On April 12, 2011, Galo Guaman was working at a construction site at One Whitehall Street in Manhattan, He was using a crowbar to remove a door frame when he was injured.
Mr. Guaman sued the budling owner and construction manager claiming that their violations of Labor Law Sections 200, 240(1) and 241(6) caused his injuries. The jury agreed and then awarded plaintiff pain and suffering damages in the sum of $200,000 (all past – eight years).
Plaintiff appealed arguing that the damages award was inadequate. In Guaman v. One Whitehall, L.P. (2d Dept. 2022), the verdict was affirmed.
Plaintiff claimed that in his accident a cinder block hit him on his shoulder and that as a result he sustained extensive and multiple injuries including:
- Hand – crush injury to third finger with lacerations and a comminuted distal phalanx fracture requiring surgery to repair on 4/12/11; treated and released from emergency room on night of accident; a few months of follow-up treatment
- Shoulder – impingement syndrome requiring arthroscopic surgeries in 2013 and 2015; permanent pain and restrictions of range of motion
- Spine – herniated disc at L5-S1 requiring decompressive laminectomy and partial discectomy on 10/27/15; permanent pain and restrictions of range of motion
On November 19, 2011, seven months after his construction site accident, plaintiff fell down 10 stairs at his home and sustained several injuries, including a skull fracture and subdural hematoma, requiring emergency hospital admission for 17 days. Plaintiff had no recall of the stairway fall but argued that it was part of this case because he was dizzy from the earlier accident.
The defense noted that (a) plaintiff’s only complaint at the hospital for his first accident was related to his hand, (b) the hospital record states he was cut by metal at work and makes no mention of the cinder block and (c) any injuries to body parts other than his hand are unrelated to the construction site accident. Plaintiff countered that he had indeed injured his spine and shoulder in the first accident and that those injuries were not in the hospital record either because of a language barrier (he is Spanish speaking) or because he was in shock and worried he’d lose his finger. And, he points to the fact that he did mention these other injuries to a physician a few weeks later.
Apparently agreeing with the defense, the jury awarded nothing at all for future pain and suffering or future medical expenses despite the fact that plaintiff’s pain and disabilities related to his back and shoulder were ongoing and that an expert testified they are permanent and plaintiff (40 years old at trial) will need more surgery and incur substantial future medical expenses in the sum of $1,700,000 over his lifetime.
- In his summation, plaintiff’s attorney asked the jury to award pain and suffering damages in the sum of $11,500,000. Defense counsel said: “… this case starts and ends in the emergency room at New York Downtown Hospital on the evening of April 12, 2011. Anything else that’s claimed, I submit to you, has no bearing on my clients’ liability. None.”
- Plaintiff claimed he could no longer work but he made no claim for loss of earnings.