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Personal Injury Verdicts & Awards

$8.8 Million Award in Auto Fatality - Second-Largest in County History


Staff Writer

WILKES-BARRE - A 12-member Luzerne County jury Friday night awarded nearly $8.8 million in the case of a former state trooper who was struck and disabled by a drunken driver in 1983.

The award is the second largest in the county's history and may be the largest of its kind ever in Pennsylvania, according to a court official close to the case.

The verdict included $5 million in punitive damages against the management and parent company of the hotel where James Eshbach was drinking the night he hit Michael Barbuti, 36.

The verdict will have "a tremendous effect" on establishments that serve visibly intoxicated people, predicted Judge Arthur Dalessandro, who presided over the weeklong trial.

The eight-woman, four-man jury deliberated for three hours before returning to a trial room in the Luzerne County Courthouse shortly after 8:00 p.m.

The award also included $200,500 for Barbuti's wife, Barbara, who was also a plaintiff in the case.

"We're obviously thrilled … and very satisfied," commented Joseph Quinn, one of the attorneys who represented the plaintiffs.

Attorneys representing the driver, his employer and the hotel's management could not be reached for comment Friday night.

Jury members found Eshbach to be 30 percent liable. They assigned 70 percent of the liability to Pocono Hershey Resort Hotel and Herco Inc., the parent company of the White Haven hotel where Eshbach was drinking the night of the accident.

Exact figures included in the award were not available at press time, but Dalessandro said the jury ordered about $3,334,000 in compensatory damages be paid by Eshbach, and his employer at the time of the Aug. 19, 1983 accident, Eshbach Brothers Inc. of Reading, and the hotel's ownership.

In addition, Dalessandro awarded $200,500 and $15,000 delayed damages respectively to the trooper and his wife.

Quinn also represented Linda Ann Cappellini, a former West Wyoming resident who was awarded $12.6 million last December in a suit over injuries she received in a 1982 automobile accident. That verdict was described as the county's largest.

Barbuti was an officer with the Hazleton Interstate State police at the time the accident occurred. He had stopped a car on Interstate 80 near Butler Township and was walking toward the vehicle when Eshbach's car struck him, according to court documents.

Due to the accident, Barbuti said he has suffered severe medical injuries, such as limited use of his left leg. He also claims he has incurred mental and emotional distress due to the accident.

PLEASE NOTE: Every case is fact specific, and these results do not guaranty the same results will be obtained in a different case.

About HKQ Law

Hourigan, Kluger & Quinn is considered one of the top civil litigation and commercial law firms that has had the privilege of representing more families in the courtroom than any other NEPA firm. The attorneys at HKQ Law have been honored as Super Lawyers, Best Lawyers, Best Law Firms by US News and World Report, and have received the AV Preeminent Rating by Martindale-Hubbel. HKQ Law was recently recognized for one of the top 20 Verdicts in Pennsylvania.

The firm’s Personal Injury Team, led by Attorney Joe Quinn, Jr., has won some of the largest verdicts and settlements in the region's history. The Personal Injury Team focuses on a wide array of personal injury claims and civil litigation, including medical malpractice, auto and truck accidents, aviation accidents, unsafe vehicles, dangerous or defective products, workplace injuries (worker's compensation), construction site accidents, claim denials by insurance companies, dangerous drugs, defective children's products, nursing home abuse and neglect, and falls due to unsafe conditions (slip and fall).

Attorney Joseph A Quinn, Jr. is one of only 100 attorneys in the United States (and one of only three in Pennsylvania) honored with membership in the Inner Circle of Trial Advocates, and one of only 500 attorneys worldwide chosen to be a Fellow of the International Academy of Trial Lawyers. He has been a Pennsylvania Super Lawyer every year since the program began and has been listed in The Best Lawyers in America every year since the publication was established in 1987. Best Lawyers also named him top personal injury attorney for Northeastern Pennsylvania and the Lehigh Valley. In addition, Best Lawyers, in conjunction with U.S. News & World Report, has designated HKQ a Tier 1 Best Law Firm across multiple categories in Northeastern Pennsylvania and the Lehigh Valley.

Since the inception of the firm, the Commercial / Corporate Team led by Attorney Allan Kluger has provided comprehensive, integrated legal services to many of Northeastern and Eastern Pennsylvania's largest corporations, businesses, banks, non-profits and institutions, handling matters involving labor and employment, wills, trusts and estate planning, estate administration, elder law, commercial transactions, residential and commercial real estate, zoning, land use and development, telecommunications, mediations and arbitrations, commercial litigation, title insurance, business planning and business succession, corporate/business structuring, employment discrimination law for employers, banking, creditor’s rights, finance, lender liability defense, covenants not to compete, construction law, mergers and acquisitions and other business matters.

Additional information can be found at or by calling (800) 760-1529.



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