Leav & Steinberg, LLP is pleased to report the resolution of a recent case. Our client, after being unhappy with her first attorney, retained us to represent her. She was employed as a Visiting Nurse and would have to travel to patient’s homes for consultation and evaluation for home nursing services. On the date of accident, she was inside a building in the Bronx with a translator and security guard. As the elevator went up, it suddenly stopped, and according to the client, then dropped and suddenly stopped short. While her body was jostled about, she admitted that she did not fall to the ground.
She reported the accident to the building who in turn claim they checked it along with an elevator service company and the elevator was found to be working in normal order. Our client, began feeling severe pain in her knee and back. She was unable to return to work for a period of time and ultimately underwent surgery for a torn meniscus in the knee. Furthermore, to treat her spine injury which involved her discs, she underwent a radiofrequency nerve ablation. This procedure entails having a needle placed below the skin and with heat, the nerve is burned at the point it is impinged by the disc. While the nerve will regenerate, the hope is that it will regenerate just slightly off the disc and relieve some of the pressure on the nerve.
When first retained, it became clear that our office would need to prove a history of problems with the elevator. As our client, did not live in the building and did not know anyone there, partner Daniela Henriques, took the lead and began conducting an exhaustive search of the DOB (Department of Buildings). Through her research and subpeonas we discovered a history of problems with the subject elevator. This was the first part of her effort to prove liability and lock the defendant in to being responsible. Under NY Law a party must exchange all work records, maintenance records and repair records. Here the building owner, claimed that due to a flood, all records were destroyed and then the building was sold so any attempt at searching records would not reveal anything. While this may sound good, it is the plaintiff’s burden to prove the defendant knew about the dangers with the elevator and took insufficient steps to remedy. The fear is always that at trial or just before, suddenly the defendant will reveal records showing that the elevator was working and a recent, prior to accident, inspection revealed no problems. Daniela Henriques, as partner and in charge of our Motion/Appeal department, she moved for an Order precluding the defendant from ever offering any evidence or testifying to anything regarding their reasonable maintenance of the elevator. This motion was granted and put us in a position of strength.
At a private mediation attended by partner Daniel Leav, the defendant made an offer of $750,000.00. While that may seem reasonable for an arthroscopic knee surgery and radiofrequency ablation, we rejected the offer and continued to press for a trial. Several weeks later, the defendant contacted us and increased the offer to just under $1,000,000.00 million dollars. Again we rejected the offer, as we have positioned the case for a full and complete recovery. The mediator had recommended $1.2 million and after another few weeks, the defendant did offer this figure and the matter settled.
The moral of the story is, you can and should try to “win” your case at the intake or as early as practical so that the defense can not make up some excuse and attempt to avoid paying you full value for your client’s injuries.