On April 3, 2007, Cleofoster Baptiste was working as a carpenter at a construction site at 1330 First Avenue in Manhattan when a plank of wood fell from the floor above and struck the back of his neck.

In his ensuing lawsuit against the site’s owner and general contractor, the jury (a) determined that the defendants caused the accident and were 100% liable for the injuries plaintiff sustained and (b) awarded pain and suffering damages in the sum of $1,400,000 ($550,000 past – 11 years, $850,000 future – 17 years).

In Baptiste v. RLP-East, LLC (1st Dept. 2020), the denial of defendants’ post-trial motion to set aside the verdict has been affirmed.

In addition to its pain and suffering damages award, the jury also awarded damages for (a) lost earnings in the sum of $1,124,000 and (b) medical expenses in the sum of $520,000. The appellate court reduced the medical expenses award by $54,261 because there was insufficient evidence to support the need for any future surgery.

Here are the injury details:

  • herniated discs at C3-4, C4-5 and C5-6 with radiculopathy requiring discectomies and three level fusion with plate and screws on 3/28/12
  • continuing neck pain and restricted ranges of motion preventing any return to work, walking fast, playing with grandchildren and doing household chores

Plaintiff, 52 years old on the date of this accident, continued to work on that day but went to the local hospital thereafter where he was given some pain medication and discharged in a few hours. He returned to work in pain the next day but was laid off two days later. He sought no further medical treatment until after a bus accident six months later.

Six months after his construction site accident, Mr. Baptiste was a passenger on a bus which swerved to avoid hitting another vehicle and came to a sudden stop. Baptiste came out of his seat and was then dropped back into it. He didn’t go to the hospital or seek any medical attention until two days later when he complained of neck, back and shoulder pain from the bus accident. Baptiste then began 19 months of treatment with a chiropractor (along with and followed by treatment with a neurologist and a pain management physician).

Defendants argued that the principal issue in this case was whether plaintiff’s injuries were causally related to the workplace accident or the bus accident. Their medical experts testified that there was no evidence that the work accident caused a neck injury or necessitated the cervical fusion surgery. Plaintiff’s medical experts testified that the workplace accident, not the bus accident, was the cause of his injuries and the need for cervical fusion surgery.

Inside Information:

  • Plaintiff’s lawsuit against the bus company was dismissed on procedural grounds (failure to timely commence the lawsuit).
  • The MRI’s revealing herniated discs in plaintiff’s cervical spine were conducted after his bus accident.