On November 19, 2009, Calvin Tarpley was driving his car and was pulled over to the curb by a police officer on 188th Street near Hillside Avenue in Queens. After he was given a traffic ticket, his stationary vehicle was struck at the front driver’s side by a city bus. Mr. Tarpley, a 43 year old security guard, sustained neck and back injuries and sued the city.

After determining that the the bus driver was 100% at fault for the collision, the Queens County jury awarded pain and suffering damages in the sum of $10,000,000 ($3,000,000 past – five and a half years, $7,000,000 future – 28 years).

In Tarpley v. New York City Transit Authority (2d Dept. 2019), the defense successfully argued on appeal that the award was excessive and the court ordered a reduction of the pain and suffering award to $3,000,000 ($1,000,000 past, $2,000,000 future).

Here are the injury details:

  • herniated disc at C5-6 with radiculopathy and myelopathy, requiring anterior cervical discectomy and fusion surgery with the insertion of a titanium plate and four screws
  • failed back syndrome, requiring a laminectomy at T9-10 and the permanent placement of a spinal cord stimulation device

  • approximately 50% permanently restricted range of motion in neck and back
  • daily, constant and permanent neck and back pain which plaintiff’s treating surgeon testified require medications that induce drowsiness and leave plaintiff unable to work
  • bulbous keloid scar at the front of plaintiff’s neck
  • future lumbar fusion surgery likely

Inside Information:

  • There was no expert medical testimony adduced by the defense.
  • Eight years before this accident, Mr. Tarpley had sustained a back injury in a car accident that required a laminectomy at L5-S1. He claimed he’d largely recovered and had minimal if any back pain before this accident.
  • Plaintiff’s pre-trial settlement demand was $2,500,000 against an offer of $250,000.
  • The plaintiff did not seek medical attention at the scene and the defense argued that the crash was relatively minor.