On September 13, 2012, just before noon, Elaine Golimowski was walking across the street at an intersection in Cheektowaga when she was struck by a left turning unmarked town police vehicle. Ms. Golimowski, then 69 years old and retired, was propelled onto the car and then to the ground. She sustained several injuries and was transported by ambulance to the local hospital.
In her ensuing lawsuit, the Erie County jury apportioned liability 75% to the police officer and 25% to plaintiff and awarded pain and suffering damages (before apportionment) in the sum of $1,200,000 ($600,000 past – six years, $600,000 future – 10 years) and. Both the liability and damages determinations have been affirmed on appeal in Golimowski v. Town of Cheektowaga (4th Dept. 2020).
Here are the injury details:
- compressed tibial plateau and fibular head fractures requiring emergent open reduction internal fixation surgery with the insertion of a plate and screws
- torn meniscus (repaired during the open reduction surgery)
- T-8 end-plate and T-12 compression fractures
- six fractured ribs
- sternum fracture
- small subarachnoid hemorrhage
- 11 day hospitalization followed by inpatient rehabilitation for two months
- continuing pain and restricted range of motion in leg leaving plaintiff unable to perform activities of daily living (such as laundry), making it difficult to sleep and climb stairs and requiring the use of a walker to ambulate much of the time
The defendants argued that the awards were excessive noting that:
- plaintiff made a good recovery from her leg injuries (no post-traumatic arthritis and no treatment after three years),
- plaintiff had back surgery in 1984, required no new surgery and any significant pain or treatment (several steroid injections) was related to pre-existing conditions, and
- plaintiff’s ribs, sternum and brain bleed all healed without surgery or any significant treatment
- In his closing argument, plaintiff’s counsel asked the jury to award a total of $1,200,000 for plaintiff’s pain and suffering – the exact number they awarded, stating: “It’s a big number. More than most of us will ever see in a lifetime, but it’s the right number.”
- Plaintiff stated at the scene of the accident that she’d been drinking vodka the night before and admitted she’s been at a bar from 8:30 p.m. until 3 a.m. The trial judge ordered that the defense could not introduce any evidence of plaintiff’s alcohol use before the accident (or her 10 year old conviction for driving while intoxicated).
- Plaintiff had a stroke in 2018, unrelated to the accident, that defendants argued was the reason she used a walker at the time of trial.