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91 Year Old NY Woman’s Trip and Fall Injuries Finally Awarded After Appeal

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91 Year Old NY Woman’s Trip and Fall Injuries Finally Awarded After Appeal

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The New York Appellate Court has made a final decision about a 91 year old woman’s personal injury claim against a New York hospital where it was alleged that negligence on part of the hospital caused fall and subsequent injuries.

The case has been in contention for 7 years, with claim and counter claim following each other until the final decision made on the amount of damages by the Appellate Court recently.

The woman, Dorothy Jones, alleged that she had tripped and fallen in the vestibule of a hospital in Manhattan, the New York-Presbyterian Hospital, in February 2011 when she was 84 years old. She claimed that her fall was due to the negligent failure to remove a used surgical cap / food service cap left on the floor of the vestibule as well as a hole in the floor where tiles damaged in a flood at some point had been covered by a rubber rain mat.

When Ms. Jones fell over she seriously damaged her right arm. She needed assistance to get up from the floor where she had fallen and it was discovered that her right arm had several fractures. Ms. Jones is right handed, so the fractures in her proximal humerus (upper arm bone) were reported to be particularly inconvenient, as well as painful.

Personal Injury Lawsuit Trial Found in Ms. Jones’ Favor

Ms. Jones filed a personal injury lawsuit against the hospital, claiming that the hospital was to blame for the accident in totality, i.e. the plaintiff was not in any way negligent. The accident was alleged to be caused by the cap, together with the rubber mat, and that this was due to negligence by the hospital.

The lawsuit was initially determined in Ms. Jones’ favor. The lawsuit went to trial and the jury determined that the cap and mat were indeed to blame for the accident and that Ms. Jones did not share any of the blame (i.e. no comparative negligence involved), leaving the hospital as solely to blame for the accident. The jury awarded an amount of one million dollars in compensation for pain and suffering, with six hundred thousand dollars in payment for medical expenses to date and four hundred thousand dollars for all future treatment costs.

Setback for Plaintiff After Trial Judge Reconsiders

The hospital then won a further judgment by the trial judge by arguing that the presence of the cap could not be construed as negligence because it could not have been known that it was there on the floor in advance of Ms. Jones’ accident. Similarly, defendants argued that the rubber mat only concealed a depression of negligible depth. The trial judge agreed with the defendants’ arguments and dismissed the former ruling.

Decision to Appeal Vindicates Original Court Decision to Award Damages to Ms. Jones

The plaintiff decided to appeal and her appeal was successful. The original verdict of negligence prevailed, but the trial judge determined that the amount was too high and reduced it to a total of three hundred thousand dollars with the amount split fifty-fifty between past and future medical costs.

The plaintiff decided to appeal again and this time appealed to the NY Appellate Court where it was determined that the trial judge’s decision to reduce the initial award was incorrect and determined the final amount of compensation for pain and suffering to be five hundred and fifty thousand dollars, with most of that amount (four hundred thousand) going to pay for past treatment. Note that this was by now 7 years after the original accident and injury.

Medical Witnesses Proved Vital for Both Plaintiff and Defendants

Expert medical witnesses were instrumental in determining the exact nature of the injuries which could be attributable to the trip and fall injury. An orthopedic surgeon was provided by the plaintiff to testify that she had lost 70% of the function of her right hand shoulder and arthritis caused by the trauma of the fall. A replacement of her right shoulder was not expected to replace the loss in function, but only to relieve the pain in it.

The defendants also provided their own medical witnesses who testified that in his opinion Ms. Jones had improved significantly since the injury and subsequent treatment and in fact was able to use her shoulder quite well, making a shoulder replacement unnecessary. He also testified that in his opinion she did not suffer from arthritis in her shoulder joint and therefore was no longer suffering from any significant pain.

The plaintiff had had emergency treatment following the original injury following the diagnosis that she had fractured her proximal humerus (upper arm bone) in three places. She was given a sling to wear and there was follow up treatment provided by an orthopedic surgeon for nine months, as well as injections and physical therapy for several months.

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