Typically appellate courts address whether high verdicts are too excessive, but they do occasionally review claims of unfair low verdicts, especially where a jury finds evidence of a permanent injury but awards zero in compensation for future pain and suffering. On August 31, 2022, an appellate court increased a Westchester County jury verdict by more than $200,000. The plaintiff was a passenger in a car that was rear-ended by a police car. The plaintiff was 50 years old and suffered a shoulder injury requiring surgery and an aggravation of a pre-existing low back problem that required a spinal fusion. The jury specifically determined that the plaintiff's injuries were permanent, significant and consequential. However, they awarded plaintiff $0 for future pain and suffering, $5000 for 7 years of past pain and suffering and only $10,000 for past medical expenses - despite proof of $40,000 in medicals.. While plaintiff was 57 years old at the time of trial, the jury would have been instructed by the judge that a 57 year old had a 23 year life expectancy. Thus, plaintiff's suffering would likely continue for many years to come.
The appellate court had to correct this injustice, though the pre-existing medical condition raised issues of fact on causally related accident injuries. The Second Department held that a retrial on damages should be held unless the defense agrees: the past pain and suffering should be raised from $5000 to $80,000; that the future pain and suffering verdict raised from $0 to $100,000 and the past medical expenses raised from $10,000 to $40,000. Basically, unless the defense agrees to pay these these modified figures, a new trial on damages will be held. Carter v City of New Rochelle, 2022 N.Y. Slip Op. 05072