On May 26, 2010, Anthony Rivera was driving his car on Long Ridge Road in Pound Ridge when another car made a left turn and crashed into him. Mr. Rivera, then 30 years old, sustained significant hip and knee injuries.
Mr. Rivera sued the driver and owner of the other vehicle and was awarded summary judgment of liability. The case then proceeded to a trial to determine the amount of damages.
The Westchester jury awarded plaintiff pain and suffering damages in the sum of $1,300,000 ($300,000 past – five years, $1,000,000 future – 40 years). He was also awarded damages for medical expenses ($170,000 past, $240,000 future) and loss of earnings ($75,000 – past). The awards have been affirmed in Rivera v. Kolsky (2d Dept. 2018).
Here are the injury details:
- Intra-articular comminuted fracture dislocation of left hip (posterior wall acetabular fracture plus osteochondral femoral fracture) requiring two days of skeletal traction with the insertion of a distal femoral traction pin and then removal of the pin, open reduction internal fixation of the acetabular fracture with a bone graft harvest, screws and a nine-hole plate and open treatment of the femoral fracture
- Three week emergent hospital admission followed by five week admission to nursing home for rehabilitation
- Continuing pain and limited range of motion in hip and post-traumatic arthritis requiring hip replacement surgery within four years
- Left knee torn meniscus requiring total knee replacement surgery within three to five years
Before the accident, plaintiff had been working at Home Depot earning about $25,000 a year. He was out of work for three years after the accident when he returned to Home Depot in the kitchen design department. There was no claim for future loss of earnings.
The defendants’ theme at trial was that plaintiff exaggerated his injuries. They conceded he sustained a significant hip injury with residuals but argued that “he’s driving, he’s going to work, he’s not using a cane … he does everything everybody else does” and he deserves no compensation for his alleged knee and pre-existing back injuries. The verdict sheet contained a specific question as to whether the accident was a substantial factor in bringing about the injury to plaintiff’s back and they answered “no.” As to the knee, an MRI shortly after the accident disclosed a torn meniscus but two years later, another MRI was taken and plaintiff’s treating doctor then opined there was no meniscal tear and he elected not to perform an arthroscopy. Plaintiff’s medical expert at trial disagreed. The defense position was that there was no tear and any knee pain plaintiff was experiencing was due to his morbid obesity.
- Defendants opposed plaintiff’s pre-trial motion for summary judgment as to liability claiming that (a) winding, blind curves at the accident location caused the defendant driver to be unable to see the plaintiff’s vehicle and (b) plaintiff may have been speeding. These arguments were rejected and plaintiff’s motion was granted.
- After plaintiff and his medical expert testified, the defendants rested without calling any witnesses.
- In his summation, plaintiff’s attorney suggested $6,000,000 for pain and suffering damages; defense counsel simply stated that the jury should award what is reasonable or adequate (for the hip only), adding “He’ll probably blow it on something anyway, but at least give him what he’s entitled to for the hip.”
- Plaintiff’s pre-trial settlement demand was $1,000,000 against an offer of $350,000.
- This case was hard fought by one of New York’s most highly regarded plaintiff personal injury lawyers, Michael Ronemus and a worthy counterpart from the defense side, Robert Ondrovic.