On July 24, 2013, Byung Choon Joe was in the course of his employment as an asbestos removal worker when he fell six feet from a scaffold at a state office building in Albany. Mr. Joe sued the State of New York claiming the scaffold was defective and that as a result of his fall he sustained injuries to his head, spine, right shoulder, both elbows and his left wrist.
After summary judgment on liability under Labor Law Section 240 was granted in claimant’s favor, the case proceeded to a trial on damages only. The Court of Claims judge awarded pain and suffering damages in the sum of $225,000 (all past – 6 years, 8 months).
Mr. Joe, 51 years old at the time of his accident, appealed arguing that the pain and suffering damages award was inadequate. In Joe v. State of New York (3d Dept. 2022), however, the award has been affirmed.
Here are details of the main injuries claimed:
- Cervical spine herniations and radiculopathy requiring discectomies and arthrodesis (fusion surgery) at C5-6 and C6-7
- Lumbar spine stenosis at L3-5 requiring decompressive laminectomy and discectomy
- Right shoulder impingement and labral tear requiring arthroscopic surgery
- Left wrist scaphoid nonunion and contracture adhesions requiring open reduction internal fixation surgery to reconstruct
Standing alone, the panoply of injuries and treatment claimed would likely merit a much higher pain and suffering award. Claimant, though, had significant pre-existing injuries and treatment that affected the trial judge’s award and the appellate court’s affirmance.
Furthermore, the trial judge found that the injuries claimed to have suffered by reason of claimant’s fall were “grossly exaggerated, not credibly asserted and are patently unsupported by the trial evidence.” Therefore, the judge’s award was for the shoulder injury alone and, because he determined that the shoulder injury had “long since and fully resolved,” he declined to make any award at all for future pain and suffering damages.