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New York Ex-Prisoner Awarded $700K for Slip and Fall

After a bifurcated bench trial on the question of damages only, a former New York state prisoner was awarded over $700,000 by a Court of Claims judge for injuries suffered after the ex-prisoner fell while exiting a prison van 13 years earlier.

In 1999, while exiting the back of a prison van at the Groveland Correctional Facility in upstate New York, Timothy Quackenbush suffered numerous injuries when he fell on a plastic crate guards had propped up at the foot of the van as a stepping stool for prisoners exiting the van. Forced to exit the van shackled, Quackenbush fell when the plastic crate tipped forward and he was unable to break his fall. Quackenbush fell half-in and half-out of the van, causing injuries to his cervical spine, his left knee, and left elbow.

In the months following the accident, Quackenbush had difficulty walking due to his injured knee, and experienced increased pain in his back, neck and left arm. Quackenbush said that in response, prison staff placed him on bed rest and gave him naproxen, but paid no attention to his left elbow.

Despite numerous complaints that his elbow was getting worse and that he felt something "like a lima bean' moving around in it, Quackenbush was only given over-the-counter medications for his pain. After x-rays were finally ordered four months later, a "foreign body" was detected and a surgical procedure was required to remove it.

Finally, Quackenbush's spinal injury caused numerous complications, including excruciating neck pain, shooting pain down his arms and legs, a herniated disc, and an additional surgical procedure to remove the herniated disc.

Pain and complications from all his injuries continued for Quackenbush for years after the accident. Following his release from prison in May of 2000, Quackenbush had difficulty holding a job due to the pain and complications from his injuries.

Quackenbush, who was represented by attorney Brian York of Rochester, filed suit in a New York Court of Claims in Rochester, naming the New York Department of Correctional Services (DOCS) as the sole defendant. The trial was split into two parts. DOCS was first found fully responsible for Quackenbush's injuries. The issue of damages then went to a bench trial before Judge Philip J. Patti. In his 32-page detailed ruling, Judge Patti determined that Quackenbush was entitled to a total of $713,079 in damages; the majority of it ($622,000) for past and future pain and suffering.

The remainder of the judgment represented medical expenses and lost income. Judge Patti also ordered that Quackenbush was entitled to interest on the award at the rate of 9% per annum, and recovery of the filing fee.

No mention of attorney’s fees was made in the decision. See: Quackenbush v. The State of New York, NY Court of Claims, Case No. 2012-013-028, Claim No. 107497 (June 19, 2012).

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Related legal case

Quackenbush v. The State of New York