$5.49 Million Jury Verdict in Injury to Home Health Aide at Hospital

Ana Espinal, 41, was a home health aide who was working in a New York City hospital. She was walking in a hospital hallway when she slipped and fell in a puddle of water that had leaked from an air conditioner in the ceiling. She suffered neck, back, left hip and left leg pain and diminished sensation in her left, non-dominant arm. Espinal was diagnosed with herniated disks at C5-6 and L4-S1, bulging disks at C4-5 and L1-4, left shoulder impingement and aggravation of asymptomatic arthritis in her left knee.

Espinal underwent conservative treatment, but that failed. She then had a laminectomy infusion at L4-S1, which included implantation of stabilizing hardware. The following year she underwent three separate surgeries, including implantation of spinal stimulators and her neck and lower back and a left knee replacement. She required additional surgeries for repair or replacement of the spinal stimulators.

Her past medical expenses totaled $439,000. Her workers’ compensation carrier paid all the medical bills plus indemnity benefits and maintained a worker’s compensation lien of $567,800.

She continued to suffer pain and a limited range of motion in her neck, back and left knee. She still has a limp and uses a cane when walking outside. She also uses a back brace. According to the report of this jury verdict, she will require a lumbar fusion in the future, replacement of the spinal stimulators every seven years and another knee replacement in 15-20 years.

She is permanently disabled. Further, she is expecting future medical expenses to be incurred in life-care costs for assistance she will require as she ages.

Espinal sued the hospital claiming that its employees were negligent in choosing not to remove water from the floor or warn of the slipping hazard. Espinal also alleged that the hospital was negligent in failing to repair the air-conditioning units that were leaking.

At trial, Espinal claimed economic damages of $279,400 in future lost earnings, arguing that she had hoped to work until age 62. She also sought damages for past and future pain and suffering.

The defendant hospital argued that Espinal’s injuries were the result of pre-existing degenerative conditions, which included arthritis in her back and osteoarthritis in her knees caused by obesity, a history of physical labor or both.

Espinal’s orthopedic surgeon — who did the knee surgery — testified that her osteoarthritis was asymptomatic before her fall but that she developed traumatic arthritis after her fall, which caused her condition to become symptomatic. Espinal’s back surgeon testified at trial that she did not have arthritis in her back before she fell at this hospital. The jury’s verdict was $5,490,000.

The parties eventually settled for the amount of this verdict and compromised on the workers’ compensation lien at $366,200. The attorney representing Espinal was Scott A. Steinberg.

At trial, Espinal’s retained experts included orthopedic surgeons, a pain management expert, a life-care planning expert and an economist.  he defendant hospital presented experts in orthopedic surgery and radiology.

Espinal v. New York City Health Hospitals Corp., No. 11336/08 (N.Y. Sup. Ct. Queens County).

Kreisman Law Offices has been handling medical malpractice cases, hospital negligence cases, birth trauma injury cases and physician negligence cases for individuals and families who have been injured or killed by the negligence of a medical provider for more than 40 years, in and around Chicago, Cook County and surrounding areas including Lynwood, Robbins, Oak Forest, Northbrook, Melrose Park, Lyons, Kenilworth, Hoffman Estates, Hinsdale, Hillside, Palos Heights, Palatine, South Barrington, Chicago (Sheffield, Sauganash, Roscoe Village, Printer’s Row, Princeton Park, Oz Park, Edgewater, DePaul  University Area, McKinley Park, Little Italy), Cicero and Deerfield, Ill.

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