This is a case being heard in the Supreme Court of the State of New York, Appellate Division, and Second Department. The defendant in the case is appealing and order that was made by the Supreme Court of Kings County. The judgment of the case was made by a jury in favor of the plaintiff in the principal sum of $508,000.
The plaintiff was allegedly injured when she fell in a hole on the street when getting off of a bus that is owned and operated by the defendant. The hole was located on the line of the curb right next to the sidewalk. The plaintiff stated that the bus was parked at an angle so the front of the bus was next to the sidewalk and the back of the bus was several feet from the curb. The plaintiff states that she was going down the stairs to get off the bus at the rear and when she stepped down her foot went into the hole and she fell down.
The plaintiff claims that she did not see the hole before she fell down. The bus driver stated that he did not see the hole either as he was scanning the front of the bus looking for pedestrians.
A trial was held in front of a jury on the issue of liability and the jury found that the defendant was negligent and that this negligence was a substantial factor in causing the accident. The jury found that the plaintiff was not negligent in regard to the accident.
The counsel for the defendant requested during the trial that the jury be required to determine if the plaintiff had sustained a serious enough injury pursuant to the requirements of the no fault insurance laws. The attorney for the plaintiff argued that the accident was not caused as a result of the operation of a motor vehicle and for that reason the no fault insurance law did not apply.
The plaintiff was awarded with $250,000 for past pain and suffering and $250,000 more for her future pain and suffering. The jury also awarded the plaintiff with $8000 for past medical expenses.
Court Discussion and Decision
When reviewing the case the court finds that the jury was presented with enough evidence to come up with the verdict. The bus driver should have seen the defect in the road and was negligent in failing to do so. However, the judgment must be reversed.
In a personal injury case that involves a vehicle the plaintiff must prove that he or she sustained a serious injury as defined under the no fault insurance law. Contrary to the argument made by the plaintiff, the no fault insurance law does in fact apply to her case. In this particular case it was the negligent use of a vehicle that caused the accident. The court should have allowed the defendant to submit to the jury as the question as to whether the plaintiff had received a serious injury from the accident that met the requirements of the no fault law.
For the reasons above, the court is remitting the case for a new trial on the issue of damages. The jury should be required to first determine if the plaintiff sustained a serious enough injury pursuant to the law.
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