$4.6 Million Pain & Suffering Jury Verdict Reduced to $250,000 in School Injury Case

In Arrin C. v. New York City Department of Education (decided June 10, 2014) the Appellate Division, First Department affirmed the trial court’s conditional reduction of a multi-million dollar jury award.

Plaintiff, an autistic 11-year old student, sustained injuries to his mouth – including one of his teeth being knocked out and another being knocked into his upper jaw, requiring extraction – while in school. A Bronx jury found in plaintiff’s favor, and awarded plaintiff non-economic (past and future pain and suffering) damages in the amount of $4.6 million.

Plaintiff’s evidence “that the individual defendants, a teacher and a paraprofessional, did not know how plaintiff injured himself” was “sufficient to support the jury’s finding that defendants are liable for negligent supervision.”

However, the court held that the trial court was correct in “ordering a new trial on the issue of damages unless plaintiff consent[ed] to reduce the amount awarded for past and future pain and suffering from $4.6 million to $250,000″, finding that “[t]he reduced award of $250,000 for past and future pain and suffering does not deviate materially from what would be reasonable compensation” under CPLR 5501(c).

While the court’s decision is relatively short and does not contain extensive analysis, it illustrates the operation of the process in New York for curtailing “excessive” jury verdicts. In my view, this significantly blunts the “excessive jury verdict” arguments of tort “reform” advocates.