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Patricia Martin, as guardian of Michael Martin, and Virginia Caltabellotta v. City of New York and Frank Squillante

Case Name

Patricia Martin, as guardian of Michael Martin, and Virginia Caltabellotta v. City of New York and Frank Squillante

Type of Injury

BRAIN DAMAGE, COMA, MULTIPLE FACIAL AND LEG FRACTURES, AND DEGLOVING INJURY

Location

Queens, NY

Verdict

$5,982,000 for Martin (6/0).

Verdict Amount

$5,982,000.00

Case Details

XV/41-13 MOTOR VEHICLE PEDESTRIANS STRUCK CROSSING STREET BRAIN DAMAGE, COMA, MULTIPLE FACIAL AND LEG FRACTURES, AND DEGLOVING INJURY

Patricia Martin, as guardian of Michael Martin, and Virginia Caltabellotta v. City of New York and Frank Squillante 1638/95 3- week trial Verdict 3/26/98 Queens Supreme

Judge: John A. Milano

Verdict: $5,982,000 for Martin (6/0). Breakdown: $1,500,000 for past pain and suffering; $180,000 for past lost earnings; $402, 000 for past medical expenses; $1,000,000 for future pain and suffering; $75,000 for future medical expenses; $1,000,000 for home attendant; $25,000 for therapies; $1,800,000 for future impairment of earning capacity.

$1,569,800 for Caltabellotta (6/0). Breakdown: $1,000, 000 for past pain and suffering; $500,000 for future pain and suffering; $33,000 for past lost earnings; $36,800 for past medical expenses.

Post-trial motions were denied. Jury: 3 male, 3 female.

Pltf. Atty: Alan M. Shapey of Lipsig, Shapey, Manus & Moverman, Manhattan, for Martin

Derek S. Sells of Schneider, Kleinick, Weitz, Damashek & Shoot, Manhattan, for Caltabellotta

Deft. Atty: William J. Fay, Jr., Asst. Corp. Counsel

Facts: This motor vehicle accident took place at 9:30 PM on 8/21/94 on Grand Ave. in Maspeth, Queens, north of the intersection with Hamilton Place. It was raining at the time. Pltf. Martin, age 43 and employed by Brooklyn Union Gas as an A mechanic, and Pltf. Caltabellotta, a 44-year-old secretary, were crossing Grand Ave. to return to an American Legion barbecue when they were struck by a vehicle driven by Deft. Squillante, an on-duty Department of Corrections officer. The vehicle was leased to the City of New York. Pltfs. claimed that Deft. crossed the double yellow line, and that Squillante was driving at an unreasonable speed, given the conditions. Pltfs. further claimed that Squillante failed to see what was to be seen, and avoid the accident. Pltfs. produced a witness who testified that she saw Deft. trying to pass a slow-moving car and crossed over the center line.

Deft. contended that Pltfs. were negligent for crossing the street at a point that was not in the crosswalk. Squillante claimed that Pltfs. were in his lane of travel at the point of impact, and claimed that when he stopped, they were laying on the double yellow line. Deft. s deposition testimony, however, indicated that he did not see what happened. A breathalyzer test given to Squillante 2? hours after the accident was negative. Defts. were precluded from introducing evidence that Martin had a blood alcohol level of .374, because proper chain of custody was not proved. The judge also determined that there was not proximate cause.

Injuries: Martin: ($5,982,000 award) traumatic brain injury; bilateral comminuted fracture of the tibia and fibula requiring open reduction and internal fixation with rods. Pltf. was in a coma for 3 weeks following the accident, and was hospitalized for several months. He underwent five surgeries to his legs. He has no memory of the accident. Pltf. has the mental capacity of a 9-year-old, suffers from short-term memory loss, he is impulsive, lacks judgment, and cannot plan or sequence events. Testimony indicated that Pltf., who currently lives with his sister, Patricia, will require constant care. He is able to speak, after undergoing a course of speech therapy. At the time of trial, Martin was able to walk without a cane. Pltf., who was earning $51,000 per year, was unable to return to work. Caltabellotta: ($1,569,800 award) comminuted segmental fractured tibia and fibula of the left leg requiring open reduction and internal fixation with a rod; degloving injury to the right lower extremities wherein 70-80% of the flesh was torn from her leg; facial fractures including fractured ethmoid bone and fractured nasal bones. Pltf. was hospitalized for 2 months following the accident. She had skin grafts on the right leg. She is left with permanent deformities and scarring of the right leg, as well as scarring at the donor site on the right upper thigh. Pltf. had a traction pin inserted in the left ankle. She developed blood clots while in the hospital, requiring the administration of blood thinners. Pltf. was out of work for 1? years following the accident. She walked with a cane at trial. Pltf. is left with an angulation problem of the left knee joint, which, her expert opined, would accelerate the onset of arthritis. Deft. argued that Pltfs. injuries were not as severe as they claimed. Demonstrative evidence: photographs of the accident scene and of damage to the front passenger side of Deft. s vehicle; photographs of Caltabellotta after the surgery; X-rays; models of the tibia and fibula. Offer: $300,000 for Caltabellotta; $0 for Martin; demand: $750,000 for Caltabellotta; $ 3,000,000 for Martin. Jury deliberation: 6 hours.

Pltf. Experts: Steven Coulon, accident reconstruction, Bronx; Dr. Leon Bernstein, orth. surg., Forest Hills; Dr. Jonathan Korn, orth. surg., Manhattan; Dr. Eric Brown, neuropsychologist, Manhattan; Les Seplaki, Ph.D., economist, Fort Lee, New Jersey; Edmond Provder, vocational rehabilitation, Manhattan.

Deft. Expert: Dr. Norman Reis, orth. surg., Pearl River.