On February 1, 2006, Raoul Lopez was driving on the Grand Concourse in the Bronx when he was pulled over by New York City Police Department officers. At some point after the traffic stop, one of the officers shot the 26 year old Mr. Lopez in the back of his neck.
Lopez sued the City of New York claiming that the shooting was an unreasonable amount of force that caused him permanent debilitating injuries. A Bronx County jury agreed with plaintiff and awarded him pain and suffering damages in the sum of $6,000,000 ($1,500,000 past – 13 1/2 years, $4,500,000 future – 35 years).
In Lopez v. City of New York (1st Dept. 2021), both the liability and pain and suffering damages verdicts have been affirmed.
Here are the injury details:
- gunshot to back of neck contusing spinal cord, causing edema, initially rendering plaintiff a paraplegic
- hospitalized for months at different institutions, requiring five surgeries, suffering collapsed lungs, and developing pneumonia, gastrointestinal ulcers and bedsores
- wheelchair bound for two years before able to use walker to ambulate
- permanent need for assistive ambulation device, can walk only with spastic ataxic gait
- near complete loss of use of right arm, no use of right hand, clawing of left hand
- continuing pain including nerve pain
- unable to care for himself
The jury also awarded plaintiff $5,000,000 for future medical expenses over 35 years. The appellate court agreed with the defendant that this award was excessive because aspects of plaintiff’s projected future treatment were not necessary. For example, he hadn’t received occupational or physical therapy for more than nine years, seen a physiatrist for over eight years and he never explained why he stopped those treatments. Accordingly, the appellate court reduced the future medical expenses award by approximately $700,000
- Plaintiff had two bags of heroin in his car when he was pulled over; he was ultimately convicted of misdemeanor drug possession.