On April 2, 2012, at about 5 p.m., Apolonia Castillo boarded a city bus on 57th Avenue between 97th Place and 98th Street in Queens. After paying her fare, she fell and sustained injuries to her left knee and spine.
Ms. Castillo, then 72 years old, sued the bus company claiming that the driver caused her to fall when he pulled away from the bus stop while she was still standing at the fare box in the front of the bus, not allowing her to safely move to a seat before the accident.
Before trial, defendant moved for summary judgment claiming that (a) plaintiff was already seated when the driver accelerated away from the bus stop and (b) plaintiff’s injuries failed to meet the statutory threshold under Insurance Law Section 5102. The motion was denied in its entirety.
The Queens County jury agreed that the driver was fully at fault. In the immediately ensuing second phase of the trial, the jury found that plaintiff sustained both a significant limitation of use of a body function or system and a permanent consequential limitation of use of a body organ or member and they awarded plaintiff pain and suffering damages in the sum of $1,500,000 ($500,000 past – three years, $1,000,000 future – 10 years). Both the liability and damages verdicts have been affirmed on appeal in Castillo v. MTA Bus Co. (2d Dept. 2018).
Here are the injury details:
- Left Knee – torn lateral and medial menisci requiring arthroscopic surgery (menisectomies, chondroplasty of the trochlear groove, lysis of adhesions and synovectomy) with continued difficulty walking (unable to tolerate more than one block due to pain)
- Cervical Spine – disc bulges at C2-3 through C7-T1 with diminished range of motion
- Lumbar Spine – disc bulges at L3-4 and L5-S1 with radiculopathy causing weakness and loss of sensation in left leg
- Post-Concussive Syndrome
Six months before the accident, plaintiff reported to her primary care physician that she had knee pain and she was referred for an orthopedic evaluation (which did not occur). There were no further complaints of knee pain in the records of subsequent pre-accident visits to her physician and plaintiff testified that before the accident she had only mild knee discomfort on an infrequent basis. Plaintiff’s orthopedic surgeon opined that (a) her mild symptoms prior to the accident were greatly and severely worsened due to and following the accident and (b) she is at great risk for progressive breakdown of her knee’s remaining articular cartilage and will ultimately require a total knee replacement.
- Prior to the accident, plaintiff had intermittent neck pain for many years due to a motor vehicle accident when she was 35 years old.
- Plaintiff’s pre-trial settlement demand was $750,000; there was no offer.