$713,000 Jury Verdict on $12,500 Pre-trial Offer
On October 7, 2019, a Westchester County jury provided $713,000 in compensation for non-economic damages to our client, a 16 year old student, who sustained serious injury to his knee after being hit by a car while crossing the street on his way home from school. Before trial, the insurance company offered $12,500 to settle the case. We rejected the offer and proceeded to trial. After the verdict, the insurance company paid $56,000 over its policy limit to settle the case.
The case was tried in two phases. In the first phase, the jury had to determine who was responsible for causing the crash. Because our 16-year-old client did not see the car before it hit him, we conceded that he was partly at fault for the accident. However, because the driver of the car did not see the client and did not sound his horn, we argued that he was also responsible for causing the crash. The insurance company lawyer argued that Sullivan & Brill's client was not hit by the car, but rather walked into the side of the car. That claim was not supported by the statements the client made in the hospital right after the accident or later to his orthopedist. The jury was smart enough to see through those false claims and agreed with lead attorney Steven Brill's position that both parties shared responsibility. The jury apportioned fault 50% to each party, which meant the client would receive 50% of any compensation verdict the jury provided.
After this finding, the insurance company increased its offer from $12,500 to $25,000. The offer was rejected and the trial moved on to the second phase where the jury was required to determine the extent of the client's injuries and the appropriate amount of compensation.
The evidence in the second phase showed that, as a result of the impact, Sullivan & Brill's client sustained a non-displaced fracture of the tibial plateau, the top of the bone that goes from the ankle into the knee, and a small tear of the posterior horn of the medial meniscus. Although the client's orthopedist read the MRI as a bone contusion, the radiologist that interpreted the MRI determined that it was a fracture. The client underwent ten months of conservative treatment that included physical therapy, muscle relaxers, and steroid injections, but it did not relieve his symptoms, so his orthopedist recommended arthroscopic surgery. During the surgery, the fat pad was removed and scar tissue was removed from his knee. Unfortunately, within three years after the injury, he began to develop post-traumatic arthritis at age 19 and become concerned that he might not be able to continue to work at his trade as a blacksmith into his 40s, 50s and beyond. That's when he hired Sullivan & Brill to fight for fair compensation.
At trial, the client's orthopedist testified that as a result of the injury to his knee and development of post-traumatic arthritis, the client would need to have a total knee replacement by the time he was 40. Since the metal implants in a total knee replacement wear out over time, the orthopedist explained that within 20 years of the total knee replacement, the client would have to have a revision of the total knee replacement, at which time he would be in his 60s or 70s.
At the close of evidence, Sullivan & Brill offered to settle the case for the insured's policy limit of $300,000. The insurance company declined the settlement offer. In its verdict, the jury provided $213,000 for past pain and suffering and $500,000 for future pain and suffering over the next 54 years, the client's life expectancy. Because the client accepted 50% of the responsibility for causing the crash, he is only entitled to collect $356,000, which the insurance company paid.