On September 7, 2005, Courtney Graves was on the Franklin Avenue shuttle train heading to orientation before the start of her sophomore year at Sheepshead Bay High School in Brooklyn. She never made it; instead ending up at the hospital after the train derailed and she was slammed against he window sustaining injuries to her back and shoulder.

Here’s where Courtney was headed:

The train operator admitted liability for the accident but the amount of damages could not be agreed upon so a trial was held in 2009 in Graves v. New York City Transit Authority (Supreme Court, Kings County; Index # 11185/06).

After hearing testimony from orthopedic surgeons for both sides, as well as from Courtney and her mother,  the jury awarded pain and suffering damages in the sum of $350,000 ($200,000 past – 4 years, $100,000 future – 5 years).

Plaintiff’s pain and suffering award has now been affirmed in Graves v. New York City Tr. Auth. (2d Dept. 2011), a decision that failed to reveal any of the injuries.

Here are the details of the injuries Courtney sustained:

  • herniated disc at L5-S1 with radicular symptoms of nerve injuries
  • glenoid labrum tear in right shoulder
  • trigger point injections
  • hydrodiscectomy surgery

Hydrodiscectomy is a minimally invasive, same-day procedure that uses a high-speed water stream to remove herniated discs. Using a fluoroscope to project live x-ray pictures onto a monitor, the surgeon places a high velocity fluidjet instrument within the spinal disc without using a large incision (and usually under local anesthesia).

Previously very fit and a member of her school’s basketball and track teams, Courtney was unable at all to resume any sporting activities.

Courtney missed school for a few days just after the accident and almost two months in March and April 2007 at the time of her surgery. Unfortunately, her back and shoulder pain remained. While Courtney graduated high school on time in June 2008, she was unable to continue her nursing school education (she was unable to sit for long periods) and took a leave of absence in June 2009.

Courtney’s doctor testified that her injuries are permanent and may require two surgeries:

  1. a lumbar discectomy and
  2. surgery to repair the labral tear.

The labrum is a soft ring of cartilage surrounding the shoulder socket (the glenoid) and it acts as an anchor to hold the bones together in the joint.

Inside Information:

  • The defense doctor stated that plaintiff had undergone an ill-advised overly conservative course of physical therapy that thwarted her recovery. He also was of the opinion that Courtney won’t need any more surgery.
  • In closing, defense counsel acknowledged the defendant’s responsibility for the accident but stated that "the results were not entirely significant" and asked the jury for a total pain and suffering award of $50,000.