A New York jury recently awarded damages greater than compensation sought in a personal injury lawsuit. The lawsuit was filed by an 89-year-old woman who suffered debilitating injuries from a slip and fall accident in her apartment.
Workers were replacing windows in the woman’s apartment; furniture was moved and plastic drop cloths were placed down. The plaintiff slipped on the drop cloth because it was bunched on the bottom. Her fall resulted in hip replacement surgery and extensive physical therapy. The elderly woman was healthy and active at the time of the accident; she walked on a regular basis with no cane or walker. Although she is improving, her mobility will never be the same.
The lawsuit sought damages of $900,000. The jury decision was reached in less than an hour clearly showing that the jury thought the defendant was careless and negligent. It awarded the plaintiff $1,050,000; $450,000 for past pain and suffering and $600,000 for future pain and suffering. How can an award be greater than sought compensation? Fortunately for this woman, New York has no limits on how much a victim can recover for pain and suffering. New Yorkers are able to rely on juries to examine the facts of each case and determine how much a plaintiff should recover for their pain and suffering and loss of enjoyment of life. For this victim, it meant that she was able to recover an amount, deemed fair by a jury of her peers, after the jury heard the facts in the case and applied the law.
Every injury, every injured person, every case is different; this is why arbitrary caps, legislatively mandated damages, are not fair. Many factors must be considered when evaluating a case and reaching a settlement. Were there any pre-existing injuries that exasperated the new injuries? Will the injured be able to return to his/her life as it was before the injury? Will the victim suffer loss of income? These and many other factors go into the evaluation of pain and suffering and the amount of the award.
Damages caps are wrong; they infringe on the right to trial by jury and disproportionately impact those who have suffered the worst injuries. Fortunately, New York State has never adopted damages caps. Lawsuit Financial urges all citizens to speak up against tort reform of any kind. Contact your elected officials, find out where they stand on these issues, and let them know that you will not vote for someone who supports tort reform or any type of injustice. New York had the guts to strike them down as unconstitutional. Do you?
Mark Bello has thirty-three years experience as a trial lawyer and twelve years as an underwriter and situational analyst in the lawsuit funding industry. He is the owner and founder of Lawsuit Financial Corporation which helps provide legal finance cash flow solutions and consulting when necessities of life litigation funding is needed by plaintiffs involved in pending, personal injury litigation. Bello is a Justice Pac member of the American Association for Justice, Sustaining and Justice Pac member of the Michigan Association for Justice, Business Associate of the Florida, Tennessee, and Colorado Associations for Justice, a member of the American Bar Association as well as their ABA Advisory Committee, the State Bar of Michigan and the Injury Board.