Plaintiffs firm Javerbaum Wurgaft Hicks Kahn Wikstrom & Sinins is branching into nursing home negligence law and planting a flag in South Jersey in the process.
As of Jan. 1, the Springfield, N.J.-based firm is set to acquire the Gruber Firm, which, headed by Saul Gruber, focuses on cases alleging abuse and neglect of patients at long-term care facilities.
Gruber’s associate, Victoria Schall, also will be making the move, bringing Javerbaum Wurgaft’s head count up to 38. The firm, whose southernmost post at present is in Freehold, N.J., will take over Gruber’s Mount Laurel, N.J., office.
“We’ve seen this practice area as an opportunity and have been talking about it within the firm for the last two or three years,” Eric Kahn, Javerbaum Wurgaft’s managing partner, said.
Attorneys “don’t really dabble in nursing home” law because there are “too many pitfalls,” particularly federal regulations with which the practitioner must be familiar, Kahn added. “It’s a much more specialized practice area than slip-and-fall.”
Lawrence Simon, in Javerbaum Wurgaft’s New York office, had been handling some nursing home cases, but the firm had no formal nursing home practice, had not been soliciting those clients and largely had been referring cases out, according to Kahn.
Kahn added that the South Jersey office will simplify the handling of other types of personal injury cases in that part of the state, which have required significant travel.
According to Kahn, he and Gruber met through their involvement in the New Jersey Association for Justice (NJAJ), the principal plaintiffs attorney group in the state. They’re both on track to be president: Gruber is second vice president, while Kahn is third vice president.
Javerbaum Wurgaft will seek to add a freshly minted associate to the Mount Laurel office, one who can learn the ropes of nursing home law while also helping with personal injury matters originating in South Jersey, Kahn said.
Gruber said his office—a 5,000-square-foot space with three conference rooms—has room to accommodate those aspirations.
“When we got the office a few years ago, we always envisioned growth, and now we’re finally there,” Gruber said. “We had to make a decision which way the growth was going to happen—would it be internal growth or going with a firm that’s as good as Eric’s firm?”
Two lawyers who are of counsel to the Gruber Firm will not be making the move to Javerbaum Wurgaft but will continue sharing that office space, Gruber added.
Nursing home law has long been a specialty but a decade ago began attracting personal injury attorneys, who at the time were facing the new challenge of the verbal threshold in automobile cases, according to a previous Law Journal report.
Back then, the median jury award was about $192,000, though cases involving physical or sexual abuse allegations were worth more, with a median value of $376,500, the report said.
Around 2001, Gruber began handling exclusively nursing home cases, which typically are accepted on a contingency-fee basis, just like other personal injury matters.
Despite their reputation as expensive cases that yield low recoveries, a typical settlement, though confidential, might range from $250,000 to seven figures, Gruber said, pinning his highest-ever recovery at $1.8 million.
Generally, income earners stand to recover more in civil suits than elderly litigants, but New Jersey’s residents’ rights statute, N.J.S.A. 30:13-1, has allowed for fee-shifting in long-term care cases since 1976.
“Not earning an income shouldn’t eliminate a right to dignity,” said Gruber, who through the NJAJ and its parent organization, the American Association for Justice, has helped push for legislation bolstering residents’ rights.
The addition of Gruber’s firm will mean a seventh office for Javerbaum Wurgaft, and another example of incremental growth at the firm, which handles personal injury and areas that generate that work: workers’ compensation, employment, education, civil rights and white-collar criminal defense.
Founded in 1978 by Kenneth Javerbaum and Jack Wurgaft, the firm handled a variety of matters until 1982, when the New Jersey Supreme Court created a civil trial attorney certification—allowing those with the credentials to pay referral fees to other attorneys who sent cases their way.
The partners homed in on personal injury, were certified that year and began marketing themselves to other lawyers. Referred cases now account for about half of the firm’s business and most of its complex cases, Javerbaum previously told the Law Journal.
The firm then began growing slowly but surely, with its lawyer ranks reaching 15 with the 2007 acquisition of Sinins and Bross of Newark. Two years later, it grew to 22 lawyers by scooping up Baker, Pedersen & Robbins of Hoboken, N.J., and more recently expanded into Jersey City, N.J.
Read more: http://www.njlawjournal.com/id=1202672905754/Javerbaum-to-Grab-South-Jersey-Nursing-Home-Law-Boutique#ixzz3GyfqLguj