On February 12, 2013, Lusia Reinoso, a 61 year old home health aide, was exiting a city bus down the wheelchair ramp behind her patient who was in a motorized wheelchair when, without warning, the ramp was activated and Reinoso was propelled onto the sidewalk.
In Ms. Reinoso’s ensuing lawsuit, the jury found the bus operator fully at fault and awarded plaintiff damages as follows:
- $5,319,000 for pain and suffering ($5,000,000 past – six years, $319,000 future – 17 years)
- $5,000,000 for medical expenses, including custodial care and rehabilitation services (all future – 17 years)
- $181,000 for lost earnings ($121,000 past, $60,000 future – 17 years)
Both sides made post-trial motions challenging the awards for pain and suffering. The judge determined that the awards were (a) excessive as to the past award and (b) inadequate as to the future award, and he ordered that the overall pain and suffering award should be reduced to $4,100,000 ($2,700,000 past, $1,400,000 future).
Defendants appealed arguing that there should be a new trial on damages because (a) the trial judge should not have allowed plaintiff to call a certain rebuttal witness and (b) the medical expenses award was excessive.
In Reinoso v. New York City Transit Authority (1st Dept. 2022), the appellate court rejected defendants’ argument as to the rebuttal witness but agreed that the future medical expenses award should be reduced (to $3,598,706). Otherwise, the judgment was affirmed (including $4,100,000 for pain and suffering damages).
Here are the injury details:
- Knee – torn meniscus requiring arthroscopic surgery to repair, followed by total knee replacement surgery
- Shoulder – torn tendon requiring arthroscopic surgery
- Spine – herniated discs requiring lumbar and cervical fusion surgeries
- Hip – full thickness labral tear and loss of cartilage requiring total hip replacement surgery one month after the trial concluded
Plaintiff claimed she suffers from significant residual pain and limitations that require her to use a cane and left her unable to return to work. She also claimed she needs a full-time live in aide to assist her with nearly all activities of daily living.
Defendants’ expert radiologist testified that plaintiff’s knee injury was related to a prior surgery (13 years earlier), her disc herniations were degenerative and the tears in her shoulder and hip were not related to this accident.
- Plaintiff’s expert economist, using a 20 year life expectancy, calculated that her future medical expenses would be $4,200,000. Defendants successfully argued that the award should be reduced to $3,598,706 using the same 17 year period the jury chose for both future pain and suffering and medical expenses.
- Plaintiff’s settlement demand had been $8,000,000; defendants’ offer was $250,000.