On June 24, 2014, Nelly Lara was injured when the car she was driving was hit in the rear while she was stopped at a red light at the intersection of 51st Avenue and Corona Avenue in Queens.
Ms. Lara, a 67 year old retired hairdresser, obtained an order granting summary judgment as to full liability against the other driver and owner. The matter then proceeded to a trial on damages only.
The jury awarded plaintiff pain and suffering damages in the sum of $50,000 ($10,000 past – four years, $40,000 future – 15 years). Plaintiff appealed claiming that the award was inadequate and should be increased to $3,000,000.
In Lara v. Arevalo (2d Dept. 2022), the pain and suffering damages award was increased on appeal to $125,000 ($50,000 past, $75,000 future).
Here are the injuries that plaintiff claimed were caused by the accident:
- Knee – torn meniscus requiring arthroscopic partial meniscectomy and partial synovectomy
- Shoulder – rotator cuff and glenoid labrum tears and impingement requiring arthroscopic surgery
- Neck -herniated disc that required cervical discectomy and fusion surgery on 10/7/16
Plaintiff claimed she’d need substantial medical treatment in the future, based on a life care plan testified to by her expert. The jury disagreed and awarded only $15,000 for future medical expenses.
The defense argued that the accident was a minor fender-bender with little vehicle damage that could not have caused any of the claimed injuries. Furthermore, their medical expert contended that any injuries plaintiff did sustain were the result of pre-existing conditions such as arthritis and degeneration. Finally, they noted that the doctor treating plaintiff for her neck pain discharged her after nine months because her neck pain was “gone” and she did not seek any further neck treatment for more than a year thereafter.
Plaintiff had no prior symptoms and her testifying physicians stated that all of the claimed injuries and treatment were caused by the accident, which left her with permanent range of motion losses, pain and partial disabilities as to daily activities.
- The defendant driver did not attend the trial having moved to Texas after the accident; his pre-trial deposition transcript was read to the jury.
- In his summation, plaintiff’s attorney asked the jury to award $3,500,000 for pain and suffering; defense counsel suggested $20,000.