On December 29, 2013, Angelina Register was asleep in her apartment at 1265 Morrison Avenue in the Bronx when leaky pipes caused ceiling plaster to fall on her. When she got out of bed, she injured her back and ankle when she slipped and fell on water and the debris that had fallen from the ceiling.

Ceiling Leaks Can Be Dangerous

In Ms. Register’s ensuing lawsuit against the owners and manager of the apartment building, the jury determined that the defendants should have corrected the dangerous ceiling condition and thus were fully at fault. The jury then awarded pain and suffering damages in the sum of $7,000,000 ($1,000,000 past – five and a half years, $6,000,000 future – 40 years). In Register v. SAS Morrison LLC (1st Dept. 2020), the appellate court reduced the pain and suffering damages award to $3,000,000 ($1,000,000 past, $2,000,000 future).

Here are the injury details:

  • emergency room treatment two weeks after accident complaining of back and ankle pain; treated and released; no additional treatment for six more weeks
  • extensive chiropractic treatment and more than 20 spinal injections
  • herniated discs at L4-5 and L5-S1 with radiculopathy and disc desiccation requiring two-day spinal fusion with laminectomy surgery in November 2017
  • partially torn Achilles tendon in ankle
  • continuing spinal and ankle pain, limited ranges of motion and inability to play with kids, dance or do chores

Plaintiff, 36 years old at the time of her accident, claimed she would need extensive future medical treatment including, according to her  expert physiatrist, $2,890,000 for medications, $1,011,000 for injections and $1,607,000 for surgeries. The jury awarded $7,000,000 for future medical expenses; the appellate court reduced the future medical expenses award to $2,644,513 finding that there was inadequate support for some services and that other estimated expenses were inflated.

Inside Information:

  • The defense suggested that plaintiff’s failure to seek medical attention for two weeks indicated she was not severely injured; furthermore, they disputed whether she complained of low back pain in the emergency room (the hospital record was unclear). In summation, defense counsel suggested that the back injury was not related to the accident.
  • About three weeks before the appellate court’s decision, the parties entered into a so-called high-low agreement which provided, among other things, for  future pain and suffering and future medical expenses parameters of $2,500,000 and $5,000,000 in each category. Plaintiff’s total recovery amounted to $8,900,000 which is $1,500,000 more than she would have recovered pursuant to the court’s decision. This is an outstanding result obtained by plaintiff’s counsel, Seth A. Harris, Esq. of Burns & Harris.