Defense Verdict in Queens Supreme Court
In the matter of Rueda v. First Queens Management and Elmhurst Woodside, we obtained a defense verdict for the defendants in a trial presided over by Hon. Martin Ritholtz.
Plaintiff, a manicurist in the Make Up Shop, a beauty salon in Jackson Heights, claimed she was struck by lighting fixtures on March 8, 2008 when parts of the Shop's ceiling collapsed. Plaintiff's expert , Stuart Sokoloff, established that the suspended ceiling, a major alteration, installed by the Shop in 2004 when it began leasing the premises , was installed without the proper building permits and without being designed by an architect or engineer. Plaintiff also argued the defendants , as the owner and manager of the property,did not supervise the construction of the drop ceiling, and did not abide by their lease obligations in assuring that the work was done properly and according to code. On behalf of the defendants, we argued that the work was only a minor , non- structural alteration that did not require the permits or professional input the plaintiff's argued were required. However, we also argued, primarily using plaintiff's co-workers who were called by plaintiff and then plaintiff's own cross examination, that although parts of the ceiling did fall, plaintiff herself was never struck by a lighting fixture because of where she was positioned in the Shop, and because the fixtures did not drop far enough down to have stuck plaintiff.
The jury, after deliberating only 40 minutes, found that the defendants were negligent, but that this negligence was not a proximate cause of plaintiff's injuries. Plaintiff had alleged that since the incident, among numerous injury claims, she had undergone 3 separate surgeries, including a cervical fusion, and due to the incident she had unable to work or live her life pain free. Plaintiff's counsel had maintained a $5.0 million demand throughout the trial.
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