OK, I’ll admit it. I have never gotten a $66 Million Dollar verdict. Although all the lawyers in our firm have either gotten million dollar settlements or verdicts, and even multimillion dollar ones, we have never come close to that number. $66 million? That’s a lot of money. That’s a Western New York personal injury verdict record. And that’s what a Western, NY jury awarded a woman who suffered severe spinal in a workplace accident last week.
I am sure there was very good lawyering here (hats off to Michael Law, a good friend of this law firm, and his partner Kevin English) but that alone can’t explain a verdict of that size. In my experience as a Central New York personal injury lawyer, a jury will only give that much money away when (1) it really dislikes the defendant, and/or (2) the injuries are devastating beyond belief.
Both of these things appear to have been present here. This was not just a run-of-the-mill back injury. This twenty-something woman was rendered quadriplegic after a large piece of exercise equipment toppled onto her, shattering her cervical vertebrae, and causing massive spinal cord damage.
How did that happen? She was a massage therapist at a business that provided physical therapy. She leaned against a 600-pound “leg extension machine”, which then toppled over on top of her. (How could that happen without some negligence on the part of either the manufacturer of the product or the owner who installed and maintained it? Answer: It couldn’t). Her Rochester, NY personal injury lawyers brought a New York products liability claim against the manufacturer of the machine and a negligence claim against the business that owned and maintained it. The jury said that the manufacturer was the most at fault (75%) but that the owner was to blame, too (20%). The jury found that the plaintiff had barely any fault at all (5%).
My guess is the jury got angry with the defendants for refusing to accept responsibility for the accident (this same thing had happened to 7 other people before, so clearly there was something dangerous about this machine). The trial strategy, often employed by defense lawyers, of trying to blame the injured plaintiff for the accident can backfire big time, as it appears to have done here. Really, how could this poor young lady have been much to blame for this 600-pound machine, which she did not design or install, toppling over on her?
Quadriplegic cases often result in very high verdicts because of the great expense of long-term medical care. And when the victim is in her 20’s, as here, multiplying the yearly medical care cost out into the future makes for a big number. Also, lost wages over a life time adds up.
Here, the jury determined that the injured woman’s medical care would cost almost $30 million. In fact, almost exactly half the $66 million award was for “economic loss” (a life time of medical expenses and lost wages) and only half was to compensate her for pain and suffering and loss of enjoyment of life.
Is $33 million too much for her pain and suffering? What is having to live your life as a quadriplegic really worth? Would you allow me to crush your cervical spinal chord and render you quadriplegic if I paid you $33 million dollars? Think about it and let me know if this verdict was excessive.
Email me at: firstname.lastname@example.org I’d love to hear from you!
Michael G. Bersani, Esq.
michaels-smolak.com Central NY Personal Injury Lawyer Michaels & Smolak, P.C.