On February 17, 2014, Nelsida De La Rosa was injured when she stepped out of the shower and the bathroom ceiling in her apartment collapsed and sheetrock debris fell down and struck her head.

Ms. De La Rosa, then 46 years old, sued her landlord who conceded liability on the day the jury was selected in 2019. The matter then proceeded to a trial on damages only and the Bronx jury awarded plaintiff pain and suffering damages in the sum of $2,537,000 ($137,000 past – five years, $2,400,000 future – 31 years).

After the trial, both plaintiff and defendant challenged the damages awards – plaintiff argued that the past pain and suffering award was inadequate and should be increased to $1,000,000 and the defense argued that the overall award was excessive, especially the future pain and suffering award. The trial judge denied both motions.

Defendant appealed arguing that the trial was unfair and riddled with errors by the trial judge such as her decision to preclude testimony from a biomechanical expert (who would have opined that the falling ceiling materials could not have caused any injury to the plaintiff). In De La Rosa v. Nelson Avenue Holdings (1st Dept. 2021), the judgment was affirmed.

Here are the injury details:

  • C5-6 herniated disc requiring discectomy and fusion surgery with plate and screws

  • adjacent segment disease and nerve damage
  • extensive physical therapy and trigger point injections before and after surgery
  • lumbar radiculopathy, headaches and shoulder pain
  • continuing, progressive and radiating neck and back pain; 50% loss of range of motion
  • unable to sleep well, difficulty walking, unable to lift grandson and unable to resume dancing

The defense argued that the jury was not rational in its failure to consider that for many years plaintiff had preexisting neck, shoulder and back injuries (hospital records indicated that plaintiff had pre-existing lifelong headaches and radiating neck pain).

Inside Information:

  • In its appeal, the defendant did not mention its previously asserted claim of excessiveness of the damages award.
  • Plaintiff was also awarded damages for future medical expenses in the sum of $1,500,000 (31 years).