Michael and Judith Rogers v. State of New York

/ / Case Verdicts

Case Name

Michael and Judith Rogers v. State of New York

Type of Injury

REFLEX SYMPATHETIC DYSTROPHY

Occupation

refrigeration steamfitter

Location

Albany, NY

Verdict

$2,995,575 for Michael R., reduced to $1,797,345 for 40% comparative negligence of Clmt. and structuring pursuant to CPLR 50-B.

Verdict Amount

$1,797,345.00

Case Details

XIV/46-29 FALLDOWN HOLE IN FLOOR OF COMPUTER ROOM REFLEX SYMPATHETIC DYSTROPHY

Michael and Judith Rogers v. State of New York Claim No. 83300 16-Page Decision Filed 4/15/97 Judge Thomas J. McNamara, Court of Claims, Albany

DECISION: $2,995,575 for Michael R., reduced to $1,797,345 for 40% comparative negligence of Clmt. and structuring pursuant to CPLR 50-B. Breakdown: $300,000 for past pain and suffering; $1,700, 000 for future pain and suffering; $169,600 for past lost earnings; $ 825,975 for future lost earnings and benefits.

$300,000 for Judith R. for loss of services, reduced to $ 180,000 for 40% comparative negligence of Clmt. Breakdown: $45,000 for past loss of services; $255,000 for future loss of services.

Clmt. Atty: Thomas E. DeLorenzo of DeLorenzo, Gordon, Pasquariello, Weiskopf & Harding, Schenectady

Deft. Atty: Kevin J. Acton, Asst. Atty. General

Facts: On 10/31/90, Clmt., a refrigeration steamfitter, was called to service the computer room of the Legislative Bill Drafting Commission in Albany. He was carrying a panel with his hands, which prevented him from seeing the floor. As he turned around to place the panel on the floor, he stepped with his left foot into a hole. As he fell, his body twisted, and he landed on his buttocks. The proof showed that the hole was a cutout for cables near the computer where he fell. The floor was raised to accommodate such holes. Raised holes such as this are commonly used in computer rooms to provide an unobtrusive space for the cables. The court found that the presence of this hole, and several others, constituted a dangerous condition. The court also found that it was foreseeable, because the frequency of visits of service technicians in the computer room presented a clear likelihood of injury. The court found that Clmt. also bore responsibility for the accident, because he was aware, from five or six prior visits, that there were two other holes in the floor.

Injuries: reflex sympathetic dystrophy. One of Clmt. s orthopedic surgeons testified that reflex sympathetic dystrophy generally results from nerve damage and is characterized by persistent burning pain, numbness, and a tingling cold sensation in the affected parts of the body: in Clmt. s case, in the lower back, legs and feet. These symptoms are created by a malfunction in the sympathetic nerve fibers, which control temperature in the body. This causes blood vessels to narrow, making less oxygen available to the tissues in the affected areas. Clmt. s own testimony indicated that he attempted to work the following day, but was required to stop. He sought treatment the following night in an emergency room, complaining of extreme pain in his legs. He has not worked since that time. Deft. s examining physician disagreed with the diagnosis of reflex sympathetic dystrophy, basing his testimony on evidence that nerve blocks performed by one of Clmt. s physicians did not work. Deft. s physician attributed the complaints to an irritation of the sensory branches of the nerve roots in the area. The court found that the issue of whether Clmt. suffered reflex sympathetic dystrophy was academic, given the fact that Clmt. s expert agreed that Clmt. was suffering chronic muscular and ligamentous strain as a result of his fall in the computer room. Decision at p. 11. The only substantive point raised by Deft. s expert was whether Clmt. was totally disabled. The court found that he was disabled, noting that he was eligible for Social Security disability benefits beginning in 1992. Clmt. s age was not noted in the opinion, but it was noted that at the time of trial, he had a work-life expectancy of about 20.3 years, and a life expectancy of approximately 41 years. He was earning $36,000 in base salary, plus his benefits and overtime, at the time of his injury. Clmt. Experts: Dr. Reynaldo Lazaro, neurologist, Albany; Dr. James Nelson, orth. surg., Schenectady; Dr. Barry Greenhouse, anesthesiologist, Albany; Edmond Provder, vocational rehabilitation counselor, Manhattan; James Lambrinos, Ph.D., economist, Clifton Park. Deft. Expert: Dr. John Dolan, orth. surg., Schenectady.