On October 19, 2005, Louis Demetro was employed as a stationary engineer by the New York City Health and Hospitals Corporation in the newly constructed boiler room of Jacobi Medical Center. During the course of his employment, Mr. Demetro, then 39 years old, was knocked to the ground and injured after being struck by a three foot long piece of angle iron that fell from the boiler’s exhaust ductwork 15 feet above him.
Claiming significant neck injuries, Mr. Demetro sued several entities, including the owner of the hospital, the architect and design engineer of the boiler system, and the project manager. A Bronx jury determined that three of the defendants were at fault and they then awarded plaintiff pain and suffering damages in the sum of $3,000,000 ($1,500,000 past – 12 years, $1,500,000 future – 20 years). His wife was awarded loss of services and consortium damages in the sum of $500,000.
The trial judge agreed with the defendants that the award was excessive and she reduced it to $1,700,000; however, in Demetro v. Dormitory Authority of the State of New York (1st Dept. 2021), the appellate court reinstated the $3,000,000 pain and suffering award.
Here are the injury details:
- herniated discs at C4-5, C5-6 and C6-7
- anterior cervical discectomy and fusion surgery on 8/19/08
- likelihood of additional surgery to the cervical spine in the future
- bilateral carpal tunnel syndrome with two surgeries
- continuing pain and restrictions of activities of daily living, unable to work
Defendants argued that plaintiff did not sustain any injuries in this accident and that he had pre-existing degenerative joint disease due to prior accidents and activities.
- Plaintiff was also awarded lost earnings damages in the sum of $2,000,000 and medical expenses in the sum of $1,275,000.
- Plaintiff hired and fired several lawyers during the course of this litigation. After closing arguments, he told the trial judge he wanted to fire his trial counsel because he asked the jury to award only $5,000,000 for pain and suffering damages despite his request that the attorney ask for $20,000,000. The judge denied plaintiff’s application.