Verdict for our client a 61 year old porter who was working at a New York City Upper East Side luxury apartment building clearing a jam in the building trash compactor when the lights in the compactor room were inadvertently turned off.
This caused our client Jose Humareda to momentarily become distracted. Within a few seconds, the ram of the compactor grabbed the hand of our client, which resulted in a severe crush injury. Mr. Humareda was rushed to Bellevue Hospital where he underwent multiple surgeries and remained hospitalized for 35 days. He is now 66 years old and has limited use of his right dominant hand.
The injury occurred on April 23, 2010 almost four years after our client started working at the Upper East Side apartment building. Originally from Peru, Mr. Humareda came to the United States to support his family in the late 1980s after he and his wife had to close their grocery store due to terrorist threats against them. He obtained employment in New York working in restaurants and cleaning at LaGuardia Airport.
Our firm was engaged by Mr. Humareda while an appeal was pending. Stuart Finz successfully argued the appeal in the First Department and the action proceeded against the building’s managing agent, S. Garson, LLC. The case was set down for trial in New York Supreme Court before the Honorable Lynn Kotler.
During the six week trial Stuart Finz argued to the jury that the managing agent of the building failed to see to it that Mr. Humareda was properly trained and that the trash compactor was properly inspected and maintained. In fact, it was argued that Mr. Humareda was shown the wrong way to clear a jam in the trash compactor by placing his hand and a piece of wood into the compactor with the ram moving so that the wood would act as an extension of the ram to push through the jam. Mr. Humareda had been performing that task for the almost four years that he was employed by the triple net lessee of the building, SMJ Associates, LLC. The defense argued that Mr. Humareda was not trained to clear a jam in that manner and that he employed his own unsafe means of clearing a jam which was contrary to the training he received by the building staff.
In addition, since the building owner was an out-of-possession landlord and thereby not a party to the action, Mr. Finz had to establish during trial that S. Garson, LLC, the managing agent was in complete and exclusive control of the management and operation of the building. The defense argued that although S. Garson, LLC was the managing agent, it was the superintendent and building staff, not the managing agent, that were in control of the operation of the building and therefore, the defendant should not be held accountable to Mr. Humareda. The issue of whether or not S. Garson, LLC was in complete and exclusive control was set down on the verdict sheet as the first interrogatory to be answered by the jury. The verdict sheet consisted of 12 pages with 14 questions with subparts.
During summation, Mr. Finz asked that the jury render their verdict that S. Garson, LLC was in complete and exclusive control of the management and operation of the building and that it was negligent in the way in which it managed the building. Mr. Finz requested that the jury award Mr. Humareda a total sum of just under $10 Million in damages, including past and future pain and suffering, past and future medical costs, together with past and future lost earnings.
After seven hours of deliberations over a two-day period, the unanimous jury increased the past pain and suffering requested by Mr. Finz from $3 Million to $5 Million for five years and increased the future pain and suffering from $4 Million to $7 Million for 15 years. The total verdict was in the sum of $14,768,000.