On November 20, 1997, John Konvalin was a passenger on a Queens-bound subway train that collided into a train in front of it. The crash caused him to be thrown to the floor and fellow passengers to fall on top of him. Mr. Konvalin and the others were evacuated through the tunnel.
The New York Times reported that 87 people were injured, among them Mr. Konvalin who, in pain, limped through the tunnel and was taken to the hospital where he was treated for a bruised left knee.
In his ensuing lawsuit against the transit authority, liability was conceded but plaintiff, a 58 year old salesman, ended up with serious hip and knee injuries and underwent extensive treatment that, in part, delayed the trial until 2012. The jury awarded pain and suffering damages in the sum of $450,000 (all for the 12 year period from the date of the accident to the date of the verdict, nothing for future damages).
In Konvalin v. New York City Transit Authority (Appellate Term, 2nd Department 2015), the award has been affirmed.
The court’s decision gives no information as to the injuries except to state that plaintiff underwent “several surgeries.” Here, then, are the injury details:
- Left hip pain caused by repetitive stress from a gait that was altered because of knee pain resulting in joint deterioration and arthritic pain requiring total hip replacement surgery in January 2005
- Left knee patella contusion resulting in chondromalacia, complex tears of the lateral meniscus and post-traumatic arthritis requiring two surgeries (arthroscopic meniscal repair in August 2005 and total knee replacement in 2009)
- Extensive physical therapy regimens before and after all surgeries
Plaintiff conceded that he made an excellent recovery from his injuries and did not challenge the jury’s failure to award any damages for future pain and suffering.
The defendant argued that the pain and suffering award was excessive based upon the facts that plaintiff had pre-existing arthritis in his hip, there was no record of any complaint about hip pain for at least two years after the accident and that the subway crash merely sped up by no more than four years his need for the surgery he underwent in 2005.
As to the knee, the defense argued that a 1998 MRI did not show a meniscal tear and a patella contusion would not “spread” arthritic changes to the remainder of the knee joint and that therefore both knee surgeries were unrelated to the accident.
- Plaintiff also had pre-existing arthritis in his right hip, unrelated to the accident, that required total hip replacement surgery in 2008.
- Plaintiff’s treating surgeons did not testify at trial; instead, he produced an expert who first examined plaintiff in 2009 (more than 10 years after the accident).