Court Reinstates $1 Million Jury Award for City Bus Passenger

In Luna v New York City Transit Authority, the Appellate Division, First Department reinstated a $1 million jury award for the plaintiff who was injured after falling on defendant NYCTA’s bus.

The jury awarded plaintiff $500,000 for past pain and suffering and $500,000 for future pain and suffering over 34 years. The trial court (Supreme Court, Bronx County, Judge Mitchell Danziger) granted defendants’ motion to set aside this award, to the extent of ordering a new trial on those damages unless plaintiff stipulated to a reduced award of $100,000 for past pain and suffering and $250,000 for future pain and suffering.

The First Department unanimously reversed:

We find that the jury’s award for past and future pain and suffering is fully supported by the trial record and is consistent with what constitutes reasonable compensation under the circumstances presented. The record shows that the time between the date of the incident and the date of verdict is 3 years and 6 months, and plaintiff’s life expectancy is 34.5 yearsThe evidence at trial established that as a result of the fall on defendants’ bus, the 47-year-old plaintiff suffered a torn meniscus in her right knee, underwent arthroscopic surgery, was unable to work for three months, used a cane for more than one month, underwent 12 extremely painful sessions of physical therapycontinues to experience significant pain requiring her to take medication and limit her activities, and has permanently aggravated and activated arthritis in her knee that is progressive. In addition, medical doctors explained that she sustained a permanent partial disability and that it is “highly probable” that she will require a future knee replacement. Given the severity of plaintiff’s injury, ongoing problems and expected future limitations, the jury’s award for past and future pain and suffering cannot be said to deviate materially from what is reasonable compensation [under CPLR 5501(c)].

It therefore concluded that “the trial court should not have reduced the jury’s estimation of damages” and reinstated the original awards for past and future pain and suffering.

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