Swimming Accident Adult Brothers Dive From Pier Into Five Feet Of Water Both Rendered Quadriplegic Alcohol Involvement By Both City Liable For Failure To Warn
VERDICT: $104,795,033 for two Pltfs., broken down as follows:
$49,900,219 for Virgil.
Breakdown:$15,000,000 for past pain and suffering; $536,666 for past medical expenses (stipulated); $ 175,000 for past lost earnings; $20,000,000 for future pain and suffering; $13,558,553 for future medical expenses; $630,000 for future lost earnings.
$54,894,814 for John.
Breakdown: $20,000,000 for past pain and suffering; $535,816 for past medical expenses (stipulated); $ 72,000 for past lost earnings; $20,000,000 for future pain and suffering; $13,986,998 for future medical expenses; $300,000 for future lost earnings. In a decision dated 10/1/98, the court reduced Pltfs.’ past pain and suffering awards each to $3,000,000 and Pltfs.’ future pain and suffering awards each to $7,000,000.
XV/43-1 Swimming Accident Adult Brothers Dive From Pier Into Five Feet Of Water Both Rendered Quadriplegic Alcohol Involvement By Both City Liable For Failure To Warn
Virgil and John Brown v. City of New York and New York City Dept. of Parks & Recreation 40864/92 4-week trial Verdict 4/9/98 Kings Supreme Judge: Gloria C. Aronin
Pltf. Atty: Harvey Weitz and Joseph S. Rosato of Schneider, Kleinick, Weitz, Damashek & Shoot, Manhattan
Deft. Atty: Kenneth S. Sasmor, Asst. Corp. Counsel
The accident occurred during the 1992 Memorial Day weekend. Pltfs. Virgil Brown, age 28 at the time, and his brother John, age 27 at the time, were injured when they dove off the Coney Island pier. They claimed that they were unaware that they were diving into only 5 feet of water. Pltfs. testified that Virgil dove first, and that John dove in after he saw Virgil floating in the water. Pltfs. contended that the City violated State regulations and its own safety plan when it failed to post warning signs at the pier. They also contended that one of the lifeguards whose job it was to patrol the beach and watch the pier had left his station and the beach unattended while he visited with a female lifeguard at another station. Pltfs. argued that Deft. had notice of diving by beach attendees and, specifically, had notice of a prior similar accident that occurred 9 months before the accident at bar. Shortly after this accident, Betsy Gotbaum, New York City Parks Commissioner, was quoted in the press as saying: It s our responsibility and we ll take the blame. At trial, she testified that she could not recall making the statement.
Deft. City of New York contended that State regulations relied upon by Pltfs. did not apply to the location of the accident. Defts. also contended that Pltfs. were under the influence of alcohol and acted negligently in stepping over a handrail and diving from a height into water of unknown depth. Evidence introduced at trial indicated that Virgil s blood alcohol level was .09, and John s was 1. 05. Deft. called an oceanographer, who testified based on tide tables, that the men dove from a height of 15 feet from the surface of the water.
Injuries: Both men are quadriplegic. They were hospitalized for 1 year, and each underwent an operation for a decubitus ulcer. At the time of trial, Pltfs. were living in the basement of their mother s home, where she and a nursing assistant care for them. Jury deliberation: 8 hours on liability; 9 hours on damages.
Pltf. Experts: Arthur Mittelstaedt, signage expert; Dr. Robert B. Goldberg, physical and rehabilitative medicine, Manhattan; Conrad Berenson, Ph.D., economist, Woodbury.
Deft. Experts: R. Lawrence Swanson, oceanographer; Dr. Thomas Manning, toxicologist, Nassau County Medical Examiner.