The saga began more than 11 years ago one evening in April 1999. Pedro Acosta, then 28 years old, was awakened by a telephone call from a man claiming to be his probation officer. Then there were knocks on apartment his door and loud voices. Although on probation and wearing an ankle monitoring device, Pedro didn’t believe the men were officers and he ran away through his second floor window.
Already on probation, Acosta was wearing an ankle monitoring device, like this:
After a chase, Pedro ended up on the sidewalk below – he says from being pushed off the roof by the men (police officers), they say because he fell. He had substantial knee injuries from the fall – torn ligaments and meniscus requiring three surgeries – and in his ensuing lawsuit the jurors believed his version of the chase incident (even though by then he was in jail, having been convicted of unrelated manslaughter in 2003) and awarded pain and suffering damages in the sum of $1,050,000 (later ruled excessive and reduced by the trial judge to $475,000).
On appeal earlier this year in Acosta v. City of New York (2nd Dept. 2010), the case was tossed out because the judges of the Appellate Division, Second Department ruled that plaintiff’s version of the events was manifestly untrue.
At that time, we discussed this case, here.
This is what a typical ACL (anterior cruciate ligament) reconstruction surgery with tendon graft looks like:
This week, New York’s highest court, the Court of Appeals, weighed in and reinstated the case ruling that there was a valid line of reasoning to support the jury verdict finding defendants liable. Essentially, the high court judges stated that the intermediate appellate court judges overstepped their authority in this case and improperly evaluated testimony. It was simply beyond their authority to disbelieve the plaintiff as a matter of law.
The case now returns to the intermediate appellate court for a determination of whether the jury’s verdict is in accord with the weight of the evidence and, if so, whether the amount of damages awarded by the jury was excessive.
- Although that it’s now been established that the jury was entitled to believe plaintiff’s testimony as to the incident (and clearly they did believe him), it is unlikely that the Appellate Division judges will sustain the liability finding. They will probably rule that the finding was against the weight of the evidence and order a new trial.
- If there is to be a new trial on liability, there remains the issue of whether the new jury will be directed to determine damages anew or whether the Appellate Division will sustain the reduced pain and suffering award of $475,000, reinstate the jury’s award of $1,050,000 or make some other in between ruling.
UPDATE: On May 3, 2011, the Appellate Division addressed this case again. This time, the court addressed the trial judge’s reduction of the pain and suffering verdict from $1,050,000 to $475,000 and held that the reduction was not enough. In Acosta v. City of New York (2d Dept. 2011), the court ordered a further reduction, this time to $430,000, while also directing that a new trial on liability be held.