On May 20, 2008, Alexander Nayberg was stopped at a red light in Garden City when two other cars collided in the intersection and one of them struck Mr. Nayberg’s car in the rear.

In the ensuing litigation, a Nassau County jury found that the two colliding drivers were each 50% at fault for the accident and Mr. Nayberg’s injuries and they awarded pain and suffering damages in the sum of $1,600,000 ($600,000 past – six  years, $1,000,000 future – 20 years).

In Nayberg v. Nassau County (2d Dept. 2017), the appellate court affirmed the damages awards.

Here are the injury details:

  • herniated disc at C6-7 requiring cervical discectomy and fusion surgery three years later with the insertion of a plate and four titanium screws

  • additional cervical fusion surgery required in future at levels(s) above and/or below C6-7
  • fractured teeth and bridge requiring seven extensive dental  procedures including extractions, implants and bone grafts

Plaintiff, 54 years old when the accident occurred, had been employed at Bloomingdale’s earning $70,000 a year as an operating director in its restaurant division for seven years until a few months before when he was laid off in an economic downturn. He then formed his own construction company and  one week before the accident, he was offered his first job but he was physically unable to take it. When this case was tried, plaintiff was still in pain, unable to help his wife with household chores, pick up anything more than 10 pounds or engage in construction work.

The jury also awarded plaintiff, and the appellate court affirmed, damages  for lost earnings in the sum of $773,751 ($447,858 past – six years, $325,893 future – 16 1/2 years). The defense argued that the entire lost earnings award was speculative and should be vacated because it was based upon plaintiff’s expected lost income from a start-up business. The appellate court rejected the argument noting that plaintiff established this claim with reasonable certainty through his own testimony and that of an expert economist and that the defendants failed to submit any evidence in opposition.

The jury also awarded damages for future medical expenses (for additional spinal surgery) in the sum of $200,000 (10 years) and future dental expenses in the sum of $25,000 (two years).

Inside Information:

  • There was no award for loss of consortium damages claimed by Mr. Nayberg’s wife.

On March 14, 2013 John Gore was stopped at a red light in Pleasantville when a car from behind, driven by Melissa Cardany, struck his car. Mr Gore, then 47 years old, was taken by ambulance to the local hospital where he complained of pain in his neck, back and left shoulder.

At the time of the accident, Mr. Gore was in the course of his employment, driving several teenage residents of Jewish Childcare Association in Pleasantville (pictured above).

Gore sued the other driver seeking money damages for his pain and suffering, lost earnings and medical expenses related to the accident. On November 5, 2014, he was granted summary judgment as to liability and the matter proceeded to a trial on damages only.

The Westchester County jury determined that plaintiff’s injuries did not meet any of the threshold categories under Insurance Law Section 5102 and they accordingly awarded him nothing at all for pain and suffering (or future medial expenses). They did, though award him damages for  lost earnings in the sum of $906,000 ($156,000 past – three years, $750,000 future – 15 years).

The defendant made a post-trial motion asking the judge to set aside the verdict and direct judgment in her favor as a matter of law or, alternatively, to direct a new trial. Essentially, the defendant argued that because the jury found that plaintiff had not sustained a permanent or significant injury, and was not entitled to any future medical expense award, the award of $906,000 for lost earnings was speculative and there should be no lost earnings award at all. Plaintiff, who never returned to work  (he’d been a residential supervisor at a home for at risk teenagers) argued that there was sufficient medical testimony to establish that he was disabled and permanently unable to perform his job duties.

The trial judge granted the defendant’s motion and set aside the verdict as to all damages.

In Gore v. Cardany (2d Dept. 2018), the appellate court reinstated the award for past lost earnings in the sum of $156,000 while affirming the trial judge’s decision to vacate the award for future damages.

Here are the injury details:

  • treated and released from the ER on the day of the accident and same five days later at a different hospital
  • chiropractic treatment began 11 days after the accident and continued for about two years
  • three epidural injections in lower back and neck in connection with bulging discs
  • left shoulder arthroscopic surgery on 4/29/14

Defense doctors testified that plaintiff’s shoulder complaints were degenerative and pre-existing (in view of osteophytes as shown on an MRI) and he was not disabled either before or after his surgery which was merely a shaving of the congenitally deformed acromion and a debridement of some inflamed tissue. They also contended that plaintiff’s neck and back complaints were non-accident related, degenerative and typical for a man of plaintiff’s age. Post-trial, Plaintiff did not contest the jury’s findings as to Insurance Law Section 5102 and their resulting decision to award no damages for pain and suffering.

