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D’Amato News and Current Headlines

D’Amato Law Firm in Egg Harbor Township is proud to be featured in a number of news articles and local media. Check out the information and links below to learn more about what we’ve done throughout the community.
 

Lawsuit Against Dunkin’ Believed to be First Alleging Link Between Severe Customer Burns and Defective Paper Coffee-Cup Carrier

HOLLY, N.J. (April 28, 2022) – A severely burned Delran, New Jersey woman is suing Dunkin’ Brands Group, Inc. (DNKN:Nasdaq), among several defendants, in what is believed to be the first negligence and product liability lawsuit in which it is alleged that a customer’s second and third degree scalding-liquid burns occurred in large part because of the company’s “structurally and dangerously-defective, four-cup paper coffee carrier”, said Paul R. D’Amato, of the D’Amato Law Firm that represents the plaintiff.

“This is a serious, life-altering incident that we now know was waiting to happen due primarily to the defectively designed, flimsy, paper coffee carrier that the negligent Dunkin’ store employee used to deliver three cups (extra-large, large, medium) of hot coffee – collectively weighing more than three pounds – to Samantha Picklo, as she waited, as instructed, in the driver’s seat of her vehicle, outside the store,” said Mr. D’Amato. “The shallow paper cup holder – even doubled up in an apparent effort to provide additional support – catastrophically failed when the employee at the Route 130 Delran Dunkin’ Donuts attempted to hand the carrier to Ms. Picklo. Still recovering after her emergency treatment and hospitalization at a specialty burn unit, she’s concerned that what happened to her can and will happen to others unless Dunkin’ promptly replaces its hazardous beverage carriers.” He added, “Our preliminary forensic examination clearly shows the type of carrier Dunkin’ used to deliver coffees to Ms. Picklo is inherently unstable and unsafe. The defendants know this, and that’s why their third-party delivery services – including Door Dash – use an entirely different carrier, one which is sturdy and sealed. That is likely a more expensive option for Dunkin, but aren’t its customers worth the expense?”

Ms. Picklo, a working mother of three special needs children (the youngest is 5), said of the August 17, 2021, incident, “I was in total shock. I never felt such excruciating pain as when those coffees – starting with the Extra Large cup – suddenly dropped onto my lap; riding in the ambulance to the burn unit in Philadelphia, all I could think of were my precious babies and if I’d be able to care for them. I’m still scarred from these burns to my lower body, but even more searing is the thought that this can and will happen again unless Dunkin’ replaces those carriers with ones that are safe. That can’t happen soon enough.”

The multi-count lawsuit (Picklo vs. Dunkin’ Brands Group, Inc. et al. BUR-L-495-22) filed last month in the Superior Court of New Jersey, Burlington County Law Division, and which includes a claim for damages, also alleges:

  • Dunkin’ and its affiliated defendants (the designer-manufacturer of the carrier is in the process of being determined and will be added as a named defendant in a subsequent amended filing) failed to anticipate that the use of its defectively designed four-cup beverage tray-carrier could result in serious injury to its customers, including during the transfer of orders through a drive-thru window or directly to a waiting vehicle (Ms. Picklo ordered at the drive thru, but was told to “pull forward”  while the coffees were being prepared, and they’d be brought to her.)
  • Dunkin’ and its affiliated defendants failed to provide a safe designated area in its store lot for the delivery of ordered food and beverages for waiting vehicles. There was no safe designated area at the Delran, Rt. 130 store where the incident occurred.
  • Dunkin’ and its affiliated defendants were negligent in failing to provide franchise owners and their employees proper training in the safe handling and delivery of beverages – especially hot drinks – to expressly avoid injuries such as those sustained by Ms. Picklo.

Barnes Hutchins, Ms. Picklo’s husband,  said, “We are immensely grateful to the Delran first responders, the medical teams, and all those that worked to help Samantha after this tragedy, that was so clearly preventable. All we want is for all the facts to come out and, most importantly, for real changes to protect others from harm.”

Media Coverage:


911 calls related to this case:

 

Ms. Picklo, at this time, is unavailable for interviews.

Contacts:

Paul R. D’Amato / [email protected] / 609-926-3300

Steph Rosenfeld / [email protected] /215-514-4101

 

Press of Atlantic City Covers Mishandling of Evidence in 2015 Valiante Case

The gross mishandling of evidence in the suspicious 2015 death of Mays Landing teen Tiffany Valiante has gained media traction, with the Press of Atlantic City picking up the story of evidence misconduct and contamination.

A discovery motion was finally granted to Valiante family attorney Paul D’Amato in late 2020, which ordered the DNA testing of key evidence collected at the time of Valiante’s death.

A March 2022 DNA test found that the key evidence was so grossly mishandled as to render the evidence to be of “no probative scientific value.” The gaining attention to the case aided by the Press of Atlantic City keeps the spotlight on the misconduct of the police and lack of justice for the Valiante family.

Read the full Press of Atlantic City article here.

 

Mishandling Key Evidence In 2015 Tiffany Valiante Suspicious Death Case Impeded Independent Forensic DNA Analysis, Reports Renowned Lab

TRENTON, NJ (March 29, 2022) – The highly regarded forensics lab, hired with New Jersey court approval to analyze key evidence linked to the 2015 suspicious death of 18-year-old Tiffany Valiante, has just concluded that the items – including a blood-stained towel and a T-shirt – were so poorly handled by investigators that they were “of no scientific probative value”, according to the final report of the Ohio-based DNA Diagnostics Center (DDC) released today by Paul R. D’Amato, the Valiante family’s attorney.

