On November 11, 2007, Bouaza Kouho, a security guard, responded to a building fire and ran to put it out when he tripped and fell due to a hole created by a faulty sprinkler system in a grassy field on the property.

Here is part of the apartment complex where the accident took place:

Mr. Kouho sustained a ruptured Achilles tendon, a very painful injury that often requires surgery in which the two torn ends are sewn together.

Kouho successfully sued the property owner claiming that the hole in the ground constituted a known dangerous condition.

The jury then awarded plaintiff pain and suffering damages in the sum of $510,125 ($450,000 past – 2 1/2 years, $60,125 future – 3 years).

In Kouho v. Trump Village Section 4, Inc. (2d Dept. 2012), the appellate court has now held that $450,000 for past pain and suffering is not excessive as the amount did not deviate materially from what would be reasonable compensation.

The future pain and suffering award ($60,125 for 3 years) was not challenged.

Here are the injury details:

  • Emergency room casting on the date of the accident
  • Surgery to repair the ruptured tendon four days later
  • 6 weeks immobilization in long leg cast
  • 12 months of physical therapy
  • Continued pain and restricted range of motion due to scars and adhesion of the tendon to the overlying skin
  • Need for future surgery to reduce the adhesions
  • Inability to work as security guard, play soccer or run

Inside Information:

  • The property owner claimed that its sprinkler contractor (who had installed and maintained the sprinkler system on the lawn) should be held responsible for any defect. The appellate court agreed with the result that the sprinkler contractor is also liable for all of plaintiff’s damages.
  • In addition to pain and suffering damages, plaintiff was awarded $32,000 for past loss of earnings and about $33,000 for past and future medical expenses.
  • Trump Village was built in the 1960’s by Fred C. Trump. The builder’s son, Donald J. Trump, is reported to have learned about contractors and negotiations there and remains "very proud of the project" which did a lot for middle and low income families.
  • The Achilles tendon is named after an ancient Greek hero who was invulnerable except for one spot and he was finally killed by an arrow shot into his heel. The expression Achilles heel came to mean a fatal vulnerability and the tendon connecting the heel came to be known as the Achilles tendon.