On July 3, 2013, Xiaoen Xie, a welder working at a construction site in Queens, was injured when he fell from the ground floor to the basement 10 feet below.

Mr. Xie, then 47 years old, was rushed to the hospital where he was treated for spinal injuries.

In his ensuing lawsuit against the owner of the site, Mr. Xie was granted summary judgment as to liability on his Labor Law Section 240(1) claim. The matter then proceeded to a trial on damages only.

In the bench trial on damages, the judge awarded pain and suffering damages in the sum of $325,000 ($75,000 past – four years, $250,000 future – 29 years). Plaintiff appealed arguing that the damages award was inadequate.

In Xie v. Park Place Estate, LLC (2d Dept. 2020), the pain and suffering damages award was increased to $650,000 ($400,000 past, $250,000 future).

Here are the injury details:

  • burst fracture at T-10 with instability and compression deformity at T-12
  • thoracic spine interbody fusion surgery with allograft, seven titanium pedicle screws, two 10 cm rods and bone cage

  • one week hospital admission
  • 50% loss of forward flexion
  • pain when sitting or standing for more than 20 minutes, likely permanent
  • intracranial hemorrhage with double vision and headaches that resolved within 18 months post-accident

In addition to pain and suffering damages, plaintiff was awarded $46,000 for past loss of earnings based upon his $1,000 per month income loss to the date of trial. At the trial, plaintiff testified that he had previously intended to work until he was 67 years old and claimed he should be awarded damages for future loss of earnings because his injuries prevent him from working in any field. The judge rejected this claim because his expert orthopedic surgeon testified merely that plaintiff wold be unable to work as a construction worker, not that he could not work in any field. Furthermore, plaintiff did not meet his burden to show that he attempted to mitigate his damages by seeking alternative employment.