First Department Affirms $18M+ Jury Verdict in Bronx Personal Injury Action

The Supreme Court Appellate Division, First Department, has upheld a jury verdict that awarded over eighteen million dollars to a burn victim in the Bronx. The plaintiff had been refinishing the floor of an apartment when the pilot light turned on and ignited the lacquer that the plaintiff was using on the floor. More than half of the victim’s body suffered severe burns. He sued the owners of the apartment complex, and the jury returned a verdict of 100% liability on the part of the owners group with damages in the amount of $18,681,323.19.

The Leasing company, which owned the actual apartment in which the plaintiff had been working, was added as a 3rd party defendant. The jury did find that the leasing company had been negligent, however they concluded that this negligence did not contribute to the accident. The jury also found that the plaintiff was in no way comparatively negligent for the accident and his resulting injuries, thus the determination that the owners group bore full responsibility.

Naturally, with a verdict that large, the owners group appealed. The First Department, using the precedent of McDermott v Coffee Beanery, Ltd., 9 AD3d 195, ruled that the jury verdict was consistent with a fair interpretation of the evidence. In McDermott, the First Department reasoned that “it is a settled rule that a jury verdict should not be set aside as against the weight of the evidence unless the jury could not have reached its verdict on any fair interpretation of the evidence.” In other words, the appellate court will uphold a lower jury verdict unless it feels that the manner in which the jury interpreted the evidence was unreasonable. In the First Department’s opinion, that standard was not met here.

The other aspect of the defendant’s appeal centered around the idea that the damages awarded by the jury were excessive. Based upon CPLR 5501(c), an award of damages is excessive “if it deviates materially from what would be reasonable compensation.” Based upon the plaintiff’s extensive physical and emotional injuries, multiple surgeries, ongoing therapy, and future medical expenses, the Court stated that the standard of material deviation from reasonable compensation was not met.

The plaintiff in this case undoubtedly suffered unspeakable agony as the result of this incident. While the very large jury verdict cannot return his life to what it was before, it will serve to take care of his care and treatment for some time to come.

If you or a loved one has been injured due to the neglect of others, please contact the N.Y. Personal Injury Attorneys at the Law Offices of Thomas L. Gallivan, PLLC.

Peat v Fordham Hill Owners Corp., 2013 NY Slip Op 07128

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