At about 2 p.m., on March 8, 2006, Maria Perone, then 18 years old, was on her way to the local Dunkin Donuts to get coffee for her office co-workers. As she walked across Bell Boulevard in Queens, Maria was struck in the crosswalk by a slow moving left turning city bus.
The impact knocked her to the ground and an ambulance took her to a nearby hospital emergency room where she complained of severe pain in her left shoulder and side. Maria was diagnosed with a left clavicle fracture and given a sling to wear for six weeks and a prescription for Vicodin.
A day later, Maria saw her pediatrician with complaints of pain not only in her left shoulder area but also in her left hip (where she had developed a large bruise). A week later, an MRI of the left hip revealed a fracture.
Maria sued the city and on November 16, 2009, a Queens jury awarded her pain and suffering damages in the sum of $180,000 ($65,000 past – 3 1/2 years, $115,000 future – 5 years).
Now, in Perone v. City of New York (2d Dept. 2011), an appellate court has agreed with the defense contention that the jury award was excessive and ruled that the $115,000 award for future damages should be reduced by $85,000 to $30,000.
The total award now stands at $95,000 ($65,000 past, $30,000 future).
As indicated in its decision, the appellate court was influenced by the facts that:
- the clavicle fracture was only minimally displaced (where the bone snaps and moves, so that the ends are not lined up straight) and
- the hip fracture was nondisplaced (where the bone cracks, but does not move and maintains its proper alignment).
Maria’s hip fracture was actually a nondisplaced fracture of the greater trochanter (the non-weight bearing large bony end of the femur that sticks out from the side of one’s hip).
The court also noted that Maria’s treatment for her injuries was minimal (sling for six weeks, minimal physical therapy, no surgery), she had no arthritis, she did not limp and her fractures had healed completely.
In arguing for an affirmance of the jury verdict, Maria’s attorneys noted that:
- she experiences pain a few times a week as well as upon changes in the weather, when jogging and when wearing high heels
- her physical medicine and rehabilitation doctor (Kioomars Moosazadeh, M.D.) testified that Maria still has some atrophy and and instability in her shoulder with respect to which he said she has a guarded prognosis
In arguing (successfully) for a reduction of the jury verdict, the defense noted that:
- there was no medical testimony establishing permanence or arthritic changes
- the evidence indicated that plaintiff’s injuries have not had much of an impact on her activities
- the defense doctor (orthopedic surgeon Andrew Miller, M.D.) testified that he did not detect any atrophy, irritability or crepitation of Maria’s shoulder
Two of the cases cited by the court are recent and relevant.
- In Shaperonovitch v. City of New York (2d Dept. 2008), a woman sustained fractures of her acetabulum bone in her hip. No surgery was required, the bone healed within two months and she was able to walk unassisted. The jury’s $102,000 pain and suffering award ($51,000 past, $51,000 future – 31 years) was found reasonable and affirmed.
- In Vanini v. Ramtol Service Corp. (1st Dept. 2005), a man sustained a clavicle fracture which had healed and there was no medical proof to support a claim of permanence or residual impairment. The jury awarded $10,000 for pain and sufferng (past only) and the appellate court ruled that it was fair and should not be disturbed.
- Plaintiff fractured her left clavicle in the past as well – when she was four years old.
- Plaintiff’s doctor testified that there was no indication of a need for surgery, "but I cannot say in the future what will happen." "I can’t say at this moment."