FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
June 22, 2018
Contact:Eric W. Boyer, Esq.
305.670.1101 Ext. 1023
BRONX COUNTY NEW YORK JURY AWARDS QPWB DEFENSE IN
LANDLORD CASE AGAINST TENANT CLAIMS
BRONX, New York ― Quintairos, Prieto, Wood & Boyer, P.A., (QPWB) New York office partner Richard W. Berne and associates Sonya M. Sumner and Veronica Bowen, obtained a very favorable verdict in defense of a claim of negligence/premises liability against the owner of an apartment building in the Bronx. Plaintiff was a former tenant, who claimed that he had repeatedly complained there was a leak in the ceiling above his shower, and that on the day in question, a piece of the ceiling fell on his head, causing him to slip and fall across the side of the tub, injuring his lumbar spine.
Plaintiff alleged this condition was persistent and that the superintendent of the building kept promising to repair the ceiling but did not. He introduced records of his initial hospital visit (two weeks post-accident), and six months of physical therapy. He called a neurologist who showed the jury an MRI of plaintiff’s lumbar spine, and pointed out two bulges which, in his opinion, were a permanent condition and would continue to significantly impair plaintiff’s quality of life. At the time of the accident, plaintiff was 24 years old, and working as a bike messenger. Plaintiff also called the owner of the building, who had little to add, but since the Bronx is the most pro-plaintiff and most anti-landlord county in New York State, plaintiff wanted the jury to focus on the image of a “bad landlord.”
The defense called the superintendent to the stand. He testified there were no prior complaints regarding this leak, and that on the day of the incident he was summoned to plaintiff’s apartment, made a hole in the ceiling to drain the water (it was dangling), and then went upstairs, fixed a broken pipe, and then returned to plaintiff’s apartment and repaired the ceiling. The defense called an Orthopedic Surgeon who had examined plaintiff and reviewed the MRI films. He opined that disc bulges are a normal variant of the spine (citing a study in the New England Journal of Medicine that found that 52% of all individuals with no back pain have disc bulges). He further opined that in plaintiff’s case, the MRI shows no pressure on the nerve roots, and that plaintiff’s condition is normal.
The defense argued to the jury that the plaintiff was lying about the source of his back pain. We pointed out that he had told the hospital he had slipped and fallen in the bathtub with no mention of the ceiling collapsing, that he had a subsequent accident to his back 10 months later (which he did not tell either medical expert), and that he had no pictures of the ceiling before it was repaired – suggesting this rebutted his claim the ceiling was leaking and open for months.
The jury found both parties to be 50% negligent. The plaintiff asked for $200,000 in damages (past and future pain and suffering), the jury awarded a total of $29,500 (past and future), which was then reduced by 50% for plaintiff’s comparative fault. Under a high/low agreement entered shortly before the verdict (15/75), plaintiff recovered $15,000. For Bronx County, this is a very low award.
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Richard W. Berne is a partner in the New York office. For the past 40 years he has represented clients and tried cases in the areas of personal injury, wrongful death, nursing home defense, medical malpractice, insurance defense litigation, insurance coverage disputes, general liability, workers’ compensation defense, criminal defense, governmental liability, and police misconduct.
Sonya M. Sumner is an associate in the New York office she focuses her practice in the areas of insurance defense and coverage issues involving personal injury cases including premises liability, automobile, and property damage.
Veronica A. Bowen is an associate in the New York office she focuses on general liability claims, premises liability, automotive liability, insurance coverage disputes and subrogation actions related to property damage and casualty encompassing a myriad of injury and disability claims.
Quintairos, Prieto, Wood & Boyer, P.A., is the largest minority and women owned law firm in the nation with more than 370 lawyers serving clients from 21 offices in the United States and abroad across a spectrum of industries in over 40 areas of practice. Our lawyers provide representation in litigation, business, real estate and governmental law.