In Vasquez v. County of Nassau, 2012 NY Slip Op 00508 decided on January 24, 2012 The New York Appellate Division 2d Department affirmed a jury verdict of $3,025,000.00. The case was tried by our partner Howard Hershenhorn in Nassau County Supreme Court. Our partners, Rhonda Kay and Richard Steigman handled the appeal.
On Oct. 18, 2003, plaintiff’s decedent Maria Araujo, 34, was crossing Washington Street, at the corner of Jackson Street, in Hempstead. She was carrying her 3-year-old son, plaintiff Fernando Araujo. Glory Upke was driving a sport utility vehicle north on Washington Street, and a public bus, driven by William Malloy, was traveling on the westbound side of Jackson Street. The bus struck the right rear quarter panel of Upke’s vehicle. Upke’s vehicle spun in a counterclockwise direction and struck and killed Maria Araujo. Fernando was also hurt. The Appellate Division set forth the facts of the accident as follows;
“This case stems from an accident involving multiple vehicles and two pedestrians at the intersection of Jackson Street and Washington Street in Hempstead, which was governed by traffic light signals. The decedent was carrying the infant plaintiff, her three-year-old disabled son with Down Syndrome. As the decedent crossed Jackson Street on the north side of the intersection in the crosswalk, she was struck by a vehicle operated by the defendant Glory E. Upke, after that vehicle was struck by a bus operated by the defendant William Malloy and owned by the defendant Metropolitan Suburban Bus Authority. The force of the impact propelled the decedent into the air and caused her to let go of the infant plaintiff. Prior to the accident, the bus was traveling in a westerly direction on Jackson Street, and the Upke vehicle was traveling in a northerly direction on Washington Street.
There was conflicting evidence adduced at trial as to the speed at which the vehicles were moving as they approached the intersection and about which driver had the right of way. Upke testified that she had a yellow light as she traveled north through the intersection, but several witnesses testified that Malloy, the bus driver, had a green light as he traveled west through the intersection. In any event, Upke did not see the bus until it hit her vehicle in the intersection. Although there was conflicting evidence about whether Malloy looked for other vehicles or pedestrians before proceeding through the intersection, as he approached the intersection, he could see substantially more than 40 feet to his left, which was the direction from which Upke’s vehicle was traveling. Nonetheless, he did not see her vehicle until a “split second” before the bus collided with Upke’s vehicle. The jury found that the defendants County of Nassau, Metropolitan Suburban Bus Authority, and Malloy (hereinafter collectively the municipal defendants) were 35% at fault in the happening of the accident, and Upke was 65% at fault in the happening of the accident.”
The plaintiff alleged that Maria Araujo sustained severe head injuries at the accident scene and died. The estate sought recovery of damages for her past pain and suffering in the approximately three seconds from when she was struck and when she died. The plaintiffs’ expert economist opined that Ms. Araujo earned approximately $5,000 to $6,000 per year as a house cleaner and that Fernando suffered a fractured right tibia and received treatment consisting of casting and immobilization, which lasted only a few weeks, mostly because of his age.
Fernando has Down syndrome and could only speak a few words. He required substantial care, which at the time was being provided by his older brother, who was a senior in high school and expected to go to college, and thus would not be able to provide assistance.
Felix Vasquez sought recovery of damages for his son’s past loss of financial support, past loss of household services, past parental care and guidance, future loss of financial support, future loss of household services, and future loss of parental care and guidance. He also sought recovery of damages for his loss of services. The Court affirmed the verdict in its entirety including the award of $100,000 for the decedent’s conscious past pain and suffering, $40,000 for past loss of financial support, $200,000 for future loss of financial support, $140,000 for past loss of household services, $1,800,000 for future loss of household services, $100,000 for past loss of parental care and guidance, and $600,000 for future loss of parental care and guidance.