Raul Martin v. Dellwood Foods
Type of Injury
PAIN AND SUFFERING
22,908,100 (6/0), reduced to $10,328,100 as excessive.
IX/45-1 MOTOR VEHICLE MOTORCYCLE DEFENDANT FAILED TO STOP AT STOP SIGN PARAPLEGIA REMITTITUR ON PAIN AND SUFFERING AWARD
Raul Martin v. Dellwood Foods 10090/90 4-week trial Verdict 11/13/91 Post-trial decision 3/18/92 Judge Arthur W. Lonschein, Queens Supreme
VERDICT: $22,908,100 (6/0), reduced to $10,328,100 as excessive. Breakdown: $12,000,000 for future pain and suffering (reduced to $3,000, 000); $2,000,000 for past pain and suffering (reduced to $1,000,000); $462, 000 for future medical care (undisturbed); $586,000 for future special equipment (undisturbed); $35,100 for past lost earnings (undisturbed); $2, 315,000 for future lost earnings (undisturbed); $1,000,000 for future therapeutic modalities (equipment needed, i.e., catheters) (undisturbed); $ 4,330,000 for future cost of attendant and housekeeper (reduced to $1,750, 000); $180,000 for future Social Security loss (undisturbed). Jury: 5 male, 1 female.
Pltf. Atty: Robert S. Kelner, of Kelner & Kelner, Manhattan, for Sanford A. Rubenstein of Rubenstein & Flatow, Brooklyn
Deft. Atty: Henry J. Wheller of Montfort, Healy, McGuire & Salley, Mineola
Facts: On 4/23/90, Pltf., a 24-year-old human resources trainee employed by Allstate, was riding a motorcycle which collided with Deft.’s milk truck at the intersection of 267th St. and Union Tpke. in Queens. Pltf. was on his way to work at the time. He claimed that Deft.’s driver failed to stop at a stop sign on his corner. The jury found Deft. 100% liable for the accident.
Injuries: fracture at T-11 resulting in paraplegia with bowel and bladder incontinence and complete loss of sexual function. Pltf. claimed that he suffers constant severe pain. He is paralyzed from the navel down and is confined to a wheelchair. Pltf. was hospitalized for 1 month at Long Island Jewish Hospital and for 4 months at the Rusk Institute. Pltf. Experts: Dr. Lawrence Shields, neurologist, Brooklyn; Edmond Provder, vocational rehabilitation expert, Manhattan; Edmond Mantell, economist, Scarsdale. Deft. Experts: Dr. Lawrence Kaplan, neuropsychiatrist, Manhattan; Jane Mattson, vocational rehabilitation expert.
In a 5-page decision dated 3/18/92, Judge Lonschein reduced the award as excessive from $22,908,100 to $10,328,100, finding that “it both shocks the conscience of the court, and . . . deviates materially from what would be reasonable compensation.” Decision at p. 2. He compared this case to several cases of quadriplegia, including Moran v. City of New York, 153 A. D.2d 607 (1989), NYJVR VI/6-13, in which the award was reduced from $10, 000,000 to $3,000,000; and Sullivan v. Locastro, ___ A.D.2d ___, 577 N.Y.S. 2d 631 (1991) (see also, New York Judicial Review of Damages, 1 JRD 214), in which the award for the decedent, who was rendered quadriplegic and lived for 3 years and 9 months, was reduced from $2,500,000 to $1,500,000. Judge Lonschein also noted three cases in which the awards for quadriplegia were not disturbed: Carson v. NYCHHC, ___ A.D.2d ___, 5787 N. Y.S.2d 134 (1991), NYJVR VIII/11-1 ($7,700,000 verdict); McCummings v. NYCTA, ___ A.D.2d ___ (1992) ($4,322,142 verdict); and Cortes v. Ryder Truck Rental, Inc., 163 Ill. Dec. 50, 581 N.E.2d 1 (1991), because of the ” close parallel” between that Pltf.’s injuries and those suffered by Mr. Martin in the case at bar. In Cortes, the Appellate Court of Illinois found that the $15,000,000 award to the paraplegic Pltf. and his wife was not “`shockingly excessive.’” Decision at pp. 3-4. Although acknowledging that the injuries to each of the Pltfs. in the above-noted cases are unique, Judge Lonschein found that Pltf. Martin’s award was excessive. He reduced the award from $22,908,100 to $10,328,100 as follows: the $12,000,000 award for future pain and suffering was reduced to $3,000,000; the $2,000,000 award for past pain and suffering was reduced to $1,000,000; and the $4,330,000 award for future cost of attendant and housekeeper was reduced to $1,750,000. The remainder of the verdict was undisturbed.