On January 23, 2009 Elgin McEachin was driving his 2003 Chevy Trailblazer southbound on Saratoga Avenue through its intersection with Park Place in Brooklyn. At the same time, a New York City Police Department lieutenant was on the job driving his unmarked 2005 Ford Escape SUV eastbound on Park Place intending to make a right turn and head southbound on Saratoga Avenue. The two cars collided violently in the intersection and the then 49 year old McEachin was injured.
In the ensuing lawsuit, a Kings County jury determined that the crash was 85% the fault of the police officer (with 15% of the blame assigned to Mr. McEachin).
The jury then awarded plaintiff pain and suffering damages in the sum of $1,100,000 ($600,000 past – 4 1/2 years, $500,000 future – 20 years).
In McEachin v. City of New York (2d Dept. 2016), the pain and suffering awards were reduced to $750,000 ($400,000 past, $350,000 future).
As set forth in the court’s decision, plaintiff sustained injuries to his lumbar spine and his left knee. Here are the injury details:
- Tri-compartment degenerative arthritis with grade four chondromalacia (extensive cartilage damage) requiring arthroscopic surgery on 3/20/09 to remove torn meniscal fragments
- Physical therapy for six months after surgery
- Constant and chronic pain leaving plaintiff unable to walk for long periods, bend down or stand up without pain, play basketball or lift weights, or pick up his seven year old daughter
- Needs total knee replacement surgery in the future
- Lumbar disc fissures causing low back pain with radiculopathy
- Three sessions of very painful epidural steroid injections
- Experimental spinal cord implant procedure (to block the transmission of pain) in October 2009 leaving plaintiff with wires extruding from his back and a remote control device to control electric impulses
- Permanent implantation of spinal cord stimulator device in December 2009 leaving plaintiff with three 28 inch long wires and a battery pack all inside his body (the battery pack implanted into one of the buttocks must be replaced every 5-7 years)
- Plaintiff had been in prior motor vehicle accidents including one in 2003 in which he injured his lower back. He testified, though, that the 2003 injury resulted in minor treatment and he fully healed quickly.
- Plaintiff injured his left knee in 1993 while playing football following which he underwent surgery for a torn anterior cruciate ligament; however, he fully recovered from that injury as evidenced, for example, by the fact that for many years thereafter until before the 2009 accident he played in a basketball league without pain or disability.
- The defense did not call any medical experts of its own to testify as to plaintiff’s injuries and/or their causation; plaintiff called both his knee surgeon and his back pain management physician.
- The jury deliberated over a three day period at one point finding that the police officer was negligent but had not proximately caused plaintiff’s injuries (a finding they reversed after additional deliberations).
- At the close of the case, one of the jurors commented on the record that “[a]s much as we disagreed on things, I think every single person, juror, wanted to do the right thing. I think the moral responsibility of this jury is something I am really proud of about this country.”