On August18, 2012, Steven Pasternak was riding his motorcycle on a Chenango County road in the Town of Columbus when he lost control, was thrown off and sustained serious injuries.

Mr. Pasternak, then 27 years old, sued the county alleging that the roadway was in severe disrepair permeated with divots, potholes and dips that made it unsafe and caused his accident.

The county claimed that the roadway was safe and that in any event the accident was plaintiff’s fault because he was convicted of driving while intoxicated and was driving too fast. The jury disagreed and found that the road was in an unsafe condition, the county had long known it was unsafe and the unsafe condition was a substantial factor in causing the accident. While the jury agreed that plaintiff was also negligent, they found that plaintiff’s negligence was not a substantial factor in causing the accident.

The jury awarded pain and suffering damages in the sum of $1,050,000 ($250,00 past – nine years, $800,000 future – 40 years). They also awarded damages for medical expenses ($83,238 -past only) and lost wages ($40,000 – past only).

In a post-trial motion, the defendant sought to set aside the verdict and, alternatively, to reduce the pain and suffering damages. The trial judge denied the motion.

The defendant appealed; however, in Pasternak v. County of Chenango (3rd Dept. 2024), the judgment was affirmed.

Here are the injury details:

  • permanent severe to profound hearing loss in one ear
  • torn ligaments in ankle requiring surgery to repair with screws inserted (and removed in a second surgery), with residual pain and range of motion limitations
  • cerebral contusion with small brain hemorrhages requiring short-term medically induced coma leaving plaintiff with post-concussive syndrome
  • nondisplaced scapula fracture

Inside Information:

  • In his summation, plaintiff’s attorney did not ask for a specific amount of damages; instead he simply asked for “fair and reasonable compensation.”
  • Before the verdict, the defendant offered $65,000 to settle.
  • Plaintiff suffered cardiac problems after, but unrelated to, the accident. The trial judge stated this may be why the jury made no award for future lost wages.