape was not responsible for the conditions that led to plaintiff's fall. The Appellate Division affirmed for the reason expressed at the trial level advance.