Plaintiff had been earning $52,000 a year and his job entailed supervising adolescents but there was no testimony that it involved heavy labor or heavy lifting and none of his doctors testified that they advised him to stop working permanently. Plaintiff testified that his position had been eliminated about six months after the accident and his on-line searches for new employment had been fruitless.

Inside Information:

  • Defense counsel argued in his summation that plaintiff was entitled to no award at all for any damages; plaintiff’s counsel requested $450,000 for pain and suffering damages plus $900,000 for lost earnings.
  • There was no expert vocational rehabilitation testimony.

In 1985, Alan Newton was convicted of serious crimes in two separate prosecutions for which he received lengthy consecutive prison terms. He was exonerated of the second conviction (for rape, robbery and assault) and on July 6, 2006 he was released from prison after having served 22 years in jail (10 years on the first conviction – for attempted  rape of a child – and 12 years on the second, wrongful conviction).

After his release, then 45 years old, Newton commenced a federal court  lawsuit against the City of New York and certain of its employees for pain and suffering damages from his wrongful incarceration due to the defendants’ failure to produce the rape kit that eventually exonerated him. He was ultimately awarded $12,000,000 for 12 years (the last 12 of his 22 years of incarceration, since the parties agreed that Newton would have served the full 10 years on the first conviction, which was not overturned).

Newton also sued New York State in the Court of Claims for the damages that were not addressed in the federal court case:

  • four years of past pain and suffering damages (i.e., 22 years minus 12 years compensated for in the federal case minus six years that the parties agreed should be considered as the time served on the first conviction),
  • future (post-release) pain and suffering, including psychological damages,
  • past and future lost earnings, and
  • future medical expenses

The judge in the Court of Claims action awarded plaintiff pain and suffering damages in the sum of $1,200,000 for the four years of wrongful incarceration not covered by the federal suit plus $250,000 for past lost earnings. He declined to make any awards for future lost earnings or medical expenses.

In Newton v. State of New York  (1st Dept. 2018),  the Court of Claims judge’s awards were affirmed, $104,000 was awarded for future medical expenses and the case was remanded for a determination on the issue of plaintiff’s post-incarceration pain and suffering. As set forth in the appellate court decision, there was sufficient evidence that Mr. Newton was entitled to post-incarceration and future psychological damages for injuries attributable to his extended incarceration on the wrongful conviction beyond the six-year term he had served on the other unrelated conviction.

Plaintiff’s claim for post-incarceration pain and suffering damages was based upon his testimony that he had been suffering from chronic depression since his release from prison. His psychiatrist testified that Newton met the criteria for dysthymic disorder, otherwise known as persistent depressive disorder, involving significant, chronic depression that it is likely to continue into the future and that it resulted from his lengthy incarceration. The $104,000 award for future medical expenses was based directly upon the psychiatrist’s testimony that plaintiff needs five years of weekly psychotherapy to address his chronic depressive disorder. The State did not present any expert testimony to rebut plaintiff’s future pain and suffering damages claim.

Inside Information:

  • In the federal court lawsuit, the jury awarded pain and suffering damages in the sum of $18,000,000 but that was determined to be excessive and reduced to $12,000,000.
  • After his release from prison, Newton was offered a scholarship at City University of New York and graduated with a bachelor’s degree in business administration.

On December 9, 2011 Juan Munoz was working for a construction company at 241 Fifth Avenue in Manhattan when he fell through the partially demolished fourth floor to the third floor  sustaining injuries to his knee, hip and wrist.

241 Fifth Avenue

In his ensuing lawsuit against the building’s owner and general contractor, Mr. Munoz was granted summary judgment on the issue of liability pursuant to Labor Law Section 240(1) and the matter proceeded to a trial on damages only. The Queens County jury awarded plaintiff pain and suffering damages in the sum of $709,000 ($80,000 past – four years, $629,000 future – 50 years).

