Patricia Ynoa, a 30 year old home health aide, was on her way home from a patient’s house on March 25, 2004. She’d taken the subway and was about to exit from the station at 167th Street in the Bronx when her right foot became caught in a broken high exit turnstile.
Here is an apparently functioning turnstile in no need of any repair:
Ms. Ynoa claimed that the turnstile in question had a missing bar on the bottom and that her foot became wedged under the remaining turnstile arm causing her to trip and fall with resulting significant injuries to her foot.
The foot and ankle contain 26 bones in each foot (one-quarter of the bones in the human body are in the foot).
Ms. Ynoa sued the New York City Transit Authority (the "NYCTA") claiming that it was negligent because the missing turnstile arm constituted an inherently dangerous condition of which the NYCTA had constructive notice.
A Bronx County jury agreed and awarded plaintiff pain and suffering damages in the sum of $300,000 ($50,000 past – 6 years, $250,000 future – 47 years).
The trial judge, though, agreed with the defense that the turnstile was not dangerously defective and that there was no evidence the NYCTA should have known a repair was needed. Accordingly, a post-trial order was issued setting aside the verdict and dismissing the complaint.
Plaintiff appealed, successfully. In Ynoa v. New York City Tr. Auth. (1st Dept. 2012), the appellate court ruled that the trial judge erred in setting aside the jury’s verdict because the issues – (a) whether the turnstile was inherently dangerous and (b) whether there was sufficient prior notice of the defect – were issues particularly within the jury’s province.
Not mentioned in the appellate court decision is the fact that on appeal the issue of excessiveness of the damages award was contested. The defense contended that $300,000 was unreasonably high for the foot injuries in this case (while plaintiff contended it was an appropriate award).
The appellate court decision likewise does not even mention the nature of the injuries.
Here are the injury details:
- avulsion fracture (when a fragment of bone is torn or chipped away from the main mass of the bone) – in this case, of the dorsal surface of the navicular bone of the right foot
- casted for eight weeks requiring crutches and a cane
- physical therapy for six months and several anti-inflammatory injections
- bone callous formation and post-traumatic arthritis
- continuing complaints of pain, inability to stand for long periods and inability to play any sports
Here is an x-ray showing a navicular bone avulsion fracture:
The defense argued that the injury had only a limited impact:
- plaintiff had no surgery on her foot and none was indicated
- at trial she said she sometimes felt pain in her foot which she merely described as "bothersome"
- after missing six months from work, plaintiff returned and her injury affected her work only "a little bit"
- After the accident, plaintiff walked home and then took a taxi to the hospital emergency room.
- There were no witnesses to the accident.