Fuson Ateser v. Robert and David Becker

/ / Case Verdicts

Case Name

Fuson Ateser v. Robert and David Becker

Type of Injury

REFLEX SYMPATHETIC DYSTROPHY, CHRONIC PAIN SYNDROME, HERNIATED LUMBAR DISCS, KNEE INJURIES?

Occupation

filmmaker

Location

New York, NY

Verdict

$900,000, reduced to $441,000 for 51% comparative negligence of Pltf. (6/0).

Verdict Amount

$441,000.00

Case Details

XV/20-4 MOTOR VEHICLE BICYCLE REFLEX SYMPATHETIC DYSTROPHY, CHRONIC PAIN SYNDROME, HERNIATED LUMBAR DISCS, KNEE INJURIES, AND POST-TRAUMATIC STRESS DISORDER

Fuson Ateser v. Robert and David Becker 103042/95 3-week trial Verdict 6/6/97 New York Supreme

Judge: Joan A. Madden

Verdict: $900,000, reduced to $441,000 for 51% comparative negligence of Pltf. (6/0). Breakdown: $20,000 for past pain and suffering; $80,000 for future pain and suffering; $100,000 for future medical care; $400,000 for future rehabilitative therapy; $200,000 for future custodial care; $100,000 for handicapped-accessible apartment. Pltf. s and Defts. post-trial motions were denied. Deft. s motion for a collateral source hearing was granted. Jury: 5 male, 1 female. Notice of Appeal by Pltf.

Pltf. Atty: Michael B. Ronemus of Ronemus & Vilensky, Manhattan

Deft. Atty: Clara M. Villarreal of Oshman & Helfenstein, L.L.P., Manhattan, for David Becker

Thomas E. Mehrtens of Downing & Mehrtens, Manhattan, for Robert Becker

Facts: Pltf., a 44-year-old filmmaker at the time, was riding a bicycle on Sixth Ave. in Manhattan on 9/13/94 at approximately 6:45 PM when she was struck and dragged by a vehicle owned by Deft. Robert Becker and driven by Deft. David Becker. Pltf. claimed that Deft., northbound on Sixth Ave., accelerated through a yellow light at a high rate of speed, and then made a right turn onto 14th St. from the third driving lane on Sixth Ave. Pltf. presented three independent eyewitnesses who corroborated her version of the accident. Although Pltf. was riding on the right-hand side of the road, there was a bike lane on the left side, and Pltf. produced a bicycle lane expert who testified that the bike lane was unsafe, substandard, and negligently designed. Pltf. did not claim, however, that the negligent design was a proximate cause of the accident.

Deft. contended that he was traveling at a normal rate of speed and had already completed the turn when Pltf. s vehicle struck his rear passenger door at a high rate of speed. Deft. produced the responding police officer who testified that the point of impact was Deft. s right rear passenger door.

Injuries: post-traumatic reflex sympathetic dystrophy (rsd); herniated discs at L4-5 and L5-S2; prolapsed disc at C6-7; frozen right shoulder; bursitis in the left shoulder requiring nonsteroidal injections; chronic pain syndrome; post-traumatic stress disorder; torn medial and lateral menisci; internal derangement of the left knee with injury to the anterior and posterior cruciate ligaments. Pltf. underwent arthroscopic surgery to the left knee. Pltf. claimed that after the surgery, she had temperature and color changes in her left leg with severe pain and burning, allodynia, and an inability to bear weight on the left leg. Pltf. also claimed that she was unable to use her right arm. She became confined to a wheelchair in July 1995, and required daily home health care. Pltf. was admitted to N.Y.U. Medical Center for 4 days and to the Rusk Institute for 2 months. Pltf. claimed that she has severe chronic pain which has rendered her totally disabled. She underwent extensive physical and rehabilitative therapy, sympathetic block injections, and psychological treatment. Pltf. s economist testified that she has sustained a total economic loss of $16,409,800 for lost earnings, loss of fringe benefits, cost of aides and medical care, and the cost of medical equipment. Deft. denied that Pltf. suffered any neurological injuries that could be confirmed clinically or by objective diagnostic tests. Deft. s reflex sympathetic dystrophy specialist, who testified over Pltf. s objections because he was disclosed the day before jury selection, denied that Pltf. suffered from that condition. He also argued that Pltf. suffered from somatization disorder, which incorporated malingering within the psychological/neurological diagnoses. Deft. also contended that Pltf. s future lost earnings were based on her receiving a Master s degree at New York University. Deft. called a representative from that college who testified that Pltf. never obtained that degree, nor has she taken any credits towards it. Demonstrative evidence: Day in the Life video; economic flow charts. Specials: $180,000. Offer : $1,250,000 prior to trial; demand: $5,500,000; amount asked of jury : $26,000,000. Jury deliberation: 5 days. Carriers: Newark Insurance Co. and Chubb.

Pltf. Experts: Dr. Brian Hainline, Vice Chairman of the Neurology Department, Hospital of Joint Diseases; Dr. Edwin Richter, physical and rehabilitative medicine, Rusk Institute; Dr. Mary Ellen Hecht, orth. surg., Manhattan; Dr. Robert Parkin, psychiatrist, Manhattan; Dr. Thomas Kershner, economist, Saratoga Springs; Dr. Edmond Provder, vocational rehabilitation, Manhattan; Georges Jacquemart, engineer and bike lane expert, Manhattan.

Deft. Experts: Dr. Jose Ochoa, neurologist, RSD specialist, Portland, Oregon; Dr. Seymour Block, psychiatrist, Great Neck; Dr. William Kulak, orth. surg., Manhattan; Dr. Betty Mintz, neurologist, Manhattan.