Both parties appealed. Defendants argued that (a) the case should be dismissed in its entirety because plaintiff was a recalcitrant worker whose own conduct was the sole proximate cause of his accident and injuries and  (b) the future damages award was excessive. Plaintiff countered that (a) summary judgment on liability was appropriate and (b) the future damages award was inadequate.

In Munzon v. Victor at Fifth, LLC (2d Dept. 2018), the judgments have been affirmed.

Here are the injury details:

  • Left Knee: fracture of the medial tibial plateau, torn ligaments, severely torn meniscus
  • Left Hip: diffuse posterior labral tear
  • Left Wrist: partially torn small ligaments (requiring a brace for seven months) – pain resolved within two years

On March 16, 2012 plaintiff underwent left knee arthroscopic surgery to reconstruct his anterior cruciate ligament with a patella tendon autograft, as well as a meniscectomy and chondroplasty.

Plaintiff attended physical therapy three times a week for 11 months but, on February 8, 2013 he underwent a  second arthroscopic surgery which involved debridement of damaged tissue (followed by eight more months of physical therapy). He ambulated only with a brace or cane for about two years when he finally returned to work.

At trial in February 2016, plaintiff claimed he still had intermittent hip pain but his knee caused him daily pain and required occasional use of a cane. His treating orthopedic surgeon testified that Mr. Munoz, then 30 years old, had developed osteoarthritis in his knee and would by the age of 40 require total knee replacement surgery.

Plaintiff did not require surgery for either his hip or wrist injuries and his physical therapy focused almost entirely on his knee injury. The defendants argued that in view of the paucity of treatment regarding plaintiff’s hip and wrist, a good recovery from his knee injury, plaintiff’s return to work, the lack of objective medical proof of osteoarthritis and pre-existing repetitive stress from construction work, the award for future pain and suffering was excessive.

Plaintiff argued that the future damages award was inadequate in view of his need for total knee replacement surgery, continuing pain and inability to engage in many activities he had previously enjoyed such as exercising, playing soccer and taking long walks.

Inside Information:

  • Plaintiff’s pre-verdict settlement demand was $1,000,000 against an offer of $200,000.
  • The jury returned its verdict in one hour.

 

On August 14, 2007 Remigiusz Nawrocki was working for a plumbing contractor at a construction site at 205 Huron Street in Brooklyn. While on a ladder drilling holes in a wall, Mr. Nawrocki, then 28 years old, fell to the ground sustaining significant jaw injuries.

At an inquest on December 9, 2015 in his ensuing lawsuit against the owner of the premises (whose answer to the complaint was stricken because of repeated failures to appear at court conferences), a judge awarded plaintiff pain and suffering damages in the sum of $50,000 ($25,000 past – eight years, $25,000 future – unspecified).

Plaintiff appealed, arguing that the damages award was inadequate. In Nawrocki v. Huron Street Development LLC  (1st Dept. 2018), the pain and suffering award was increased to $500,000 ($250,000 past, $250,000 future).

Here are the injury details:

  • open mandible and condylar fractures and impacted tooth
  • facial lacerations requiring sutures and plastic surgery
  • six day hospital admission
  • open reduction and internal fixation with wires, screws and a six hole plate

  • jaw wired shut and unable to eat without straw for eight weeks
  • surgical removal of wires and screws
  • medical treatment completed within three months of the accident but plaintiff claimed continuing pain and had some resulting scars

 

 

On December 15, 2011, Charlotte Thompson was a front-seat passenger in a minivan involved in an accident with another vehicle at the intersection of Elm Drive and Pinewood Road in Roslyn. The other driver was found to be at fault for the accident which caused shoulder injuries to the then 29 year old Ms. Thompson.

In her ensuing lawsuit, Thompson was awarded pain and suffering damages in the sum of $1,150,000 ($400,000 past – four years, $750,000 future – 25 years). The Bronx County trial judge agreed with the defense that the award was excessive and it was reduced to $550,000 ($300,000 past, $250,000 future).

Plaintiff appealed; however, in Thompson v. Toscano (1st Dept. 2018), the reduction to $550,000 was affirmed.

