On June 8, 2008 Michelle Trezza, then a 25 year old office manager, was a rear seat passenger in a car that was struck by a city bus on Baychester Avenue in the Bronx. She claimed significant right shoulder injuries as a result of the impact and sued both drivers.
Since it was undisputed that the bus veered out of its lane and sideswiped the car, a judicial determination was made that the bus driver was 100% at fault and the matter proceeded to a trial on damages only.
On November 22, 2011, Ms. Trezza was awarded damages in the sum of $2,500,000 as follows:
- pain and suffering in the sum of $2,000,000 ($500,000 past – 3.5 years, $1,500,000 future – 51 years)
- future medical expenses in the sum of $500,000
In Trezza v. Metropolitan Transit Authority (1st Dept. 2014), the appellate court reduced the $2,500,000 award to $300,000, holding that:
- the $500,000 past pain and suffering award was excessive and should be reduced to $300,000 and
- there was no basis at all for any future damages and, accordingly, the $1,500,000 future pain and suffering award – as well as the $500,000 future medical expenses award – should be vacated entirely because there was not enough evidence to prove that plaintiff would endure pain and suffering in the future and her claim for future medical expenses was too speculative
Plaintiff’s main injury from the accident was a right shoulder impingement (when the acromion rubs against or impinges on the tendon and the bursa, causing irritation and pain).
Here are other injury details:
- extensive physical therapy and treatment with orthopedic surgeons, beginning the day after the accident
- arthroscopic surgery on 11/7/09 including a bursectomy, resection of the coracoacromial ligament and an anterior acromioplasty
- development of arthritic “bony spicule” formation
- five sets of trigger point injections
- residual shoulder pain and restricted range of motion leaving plaintiff unable to pick up her toddler daughter, ride a bicycle, play with her children or scrub the floor
- disc herniation at C4-5 (minor treatment, apparently not significant to jury)
- Ms. Trezza developed carpal tunnel syndrome in both hands subsequent to the car accident but unrelated to it and underwent carpal tunnel release surgeries in early 2011. The defense argued that much of plaintiff’s ongoing painful disability was related to her carpal tunnel injuries.
- In closing arguments, plaintiff’s attorney asked the jury to award past pain and suffering damages between $200,000 and $300,000 and he suggested that a fair amount for future pain and suffering would be between $300,000 and $500,000.
- Plaintiff’s pre-trial settlement demand was $375,000 against which the defense had offered $115,000.
- There was no loss of earnings claim.