On August 25, 2012, Natalie Bar-Levy went with friends to Studio Square, a now closed sports bar in Astoria. She became involved in a verbal altercation with another customer and the bar’s bouncers were summoned to escort her out. While doing so, Ms. Bar-Levy, then a 25 year old schoolteacher, was shoved down a flight of stairs, falling head first and landing on her face on the concrete floor at the bottom of the stairs.
In the ensuing lawsuit, the bar was found to be fully liable for assault and battery causing plaintiff’s injuries and the Queens County jurors awarded pain and suffering damages in the sum of $3,000,000 ($1,000,000 past – three years, $2,000,000 future – 50 years).
The trial judge agreed with the defense that the pain and suffering award was excessive and the future damages award was set aside. After the trial judge retired, another judge agreed with plaintiff that the trial judge should have set forth a specific award for future pain and suffering (to which plaintiff could have stipulated in order to avoid a new trial on that issue). In Bar-Levy v. 35-33 36th Street Corp. (Sup. Queens 2017), the new judge issued a decision reducing the future pain and suffering award to $250,000 (for five years) while the past pain and suffering award was not disturbed. The pain and suffering damages award then stood at $1,250,000. A punitive damages award of $1,000,000 was dismissed.
Plaintiff appealed. Before the appellate court ruled, the parties recently settled the case for the sum of $800,000.
Here are the injury details:
- bilateral LeFort Type I fracture (starting at the base of her nose running through the bone under the cheek bone down to the ptergoid plate)
- open reduction and internal fixation surgery to reduce the fracture, with four plates, eight screws and wires inserted
- inability to eat solid food for two and a half months
- fractures to four teeth, requiring root canals and crowns
- soft tissue injury to right hip in the nature of a labral tear
- admitted to hospital for three days
- increased risk of losing every tooth in upper jaw (one required surgical removal and placement of a bone graft before trial)
- continuing pain and discomfort in face during periods of cold weather; continuing occasional pain in right hip
The defense did not produce any damages witness (plaintiff relied upon her treating oral surgeon’s testimony) but argued that any award for future pain and suffering was speculative contending that plaintiff (a) had fully healed, (b) had been pain free in her jaw within a few months of the incident and (c) was able to run two miles a day within six months.
- Plaintiff’s pre-verdict settlement demand was $850,000 against an offer of $100,000.
- In summations, plaintiff’s attorney asked the jurors to award $1,000,000 for past pain and suffering and $2,000,000 for the future (the exact amounts the jury then awarded).
- Plaintiff did not appeal the punitive damages dismissal and, post-trial, she stipulated to accept $475,000 for future pain and suffering damages