Pedestrian accidents are an all-too-common occurrence in New York City and Long Island. Even if you “look both ways before crossing the street,” as your mother told you to, you are still at the mercy of drivers on the road. If you are injured while crossing a street, or even just traveling on a sidewalk, you are entitled to compensation from the negligent driver.
Appeals Court Orders New Trial, Criticizes Trial Judge in Accident Case
Unfortunately, sometimes juries need to be reminded of this, as illustrated by a recent decision by the Appellate Division, Second Department. The plaintiff in this case was crossing the street at a crosswalk in Brooklyn. The plaintiff had a clear traffic signal and was more than halfway across a six-lane road when he was hit by a vehicle making a left turn into the intersection. As a result, the plaintiff suffered serious injuries and filed a personal injury lawsuit against the driver and owner of the vehicle that struck him.
The case was tried before a jury in Brooklyn Supreme Court. While the jury did hold the defendants liable, it also determined the plaintiff was somehow 35% at-fault. The jury also awarded only $30,000 in damages for past pain and suffering and past lost earnings, but nothing for anticipated future losses. The plaintiff asked the trial judge to set aside the jury's verdict and order a new trial, but the judge declined.
But on appeal, the Second Department agreed with the plaintiff that the jury's verdict simply made no sense. While an appeals court is required to give the jury every benefit of the doubt, there must still be sufficient evidence to support its reasoning and conclusions. Here, the Second Department said, “there was no valid line of reasoning and permissible inferences by which the jury could have rationally concluded that the injured plaintiff was comparatively at fault in the happening of the accident.”
The jury apparently based its finding the plaintiff was 35% at-fault because he testified he did not look both ways before crossing the street. The Second Department said that was irrelevant because the other evidence presented at trial proved he could not have avoided the accident. The appeals court further chided the trial judge for making inappropriate comments during the testimony of the plaintiff's physician. According to the Second Department, the judge “conveyed an impression of incredulity toward the physician's opinions,” which may have biased the jury's determination of damages. As a result, the appeals court said the plaintiff is entitled to “judgment as a matter of law” on the issue of the defendants' liability, and a new trial on the separate question of damages.
Have You Been in an Accident?Cases like this illustrate the importance of working with an experienced New York personal injury attorney. Even a seemingly simple pedestrian may require an extended trial and appeal—and in some cases even a retrial. This is not the sort of thing a person should tackle without help. Contact the offices of Waldhauser & Nisar, LLP, today if you would like to speak with an attorney today.