A 38-year old Bronx resident and plaintiff of this case was driving along Morris Park Avenue, when his vehicle collided with a pay-loader owned by the City of New York and the NYC Parks & Recreation. The plaintiff sustained injuries of the back and neck.
He sued the City of New York, the NYC Parks & Recreation Department and the driver of the city vehicle, alleging the driver was negligent and the owner was vicariously liable. The plaintiff contended that he was driving in the left hand lane, when the driver of the city vehicle made a sudden a U-turn from the right hand lane, and caused the accident.
Partial summary judgment was granted for the plaintiff on the issue of liability. The City had the opportunity to argue comparative negligence against the plaintiff. The plaintiff contended that he was unable to avoid the collision, as the other drive had turned suddenly into his lane. He argued that, based on photographs of the plaintiff’s vehicle and the police report, the point of impact was between the front tire and the stairs leading into the cab, which indicated that the pay-loader had turned into his lane.
The City contended that the driver did not suddenly turn into his vehicle, but was already in the process of making his turn when the accident happened, and therefore the plaintiff should have avoided the collision by moving into the right lane. The City’s expert accident reconstruction expert opined that, based on photographs of the pay-loader and a crush analysis, the point of impact was at the rear tire. The expert further opined that based on the points of impact, the pay-loader was a complete stop when the accident occurred, and that at least 75 percent of the pay-loader was already across the double-yellow line when the collision occurred; therefore the plaintiff should have seen the pay-loader and attempted to avoid the collision.
The expert also created a full-sized mock-up of the pay-loader to demonstrate the size of the vehicle, and argue that the plaintiff should have been able to see the vehicle before the collision. Over plaintiff’s objections that the mock-up would seem overly large in the court room and out of scale with the wide streets and buildings on Morris Park Avenue, the Court allowed the jury to view the mock-up, but moved the exhibit into a larger courtroom in the courthouse.
The plaintiff sustained herniated discs at L4-5 and C5-6.
Following the accident, the plaintiff was taken by ambulance to a hospital, where he complained of neck and back pains, and was treated and released. He subsequently began treating with physical therapy, which he continued several times a week for 2-3 months. In October 2008, the plaintiff underwent a cervical discectomy.
The plaintiff continued to report back pains, and underwent a lumbar spinal fusion in January 2009. He continued treating with pain medication and physical therapy throughout the surgeries, and continued to treat for some months after the fusion. The plaintiff claimed that as a result of the injuries he was no longer able to perform physical work, engage in strenuous activates, and no longer able to play with his young children, or assist his wife with household chores. He did not return to work after the injuries.
The plaintiff also claimed he would require future pain medication for the rest of his life.
He sought recovery for past and future pain and suffering, as well as medical expenses.
The defendant contended that the plaintiff had recovered from the injuries. The City’s expert neurologist opined that the plaintiff had a full range of motion, and would be able to return to work without restriction and perform his household duties.
The jury found the defendant 85 percent liable and the plaintiff 15 percent liable, and awarded the plaintiff $11,600,000. Due to the liability finding, the plaintiff received $9,860,000.