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High-rise's operators didn't service elevator, worker claimed

Amount:

$6,060,000

Type:

Verdict-Plaintiff

State:

New York

Venue:

Bronx County

Court:

Bronx Supreme

Injury Type(s):

back-fusion, lumbar; back-herniated disc (herniated disc at L5-S1), lumbar (herniated disc at L5-S1); neck-fusion, cervical; neck-herniated disc (herniated disc at C3-4), cervical (herniated disc at C3-4); neck-herniated disc (herniated disc at C5-6), cervical (herniated disc at C5-6); other-physical therapy; other-epidural injections; other-trigger point injection; other-decreased range of motion; shoulder-shoulder impingement; surgeries/treatment-discectomy; surgeries/treatment-arthroscopy

Case Type:

Premises Liability - Elevator Accidents, Negligent Repair and/or Maintenance

Case Name:

James Greene v. American Elevator & Machine Corp., Padded Wagon Express, Inc., Oak Leaf Moving Inc., 157 East 57th Street LLC, Solil Management, LLC and Plaza Circle Enterprises, LLC, No. 307445/08

Date:

May 26, 2017

Parties

Plaintiff(s):

James Greene (Male, 23 Years)

Plaintiff Attorney(s):

Robert J. Genis; Sonin & Genis, Esqs., Bronx, NY, of counsel, Petrocelli & Christy, Mineola, NY; for James Greene

Plaintiff Expert(s):

John Vlattas; M.D.; Physical Medicine; Bayside, NY called by: Robert J. Genis ■ Patrick Carrajat; Elevators/Lifts/Conveyors; Long Island City, NY called by: Robert J. Genis ■ Sebastian Lattuga; M.D.; Orthopedic Surgery; New Hyde Park, NY called by: Robert J. Genis

Defendant(s):

Padded Wagon Inc., 

Oak Leaf Moving Inc., 

Solil Management, LLC, 

157 East 57th Street LLC, 

Plaza Circle Enterprises, LLC, 

American Elevator & Machine Corp.

Defense Attorney(s):

John J. Barbera; Martin Clearwater & Bell LLP; White Plains, NY, for Solil Management, LLC, 157 East 57th Street LLC, Plaza Circle Enterprises, LLC ■ None reported; for Padded Wagon Inc., Oak Leaf Moving Inc., American Elevator & Machine Corp.

Defendant Expert(s):

Jerome Block; Neurology; New York, NY called by: John J. Barbera ■ Melissa Sapan; Radiology; Lindenhurst, NY called by: John J. Barbera ■ Patrick McPartland; Elevators/Lifts/Conveyors; Greenlawn, NY called by: John J. Barbera

Insurer(s):

Greater New York Mutual Insurance Co. for 157 East 57th Street LLC, Plaza Circle Enterprises and Solil Management

Facts:

On May 31, 2007, plaintiff James Greene, 23, a mover, worked at a high-rise building that was located at 157 E. 57th St., in Manhattan. During the course of his work, Greene attempted to move a chair and a sofa to the building's 17th floor, from its basement. He utilized an elevator. The elevator abruptly stopped upon reaching the building's fourth floor. Greene claimed that he fell, that the elevator descended and quickly stopped again, and that he fell again. The elevator would not resume travel, and some three hours passed before Greene was rescued. Greene claimed that his falls caused injuries of his back, his neck and a shoulder. Greene sued the premises' owners, 157 East 57th Street LLC and Plaza Circle Enterprises, LLC; the premises' manager, Solil Management, LLC; the elevator's contracted service provider, American Elevator & Machine Corp.; and Greene's employers, Oak Leaf Moving Inc. and The Padded Wagon Inc. Greene alleged that 157 East 57th Street LLC, American Elevator & Machine, Plaza Circle Enterprises, and Solil Management were negligent in their maintenance of the elevator, that their negligence contributed to the accident, that Oak Leaf Moving and the Padded Wagon were negligent in their management of the moving operation, and that their negligence contributed to the accident. Oak Leaf Moving and the Padded Wagon did not answer the complaint and were ultimately dismissed. The matter proceeded to a trial against the remaining defendants, but American Elevator & Machine was dismissed during the trial. The parties agreed that the elevator's sudden stops were a result of its door having clipped a safety device: a roller guide within the elevator's shaft. Greene's counsel claimed that the door was misaligned and that the cabin tipped forward, allowing the misaligned door to contact the roller guide. Greene's counsel claimed that the door's misalignment was a result of debris having clogged its track. He claimed that, some six months prior to the accident, a similar malfunction occurred because of debris having accumulated within the track. He claimed that, in the prior instance, the debris had to be removed via use of a chisel, and he argued that the prior blockage established constructive notice of the blockage that caused the accident involving Greene. He also claimed that the defendants had not scheduled regular maintenance of the elevator. Greene's counsel further claimed that the elevator's cabin tipped because of improper distribution of the weight that was being transported. He claimed that the furniture and a dolly, weighing a total of about 170 pounds, were situated in the back of the cabin, with Greene, whose weight approximated 350 pounds, situated in the front of the cabin. He contended that the building's managing staff should have supervised Greene's use of the elevator. Defense counsel contended that the building's managing staff was not obligated to supervise Greene's use of the elevator. He alternately contended that the elevator's weight was not unsafely distributed. The defense's elevator-operations expert contended that the elevator was functionally sound and that the door's misalignment was a result of it having contacted a plastic object that had fallen off of the chair that Greene was moving. In response, Greene's counsel claimed that the chair was shrink-wrapped and therefore could not have lost a component.