Julie A. Heinig, Ph.D., Laboratory Director of Forensics and DNA Technical Leader, said, “We have extensive experience over decades performing analysis on evidence with degraded DNA, however, in this instance, we were able to obtain very little DNA for comparison due to the manner in which the evidence was collected and maintained. This included  storage of evidence in plastic, rather than a paper receptacle, which resulted in moisture-inducing bacterial contamination.” She noted that a DNA blood card, containing a sample of Tiffany Valiante’s blood, was verified only after paternity testing due to the improper chain of custody and contamination of the sample.

Attorney D’Amato, who has been representing the Valiante family in the aftermath of her death, near midnight on July 12, 2015, after being struck by a New Jersey Transit train, along a secluded section of track less than five miles from her Mays Landing home, said the long-awaited report’s findings are “immensely disappointing but also consistent with the view of other independent forensic professionals who collectively questioned the official investigation by New Jersey Transit Police and the NJ Medical Examiner’s Office into Tiffany’s death,  and they disputed labeling it suicide. At minimum, they believed the cause of death should have been ruled ‘undetermined’.”

Mr. D’Amato added, “This report by DDC reinforces our view that  there was a gross rush to judgement by investigators, who hastily determined Tiffany’s death was a suicide; they never treated the scene like a crime scene and, clearly, mishandled key evidence that we now conclusively learn was useless when finally subjected to DNA testing. It remains an outrage that the Valiante family had to obtain a court order – and pay with their own savings – to have that DNA analysis performed.” He said the evidence that DCC tested has now been returned to the New Jersey office of Attorney General along with a copy of the lab’s report.

Tiffany’s parents, Dianne and Stephen Valiante, in a statement on the report, said, “We were hopeful for a miracle with the DNA testing, especially knowing Tiffany’s death from the start was dismissed as a suicide without a proper investigation ever conducted. There’s no excuse for evidence being mishandled, even lost as in the case of a bloodied axe and a keychain found at the scene. We know her killer or killers are still free and must be held accountable for Tiffany’s death. We again appeal to the Attorney General to reopen this case and pray for justice for Tiffany.”

See full reports (Report #1, Report #2, Report #3) here.

About DNA Diagnostics Center (DDC)

Founded in 1995, DNA Diagnostics Center (DDC) is a world leader in private, certified DNA forensic testing. Dr. Michael Baird, DDC’s Laboratory Director, was the first DNA expert to testify in a US court, in 1982, and has testified in hundreds of cases. Legal and law enforcement professionals regularly contact DDC’s team of forensic scientists to assist them on the most challenging cases. The forensics team at DDC uses state-of-the-art methods to continually advance the science and to help to ensure the correct outcome. The laboratory works closely with The Innocence Project in Ohio and around the country, assisting in the pursuit of truth and justice.

Contacts:

Paul R. D’Amato / [email protected] / 609-926-3300

Steph Rosenfeld / [email protected] / 215-514-4101

DDC / [email protected] /800-406-1940

DNA Evidence Tested for the First Time After Valiante Death

Posted on March 16, 2021

On March 1, the New Jersey Transit Police Department was ordered by Atlantic County Superior Court Judge, John C. Porto, to hand over several pieces of evidence to help solve the death of Tiffany Valiante, an 18-year-old resident of Mays Landing who was struck by a train less than a mile from her home in July 2015. Her death was ruled as a suicide, but the Valiante family strongly believes that foul play contributed to her passing.

A DNA card, t-shirt, a white towel with blood stains, and a folding knife, along with the sweatshirt, shoes, and headband of the victim, are among the items to be tested. This is the first time that these items will be examined by an independent lab, which could be groundbreaking for the ongoing case. Additionally, the Valiante family has required that an axe and keychain be analyzed.

Attorney Paul D’Amato has been fighting on behalf of the family and pushing for crucial DNA testing to be done. Testing will take about two weeks, and the Valiante family is anxiously awaiting the results. If foreign DNA is found on the items, it will be a turning point for the case and the Valiante family. For further case details, click here.

Paul D’Amato Wins Discovery Motion in Tiffany Valiante Case

Posted on December 9, 2020

Paul D’Amato of the D’Amato Law Firm has been working on Tiffany Valiante’s case since 2015 when Tiffany was killed by a moving train just two hours after leaving her parents’ home. Her death was ruled a suicide, but the Valiante family and attorney Paul D’Amato reject this theory. It has been confirmed that Tiffany was not suffering from depression and did not die due to suicide. The train that struck her was not a scheduled train, making suicide very unlikely.

Paul D’Amato and many others believe that Tiffany was the victim of foul play and her case involves many unresolved answers that the family would like to uncover. Atlantic County Superior Court Judge John Porto recently enabled Paul D’Amato to reopen discovery and have DNA from the scene tested. This news is extremely beneficial to Tiffany’s case and proves that persistence pays off. Tiffany’s case is no longer a cold case and will continue to be investigated until answers are found. For more information on this approved discovery motion and further case details, click here.