On August 20, the Supreme Court Appellate Division, First Department upheld a jury verdict of over $700,000 in a New York slip and fall case. The defendants had appealed the amount of the damages. Although the Court did uphold the jury’s award for past and future pain and suffering, it did reduce the award for past medical expenses from $60,000 to just under $47,000.
The case involved a slip and fall that injured a worker as he was carrying a box down a flight of stairs. The stairs, according to the plaintiff, were wet and slippery due to rain throughout the day. The plaintiff did admit that his supervisor had placed a mat down for the workers to wipe their feet, but the jury still found for the plaintiff, and awarded the damages noted above.
In New York, the scope of judicial review is laid out in CPLR section 5501. Specifically, 5501(c) details what may be reviewed by the Appellate Division. In order to modify a jury’s money judgment, the Appellate Division must determine that the award was either excessive or inadequate. To make this determination, the Court must decide that the award “deviates materially from what would be reasonable compensation.” The First Department notes in its decision that it accords deference to the trial court’s ruling, as the court of first instance has the opportunity to view witness testimony in person, as well as observe the jury. Accordingly, the First Department was unwilling to say that the jury’s award deviated materially from reasonable compensation.
As to past medical expenses, the Court found that the amount originally awarded did deviate from what was presented into evidence at the Supreme Court trial. Based upon the bills that the plaintiff presented, the Court lowered the expense damages. When compared to the overall verdict and results, though, the First Department ruling is still a nice victory for the plaintiff.