On December 20, 2001, at about 8:30 a.m., David Reynolds was driving on Ridge Road in Wolcott, New York when he was pulled over and arrested by a New York State trooper for driving without a valid license.
An altercation ensued (there was a 10 year old history of hostility between Reynolds and the trooper) and the trooper repeatedly banged Mr. Reynolds’ head against the car’s trunk while Reynolds was handcuffed. He was then released after the trooper discovered that Reynolds had a temporary license in his wallet.
Mr. Reynolds, then 37 years old, drove himself to the local hospital where he complained of head and neck pain. Here is what Mr. Reynolds looked like in a photo taken the day after the incident:
Reynolds filed a lawsuit against New York State claiming that the trooper had no reasonable cause to arrest him and that his injuries were caused by the trooper’s use of excessive force.
After a bench trial, Court of Claims judge Nicholas V. Midey, Jr. issued a decision on liability in claimant’s favor dated December 23, 2009 and directed that a new trial to be held on the issue of damages only.
On May 14, 2012, following the the damages trial, the judge awarded damages in the sum of $1,017,500 as follows:
- $225,000 past pain and suffering – 10 years,
- $475,000 future pain and suffering – 30 years
- $17,500 past medical expenses
- $300,000 future medical expenses
Now, on appeal, the damages decision has been affirmed in Reynolds v. State of New York (4th Dept. 2014).
As set forth in the appellate court decision, claimant sustained three cervical herniated discs and a closed head injury. Here are additional injury details:
- presented at hospital on the night of the incident with a swollen, bloody and blackened left eye, a bump on his head (permanent) and complaints of head and neck pain for which he was given a neck brace and pain medication
- continuing headaches and head pain with memory problems, dizziness, nightmares and stuttering
- continuing neck pain with radiculopathy and diminished range of motion due to herniated discs at C4-5, C5-6 and C6-7
- continuing need for narcotic pain medication
- unable to hunt, play sports, drive a car, clean house or cook
His doctors recommended that Reynolds undergo two separate cervical fusion surgeries but opined that even with successful surgery he will always have cervical pain and related numbness (though surgery would alleviate some of that), he will not regain full range of motion and he will have permanent lifting restrictions.
- Reynolds made no claim for lost earnings as he had injured his knee in 1984 in a potato harvester accident and had been on disability ever since.
- The State argued that Reynolds failed to mitigate his injuries by ignoring medical advice (as to cervical fusion surgery) and engaging in post-injury manual labor (riding a mower for a few months in 2003 and shoveling roofs and driveways in 2005 and 2006).
- Reynolds claimed lumbar herniations requiring surgery were casually connected but neither the trial judge nor the appellate court agreed, in part because he did not complain of back pain for two years after the assault.
- At the time of trial, Reynolds was self-medicating by smoking marijuana instead of taking prescribed narcotic medications such as Vicodin that he said were no longer effective.