Personal Injury Jury Award Too Low, Court Holds

In a recent personal injury case, Schecher v. R. Park Cent., LLC, New York Supreme Court Judge James held that the jury failed to adequately compensate plaintiff for her injuries.

The trial record established

that after the accident on August 5, 2007, plaintiff was transported to the emergency room of St. Vincent’s Hospital where she was examined and released. Radiology films taken eleven days later revealed that she sustained a tear of the lateral meniscus of her left knee and a non-displaced fracture of her fibula representing a component of a Maisonneuve injury to her left ankle. On October 29, 2007, she underwent arthroscopic surgery (including chondroplasty and synovectomy) on her left knee, under general anesthesia, and was discharged the same day with crutches. The ankle fracture healed with an air cast and crutches but without surgery.

The jury found that defendants were negligent, and that both parties were substantial factors in causing the accident. It apportioned liability 75% to defendants and 25% to plaintiff, and awarded a total (prior to reduction for plaintiff’s comparable fault) of of $95,146.00, including awards of $42,500 for past pain and suffering, and $0 for future pain and suffering.

Plaintiff moved, pursuant to CPLR 4404, to set aside the jury award as contrary to the weight of the evidence and for an additur or new trial, on the ground that the damages award deviates materially from reasonable compensation for her injuries. After reviewing relevant precedent to determine whether the award “deviates materially from reasonable compensation” – including Gaston v. City of New York, 59 AD3d 281 (1st Dept. 2009) and Schultz v. Turner Constr. Co., 278 AD2d 76 (1st Dept. 2000) – the court agreed.

Specifically, “plaintiff suffered a torn meniscus requiring arthroscopic surgery and physical therapy”, and “[t]hough the testimony from the plaintiff and plaintiff’s doctor that there was a permanent loss of a range of motion in the joint was contradicted by the testimony of defendant’s doctor, such doctor admitted that trauma may cause degenerative processes.”

Therefore, the court granted plaintiff’s motion, to the extent that it vacated the pain and suffering awards and ordered a new damages trial, unless defendants consent to increase the pre-apportionment awards of past pain and suffering from $42,500 to $250,000, and future pain and suffering from $0 to $90,000.

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