On December 19, 2010, Jonathan Muniz injured his leg when he tripped and fell on a raised area in the kitchen floor of his apartment at 1755 Jarvis Avenue in the Bronx. He sued the owner and manager of the building alleging they were liable for the accident because he had for years before complained about the kitchen floor condition and they failed to remedy it.
A Bronx County jury found that the defendants were fully at fault and awarded plaintiff pain and suffering damages in the sum of $8,000,000 ($3,000,000 past – six years, $5,000,000 future – 15 years).
The trial judge ordered a reduction of the pain and suffering award to $2,000,000 ($750,000 past, $1,250,000 future).
In Muniz v. Chimienti Realty Associates, Inc. (1st Dept. 2021), the appellate court affirmed both the liability finding and the $2,000,000 pain and suffering damages verdict.
Here are the injury details:
- left distal tibia and fibula fractures treated emergently with open reduction internal fixation with a large nail inserted down the shaft of the tibia and secured with screws
- ten day hospitalization with discharge to rehabilitation center from which plaintiff discharged himself against medical advice after one week
- hospitalized 1/29/11-2/18/11
- refractured tibia and ankle fracture requiring second surgery 2/1/11 to remove nail and screws which had broken and to place external fixator
- second rehab facility admission for six months from 2/18/11
- third surgery 3/24/11 to remove external fixator (and apply short leg cast)
- permanent angulated deformity and two inch shortening of leg
- confined to wheelchair (except for sleeping)
Plaintiff, 45 years old on the date of the accident, was permanently disabled nine years before the accident as a result of years of kidney failure. He also suffered from the amputation of his right toe due to diabetes, had diabetic neuropathy in both legs, was blind in his left eye and was at end stage renal failure (making dialysis three days a week necessary for the rest of his life).
Defendants argued that because of all of plaintiff’s pre-existing conditions, he needed to remain at the rehabilitation facility during his healing process following his fall and fracture and therefore (a) he unreasonably failed to mitigate his damages by checking himself out early and (b) his subsequently developed disabilities were not causally related to the accident.
- Plaintiff resided in the apartment where he fell for seven years before the accident.
- The trial judge charged the jury that plaintiff’s life expectancy was 27 years; the jury awarded future pain and suffering damages for only 15 years.