Court Affirms $3 Million Future Pain and Suffering Jury Award in Bus Accident Case

InĀ Halsey v New York City Transit Authority, 114 AD3d 726, the Second Department affirmed a judgment, entered on a jury verdict in plaintiff’s favor, in the principal amount of $3,000,000 for future pain and suffering.

Plaintiff was injured when a bus on which she was riding struck a utility pole. Plaintiff’s injuries included

a protruding disc in the lumbar spine, radiculopathy, torn rotator cuff with impingement in her right shoulder, and a torn triceps tendon in her right elbow. As a result, the plaintiff underwent a laminectomy and fusion on her lumbar spine, as well as surgeries to repair her right shoulder and elbow.

“The amount of damages to be awarded to a plaintiff for personal injuries is a question for the jury, and its determination will not be disturbed unless the award deviates materially from what would be reasonable compensation. The reasonableness of compensation must be measured against relevant precedent of comparable cases.

The court then explained why the jury’s $3 million award was appropriate:

Here, the plaintiff, 27 years old at the time of trial, suffered from severe lower back pain that radiated into her legs and restricted her range of motion. She suffered from disc protrusion, foraminal stenosis, and radiculopathy. After physical therapy, pain medications, and epidural injections failed to alleviate her pain, the plaintiff underwent a laminectomy and fusion surgery, in which a piece of the disc was removed and a bone graft was fused to replace the removed disc. Following the surgery, the pain in the plaintiff’s lower back did not improve and she had significant restrictions in her range of motion. She continued physical therapy, pain medications, and epidural injections. The plaintiff’s expert concluded that the injuries to her lower back were permanent. He continued to observe restrictions in her range of motion and lumbar atrophy. He concluded that the plaintiff’s back pain will worsen, and that she will need to continue to take pain, anti-inflammatory, and muscle relaxer medications. Further, the injuries hindered the previously active plaintiff’s ability to participate in athletic activities and activities with her children, and made daily tasks, such as cooking and cleaning, very difficult. As a result of the fusion, other parts of the plaintiff’s spine were subject to degeneration.

Therefore, “[c]onsidering the nature and the extent of the injuries sustained by the plaintiff, and the fact that the award of damages for future pain and suffering represented compensation for a period of 54 years based on the plaintiff’s life expectancy, the award did not deviate materially from what would be reasonable compensation.”

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