On February 23, 2017, Diego Nieva-Silvera was stopped in his car on the Long Island Expressway in Queens when it was struck in the rear by another vehicle.

Claiming substantial injuries, Mr. Nieva-Silvera, then 42 years old, sued the driver and owner of the other vehicle. After a judge granted plaintiff’s motion for summary judgment and ruled that the other driver was fully at fault, the matter proceeded to a trial on damages only.

The Queens County jury awarded plaintiff pain and suffering damages in the sum of $41,000,000 ($5,000,000 past – two and a half years, $36,000,000 future – 41 years).

The trial judge ordered a reduction to $1,625,000 ($625,000 past, $1,000,000 future). On plaintiff’s appeal seeking reinstatement of the entire jury verdict, in Nieva-Silvera v. Katz (2d Dept. 2021), the appellate court ordered an increase to $2,250,000 ($750,000 past, $1,500,000 future).

Here are the injury details:

  • herniated disc at C6-7 that required fusion surgery with the insertion of a titanium plate and four screws

  • meniscal and collateral ligament tears in knee requiring arthroscopic surgery
  • continuing pain and limited ranges of motion
  • walks with antalgic gait, difficulty standing or sitting for long periods, difficulty sleeping, unable to dance or engage in previously enjoyed recreational activities

The defense argued that this was a minor car accident with plaintiff driving his car home and not seeking any medical attention until a week later when he went to a physical therapy clinic. Furthermore, they claimed plaintiff had preexisting disc degeneration in his spine and made a vey good recovery from his surgeries with no need for any future treatment.

Plaintiff countered that any preexisting degeneration was minor and inconsequential, he will need additional fusion surgery and at least one total knee replacement surgery and he will have permanent pain and disabilities that will require very substantial lifelong medical treatment.

The jury also awarded plaintiff future medical expenses in the sum of $5,000,000 which the trial court judge reduced to $680,000 which is approximately the amount of actual expenses plaintiff’s attorney asked for based on testimony.

Inside Information:

  • In his closing argument, plaintiff’s attorney asked the jury to award pain and suffering damages in the total sum of $12,000,000.
  • Defense counsel argued that the $41,000,000 award – more than three times the amount plaintiff asked for – was “astronomical” and showed that this was “the quintessential run-away jury.”
  • The jury awarded future damages for a period of 41 years, eight years more than the judge charged as to plaintiff’s life expectancy.