Here are the injury details:

  • Plaintiff declined medical attention at the scene; emergency room treatment next day with injection and medication for pain
  • Follow-up treatment over seven months with orthopedic surgeons, physical therapy and additional cortisone injections
  • Arthroscopic surgery on 9/19/12 to repair labral tear

  • Additional six months of physical therapy
  • 35% permanent loss of range of motion
  • Adhesive capsusulitis (frozen shoulder)
  • Three keloid scars at surgical site
  • Repeat arthroscopy needed within five years to break up scar tissue (if no improvement in plaintiff’s condition)

The defendant’s expert orthopedic surgeon testified that the intra-operative photographs of plaintiff’s shoulder were unclear as to the presence of a labral tear and, in any event, there were no findings on them that “could contribute to the plaintiff’s motor vehicle accident.” Since the expert’s exam took place only a month after plaintiff’s surgery, the expert could not examine plaintiff’s shoulder and did not measure range of motion because plaintiff’s arm was still in a sling.

Inside Information:

  • The lawsuit was tried in Bronx County because that was the county of plaintiff’s residence.
  • Before plaintiff came to the U.S., she’d been the victim of a police crime in Jamaica where she was assaulted, raped and then sustained a gunshot wound to her face requiring complex jaw surgeries. In his opening statement, plaintiff’s attorney mentioned that his client is “on political asylum here from Jamaica.” The judge refused to allow any further mention of the asylum issue.

 

Anthony Bianco was born on December 31, 1999 at Winthrop University Hospital in Mineola. He was delivered by means of a vacuum extraction under the supervision of Steven Sherwin, M.D., an obstetrician-gynecologist.

Years later, Anthony’s mother, Mauro Bianco, commenced a medical malpractice lawsuit against her physician claiming that Dr. Sherwin improperly performed the vacuum extraction and that as a result Anthony sustained brain injuries which caused permanent neurocognitive deficits. A Nassau County jury agreed and awarded pain and suffering damages in the sum of $1,750,000 ($250,000 past – 15 years, $1,500,000 future – 60 years).

In Bianco v. Sherwin (2d Dept. 2018), both the liability and damages verdicts have been upheld.

Here are the injury details:

  • upon delivery, Anthony was noted to have soft tissue swelling and blood under the skin of his skull, vacuum marks and lacerations on his head and a two inch by two inch large cephalohematoma on his head
  • a CT scan revealed a subdural hematoma
  • at the age of three years, Anthony had difficulties understanding his speech, displayed language problems and underwent a procedure to improve tongue mobility and improve his speech
  • at the age of seven years, Anthony was diagnosed with an unspecified brain dysfunction because he was not developing normal speech and language skills
  • in second grade, Anthony was in a special education class, struggling and receiving special assistance to try to keep up in school
  • permanent absence of higher level of thinking, according to plaintiff’s expert neuropsychologist, with low average intelligence and mildly impaired memory

Plaintiff’s expert testified that Anthony will never be capable of holding other than an entry-level job; however, the jury declined to award any damages for impairment of earning capacity.

Defendants’ medical experts contended that there was no malpractice, the delivery was properly performed and that it was not possible to have brain damage that only manifested itself years later in learning deficits.

Inside Information:

  • Anthony did not testify or even appear in court; nor was his deposition testimony read to the jury.
  • Plaintiff’s expert conceded that the injury in this case is “microscopic” and there was no blood in the brain itself.
  • Mrs. Bianco continued to treat with Dr. Sherwin and he delivered her daughter in 2002.

 

On April 20, 2011, Thomas Tornatore, then 51 years old, was wrestling with his nephew when he sustained an injury to the base of his neck. Five days later, Mr. Tornatore sought treatment from a chiropractor. After his fourth and final treatment, which included chiropractic manipulations, he had severe pain in his neck that radiated down his arm. Within a week, he was diagnosed by an orthopedic surgeon and told he had a herniated disc and needed spinal surgery.

In his ensuing medical malpractice lawsuit against the chiropractor, Mr. Tornatore claimed that the manipulations were inappropriate because plaintiff suffered from pre-existing conditions, including a degenerative cervical spine with spinal stenosis. The defense argued that (a) plaintiff was properly treated and (b) the treatment did not injure plaintiff or worsen his pre-existing condition in view of the testimony of the defendant’s medical expert contending that spinal MRI scans from before and after the treatment did not show any significant change.

