New York’s appellate courts issued decisions in 10 cases in 2011 that approved pain and suffering damages in the sum of $3,500,000 or more.
The largest was $12,000,000 for a 24 year old woman who was paralyzed when a weight-lifting machine fell on top of her.
The courts affirmed the jury verdict in five of the cases, ordered a conditional reduction in four others and in one case ordered an increase.
Here are summaries of each of the 10 cases.
Barnhard v. Cybex Intl., Inc. (4th Dept. 2011) – $12,000,000 (reduced from $21,000,000) for a 24 year old physical therapy assistant from Buffalo rendered a C-5 quadriplegic when a 600 pound leg extension weight-lifting machine tipped over and crushed her neck. We discussed this case in detail, here.
Aguilar v. New York City Transit Authority (1st Dept. 2011) – $10,000,000 (reduced from $16,000,000) for a 45 year old Manhattan woman who sustained an above the knee amputation of her leg after she was run over by a bus. We discussed this case in detail, here.
Oakes v. Patel (4th Dept. 2011) [discussed by us here for the first time] – $9,600,000 (affirmed) in a medical malpractice case for a 42 year old excavation contractor who sustained a debilitating stroke and was left permanently paralyzed after a brain aneurysm was not properly diagnosed or treated and thereupon ruptured in a massive bleed.
Mr. Oakes was left with catastrophic neurological injuries and permanently in need of around the clock care. He is wheelchair bound, incontinent, wholly dependent in all activities of daily living and has severe cognitive deficits including findings of dementia and mental retardation.
Oakes v. Patel first went to trial in 2008 and resulted in a $2,000,000 pain and suffering verdict that plaintiff challenged as inadequate. The trial judge agreed and issued a decision ordering a new trial on damages unless the defendants stipulated to a $10,000,000 pain and suffering award. They declined and a second trial was held resulting in the $9,600,000 pain and suffering verdict that the appellate court affirmed.
The appellate court split 3-2 and defendants have been granted leave to appeal to the state’s highest court – the Court of Appeals. As discussed by one of the dissenting judges, the defendants claim that the appellate court should have addressed the propriety of the trial judge’s five-fold increase in the pain and suffering damages award before addressing any issues raised regarding the second trial.
This is important because of the differences between ruling on excessiveness and inadequacy of damages. An appellate court ruling on excessiveness will reduce an award to the maximum figure it determines to be in the range of reasonableness. The same judges, on the same facts, might well arrive at a different figure when ruling on inadequacy because in that situation their job is to increase the award to the minimum figure they determine to be in the range of reasonableness.
Sanders v. New York City Transit Authority (2d Dept. 2011) – $8,550,000 (affirmed) for a 41 year old man from Brooklyn who sustained a below-the-knee amputation of one leg, lost much of the big toe on his other leg, was rendered blind in one eye, and sustained a severed ear, head injuries and facial fractures, all as a result of being run over by a subway train. Plaintiff was found to be 30% at fault and his award reduced accordingly. We discussed this case in detail, here.
Mohamed v. New York City Transit Authority (2d Dept. 2011) – $5,000,000 (reduced from $11,500,000) for an 18 year old college student in Brooklyn who sustained a massive degloving injury of her leg when she was struck by a bus while crossing the street. Plaintiff was found to be 20% at fault and her award was reduced accordingly. We discussed this case in detail, here.
Angamarca v. New York City Partnership Hous. Dev. Fund, Inc. (1st Dept. 2011)- $5,000,000 (increased from $1,100,000) for a 32 year old carpenter who fell from a roof in Brooklyn and sustained skull fractures, a traumatic brain injury and fractures of his spine, wrist and leg. We discussed this case in detail, here.
Belt v. Girgis (2d Dept. 2011) – $5,000,000 (reduced from $15,000,000) for a 22 year old college student in Queens who was on a sidewalk when she was struck by a drunk driver. She sustained traumatic brain injuries and fractures of her temporal bone, femur, pelvis, ankle and clavicle. We discussed this case in detail, here.
Stewart v. New York City Transit Authority (1st Dept. 2011) – $4,700,000 (affirmed) for a 47 year old man who slipped and fell walking down subway stairs. He sustained several spinal fractures and herniated discs requiring laminectomies and fusion surgery. We discussed this case in detail, here.
Rivera v. City of New York (2d Dept. 2011) – $3,500,000 (affirmed) for the estate of a 10 year old girl who died in a Brooklyn hospital as a result of malpractice 4 1/2 hours after presenting with a severe asthmatic episode. We discussed this case in detail, here.
Hammond v. Diaz (2d Dept. 2011) – $3,500,000 (reduced from $4,000,000) for a 42 year old pedestrian struck by a car while he was crossing the street in Queens. He sustained spinal cord contusions near C-4 that left him with permanent hemiplegia. We discussed this case in detail, here.
There are many important verdicts involving pain and suffering damages that are now being appealed and that will be ruled upon by the appellate courts in 2012. As and when each of those cases is decided, we will, as always, analyze them here.