PREMISES SECURITY-ASSAULT-SUPERINTENDENT ATTACKED TWICE BY DRUG DEALERS – LACERATIONS TO THE HAND AND LEG
Jury Verdict: $518,500
Breakdown: $100,000 for past pain and suffering; $400,000 for future pain and suffering; $16,000 for future medical expenses; $2,500 for spouse for loss of services.
- Lacerations of the tendons and digital nerves of the index, middle, ring, and little fingers of the right (dominant) hand, resulting in numbness in the fingers and an inability to flex the distal and proximal interphalangeal joints
- Scar to the calf
Plaintiff’s examining plastic surgeon testified that Pltf. should undergo tendon repair surgery, which would result in a 50% chance of improvement for the tendons and a 25% chance of improvement for the nerve damage.
Facts & Allegations: This was a premises security case. Pltf. was the superintendent of an apartment building at 1359 Webster Ave., in the Bronx which was owned by Deft. NAACP and managed by its independent agent. Pltf. claimed that a “crack house” had been operating in Apt. 4 since January 1986 and that he had called the police about it many times. The apartment was raided in June 1986 and Pltf. sealed the door. Pltf. claimed that shortly after, someone offered to pay him to remove the seal and threatened him when he refused to do so. On 7/7/86, Pltf. was attacked in the first floor lobby by a man with a machete. A second attack occurred on 12/7/86. Pltf. claimed that on that date, he looked through the keyhole of Apt. 2 and saw a man making a transaction. Pltf. took the man out to the street where a second assailant struck Pltf. on the head with a pistol and then stabbed him in the calf.
The Fitzgerald Law Firm successfully argued that 1) Deft. was negligent for failing to evict the occupants of Apt. 4, not only because they were selling drugs, but because they were not legal tenants of the building; 2) Deft.’s failure to evict the occupants of Apt. 4 led to the attack on 7/7/86; 3) that the drug activities in Apt. 2 and Deft.’s failure to evict the tenants of that apartment led to the assault on 12/7/86; and 4) that the non-functioning bell system and the broken lock on the vestibule door added to the general danger of the building. He contended that the bell system should have been fixed and the lock replaced.
The Fitzgerald Law Firm subpoenaed the managing agent of the building, who testified that Deft. did not provide him with adequate funds to properly manage the building. He also testified that the person he was to contact at the NAACP about the building rarely returned his calls, and that he was unable to properly communicate with the landlord about the building. Over Pltf.’s objections, Deft. produced Benjamin Hooks, executive director of the NAACP, who testified as to the financial outlays for the building.
The Fitzgerald Law Firm’s real property management expert testified that the landlord should have directly communicated with and given warnings to the occupants of Apartments 2 and 4. She testified that eviction proceedings should have been undertaken and that Deft. could have arranged for a tenants’ or block association to discourage the drug trafficking. The jury found, by special interrogatory, that Deft.’s failure to evict the occupants of Apt. 4, and its failure to repair the door lock were the proximate causes of the July 7 attack in the Bronx apartment.