On April 16, 2013 Leroy Coleman and his wife Sharese Coleman were rear seat passengers in an Access-a-Ride livery vehicle that collided with another moving vehicle on the Nassau Expressway in Queens.

Both sustained knee injuries and sued the owners and drivers of the two vehicles. Summary judgment was granted to the plaintiffs and the matter proceeded to a damages only trial in Kings County (where plaintiffs resided).

On April 19, 2017 the jury returned a $30,000 verdict for each of the plaintiffs as follows (a) for Mr. Coleman, then 47 years old, all past – four years and (b) for Ms. Coleman, then 36 years old, $10,000 past – four years and $20,000 future – 40 years.  After the trial judge denied plaintiffs’ motion to increase the damages awards, the plaintiffs appealed.

In Coleman v. Karimov (2d Dept. 2019), the awards were increased as follows: (a) for Mr. Coleman, to $75,000 (all past) and (b) for Ms. Coleman, to $200,000 ($50,000 past, $150,000 future).

Here are the injury details as to Mr. Coleman:

  • out of work for six months immediately following the accident
  • torn meniscus in knee
  • arthroscopic surgery 8/3/16

The jury found that Mr. Coleman did not sustain a serious injury under either the permanent consequential limitation of use or the significance limitation of use categories under Insurance Law Section 5102 but that his injury did meet the threshold under the 90/180-day category. Therefore, the appellate court held that the jury acted reasonably in declining to award any future pain and suffering damages. The court did, though, increase the damages award for past pain and suffering.

Mr. Coleman testified at trial that he’d never before injured or had complaints or treatment with respect to his knee but on cross-examination he was confronted with his pre-trial deposition in which he admitted that he had complained about his knee to doctors at the hospital where he worked (for 30 years in waste management), received injections and was told to lose weight. The defense harped on these facts in summation and portrayed Mr. Coleman as a liar. Plaintiffs’ counsel attributed the testimony to his client’s nervousness and confusion on the stand.

Here are the injury details as to Ms. Coleman:

  • torn meniscus in knee, torn cartilage and broken off loose body
  • arthroscopic surgery 7/20/16

The jury found that Ms. Coleman sustained a serious injury under the permanent consequential limitation of use category, but the court held that her damages award was inadequate and increased it from $30,000 to $200,000.

No one reported the accident to the police on the day it occurred and no ambulance was summoned to the scene. Neither plaintiff sought medical treatment until the day after the accident and neither followed their surgeon’s advice to undergo physical therapy after their surgeries. Defense counsel argued in his summation that plaintiffs’ non-compliance contributed to if not resulted in any residual complaints they had as to their injuries (e.g., unable to bend knees, unable to sit for long periods and unable to kneel at church).

Inside Information:

  • Mr. Coleman weighed over 300 pounds (at five feet, eleven inches) and Ms. Coleman, at four feet eleven inches, weighted over 275 ponds, factors the defense argued contributed greatly to any claimed injuries.
  • The only witnesses at the trial were the plaintiffs and their treating orthopedic surgeon Dov Berkowitz, M.D..; there was no medical expert testimony for the defense.