$4,100,000 for Backseat Passenger Hurt in 2-Car Accident on Triborough Bridge
DATE OF VERDICT
April 15, 1996
COURT AND COUNTY
Supreme Court, Kings County
AGE AND OCCUPATION OF PLAINTIFF
At the time of accident, client was a 54-year-old analyst with the Board of Education of the City of New York.
FACTS AND ALLEGATIONS
This matter originates from a car accident which occurred on the morning of August 1995. A group of widows were traveling towards Montauk on the Triborough Bridge (now Robert F. Kennedy Bridge) when they were involved in a two-car collision. Plaintiff was a passenger in the backseat of the host vehicle, which was being operated recklessly by the driver. The host vehicle was rear-ended by another co-defendant who had also been careless in her operation of her motor vehicle. The two vehicles then sideswiped each other before ultimately coming to rest at some point near the center median.
At key issue in this matter was the question of liability. More specifically, the court was tasked with determining each party’s fault for the incident crash in the interest of assigning liability for Plaintiff’s resultant injuries. The police officer who responded to the scene and performed the investigation drew a depiction of the impact point of the two cars. According to the officer, the markings on the road and bridge indicated that the vehicles had “side-swiped” each other. Despite describing the type of accident that occurred, the officer did not offer an opinion as to which car struck which first.
Defendants argued that the officer’s testimony constituted an expert opinion that he was unqualified to give. As such, Defendants appealed to have the officer’s testimony struck from the record as outside the scope of his expertise. Despite the appellant challenging the validity of the officer’s testimony, the court held on appeal that the officer had not given any testimony that constituted expert opinion, as part of the officer’s regular duties consisted of responding to car accident scenes and performing such evaluations as he had.
As a result of the accident, Plaintiff suffered multiple disc herniation of the C3-4, C6-7, L5-S1 with compression and encroachment, as confirmed by MRI.
Defendants argued that the car accident was not the proximate cause of Plaintiff’s injuries. Rather, Defendants argued that Plaintiff’s condition of morbid obesity both caused and contributed to the disc herniation.
Plaintiff’s expert radiologist opined that Plaintiff had suffered 10 herniated discs as had been previously confirmed by medical record. More importantly, he opined that the herniated discs had all been proximately caused by the impact of the car accident in question. After deliberation, the jury determined that fault should be split between the host driver and the trailing vehicle at 70 percent and 30 percent, respectively. Under the doctrine of joint and several tortfeasor liability, Plaintiff was able to recover the full amount of damages from each party regardless of the coverage offered by each parties’ insurance policies.
After trial, the jury awarded an initial verdict of $6,750,000 for damages related to past and future pain and suffering. Upon the court’s review, the verdict was adjusted to $4,100,000 in light of other analogous cases where Plaintiff’s had been in similar situations.
This case was handled by Firm Partner Jeffrey A. Block, Esq.