Injury:

Greene was placed in an ambulance, and he was transported to New York-Presbyterian Hospital, in Manhattan. He claimed that he was suffering pain that stemmed from his back and neck. He underwent X-rays and minor treatment. Greene ultimately claimed that he suffered herniations of his C3-4, C5-6 and L5-S1 intervertebral discs. He also claimed that he suffered trauma that led to impingement of his right, dominant arm's shoulder. After some five months had passed, Greene commenced a course of physical therapy. The treatment lasted about seven years. He also underwent administration of painkilling facet-block injections and painkilling trigger-point injections. On March 18, 2009, Greene underwent arthroscopic surgery that addressed his right shoulder. On Aug. 4, 2010, he underwent surgery that included a discectomy--which involved excision a disc of his spine's cervical region--and fusion of the corresponding level of his spine. On April 18, 2012, he underwent fusion of a portion of his spine's lumbar region. In 2016, he underwent another course of physical therapy. Greene claimed that his back, his neck and his right shoulder remain painful, that he suffers a residual diminution of each area's range of motion, that his residual effects hinder his performance of many physical activities, and that, as a result of his residual effects, he cannot work. He briefly resumed his job after the accident but soon procured work as a bartender. He has not worked since undergoing the first of his two spinal surgeries. Greene also claimed that he requires lifelong medical treatment. Greene sought recovery of past and future medical expenses, past and future lost earnings, and damages for past and future pain and suffering. Defense counsel contended that Greene's injuries predated the accident. The defense's elevator-operations expert opined that the elevator's sudden stops involved forces of less than a single unit of g-force, and defense counsel contended that the stops were not of a force sufficient to have caused the injuries that Greene claimed to have suffered. Defense counsel also claimed that surveillance videotapes, produced during a period spanning 2009 and 2014, depicted Greene functioning normally. The defense's expert neurologist opined that Greene's back and neck exhibit normal range of motion. The expert further opined that Greene's surgeries were not necessary.

Result:

The jury found that 157 East 57th Street LLC, Plaza Circle Enterprises and Solil Management were liable for the accident. It determined that Greene's damages totaled $6.06 million.

James Greene: $110,000 Personal Injury: Past Medical Cost; $1,700,000 Personal Injury: Future Medical Cost; $250,000 Personal Injury: Past Lost Earnings Capability; $1,700,000 Personal Injury: Future Lost Earnings Capability; $300,000 Personal Injury: Past Pain And Suffering; $2,000,000 Personal Injury: Future Pain And Suffering

Trial Information:

Judge:

Fernando Tapia

Demand:

$4,800,000 (total, from 157 East 57th Street LLC, Plaza Circle Enterprises and Solil Management)

Offer:

$100,000 (total, by 157 East 57th Street LLC, Plaza Circle Enterprises and Solil Management)

Trial Length:

15  days

Trial Deliberations:

3.5  hours

Jury Vote:

6-0

Jury Composition:

4 male/ 2 female

Editor's Comment:

This report is based on information that was provided by plaintiff's counsel and counsel of 157 East 57th Street LLC, Plaza Circle Enterprises and Solil Management. The remaining defendants' counsel was not asked to contribute.