On August 22, 1998 Enrique Isaac was driving on Linden Boulevard near its intersection at Ashford Street in Brooklyn. He collided with a left turning city bus and ended up with several substantial orthopedic injuries.

At trial, the then 53 year old plaintiff was awarded pain and suffering damages in the sum of $2,250,000 ($1,500,000 past – 9 years, $750,000 future – 20 years).

The defense claimed that the award was excessive and the appellate court has agreed.

In Isaac v. New York City Transit Authority (2d Dept. 2011), the award was reduced by $450,000  as follows:

  • past pain and suffering reduced from $1,500,000 to $1,200,000
  • future pain and suffering reduced from $750,000 to $600,000

The court’s decision omits any reference at all to the nature of plaintiff’s injuries. We have uncovered the facts.

From the scene of the accident, plaintiff was taken by ambulance to a local hospital where he was admitted for five days and then transferred to another hospital where he was admitted for an additional two weeks. Plaintiff underwent three open reduction internal fixation (ORIF) surgeries in which metal plates and screws were inserted:

  1. Hip: acetabular hip socket fractures  (wire, plates and screws to fix)                                                
  2. Shoulder: proximal humerus fracture reduced by the use of wires and screws                           
  3. Hand: fractures of the base of the 2nd, 3rd and 4th metacarpals (plate and screws to fix)

Plaintiff argued on appeal that the jury’s award was reasonable and not at all excessive, in view of the foregoing as well as the facts that he:

  • was confined to a wheelchair for three months and to his home for eight months
  • had continuing pain in his legs with cramps awakening him 2-3 nights a week
  • could no longer enjoy softball, soccer and basketball

The defense countered arguing that Mr. Isaac made a good recovery, was left with only a moderate disability of his hip and that he:

  • stopped taking pain medication six months after the accident
  • returned to work (as a hospital housekeeper) 11 months after the accident
  • stopped all medical treatment for his injuries six months after the accident

The appellate court decision approvingly cites five prior cases:

  1. Conley v. City of New York (2d Dept. 2007) – $200,000 (increased from $14,000) for a 74 year old woman with an intra-articular wrist fracture requiring surgery
  2. Biejanov v. Guttman (2d Dept. 2006) –  $600,000 (reduced from $1,050,000) for a four year old boy with fractures of his thumb and index fingers requiring surgery, leaving him with ulnar nerve damage
  3. Muff v. Lallave Transp. (3d Dept. 2004) –  $800,000 for a 36 year old man with bilateral wrist fractures, crushed pinky finger and fractured shoulder, requiring six surgeries (including a wrist fusion)
  4. Jansen v. Raimondo & Son Constr. Corp. (2d Dept. 2002) – $750,000 (reduced from $1,030,000) for a 36 year old man with severe bilateral shoulder injuries (subluxation and dislocation) requiring two surgeries, fractures of his humerus and clavicle and bilateral carpal tunnel syndrome
  5. Dooknah v. Thompson (2d Dept. 2000) – $200,000 (increased from $50,000) for a 61 year old man with nondisplaced fractures of his acetabulum and pubic ramus (might need hip replacement surgery in the future)

The court did not address a case that plaintiff cited that appears to be relevant – Lukas v. Trump (2d Dept. 2001). Mr. Lukas had been afflicted with polio since the age of 17 and could walk only with the assistance of crutches and braces. At the age of 60, he fell due to defendant’s negligence and sustained a fractured hip that required surgery to insert screws and a metal plate into that portion of his femur that met his pelvic bone. As a result, he was confined to a wheelchair and could no longer walk the way he used to (with crutches and braces). The jury’s pain and suffering award of $1,300,000 was affirmed on appeal.

Inside Information:

  • Plaintiff had consumed a cup of Jamaican rum a half hour before the accident. While his attorney successfully argued that the hospital blood alcohol results should not be admitted in evidence, the defense was able to argue that it was obvious Mr. Isaac had been drinking alcohol.
  • Fault for the crash was apportioned equally with the result being that plaintiff collects one-half of the damages assessed.