Kreindler Obtains Record Personal Injury Verdict in New York Pedestrian Accident
- Kreindler obtained a record verdict for a Lower Manhattan pedestrian who became paralyzed after being struck in a crosswalk when the driver of a Budget Rent-A-Car ran a red light.
- Suit was filed against Budget Rent-A-Car arguing that Budget was liable for the negligence of the driver under New York Vehicle and Traffic Law § 388.
On November 29, 2000, a 25-year-old man was crossing New York City’s Delancey Street when the driver of a Budget rental car ran a red light and slammed into a van which careened into the crosswalk, striking the plaintiff as he was crossing Delancey Street. The plaintiff’s spinal cord was dislocated at level T6 causing complete paraplegia from the chest down and other catastrophic injuries.
Kreindler attorneys David C. Cook and Marc S. Moller tried the case in December 2003 obtaining a $24.5 million verdict which included compensation for the victim for past and future loss of earnings, medical care, as well as pain and suffering.
In January 2005, the trial judge, Milton A. Tingling Jr., JSC, upheld $20.3 million of the verdict, which was one of the highest such verdicts ever returned in New York State.
An appeal was argued before the Appellate Court on October 27, 2005, which upheld most of the award.
With the Court of Appeals, New York State’s highest court, declining to hear further appeal, the final chapter of what may be the last case under the law that holds rental car companies liable for the negligence of their drivers was likely written. The Court’s decision upholds a record-setting $10 million dollar award for future pain and suffering for the victim, along with other damages.
Previously, two state appellate courts approved an award of nearly $20 million after a jury verdict of more than $24 million. The affirmation of such a high award is significant because New York state courts are activists in reducing high jury awards, based upon a mandate that they decrease awards that are not “reasonable.”
This is truly a 'David vs. Goliath' victory for our client. The court today reaffirmed what we have argued all along — innocent victims of such negligence on our roadways deserve protection under the law, especially in cases resulting in such tragedy.
“This, unfortunately, is likely the last case of its kind,” said Mr. Moller. “Such protections have been eliminated by our Federal government and the current administration with no plan in place to protect innocent victims of rental car accidents. Seriously injured victims will be denied recoveries and may become public charges with the taxpayer bearing the burden, while large rental and leasing companies are relieved of responsibility for the harm their drivers cause. This is unfortunately the case, even though rental and leasing companies will allow just about anyone with a license and credit card to get behind the wheel of their cars. The effect of the recent Congressional legislation is to allow rental car companies to profit while victims suffer.”
Compelling Evidence Critical to Victory
Verdicts that result from emotion rather than evidence are easily targeted by higher courts. The key to success in this case was marshalling and presenting evidence that was so compelling, the jury had a legitimate basis upon which to adequately compensate the grievously injured plaintiff.
Arguing Budget’s Culpability
All too often, automobiles are underinsured in New York State, causing significant problems for victims who are injured in automobile accidents through no fault of their own. Relying on New York Vehicle and Traffic Law § 388, which creates vicarious liability in vehicle owners for the negligence of drivers, Kreindler & Kreindler LLP filed suit against Budget Rent-A-Car arguing that Budget was liable for the negligence of the driver to whom it had rented the vehicle. New York’s V.T.L. § 388 has a dual purpose: to ensure that injured parties have recourse against a financially responsible owner and to encourage owners to exercise care when entrusting their vehicle to others. In this case, it was critical to our client’s future care and financial security to have a financially viable defendant.
Award Follows Breakdown of Settlement Talks
After extensive discovery on both liability and damages, and prior to trial, Budget Rent-A-Car conceded liability. Efforts to settle the case were fruitless, however. After a three-week damages trial, the jury returned a verdict of $24.5 million, which included past and future medical expenses of $5.5 million, lost income of $4 million, and past and future pain and suffering of $15 million. After post-trial motions, the trial court let stand the $3 million verdict for past pain and suffering, but reduced the future pain and suffering award to $9 million and the award for future medical expenses by $1 million. The amount of the judgment totaled $20.3 million. The Appellate Division First Department slightly modified the trial court’s findings, which ultimately resulted in one of the highest amounts ever sustained on behalf of an injured plaintiff in New York by its Appellate Courts.
About Kreindler & Kreindler
Kreindler is one of the largest and most distinguished aviation accident law firms in the world. Since 1950, our attorneys have served as lead counsel in nearly every major commercial aviation disaster litigation. Additionally, we have handled countless private, charter, military, general aviation and helicopter accident cases. Our partners have authored numerous highly acclaimed books, articles and treatises on aviation litigation, including the leading treatise in the field, Aviation Accident Law.
Photo Credit: Delancey Street in New York City, Eden, Janine and Jim