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Court determined that traumatic brain injury contributed to fatal accident. Baselice v. Long Island R.R., 79 Misc. 3d 1070 (N.Y. Sup. Ct. 2023)


Baselice v. Long Island R.R., 79 Misc. 3d 1070 (N.Y. Sup. Ct. 2023) is a tragic case involving a Long Island Railroad train derailment that led to a wrongful death claim. The plaintiff, George Baselice, initially filed a lawsuit in 2017 following the accident that occurred on October 8, 2016. The derailment resulted in serious injuries to his wife, Carmela Baselice, which allegedly contributed to her subsequent fatal car accident in 2020.

Background Facts

The incident began on October 8, 2016, when a Long Island Railroad train derailed between the New Hyde Park and Merillon Avenue stations in Nassau County, New York. George Baselice and his wife, Carmela Baselice, were passengers on the train when it was sideswiped by a Long Island Railroad work train. The collision caused Carmela to suffer significant personal injuries, including a traumatic brain injury. Her symptoms included post-traumatic stress disorder, major depressive disorder, dizziness, vertigo, blackouts, seeing stars, and headaches.

In a tragic turn of events, Carmela was involved in a fatal car accident on April 2, 2020, on Old Country Road in Suffolk County. She crashed head-on into a concrete retaining wall. The death certificate listed her cause of death as a “probable neurological event.” Following her death, George Baselice was appointed as the administrator of her estate and sought to amend the complaint to include a claim for wrongful death. The plaintiff argued that the injuries sustained in the 2016 railroad accident likely caused Carmela to lose control of her vehicle, resulting in the fatal accident.

Whether the plaintiff should be granted leave to amend the complaint to include a cause of action for wrongful death. The defendant opposed the motion, arguing that the amendment was untimely due to the expiration of the statute of limitations for wrongful death claims. The plaintiff contended that the amendment was timely under the relation-back doctrine, which permits a new claim to be added if it arises from the same transactions or occurrences alleged in the original complaint.

The court granted the plaintiff’s motion for leave to amend the complaint to include the wrongful death claim. The court found that the proposed amendment was not untimely and that it related back to the original complaint. This decision allowed the wrongful death claim to proceed, giving the plaintiff the opportunity to seek justice for his wife’s death.

The court’s rationale for granting the amendment was based on several factors. First, the court noted that applications for leave to amend a pleading should be freely granted unless the amendment would unfairly prejudice or surprise the opposing party or is palpably insufficient or patently devoid of merit. The court found no evidence that the defendant would be prejudiced or surprised by the proposed amendment, as the case was not yet on the trial calendar and the defendant had been aware of Carmela’s death since August 2020.

Second, the court considered the relation-back doctrine, which allows a new claim to be added if it relates back to the facts, circumstances, and proof underlying the original complaint. The original complaint and the wrongful death cause of action both arose from the 2016 train derailment. The court found that the medical evidence submitted by the plaintiff, including the affidavit of forensic pathologist Dr. Joseph A. Felo, supported the claim that the injuries suffered in the 2016 accident were likely the cause of the 2020 automobile accident. Dr. Felo’s opinion provided a direct link between the neurological ailments resulting from the derailment and Carmela’s fatal accident, making the wrongful death claim timely under the relation-back doctrine.

Additionally, the court addressed the defendant’s argument regarding the statute of limitations. Normally, the statute of limitations for wrongful death would have expired on April 2, 2022. However, due to the tolling provisions issued by Governor Andrew Cuomo during the COVID-19 pandemic, the statute of limitations was extended until November 4, 2022. The plaintiff filed the motion to amend the complaint on December 27, 2022, 53 days after the extended deadline. Despite this, the court found that the relation-back doctrine applied, allowing the wrongful death claim to be considered timely.

If you or someone you know has suffered from the consequences of a serious accident, it is critical to seek legal guidance. An experienced New York brain injury lawyer can help navigate the complexities of personal injury and wrongful death claims. At Stephen Bilkis & Associates, we are dedicated to ensuring that you receive the compensation and justice you deserve.

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