The opinion of the court was delivered by: Kevin Thomas Duffy, District Judge.
On April 6, 1988, the commuter train on which Paturzo worked
as a conductor was involved in a wreck. Paturzo was injured.
Trial Transcript ("Tr.") 27-38. The injuries that Paturzo
sustained consisted of damage to the ulnar nerve in his left,
and non-dominant, arm. This causes occasional numbness in the
tips of two fingers and the web of his thumb. Tr. 51-72. In
addition, Paturzo suffered a cervical sprain, and complains
that he suffers psychologically from post traumatic stress
A new trial may be granted if the amount of the jury's
verdict is clearly excessive. Granting or refusing to grant a
new trial on grounds of excessiveness is a matter resting
within the trial court's sound discretion. It is exercised with
regard to what is right and in the interest of justice. The
standard for review of damage awards is whether the reward is
so high as to shock the judicial conscience, constituting a
denial of justice. Ismail v. Cohen, 899 F.2d 183 (2d Cir.
1990); see also Scagnelli v. Whiting, 554 F. Supp. 77 (D.C.N.C.
1982). On a motion for a new trial:
[t]he trial judge, exercising a mature judicial
discretion, should view the verdict in the overall
setting of the trial; consider the character of
the evidence and the complexity or simplicity of
the legal principles which the jury was bound to
apply to the facts; and abstain from interfering
with the verdict unless it is quite clear that the
jury has reached a seriously erroneous result. The
judge's duty is essentially to see that there is
no miscarriage of justice. If convinced that there
has been then it is his duty to set the verdict
aside; otherwise not.
Alisandrelli v. Kenwood, d/b/a Franklin Assoc., No. 88-8002,
1990 WL 20158 (S.D.N.Y. Feb. 27, 1990) (LEXIS, genfed library,
dist file) (quoting Bevevino v. Saydjari, 574 F.2d 676 (2d Cir.
Moreover, appellate courts afford the trial court's findings
due deference with regard to reversing the grant of a new trial
for excessive verdict. "Only where the quantum of damages was
clearly within the maximum limit of a reasonable range" will
the appellate court be constrained to reinstate the jury's
original verdict. Ismail v. Cohen, 899 F.2d 183, 186 (2d Cir.
1990) (emphasis supplied).
Metro North argues that, in the case at bar, an award of
$650,000 for conscious pain and suffering and economic loss is
clearly excessive in light of the evidence. I agree. Indeed,
Paturzo's only documented injuries were ulnar neuropathy in his
left, and non-dominant, hand, causing occasional numbness in
the tips of two fingers and the web of his thumb. And although
there is some evidence of a cervical sprain, there is no
evidence in the trial testimony or Paturzo's medical records
that a return to work is contraindicated. Furthermore, Paturzo
offers no evidence that he made attempts to mitigate his
damages in any way. Indeed, Paturzo offers no reason for his
unwillingness to seek meaningful work, nor has he even
considered working since the accident. This despite the fact
that he is physically fit to perform the same duties as he
performed prior to the accident. Tr. 73. In light of these
facts, the jury's award was clearly excessive.*fn1 I find that
the award was so high as to shock the judicial conscience and
constituted a denial of justice.
Finally, although Paturzo attempted to introduce at trial his
social worker's records to show that Paturzo suffers from post
traumatic stress syndrome, as justification for and his
inability to work for Metro-North or find other meaningful
work, Paturzo failed to timely turn these records over to Metro
North. This failure precluded him from offering the records as
evidence at trial. Consequently, there was no testimony
whatsoever as to the definition of post traumatic stress
syndrome, its causes, occurrence rate, or permanency for the
purpose of assessing damages and forgiving the mitigation
issue. Yet, the jury heard the term during the plaintiff's
opening. Evidence of post traumatic stress syndrome was
inadmissible and the jury should not have accounted for it in
the damages. After having conducted the trial, I posit that the
jury was seeded with the knowledge of this psychological
ailment such that the estimation of damages was wrongfully
affected thereby. Nonetheless, regardless whether post
traumatic stress syndrome figured into the juror's
calculations, the award ultimately exceeded all bounds of
reasonableness and I cannot reconcile the verdict as having
basis in the evidence.
For the foregoing reasons I find that the verdict in the
captioned case far exceeds all bounds of reasonableness and has
no basis in the evidence. Accordingly, the verdict must be set
aside and the case scheduled for a conference to discuss
retrying the issue of damages.