Damages Increased From $110,000 to $950,000 in Slip/Fall Case

Yesterday the Appellate Division, First Department found, in Grinberg v. C & L Contracting Corp, that awards of $75,000 and $35,000 for past and future pain and suffering, respectively, were “inadequate” to compensate the plaintiff for injuries sustained in a fall.  It therefore remanded for a new trial on damages unless defendant stipulated to an increase of past and future pain and suffering to $500,000 and $450,000, respectively.

The court initially detailed plaintiff’s substantial injuries:

As a result of a fall, plaintiff suffered severe injuries to his left leg, including a pilon fracture, which is a “limb threatening injury,” crushing the ankle, as well as a multi-fragmented, comminuted fracture to the tibia. Such a fracture injures not only the bone but also the surrounding tissues, including nearby ligaments, tendons, veins, arteries, and nerves. Plaintiff also sustained a spiral fracture to the fibula, near the knee. He underwent a surgery involving open reduction and internal fixation, and a second surgery to remove the hardware. Plaintiff’s injuries required rehabilitation and have resulted in permanent arthritis, tendonitis, and the potential need for future procedures.

A “good recovery” from the two surgeries for these severe injuries, and plaintiff’s luck in escaping disabling pain, does not equate to an absence of pain and suffering. The last time plaintiff saw his orthopedic surgeon, Dr. Weiner, was in the fall of 2011, about 8 to 10 months before trial. He reported that he still experienced pain when walking on uneven surfaces, where his ankle twists, and when he walks or stands for more than 15 or 20 minutes. He also testified that he still feels pain in his leg. Moreover, Dr. Weiner stated that plaintiff is manifesting some problems with motion, weakness of tendons with inflammation, and that, if arthritis progresses as he expects it will, plaintiff will need future procedures.

Accordingly, the court held that “[g]iven the severity of plaintiff’s injuries and the ongoing problems and expected future limitations, the amounts awarded for past and future pain and suffering are inadequate, deviating materially from what would be reasonable compensation”.  As support, the court cited the First Department Cases of Rivera v New York City Tr. Auth., 92 AD3d 516 and Orellano v 29 E. 37th St. Realty Corp., 4 AD3d 247.