Articles Posted in New York

According to a recent study on jury verdicts, the median compensatory damages award for personal injury trials in New York is $287,628. This median award dwarfs the nationwide median of $34,550.

Why Are New York Personal Injury Verdicts Are So High?

New York has favorable juries, particularly in its urban areas. But the reality is that this number is distorted by the lack of smaller and mid-sized car accident lawsuits. Under New York’s no-fault law, an insurance company is required to pay drivers, passengers, and pedestrians up to $50,000.00 for their legitimate economic and medical losses but does not provide for pain and suffering.

Only permanent injury cases can recover more than $50,000. This leads to fewer lawsuits in smaller cases – of which there are many – which increases the overall award in New York. Keep in mind the typical settlement or verdict tells you very little about the expected settlement compensation payout in your claim.

new york statute limitations child abuseIn February 2019, New York Governor Andrew Cuomo signed Child Victims Act into law. It extends the statute of limitations for victims of child abuse.  Child sex abuse victims are now allowed to file criminal charges against their abuser before they turn 28. Victims are allowed to file civil charges against their abuser before they turn 55. Previously, victims had to file both civil and criminal charges before they turned 23. The law also allows a one-year period for individuals to file cases that happened longer than what the statute of limitations would have allowed. It also requires judges to have some training on how to handle child sex abuse cases.

What are statutes of limitations, and why do we have them?

Statutes of limitations (SOL) are a predetermined period that the state is allowed to charge someone with a crime. Different crimes have different extended periods of time when one can file charges against someone. However, the same crime may have a different SOL depending on the state. There are SOL laws because of concerns that witness testimony might be unreliable. A victim may not necessarily remember enough about their abuse that the jury may not find them credible. Physical evidence may also deteriorate over time, which further questions credibility.

Why extend the statute of limitations if someone might not remember what happened to them?

DNA, audio or video recordings, emails, and texts do not disintegrate over time, making them more credible forms of evidence over a longer period. Society has also improved their understanding of the trauma that victims of child sexual abuse experience. People now understand that it can take many years or even decades before someone finally comes forward. While laws on statutes of limitations are put in place to ensure credibility, there are exceptional cases such as child sexual abuse which necessitates lengthened the statute of limitations.

summary judgment hospital malpracticeThe first recorded opinion that I have seen in 2015 is a reminder to medical malpractice victims that there is rarely another option to hiring a lawyer in a medical malpractice case.

In Bagley v. Rochester General Hospital, a woman presented to the renal dialysis unit with complaints of abdominal pain, constipation, and complications from end-stage diabetic renal disease.  This was, regrettably, not a healthy woman.  The hospital did some tests and sent the woman to the emergency room believing that she had bacterial peritonitis as a result of being on dialysis.  The woman’s condition went downhill from there and she died of cardiac arrest.  Plaintiff contends that the real problem was a ruptured acute appendicitis, not peritonitis.

Let me start with a blunt statement: our law firm would never take this case.   Let’s assume it is exactly as the victim’s family says.  The hospital’s doctors screwed up and misdiagnosed the patient.  Even if this is true — I would bet that, although it is just a hunch on these facts —  I don’t think it is a viable medical malpractice action.

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A New York municipality will pay $1.6 million in a settlement to a man against the city of Clarence over his paralyzing fear of frogs. The settlement was forced down their throats by his victory at trial years ago. Let’s all take a deep breath.

Plaintiff’s lawsuit alleged a real estate developer diverted runoff water to his property, flooding almost 40 acres of his property and bringing forth hundreds of frogs. Plaintiff’s suit claimed that he had a great fear of frogs to the point where he was a prisoner in this own home.

This is crazy. These runaway juries make everyone settle. The world has gone mad. Let’s take a second deep breath.

airline accident verdictsThis week the US Court of Appeals, Second Circuit upheld a District Court’s judgment in a New York case, Saladino v. American Airlines. The decision was more than a decade in the making and stems from a highly unusual aviation accident.

In 1999 – 14 years ago which is just crazy – the plaintiff was employed by American Airlines as a baggage handler at JFK in New York. While on the job, he was struck in the head by the hood of a baggage tractor. At the time of the accident, the plaintiff was a passenger on the tractor that was parked behind a jet. When the jet engines started to warm up for flight, they caused the tractor hood to flip open and strike the plaintiff’s head. Tragically, the accident left him quadriplegic.

