On September 5, 2018, Nidia Vasquez was injured while working as a laborer at a demolition and construction site in Buffalo when she was struck on her head and a shoulder by an unsecured ladder that had been standing against a wall.

Ms. Vasquez, then 57 years old, sued the site owner, the construction manager and one of the subcontractors on the site. Her motion for summary judgment under the Labor Law was granted and the matter proceeded to a trial on damages.

The Erie County jury awarded plaintiff pain and suffering damages in the sum of $1,500,000 ($250,000 past – three and a half years, $1,250,000 future – 15 years).

Defendants appealed arguing that the future pain and suffering award was excessive; however, in Vasquez v. Gilbane Building Co. (4th Dept. 2024), the court affirmed the pain and suffering award.

Here are the injury details:

  • herniated discs at C4-7 with radiculopathy requiring cervical discectomy and fusion surgery on 1/17/19
  • herniated disc at C3-4 that will within two years require discectomy and fusion surgery
  • labral tears in shoulder that have left plaintiff with significant pain, disability and range of motion losses; surgery has been prescribed

Plaintiff’s injuries left her in near constant pain, disabled as to several activities of daily living (cannot even drive a car), and unable to return to work. The jury awarded her damages for loss of earnings in the sum of $520,000 ($164,000 past, $356,000 future – five years). She was also awarded $302,000 for medical expenses ($41,000 past, $261,000 future – five years).

Inside Information:

  • Plaintiff had not yet undergone shoulder surgery only because her body mass index was too high (she was five feet five inches tall and about 200 pounds) and she has to lose weight first.
  • The trial judge advised the jury that plaintiff’s life expectancy was 22 years but the jury awarded future pain and suffering damages only for 15 years.