Gunzburg Trial Update: Gunzburg Client v. NYCTA

Here at the Gunzburg Law Blog, we’ve touched on issues involving Bike Safety in NYC and Municipal Liabilities throughout NYC. Issues like these arise on a daily basis in New York, and our recent case v. the NYC Transit Authority is a troubling reminder of this.

The Trial:
This case was a damages only trial. The trial court granted plaintiff’s motion for partial summary judgment against defendants. The defendants’ appealed to the Appellate Division, First Department which unanimously affirmed the lower court’s decision. Jury selection started on 11/18/2010. The trial began on Monday November 29, and ended on December 3, 2010. It was tried over 3 days (Monday, Tuesday and Friday). The jury returned its verdict at around 4:30pm on Friday 12/3/2010.

The Case:
On May 17 2007, John Doe, a 29 year old installer of high end entertainment systems who worked also as a website designer, was riding a brand new mountain bike that he purchased that same day (along with a new helmet) along Fifth Avenue between 40 and 41St. Streets in front of the main branch of the NY Public Library. As he was proceeding along in the far right lane of moving traffic in the bus lane, a NYC transit bus was literally pursuing him from the rear tire of his bike. The bus was moving at approximately 30 mph hour and was only centimeters off his rear tire. The plaintiff could hear the engine revving, and the operator did not sound his horn, slow down or evade Mr. Doe. To avert being crushed by the bus the plaintiff travelling around 20-25 mph tried to throttle or jump the curb but lost control over his bike and came crashing down onto his right dominant arm. Mr. Doe sustained high impact fractures and he testified that he heard his bones break which sounded like a tree branch snapping in two. He testified that he was lying in a pool of blood and the he could take his hand and touch his elbow. An independent eyewitness was waiting for her bus home to Staten Island and she witnessed the entire event at testified at a pretrial deposition. She and a number of other people called for the police and an ambulence. The police arrived and prepared a report. The bus operator was never identified. The operator pulled up to the curb picked up his passengers and drove away. Plaintiff was transported to NY Presbyterian Hospital/ Weill Cornell Medical Center on East 70th street. He was taken into the Emergency Room waited about 1 hour for assistance and then was finally seen by a nurse and given morphine for pain. Plaintiff received X-rays and was diagnosed with multiple fractures of the right radius and ulna arm bones and the right wrist. Plaintiff is and was right hand dominant. Mr. Doe was treated by two residents who attempted a closed reduction surgery which was described as medieval torture. The procedure failed. He was admitted into the hospital and the next morning was seen by attending orthopedic surgeon. Dr performed an open reduction internal fixation surgery under a local anesthetic block and a sedative. Dr reduced and re-aligned the radial and ulna bones and inserted a 6 hole plate on the ulna and fixed it with 6 screws, and then inserted a 7 hole plate to the radius and fixed it with 6 screws. He also realigned and set the displaced wrist fractures. Plaintiff received ace bandages to his extremity post surgery, was placed on pain killers, was instructed to remain on bed rest and to keep his right arm elevated on pillows and given ice to reduce the swelling. After 4 more days in the hospital, plaintiff was discharged home. Before discharge he was fitted in a long arm caste for 6 weeks in the supine position, hand to the ceiling position.

The jury returned a verdict of $1,047,088.72.
$48,544.36 for both past and future medicals.
$25,0000. for both past and future pain and suffering.
$450,000 for future lost wages.

In an oral post trial motion by defense counsel to reduce future medicals and future lost earnings, the court granted defense counsel’s motion only to the extend of reducing future medicals from $48,544.36 to $25,000. The jury was unanimous on all questions presented with no dissents. Defense counsel stated his desire to appeal the jury’s verdict.

The problem now is the fact that my client was badly injured and despite having lost once in the appellate court, and then again before the jury, the NYCTA wants to further delay justice and appeal the jury’s decision too. The Transit Authority will try to crush you on the street – and if that doesn’t work, crush you in the courtroom!

We strongly believe in Bike Safety and our website consistently shares links on best practices in Bike Safety:
Bicycle Safety
How Not to Get Hit By Cars: Important Lessons on Bicycle Safety
Five Borough Bicycle Club – Your “TO GO” BICYCLIST / I.D. Kit

Unfortunately, in this case, Bike Safety turned out to really mean bike defensive driving, especially in NYC – thanks to the New York City Transit Authority!

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