In 2001, plaintiffs sued the manufacturers of the tractor, Stewart and Stevenson Tug (S&S). S&S then impleaded American Airlines seeking contribution and indemnification.

Two massage therapists who worked for the New York Jets are suing Brett Favre for sexual harassment. These women contend that they were subjected to sexual harassment and discrimination and lost their part-time – very part-time – jobs with the Jets after complaining about sexually suggestive text messages from the retired NFL quarterback during his two-year stint with the team.

Plaintiffs’ attorneys have used an underutilized tool – request for admission – to get concessions from Favre, a married man, that underscores that he inappropriately approaches female team employees and, perhaps more to the overall point, is an overall creep. Accordingly, they asked Favre to admit or deny he regularly solicited women for sexual encounters. As a part of this effort, they want details on the famous (alleged; I guess I should still say) photos of his penis that he sent to former Jets game hostess, Jenn Sterger.

The plaintiffs’ lawyer is pushing this angle, I suspect, for two reasons. First, it helps them prosecute the lawsuit. It is really hard to argue that texting a picture of your penis to a team employee is not some indicia of someone who would sexually harass New York Jets’ employees. I can’t see an argument that this is not discoverable.

The average car/truck/motorcycle accident verdict in New York is $837,020, which is stunningly high compared to most other jurisdictions.

Why is this? Are New York jurors just that much more generous than, say, jurors in Maryland?

The answer is that New York’s no-fault accident law requires that plaintiffs suffer a “serious injury” before a lawsuit can be brought against the at-fault driver. While there is some question that having a magical threshold that needs to be crossed is going to be fraught with great flaws, there is no question that this New York scheme, as desultory as the justice it might bring, keeps minor personal injury car accident cases out of court.

What’s my point? My point is that this completely distorts average car accident verdicts in New York. I read Metro Verdicts Monthly and Mealey’s which provide a lot of individual verdicts in car accident cases in Maryland, Virginia, and Washington, D.C. It is amazing how many jury verdicts there are for $10,000 when, if you look at the case, is really not such a bad result. New York has none of these cases deflating their average.

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A recent Jury Verdict Research (JVR) study found that the average verdict in a New York motor vehicle accident case is $837,020. The median verdict is $150,000. This data does not include defense verdicts which, if considered in the data, would obviously reduce the average award.

To be sure, $837,020 is a lot of money for the average car accident case. But you have to keep in mind that in New York because of the threshold level of injury requirement, juries are more likely to hear a serious injury case than a jury would in, say, for example, Maryland.

Rear-end accidents accounted for 21% of the successful verdicts in the study. Pedestrian lawsuits were 17% of the verdicts and intersection accidents made up 15%.

Five New York hospitals are participating in a pilot program to cut medical malpractice lawsuits and costs by, among other things, revealing medical mistakes early and offering quick settlements in cases where it appears there was malpractice.

Believe it or not, I don’t have an opinion. I think under this paradigm more cases will settle but the average malpractice settlement in these cases will be less than the statistics now show. Is it worth it to get less but get it over with and be able to move on with your life? It depends on how much less.

One other interesting tidbit from one of the articles in this program: There are 900 pending medical malpractice cases in New York. That is a lot of cases but, then again, New York is a big state.

Personal injury verdict reviews reports on $3,990,000 settlement in a cerebral palsy case in New York. Plaintiff alleged hospital malpractice in failing to train and supervise its medical team who administered an excessive amount of fluid to the infant, causing the child to become waterlogged and develop life-threatening hyponatremia. Plaintiff’s medical malpractice lawyer’s theory of the case was that the hospital should have used (1) a more concentrated solution in a peripheral line and (2) the hospital should have installed a central line, causing them to use too much fluid to deliver adequate amounts of sugar to the child.

Plaintiff’s counsel was Richard A. Gurfein. The case was defended by Lake Success lawyer Henry Zee. Plaintiff’s expert witnesses included Edmund H. Mantell, Ph.D. (economist in White Plains, New York) Daniel Adler, M.D. (pediatric neurologist), and Joseph Carfi, M.D.(rehab expert).

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