Friday, March 4, 2011

(1) Pain and Suffering Award for Multiple Spinal Injuries and (2) Reduction of Future Loss of Earnings

In Stewart v. NYCTA, the plaintiff slipped and fell on defendant's stairs. The plaintiff sustained the following injuries: (1) a contusion of the cervical spine which required a laminectomy and fusion surgery; (2) compression fractures of the thoracic spine and (3) lumbar laminectomy and fusion surgery. The plaintiff required a baclofen pump to be surgically implanted to prevent muscle spasms in his legs. He has continued difficulty sitting, standing, walking, bending, dressing himself and sleeping. The first Department affirmed awards of $2 million for 9 years of past pain and suffering and $2.7 million for 20 years of future pain and suffering.

The Court reduced the jury's award of $900,000 for future loss of earnings, observing that it was against the weight of the evidence for the jury to assume, given the plaintiff's extensive pre-existing conditions, that he would work for the remainder of his life (20 years). Instead, the Court applied a work-life expectancy of 7.5 years based upon statistical averages. As such, the award for future loss of earnings was reduced to $337,500. (The Court also reduced future medical expenses from $1.3 million to $665,000 as being unsupported by the evidence).

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