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New York Jail Visitor Injured in Prison Van Accident Awarded $1,476,431

A New York woman injured while she was a passenger in a prison van was awarded $1,476,431.

Mrs. Tejada visited her sister at Riker's Island prison. A prison owned and operated bus transported visitors to the prison. Following the visit with her sister, Tejada's bus broke down and visitors were transferred to a van. The number of people in the van exceeded its occupancy capacity. The driver traveled an excessive speed over defects in the roadway, causing the van to bounce severely.

The driver came to a sudden, violent stop without warning. Tejada struck her knee on metal next to the seat. She reported the injury and the van returned to the prison, where Tejada was examined by a physician.
Tejada sustained a torn medial meniscus, which caused "significant movement and grading of the patella." Tejada suffferede extensive pain, "prompting the performance of a procedure in which the location of the patella was altered slightly in an attempt to minimize the grading." Her condition continued to deteriorate. After six arthograms, a patellectomy was performed. Because of the initial injury, Tejada "placed additional weight on the remaining knee, causing chondromalacia patella and arthritis to develop in that knee." Her difficulties walking caused "a significant subluxation of the lumber vertebrae which resulted in sciatic neuritis." Tejada "will be permanently unable to walk without the aid of either crutches or a walker and she will permanently experience severe pain which will continue to heighten as time passes." She also suffered "severe psychological depression" and suicidal thoughts. The "prognosis regarding her psychological condition is extremely grim."

Tejada sued in state court alleging her injuries were caused by the van driver's negligence. On May 16, 1985, a jury ruled for Tejada, awarding her $500,000 for pain and suffering and personal injuries, $550,498 for lost earnings, $248,276 for future psychotherapy and physical support services, and $167,657 for future household assistance, totaling $1,476,431. The award was later reduced by $50,000. See: Tejada v. City of New York, Queens County Supreme Court, Case No. 698184.

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Related legal case

Tejada v. City of New York