On October 13, 2013, Jesús Moctezuma was injured when he was driving his bicycle on St. Nicholas Avenue in Manhattan and the driver of a double-parked car opened his driver’s side door as Mr. Moctezuma was passing by. The car door knocked him to the ground; seconds later the rear wheels of a city bus ran along part of his leg.

Mr. Moctezuma, then 37 years old, sued both the man who opened his car door and the bus driver. After a jury returned a verdict finding both defendants at fault, plaintiff was awarded pain and suffering damages in the sum of $1,550,000 ($500,000 past -five years, $1,050,000 future – 34 years).

Defendants appealed arguing that the pain and suffering award was excessive; however, in Moctezuma v. New York City Transit Authority (1st Dept. 2023), the judgment entered upon the jury’s verdict has been affirmed.

Here are the injury details:

  • avulsion injury of the soleus muscle of lower left leg with seven inch laceration requiring irrigation and debridement surgery and eight day hospital admission
  • comminuted facture of left foot first metatarsal and cuneiform fractures

Plaintiff claimed that he suffers from permanent scars, muscle atrophy, residual nerve damage and pain in his lower leg leaving him with an antalgic gait. His expert physiatrist testified that (a) because of his limp, plaintiff developed plica, a buildup of tissue that interferes with the proper functioning of the knee such that he needs left knee surgery and (b) plaintiff should have his first toe reconstructed.

The defense noted that plaintiff returned to work two years after the accident as a food preparer in a restaurant and the defense experts (an orthopedic surgeon and a neurologist) testified that plaintiff made a good recovery, has no permanent damage and does not need surgery.

Inside Information:

  • The apportionment of liability was 65% to the car operator and 35% to the bus driver.
  • The jury awarded plaintiff $41,600 for past loss of earnings but that award was set aside because it was based only upon plaintiff’s testimony with no documentary evidence such as a W-2 form.
  • Plaintiff had demanded $750,000 to settle before trial against an offer of $250,000. In his summation, plaintiff’s counsel asked the jury to award pain and suffering damages in the sum of $4,100,000.