The Onondoga County jury agreed with plaintiff finding the defendant negligent and awarding pain and suffering damages in the sum of $500,000 ($200,000 past – four and a half years, $300,000 future – 20 years) and future medical and life care expenses in the sum of $903,407 (20 years).

Defendant appealed, arguing mainly that the future medical and life care expenses award was excessive and, in any event, it should be vacated because the testimony of plaintiff’s life care expert was wrongfully admitted.

In Tornatore v. Cohen (4th Dept. 2018), defendant’s arguments were rejected and the judgment was affirmed in all respects.

The appellate court’s opinion does not discuss plaintiff’s injuries. Here are the injury details:

  • herniated disc at C5-6 with large sequestered fragment compressing nerve, caused by defendant’s aggravation of plaintiff’s pre-existing degenerative cervical spine

  • decompressive surgery with fusion of cervical spine at C4-5, C5-6 and C6-7
  • surgical revision of hypertonic scars from first surgery
  • permanent residual neck pain and stiffness with limitation of range of motion
  • difficulty sleeping and driving, unable to lift grandchildren

The award for future medical and life care expenses was based upon the testimony of plaintiff’s vocational rehabilitation specialist and life care planner. It included $474,000 for 20 years of medications (including Gabapentin, Tramadol and Hydrocodone) and $268,000 for pain management (including epidural injections 3-4 times a year at a cost of more than $3,000 each). The jury rejected parts of plaintiff’s claims for future expenses and awarded nothing at all for a spinal cord stimulator and surgery to implant it.

Inside Information:

  • Plaintiff’s witnesses included her orthopedic surgeon and internists in addition to her expert chiropractor and life care planner. The defense called only an expert neuroradiologist.
  • Plaintiff’s criminal history that defendant was precluded from using related to two matters. One was a 1979 youthful offender adjudication on sodomy charges following a consensual relationship with another then under-18 year old boy. The other was a 1997 charge of soliciting a minor for sex in which plaintiff was found guilty by a jury but adjudication of guilt was withheld by the judge and he was given probation.
  • The prior MRI scan reviewed by the defendant’s medical expert was from 2002 after plaintiff sustained a work-related injury. He was asymptomatic and did not undergo any treatment between 2002 and the current incident.

Thomas McGlynn worked as a shipfitter and laborer in shipyards and aboard ships in New York and New Jersey from 1976 until the late 1980’s. During that time, he was exposed to asbestos-containing products including valves manufactured by Jenkins Bros.

In April 2015, Mr. McGlynn, then 74 years old, began suffering from what was later (in May 2016) diagnosed as pleural mesothelioma.

He commenced a lawsuit against Jenkins and others in August 2016 and one year later, a Manhattan jury (a) determined that Jenkins failed to provide adequate warnings about the hazards of asbestos exposure in its products and (b) awarded pain and suffering damages in the sum of $3,300,000 ($1,800,000 past – 28 months, $1,500,000 future – six months to one year).

Plaintiff successfully argued in a post-trial motion that the pain and suffering award was unreasonably low. The trial judge ordered an increase in pain and suffering damages to $6,500,000 ($4,000,000 past, $2,500,000 future).

In Idell v. Aerco International, Inc. (1st Dept. 2018), the appellate court affirmed the increase in past pain and suffering damages to $4,000,000 but reinstated the jury’s $1,500,000 award for future pain and suffering. Thus, the total pain and suffering award stands at $5,500,000 ($4,000,000 past, $1,500,000 future).

