United States: New York Client Trial Alert - June 2018

When a case cannot be resolved on favorable terms, a defendant must be prepared to get the case dismissed via filing a motion for summary judgment or at trial. Lewis Brisbois' seasoned attorneys routinely defend general liability, labor law, transportation, and dram shop cases throughout the country. Our attorneys are assisted by our outstanding appellate team in preparing motions in limine, memos of law, research on key issues that arise during a case, including at the pre-trial and trial stage, as well as filing post-trial motions and appeals.

Joelle Jensen, a member of the New York trial team, recently notched a pair of victories for clients in the month of May. The first, a defense verdict in Bronx County Supreme Court. The second, a trucking case tried to verdict in Federal Court in the Eastern District of New York, where the jury ultimately found the plaintiff 85 perfect liable for the accident and left the defendant responsible to pay the plaintiff $2,250 for his alleged injuries.


In Joelle's first trial, the plaintiff fell while descending an interior staircase in his apartment building. He claimed the fall had been caused when a bent wrought-iron decoration on the baluster underneath the railing snagged his pant leg, tripping him. He was carrying garbage in one hand and claims he could not catch himself. He alleged that he suffered a severe ankle injury with three torn tendons, a torn ACL requiring surgical reconstruction, and shoulder tears requiring arthroscopic surgery.

The plaintiff claimed that the bent decoration created an unsafe condition on the staircase, and that, despite several complaints from tenants about the situation; neither the building super nor the property manager did anything to repair the railing. At the end of the trial, the plaintiff asked the jury to award his client $6.5 million.

Joelle argued the decoration was minor and it did not interfere with the use of the staircase. The plaintiff's own carelessness and inattention caused his alleged fall, not the staircase baluster.

As the case progressed to trial, it became clear that the plaintiff's story did not completely add up. Joelle argued some of the photographs of the decoration that the plaintiff used at trial appeared staged, or had appeared to be been tampered with after the accident to make the defect look worse. Additionally, during cross-examination, both the plaintiff and his girlfriend were challenged that their stories did not add up despite the fact that the plaintiff was removed from the building by ambulance after the alleged incident.

Joelle used Facebook photographs of the plaintiff to show he had a good recovery and was back coaching soccer, working on his feet as a barber, and enjoying family outings with his family.

The Bronx County jury returned a defense verdict in the favor of the landlord.

Joelle was assisted in the case by Kenneth Kim, the handling attorney through discovery and pretrial.

Joelle's second victory came in a trial one week later, involving a trucking accident that occurred in Brooklyn, New York. Our office removed the case to the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of New York. The accident involved a passenger car and an 18-wheel tractor-trailer on a busy Brooklyn street. The plaintiff alleged that he was parallel parking his car when he was struck twice and pushed into a third car by the tractor-trailer, which was accelerating from a stop at a red light. The driver's side front wheel well and the front quarter panel were crushed, while the plaintiff claimed he fractured a rib and injured his left shoulder. He suffered a rotator cuff tear and required surgery. Even after his surgery and recovery, he claimed he was left with severely restricted range of motion or frozen shoulder and has not been able to raise it or carry items. He also claimed neck, back, and left knee soft tissue injuries.

At trial, Joelle argued the plaintiff was parallel parking when it was unsafe to do so, entering the truck's lane of travel. He was only visible for three seconds before he stopped in the truck's blind spot, and he failed to warn the truck driver of his presence.

Additionally, we used the plaintiff's treatment and pharmaceutical records to demonstrate that the plaintiff's frozen shoulder was the result of failing to follow his doctor's orders, not the accident. On cross examination, the plaintiff's doctor admitted that the plaintiff was not honest about following the treatment plan and used his physical therapy visits to receive therapeutic massages, not aggressive shoulder exercises.

The unanimous jury found the defendant truck driver only 15 percent at fault and plaintiff 85 percent comparatively negligent and awarded the plaintiff only $15,000, thus the net owed by the defense amounted to $2,250.00. Joelle was assisted on this case by Jennifer Harris, the handling attorney through discovery and pretrial.

These are two examples where plaintiff's counsel made exorbitant demands in hope of ringing the bell in plaintiff pro-venues. We continue to believe if a case cannot be resolved on favorable terms then you have to be prepared to successfully defend the case through trial.

The content of this article is intended to provide a general guide to the subject matter. Specialist advice should be sought about your specific circumstances.

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