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In what may be the highest-ever trip-and-fall verdict against the city of New York, a jury has awarded more than $21 million to a woman who stumbled over the remnant of a no-parking sign. Plaintiff Unjoo Paek, a 36-year-old pattern maker for Calvin Klein, claimed that at 11 p.m. on a Saturday night, she was injured when she tripped and fell over the metal protrusion, which measured only 3 to 4 inches in height. The protrusion was located 1 to 2 feet from the curb. Paek claimed that the sign had been knocked down by a sanitation truck during a snowstorm the year before and that the city had notice of the condition, yet failed to remedy it. The notice was recorded by the Big Apple Pothole & Sidewalk Protection Committee, an organization that provides written notice of sidewalk, curb and crosswalk defects. In addition, the owner of an adjoining business testified that he had called the city department of transportation at least three times to complain about the problem. The city argued that the accident did not happen the way that the plaintiff described it. Paek sustained a skull fracture and epidural hematoma requiring a left frontoparietal craniotomy with evacuation of the hematoma and resulting in cognitive dysfunction, depression and disabling headaches. She eventually returned to work but because of memory loss, difficulty in concentrating and communicating and cognitive deficits, she was fired for poor performance. She claimed that her injuries prevented her from accepting another position with Oscar de la Renta at a salary of $150,000 per year. The defendant argued that Paek exaggerated her injuries and had a history of depression, originating from an abusive childhood. The three-man, three-woman jury unanimously found for the plaintiff, awarding her $21,124,110. A post-trial motion is pending. Plaintiff’s attorneys: Jeffrey Lessoff and Tanya Robinson, Edward H. Suh & Associates, Flushing, N.Y. Defense attorney: Sheila M. Rossi, assistant corporate counsel, New York.

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