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Defendants sought to set aside or reduce $1.3 million damages award. Deleon-Barrera v. Bartlett Dairy, Inc., 2020 N.Y. Slip Op. 34672 (N.Y. Sup. Ct. 2020)


In Deleon-Barrera v. Bartlett Dairy, Inc., the plaintiff sustained injuries from a motor vehicle accident. After a jury trial addressing damages, the defendants to seek a retrial or a reduction of the damages.

In personal injury cases, “serious injury” is a legal term that refers to a specific level of harm that meets the statutory thresholds for filing a lawsuit. In New York, under the Insurance Law § 5102(d), serious injury includes categories such as death, dismemberment, significant disfigurement, a fracture, loss of a fetus, permanent loss of use of a body organ, member, function, or system, permanent consequential limitation, significant limitation of use of a body function or system, or a medically determined injury that prevents the injured person from performing daily activities for 90 days within the 180 days following the injury.

This definition is important because it determines whether an injured party can pursue a claim for non-economic damages, such as pain and suffering, beyond the basic economic loss covered by insurance. Establishing that an injury meets this threshold allows the plaintiff to seek full compensation for their losses, including long-term medical costs, pain, and lifestyle impact.

Background Facts
The accident occurred when the plaintiff’s stopped truck was rear-ended, causing her vehicle to hit another car ahead. Summary judgment on liability was granted because the court found that there was no genuine issue of material fact regarding the fault of the defendants. In this case, the evidence presented demonstrated that the defendants were clearly responsible for causing the motor vehicle accident. Summary judgment is a legal decision made when one party’s evidence is so compelling that no reasonable jury could find in favor of the other party. By granting summary judgment on liability, the court determined that the defendants’ liability was so evident that a trial on this specific issue was unnecessary. This allowed the case to proceed directly to a trial on the issue of damages, where the jury would decide the extent of the plaintiff’s injuries and the appropriate amount of compensation.

The plaintiff, then twenty-seven and a mother of two, experienced severe pain resulting from the accident, leading to multiple surgeries on her neck and shoulders. Despite the surgeries, her pain persisted, impacting her daily activities and quality of life.

After a two-week trial, the jury unanimously agreed that the plaintiff had sustained a “serious injury” based on the three “serious injury” threshold questions presented. The jury awarded the plaintiff significant monetary damages, including:

  • $1.5 million for past pain and suffering.
  • $3 million for future pain and suffering.
  • $121,087.25 for past medical expenses.
  • $1,369,589 for future medical expenses.

The total award for the plaintiff amounted to $5,990,676.25. These future awards were intended to cover a period of 50.5 years, reflecting the jury’s assessment of the long-term impact of the plaintiff’s injuries.  The defendants appealed.

The main issue contested was the amount of damages awarded by the jury. The defendants challenged the jury’s award as excessive and unsupported by evidence, particularly criticizing the claims for future medical expenses and the influence of the plaintiff’s attorney’s remarks during the trial.

The court ordered a new trial on the issues of damages for the plaintiff’s past and future pain and suffering, as well as future medical expenses, unless the plaintiff agreed to a significant reduction in the awarded amounts.

The court found that the jury’s awards for pain and suffering, as well as future medical expenses, deviated materially from what would be considered reasonable compensation. The decision highlighted the lack of sufficient medical evidence to support the extensive future medical expenses projected by the plaintiff’s side. Furthermore, the court noted that while the plaintiff’s attorney’s remarks were pointed, they did not sufficiently taint the jury’s verdict to warrant dismissal of the award on those grounds alone.

The court emphasized the need for a balance between the jury’s discretion in awarding damages and the judicial responsibility to ensure these awards align with established legal standards. The decision to order a new trial or reduce the award was based on comparative analyses with similar cases, reflecting a careful consideration to uphold fairness in compensation.

This case highlights the importance of following medical protocols and the legal ramifications when these standards are not met. The decision underscores the court’s role in ensuring that victims of medical malpractice receive fair compensation for their suffering and medical expenses. If you find yourself in a similar situation, do not hesitate to reach out to an experienced New York brain injury lawyer who can provide comprehensive advice and representation. Navigating the complexities of medical malpractice and personal injury law requires expertise and dedication. Ensure your rights are protected by consulting a professional who understands the intricacies of these cases and can help you pursue the compensation you deserve.


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