Apart from the mandate imposed by CPLR 5501 it is self evident that reviewing prior verdicts furnishes “to the judicial mind some indication of the consensus of opinion of jurors and courts to the proper relation between the character of the injured and the amount of compensation awarded”. Evaluation of prior awards, in similar personal injury cases is intended to provide guidance to the court in resolving disputed contentions regarding the adequacy or inadequacy of a verdict so that issues such as prejudice or sympathy do not become the motivating factor for the award. The trial court, therefore, in reviewing a jury award must consider the nature of the injury sustained by the plaintiff, the plaintiff’s age, the physical condition of the plaintiff prior to the occurrence, the permanency of the injury sustained, plaintiff’s ability to return to gainful employment, the pain, both physical and emotional, experienced and to be experienced in the future, the extent of future hospitalization and ascertain whether the award in part was generated by the devastating effect of plaintiff’s injury. Here, x rays introduced at the trial showing the presence of the rebar that entered plaintiffs body clearly invoked sympathy by the jury causing in part, a huge verdict that was intended to compensate the plaintiff not only for pain and suffering he sustained but the grief experienced by the impact of the steel rod entering his body. Manifestly, modification of damages awards cannot be based on past precedents alone and as the Appellate Division appropriately stated; “Although possessing the power to set aside an excessive jury verdict, a trial court should nonetheless be wary of substituting its judgment for that of a panel of fact finders whose peculiar function is the fixation of damages. Modification of damages, which is a speculative endeavor, cannot be based upon case precedent alone, because comparison of injuries in different cases is virtually impossible”.
In contrast to the cases cited by the defendant, plaintiff’s counsel submits several cases where jury’s award was significantly larger than the awards presented by the defendant.
This Court’s review of the cases set forth in this opinion denotes the factors which are considered in assessing what would be reasonable compensation. This process, now completed, does not however provide a clear picture that permits the application of some formula that identifies the limits of compensation for injuries that parallel plaintiff’s suffering. It is undisputed that plaintiff who at one time was a strong and vibrant man is now a wheelchair bound paraplegic. The devastating injury he sustained was caused by the pipe that upon entering his body destroyed his bowel requiring a colostomy bag to collect his waste matter and he is required to manage his bladder with catheters. Plaintiff’s nerve pain in his legs is continuous and permanent. Such injuries, including those previously described, including the permanency of his injury and his inability to return to gainful employment, are the factors that this court has applied in determining what would be reasonable compensation.
For the foregoing reasons, this Court grants defendant’s motion to set aside the verdict as excessive unless within 30 days after service of a copy of this decision and order with notice of entry plaintiff stipulates to reduce the jury award for past pain and suffering from $20 million to $5 million; for future pain and suffering from $55 million to $10 million, and for future medical related expenses from $10 million to $8,295,000.