Kreindler Settlement Exceeds Judge's Recommendation in Apartment Ceiling Collapse Case
- Successful settlement in a premises liability case for a victim who was struck by ceiling debris, rushed to the hospital and eventually bled to death.
- Kreindler attorneys successfully argued that the court should bar
evidence for the death on Jacobi Hospital, leaving the landlord as the
only target at trial.
being struck by large pieces of the ceiling, Geraldine Cruze was rushed to the
Jacobi Hospital emergency room reporting abdominal pain. She was released seven hours later and returned home with her 83-year-old stepfather. What Ms. Cruze
didn’t know, and the hospital failed to detect, was that she had suffered four
broken ribs, a lacerated renal vein and other internal injuries. Geraldine went
home and rested. Despite pain and difficulty breathing, she believed she was
recovering from her injuries. In fact, she was bleeding internally. Over the next
three days she bled to death.
Wrongful death and survival actions were brought against both the landlord and
the hospital. The case against the hospital presented practical problems. Under
New York law, damages in a wrongful death case are limited to loss of support,
and Geraldine Cruze wasn’t supporting anyone. Under the survival claim, her
estate could recover for her pre-death pain and suffering, but even that
potential recovery was limited by New York courts. The cost of fully litigating
a complex medical malpractice case against the hospital was impractical. The
decision was made to settle with the hospital for $150,000 and proceed against
the landlord under the well established legal principle that a negligent party
who injures another is responsible for all consequences of the injuries, even
later malpractice during treatment.
strategic maneuver played out perfectly. The landlord refused to settle and the
case went to trial.
ceiling that collapsed was made of plaster and concrete. We argued that
humidity from water leaks elsewhere in the apartment and also from steam radiators
coupled along with the age of the building caused the plaster “keys,” which hold the plaster
and concrete to the wooden lath, to crack and break, allowing a large section
to separate from the wooden lath and fall. The landlord had been called in
numerous times to look at other sections of ceiling in the apartment that were
also deteriorating. Repairs were substandard and done piecemeal. The presence
of plaster workers in the apartment on numerous occasions prior to the collapse
was used to demonstrate the landlord’s notice of the dangerous conditions.
After three days of trial, the landlord settled for $675,000, more than the judge had recommended.
the trial, the landlord’s attorneys attempted to foist responsibility for
Geraldine’s death on Jacobi Hospital. Kreindler’s team successfully argued that
the court should bar that evidence, leaving the landlord as the only target at
creative approach was also required on the damages side of the case given the
limitations of New York law. Ms. Cruze lived with her stepfather, but he was not
a legal beneficiary entitled to recover for loss of support and services under
New York law. Her sole surviving heir was her half-brother and so the only individual who could make a
claim. It was successfully argued that her brother relied on Geraldine to care
for his father and, after her death, he had to provide additional pecuniary
support and services to his father.
three days of trial, the landlord settled for $675,000, more than the judge had
recommended before trial, bringing the total settlement to $825,000.