The evidence of plaintiff’s pain and suffering was supported by the testimony of a physician and two of plaintiff’s close friends and  included the following facts:

  • three major surgeries (including a pleurectomy/decortication, a two part procedure involving opening the chest cavity and removing the pleural lining around the lungs and then removing any visible tumor masses)

  • eight weeks in hospital for surgeries
  • multiple drainings of liters of pleural fluid
  • six rounds of chemotherapy and radiation with severe side effects (especially, gastrointestinal)
  • inability to hold food or liquids down, or breathe without forced oxygen
  • breakthrough pain, despite pain medications, with resulting inability to sleep
  • difficulty breathing, including “air hunger”, causing frequent struggles to catch breath
  • hospice admission after attending trial only for opening statement
  • death 8/31/17 (13 days after jury verdict)

Inside Information:

  • After Mr. McGlynn’s death, his close family friend and caregiver Anna Idell, was named executrix of his estate.
  • Jenkins was found to have acted recklessly because for decades it had personal knowledge of the hazards of asbestos and failed to place any warnings on its asbestos containing valves. That finding made Jenkins liable for the full amount of the verdict despite the fact that it was apportioned only 15% of the liability (with five other defendants accounting for the other 85%).
  • In their summations, plaintiff’s counsel suggested that the jury award $28,000,000 whereas defense counsel suggested $750,000.

On May 26, 2010, Anthony Rivera was driving his car on Long Ridge Road in Pound Ridge when another car made a left turn and crashed into him. Mr. Rivera, then 30 years old,  sustained significant hip and knee injuries.

Mr. Rivera sued the driver and owner of the other vehicle and was awarded summary judgment of liability. The case then proceeded to a trial to determine the amount of damages.

The Westchester jury awarded plaintiff pain and suffering damages in the sum of $1,300,000 ($300,000 past – five years, $1,000,000 future – 40 years). He was also awarded damages for medical expenses ($170,000 past, $240,000 future) and loss of earnings ($75,000 – past). The awards have been affirmed in Rivera v. Kolsky (2d Dept. 2018).

Here are the injury details:

  • Intra-articular comminuted fracture dislocation of left hip (posterior wall acetabular fracture plus osteochondral femoral fracture) requiring two days of skeletal traction with the insertion of a distal femoral traction pin and then removal of the pin, open reduction internal fixation of the acetabular fracture with a bone graft harvest, screws and a nine-hole plate and open treatment of the femoral fracture
  • Three week emergent hospital admission followed by five week admission to nursing home for rehabilitation
  • Continuing pain and limited range of motion in hip and post-traumatic arthritis requiring hip replacement surgery within four years
  • Left knee torn meniscus requiring total knee replacement surgery within three to five years

 

A Post-Op X-Ray Similar to Plaintiff’s

Before the accident, plaintiff had been working at Home Depot earning about $25,000 a year. He was out of work for three years after the accident when he returned to Home Depot in the kitchen design department. There was no claim for future loss of earnings.

The defendants’ theme at trial was that plaintiff exaggerated his injuries. They conceded he sustained a significant hip injury with residuals but argued that “he’s driving, he’s going to work, he’s not using a cane … he does everything everybody else does” and he deserves no compensation for his alleged knee and pre-existing back injuries. The verdict sheet contained a specific question as to  whether the accident was a substantial factor in bringing about the injury to plaintiff’s back and they answered “no.” As to the knee, an MRI shortly after the accident disclosed a torn meniscus but two years later, another MRI was taken and plaintiff’s treating doctor then opined there was no meniscal tear and he elected not to perform an arthroscopy. Plaintiff’s medical expert at trial disagreed. The defense position was that there was no tear and any knee pain plaintiff was experiencing was due to his morbid obesity.

Inside Information:

  • Defendants opposed plaintiff’s pre-trial motion for summary judgment as to liability claiming that (a) winding, blind curves at the accident location caused the defendant driver to be unable to see the plaintiff’s vehicle and (b) plaintiff may have been speeding. These arguments were rejected and plaintiff’s motion was granted.
  • After plaintiff and his medical expert testified, the defendants rested without calling any witnesses.
  • In his summation, plaintiff’s attorney suggested $6,000,000 for pain and suffering damages; defense counsel simply stated that the jury should award what is reasonable or adequate (for the hip only), adding “He’ll probably blow it on something anyway, but at least give him what he’s entitled to for the hip.”
  • Plaintiff’s pre-trial settlement demand was $1,000,000 against an offer of $350,000.
  • This case was hard fought by one of New York’s most highly regarded plaintiff personal injury lawyers, Michael Ronemus and a worthy counterpart from the defense side, Robert Ondrovic.