Edelman, Krasin & Jaye is proud to announce a $3,875,000 settlement on behalf of a client who suffered severe skull and brain injuries due to a falling tree limb in a New York City park. Senior Partner Paul Edelman and Senior Trial Counsel Sal A. Spano handled the case.
The Plaintiff was a 48-year-old woman who, on May 27, 2012, was picnicking with her family in Randall’s Island Park – owned and operated by the NYC Dept. of Parks & Recreation. She was with her mother, her husband, their adult children and three grandchildren. They set up under a grove of tall oak trees in the Wards Meadow area of the park, where there are soccer fields and a concession stand.
It was Memorial Day weekend, and the weather was clear and calm, and the park was full of people enjoying the afternoon.
Plaintiff suffers skull fracture, brain injury, nerve damage
At about 5:00pm the Plaintiff told her grandchildren to go play while she set up their tent. As she was standing under an 86-foot-tall Pin Oak tree, suddenly and without warning a large dead tree limb 40 feet above her gave way. It was 28 feet long and weighed over 80 pounds. It broke from the tree and fell directly onto the Plaintiff’s head. She was immediately rendered unconscious, bleeding massively from the head and face.
The Plaintiff did not regain consciousness until the first responders arrived, whereupon she was rushed to Harlem Hospital. As a result of the accident, the plaintiff had suffered a skull fracture, facial fractures and traumatic brain injury. The Plaintiff became profoundly blind in her right eye due to damage to the optic nerve, and lost all sense of smell and taste.
Neglected tree posed an obvious hazard
Our investigation revealed that the subject tree had been in serious decline for several years. The branch which struck the Plaintiff was bare of any leaves and had been dead for at least two years. The tree itself was infested with carpenter ants burrowing away through a hole into the hollowed trunk, and the lack of healthy foliage and branch die-back were obvious indicators that the tree was declining and posed a hazard.
Expert witness says construction compromised tree’s health
Our investigation revealed that years prior, between 2007–2009, there had been major construction work at and around this grove of trees. An interior roadway with a curb was installed 14 feet away, utility lines were trenched in and laid, a fire hydrant and lamp post were installed about 18 feet away, and a soccer field was installed about 60 feet away. All of this, our expert opined, compromised at least 40% of the vital root system to this tree.
The City denied that there was any correlation between the construction and this tree’s health. The City’s Parks personnel would later testify that they routinely inspected and pruned the subject tree and that it was not showing signs of distress.
During the second week of trial the case settled for $3,875,000.00.