Berthenia Singleton was 72 years old on November 4, 2003 when, as usual, at about 7:30 a.m., she escorted her eight year old granddaughter to the school bus stop outside their apartment building in Co-Op City at 2440 Hunter Avenue in the Bronx.
As they approached the bus, Ms. Singleton fell when her foot got caught in a defect in the courtyard sidewalk in front of the building. She fell to the ground, injuring her left knee.
In her ensuing lawsuit against the property manager, Ms. Singleton claimed that the sidewalk was a tripping hazard that should have been remedied before her accident.
The jury agreed and found the defendant fully at fault. Plaintiff was awarded $300,000 for pain and suffering damages ($150,000 past – 7 1/2 years, $150,000 future – 10 years).
In Togut v. Riverbay Corp. (1st Dept. 2014), the judgment has been affirmed.
Here are the injury details:
- Two days at home with swollen, tender and painful left knee
- First medical treatment two days after the accident – at local hospital where she was treated for knee pain and released with a brace and cane
- Referred by primary care doctor to orthopedic surgeon Sanjiv Bansal, M.D., who diagnosed her with a meniscal tear in her knee and patellofemoral chondromalacia
- Treatment with Dr. Bansal and physical therapy for eight months
- Surgery on 6/15/04: patellofemoral chondroplasty, partial medial meniscectomy and chondroplasty of the lateral femoral condyle and synovectomy
- Surgery on 11/15/05: left partial medial meniscectomy, chondroplasty of the patella, medial femoral condyle, and synovectomy and chondroplasty of the lateral femoral condyle
- Impaired activities: unable to walk long distances, needs assistance with grocery shopping and laundry, unable to get into car without having leg lifted, continuing pain and need for over the counter medication
- Need for future total knee replacement surgery
About 10 years earlier, Ms. Singleton injured her left knee in an accident and underwent meniscal repair surgery. The defense claimed that she failed to prove her injury was not from the prior accident. Plaintiff, however, argued that she had completely recovered from the 10 year old accident, had returned to work and had no problems with her left knee within the year leading up to this accident. Furthermore, Dr. Bansal testified that despite the prior surgery she had a substantial amount of her meniscus remaining. The defendant’s expert orthopedic surgeon, Maurice Carter, M.D., testified that plaintiff’s current accident did not result in a traumatic tear to her meniscus or chondromalacia and he opined that her condition was “clearly a degenerative tear, wear and tear.”
- In closing arguments, plaintiff’s counsel asked the jury to award pain and suffering damages in the sum of $750,000 whereas defense counsel argued plaintiff was not believable and was entitled to nothing at all.
- After a two and one-half week trial, the jury was sent out to deliberate at 4:30 p.m. and at 5:05 p.m. they advised the judge that they had reached a verdict. Defense counsel argued on appeal, unsuccessfully, that a new trial should have been ordered because the jury rushed to judgment.
- In 2005, Ms. Singleton filed a Chapter 7 Bankruptcy petition but failed to list her then pending personal injury lawsuit in the schedule of her assets. Therefore, her lawsuit was dismissed in 2007; however, the bankruptcy trustee, Albert Togut, thereafter commenced a new lawsuit and that’s the one that went to trial.