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$45M for Paraplegic Remains Largest Award in Western New York History


Posted on Nov 21, 2011

This Friday, November 19, a state appellate court upheld a lower court verdict, which sided last year with a Cheektowaga woman who was left paralyzed after a weight machine fell on her. The decision changed only the award value -- from $66 million to $45 million -- though the award remains the largest in Western New York history.

Natalie Barnhard, 31, who now lives and goes through physical therapy in Georgia, had formerly worked at Amherst Orthopedic Physical Therapy. Seven years ago, Ms. Barnhard stood on the weighted side of a 600lb machine and pulled to stretch her arm and shoulder. The machine was unsecured, tipped over, and crushed her.

The plaintiff's argument was that the accident could easily have been avoided. $10 could have gone towards weighted feet to ground the machine, the machine could have been bolted to the floor, and the weighted side of the machine could have been closed off.

The jury found manufacturer Cybex International 75% liable, the therapy center 20% liable, and Ms. Barnhard 5% liable. Three awards from the lower court remained unchanged by the five-member appellate panel: $1.7 million in medical costs, $28.6 million for future medical costs, and almost $2 million in foregone earnings. Past pain and suffering was reduced from $8 to $3 million, future pain and suffering was reduced from $25 to $9 million, and $792,000 for future care of potential children was denied because the figure was seen as pure speculation.

As a practicing wrongful death and personal injury attorney in New York, I deal with dangerous hazards and their consequences like this every day. If you have experienced related problems, pick up the phone and call. I can help.

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If you would like more information about how negligence and accident cases work in the state of New York, I encourage you to explore my educational website. If you have legal questions,  I urge you to pick up the phone and call me at 516-487-8207 or by e-mail at [email protected] to answer your questions. That's what I do every day. I welcome your call.

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