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Defendant Appeals Punitive Damages Award in Wrongful Death Case, New York Appellate Court Decides


Heroes are born every day. Often the general population does not learn of their achievements. Sometimes they do learn about the hero. Sometimes, the hero does not know that he or she is a hero until the moment arises that changes their lives. In the early 1980’s, a young mother of two was killed by a New York Transit Train. The 36 year old woman was standing on the platform when she and her four year old son, fell onto the tracks. The woman fought to save her son and get him off of the tracks before the train pulled in. She was not fast enough to save herself.

Her husband filed a wrongful death lawsuit against the New York Transit Authority for creating a dangerous situation that cost the family their wife and mother. The trial court that heard the case determined that the family should be awarded compensable losses in the sum of $890,000. While it is impossible to place a monetary amount on the life of a loved one, the husband did not feel that the award was sufficient to soften his loss. His contention is that his wife had planned to go back to work when the youngest child started high school. She provided services for the home and children that the husband would now have to pay a provider to perform. He contends that the services alone would have amounted to approximately $467,000 over her lifetime. He considered that her lost wages would have run about $325,000. The husband, however agreed to accept the reduced amount of $890,000 in punitive damages.

The New York City Transit Authority appealed the judgment as being too high. They filed an appeal in order to have the amount of punitive damages awarded reduced. The court reviewed the case and determined that the court has sufficiently evaluated the cost that the loss of this mother would have on the family. They accept that they are unable to place a value on the loss of loving support that a mother provides to her children. However, they agreed that the conditions that existed that caused the mother and child to fall onto the tracks, were the fault of the New York city Transit Authority and as such they must pay the awarded amount. The appeal was dismissed and the New York City Transit Authority was ordered to pay the family the allotted amount.

From the outside, it is difficult to imagine having to place a dollar amount on the life of a person who is so integral to the family structure as the mother of a home is. It is difficult if not impossible to imagine telling a child that the life of their mother was only worth $890,000. It is even worse to consider that the child had to know that the city transit system did not place even that amount of value on the life of their mother. This woman died a hero to save her son. Yet the City Transit Authority thought so little of her sacrifice due to their negligence that they appealed the amount that her family was awarded. It is only just that the appeals court determined that the trial court had done their best to achieve what little compensation that they could provide to the family of this American hero. When a person sacrifices their life to save another, they are a hero. When every parent who reads of this woman’s gift to her son recognizes that they would instantly give their life for their own children, it serves as a constant reminder that when it comes to our children, every parent is a hero.

At Stephen Bilkis & Associates with its wrongful death Lawyers, have convenient offices throughout New York and Metropolitan area. Our personal injury lawyers can provide you with advice to guide you through difficult situations. Without a civil Lawyer, you could lose precious compensation to help your family.

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