Sidewalk Trip & Fall Plaintiff Upholds $1.7M of a $2.9M Jury Award For Pain & Suffering - Despite No Surgery
On November 23, 2022, the Appellate Division, Second Department reduced a Kings County jury verdict of $2.9M for past pain and suffering to $1.7M. The verdict was awarded to a 54 year old woman who tripped and fell on a sidewalk maintained by the New York City Transit Authority (NYCTA). The trial concluded in December 2018 and the appellate process took another 4 years, presumably due to Covid. The jury found that the plaintiff was not at fault for failing to see and avoid the sidewalk defect and held the NYCTA 100% responsible. The jury implicitly agreed that the NYCTA had violated the New York City Administrative Code Section 19-152 (a) (4), which defines a substantial defect as follows: "a tripping hazard, where the vertical grade differential between adjacent sidewalk flags is greater than or equal to one half inch OR where a sidewalk flag contains one or more surface defects of one inch or greater in all horizontal directions and is one half inch or more in depth." The plaintiff proved her case solely based on her credible testimony and photographs of the hazardous defect.
The plaintiff suffered injuries to both knees and her her spine requiring chiropractic treatment, physical therapy, multiple epidural steroid injections and pain management services provided over the following 6 years prior to the trial. The defendant argued that the spinal condition (herniated lumbar and cervical discs) had been present for years and were simply degenerative in nature. (This is the typical defense that fails to appreciate you don't get a free pass from your carelessness just because of the normal aging process.) As of the date of trial the plaintiff had not undergone surgery but her doctor testified that she will need bilateral knee replacements at a cost of $160,000 some time in the future. Accordingly, the jury awarded plaintiff $160,000 in future medical expenses in addition to the awards for past ($1M) and future ($700,000) pain and suffering. The total amount of the jury verdict sustained by the appellate court was $1,860,000. Ormond v New York City Transit Authority, 2022 WL 17171209