On May 11, 2012, Martin Gjeka was working as a flagman directing traffic around an unguarded trench in the roadway at East 116th Street in Manhattan, which was being excavated by the adjacent building owner to allow new sewer lines to be installed, when a truck struck his lower back, causing him to fall into the trench and sustain serious back injuries.
In Mr. Gjeka’s ensuing lawsuit, the jury found that the driver was at fault (in addition to the building owner whose liability was established by summary judgment under the Labor Law) and they awarded him pain and suffering damages in the sum of $3,000,000 ($1,500,000 past – six years, $1,500,000 future – 26 years).
In Gjeka v. Iron Horse Transportation, Inc. (1st Dept. 2021), the appellate court ordered that the pain and suffering award should be reduced to $2,000,000 ($500,000 past, $1,500,000 future).
Here are the injury details:
- loss of consciousness at scene, transported by ambulance to hospital complaining of back and leg pain
- admitted to hospital for three weeks
- herniated disc L4-5
- extensive physical therapy and numerous epidural injections into spine
- laminectomy at L4-5 on 8/7/14
- failed back syndrome – continuing lumbar radiculopathy with worsening of back pain and disc space collapse
- constant pain requiring continuing narcotic pain medications and insertion of spinal cord stimulator
- unable to walk without a rolling walker or cane
- unable to sleep, bend, put on socks or shoes; unable to work
The defense argued that an MRI showed pre-existing significant degenerative disease at L4-5 that was not caused by the accident.
- The jury awarded loss of consortium damages to plaintiff’s wife in the sum of $1,000,000 ($500,000 past – six years, $500,000 future – 26 years) but the appellate court ruled that the past loss of consortium award should be reduced to $300,000. Plaintiff, 51 years old at trial, and his wife, 47, were married in Albania in 1991. Plaintiff was persecuted and imprisoned there but was able to escape to the U.S. in 2002. Mrs. Gjeka and their young children were able to rejoin her husband here after seven long years but “her dreams of having a normal, happy family came crashing to an end” after plaintiff’s accident less than three years later.
- In his closing argument, plaintiff’s counsel asked the jury to award $13,500,000 for plaintiff’s pain and suffering