Tragedy usually comes when you least expect it. That was true for a 74-year-old man who slipped and fell as he was going down the stairs to the subway. He attempted to board the train at Rockefeller Center in Manhattan, New York. As he attempted to walk down the stairs he almost instantly lost his footing. A faulty tread, one that was angled downward and loose to the touch, was the culprit. Upon engaging this tread, the man was unable to keep his balance and fell down the entire stairway.
As a result of the fall, the plaintiff (the injured man) suffered life-changing injuries to his neck. He was taken by an ambulance to a local emergency room where he explained to the doctors and staff that he had significant pain in his cervical spine. After examination and testing, it was explained to the plaintiff that he had dislocated a bone in his spine. Upon treatment with a specialist, the injured man was diagnosed with a fractured lamina in his neck spine - that meant that a portion of his spinal vertebrae was broken. He also sustained a herniated disc in the same area. With injuries this severe, his only option was surgery.
The plaintiff underwent fusion surgery to his neck which included metal plates and multiple screws. Following more than a week of inpatient care, the plaintiff underwent physical therapy for a number of years. Despite his efforts to get better, the plaintiff still complained of stabbing pain in his neck. The pain affected him at home significantly. At the time of the accident, the plaintiff’s wife was disabled, and he was her caregiver. The injury has prevented him from doing so. He was also forced to quit his job as a janitor. The plaintiff’s grandson, who was 16 at the time of trial, was able to convey to the jury just how difficult life was after the accident.
Notably, the defendant did not call any medical witnesses to dispute the medical diagnosis or treatment. This is particularly important because the defendant disclosed multiple physicians prior to trial but was not able to produce those witnesses. The jury was given a missing witness charge which undoubtably helped them in their decision. A missing witness charge basically allows jurors to draw a negative conclusion from the fact that a party to a lawsuit decided not to produce one of their witnesses. A conclusion is almost always drawn that such witness was not produced because he or she would have supported injured party’s case. This is another reason why trial may be the best option for a case, as it is important to make the defendant come through on their previous disclosures. If they do not, it can positively affect the outcome of the trial for the plaintiff.
At trial, the jury found that the defendant was 86% at fault and the plaintiff was 14% at fault for this accident. This apportionment meant that the money damages award would be reduced to 86% of the value placed on the injuries by the jury.
Upon considering the injuries, the jury awarded $1,200,000 in past pain and suffering and $1,000,000 in future pain and suffering for a total of $2,200,000. In addition to pain and suffering, the jury was allowed to hear evidence that the plaintiff, who was 74 at the time of the accident, intended to work until he was 79. The jury awarded him $240,000 in past pain and suffering and $250,000 in future lost wages for a total of $490,000.
The jury also addressed the issue of medical expenses. They found that he had incurred $350,000 in past medical expenses and $255,582 in future medical expenses for a total of $605,582. The future medical expenses included x-rays, emg studies, MRIs, physical therapy and additional injections to his neck.
Following the verdict, the defendant appealed. Although the defendant appealed all aspects of the verdict, only the pain and suffering award was reduced to $1,675,000. The other portions of the award were left alone.
If you or someone you know has been injured in an accident, please contact The Platta Law Firm for a free legal consultation by calling 212–514–5100 (24/7), emailing firstname.lastname@example.org or visiting our law firm in Financial District of Manhattan (42 Broadway, Suite 1927). You can also ask us questions using the 24-hour chat box on our website (www.plattalaw.com). We offer free consultations for all potential personal injury cases.