Matthew Vitucci Obtains Defense Verdict In Re-Trial Of New York County Negligence Case

February 23, 2024

On February 16, 2024, following a re-trial, Matthew Vitucci obtained a defense verdict in Supreme Court, New York County before the Honorable James D’Auguste on behalf of our clients, a cooperative apartment owner and its property manager. Plaintiff alleged she was injured by falling snow and ice while walking on the sidewalk in front of our clients’ building. Plaintiff claimed she sustained severe brain injuries including concussion, post-concussion syndrome with severe cognitive after-effects including: loss of memory, inability to perform basic functions including reading, maintaining relationships and working at her job; plaintiff further alleged that she sustained additional injuries from the impact with the falling ice including loss of hearing, a dislocated jaw, injuries to the cranial nerves resulting in trigeminal neuralgia, fibromyalgia, and traumatic epilepsy with seizures.

Plaintiff brought a negligence action against the building owner and property manager, alleging that our clients had notice of a hazardous condition caused by snow and ice accumulating on exterior surfaces of the building. Plaintiff further argued that our clients should have installed ‘ice guards’ to prevent snow and ice from falling to the sidewalk below, and that our clients should have closed off the sidewalk around their building. The first trial, also handled by Mr. Vitucci, resulted in a verdict for the Defendants. Plaintiff successfully appealed the verdict arguing that certain video evidence was wrongfully precluded by the Court.

Mr. Vitucci argued during the initial trial that, in fact, the snow and ice had fallen from two New York City owned large trees that overhung the sidewalk. Furthermore, even if the snow and ice did come from the building, Mr. Vitucci argued our clients had no notice that such an event could occur as there had never been a similar incident prior to the date of loss. Therefore, our clients had no duty to install ice guards or close the sidewalk on the day of the accident.

During the re-trial, the defendant’s liability witnesses (the building doorman and property manager) both were subpoenaed by Plaintiff’s counsel and following harsh questioning, reversed their testimony at the earlier trial and related that the ice and snow did in all likelihood fall from the building, that there had been prior incidents at the building with falling ice causing the building to have to cordon off adjacent sidewalks, and that in view of a warmer weather forecast for the date of the accident that the sidewalk should have been shut in the hours prior to the 10 am incident.

Despite the damaging testimony, Mr. Vitucci argued that the Defendants could not be found to have acted unreasonably on the morning of the accident as the video that had been precluded in the first trial and introduced in the second, provided evidence that none of the buildings in the surrounding area had cordoned off their adjacent sidewalks on the morning of the accident either.

Plaintiff sought recovery of 4.6 million dollars for the injuries alleged. The jury returned a unanimous verdict for the Defendants after a twenty-minute deliberation.