On December 10, 2012, Adalberto Santiago was a 31 year old New York City police officer operating his patrol car when he received an emergency dispatch calling for assistance to a fellow officer. Officer Santiago activated his lights and sirens and took off. On his way to his fellow officer in need, Officer Santiago’s car was struck by another vehicle at the intersection of Rockaway Parkway and Avenue N in Brooklyn.
Officer Santiago sued the other driver and a Kings County judge determined that the defendant was fully at fault for the crash.
In the ensuing non-jury trial on the issue of damages, the judge awarded pain and suffering damages in the sum of $1,000,000 ($400,000 past – 4.5 years, $600,000 future – 40 years). He also awarded damages for future loss of earnings and benefits in the sum of $1,500,000 (40 years).
Both sides argued on appeal that the damages awards deviated from what would be reasonable compensation. Plaintiff claimed that the trial judge erred in determining that plaintiff did not suffer from a traumatic brain injury and that the award for lost earnings was inadequate. The defendant claimed that both the pain and suffering and the lost earnings and benefits awards were excessive.
In Santiago v. Boyer (2d Dept. 2021), the appellate court affirmed the judgment entered upon the trial judge’s damages awards.
Here are the injury details:
- Right Shoulder – partial rotator cuff and labral tears and biceps tendinopathy requiring arthroscopic surgery on 2/13/13 and leaving plaintiff with a frozen shoulder
- Right Elbow – ulnar nerve entrapment requiring open surgery on 11/7/13
- Right Wrist – carpal tunnel surgery on 4/12/14
- Constant right (dominant) arm pain and disability, including diminished grip strength, unable to perform many activities of daily living, spasms, difficulty sleeping and increased paresthesia of his right hand
Plaintiff’s treating physicians testified credibly that his orthopedic injuries, deficits and pain are permanent; defendant’s expert opined that plaintiff’s restrictions were degenerative in nature.
Plaintiff’s traumatic brain injury claim was supported by the testimony of a neuropsychologist who concluded that plaintiff suffers from a diffuse axonal injury. Plaintiff claimed he has permanent deficits in executive functioning, significant personality changes, memory and cognitive deficits and other significant brain injuries including headaches and dizziness from the crash. The defendant, though, produced his own neuropsychologist expert who concluded that plaintiff presents with “neurocognitive ability within normal limits.” The trial judge found the defense expert more credible and made no award based on a brain injury.
- After the crash, plaintiff was out of work for six months. He returned to work on limited and restricted duty but ultimately – much to his chagrin – the police department stripped him of his guns and forced him to retire claiming that he could no longer perform the duties of a police officer.
- Defendant was a broker for the defendant’s insurance company.
- Following the verdict, plaintiff underwent three more surgeries.
- Plaintiff was very well represented by one of the pillars of the Kings County bar, Helene Blank along with her partner Scott Star.