On December 17, 2013, Michael Sabine was injured when he was driving his vehicle in Waterloo and a state park employee in a state-owned pick-up truck lost control and crossed into his lane causing a crash.

Mr. Sabine, 61 years old, was granted summary judgment as to liability by a court order issued on 9/26/18. The case then proceeded to a trial on the issue of damages before the Court of Claims judge.

The judge issued her damages decision on 10/27/21 awarding claimant pain and suffering damages in the sum of $550,000 ($375,000 past – eight years, $175,000 future).

Mr. Sabine claimed he sustained nerve root impingement in his neck that ultimately required decompression and fusion surgery with the implantation of a titanium rod from C3-7. His pain continued through trial and his doctor testified that his range of motion limitations are permanent and he may have chronic lifetime pain.

The defense argued that Mr. Sabine’s pain and limitations were due to degenerative disc disease that preexisted the accident and he would have needed the surgery even had the accident not occurred.

Claimant countered that he had never before had neck pain or limitations and that at the time of the crash he felt he was in the best shape of his life while training for the “American Ninja Warrior” competition.

After judgment was entered on the $550,000 award (adding $6,187.50 in interest from 10/27/21 – the date when the judge finally determined that claimant’s injuries met the so-called threshold under Insurance law Section 5102), claimant appealed arguing that the interest rate accrual date should have been 9/26/18 (when summary judgment as to liability was determined). The difference was about $150,000 (about there years of interest on the $550,000 award at the rate of 9% per annum). In Sabine v. State of New York (4th Dept. 2023), though, the appellate court disagreed and the judgment was affirmed.

Inside Information:

  • The trial on damages was “virtual” in January 2021 having been delayed due to the COVID pandemic.