A former cab driver has been awarded $6.6 million two months after a liability jury found that the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey failed to shut down sprinklers at John F. Kennedy International Airport, causing a road to freeze and cars to crash.
A damages jury awarded the $6.6 million to Robert Favors on Tuesday—$4 million for future medical expenses, $240,000 for past medical expenses, $1.375 million for future pain and suffering and $1 million for past pain and suffering—according to his lawyer, Howard Frederick of Silbowitz, Garafola, Silbowitz, Schatz & Frederick in Manhattan.
In April, a six-person liability jury in Brooklyn Supreme Court found the Port Authority was responsible for the Nov. 22, 2008, collision because the agency controlled a computer system that operated lawn sprinklers throughout the airport’s massive grounds.
Several other defendants originally named in Favors v. Port Authority, 27151/09, including contractors and subcontractors hired by the Port Authority to help operate the sprinkler system, were found not liable, Frederick said.
Karla Denalli, a Port Authority attorney who represented the agency, could not be reached for comment this week.
Favors was driving alone in a leased cab at 7:35 a.m. when he rode onto airport grounds using the Van Wyck Expressway at Federal Circle, Frederick said. He quickly came upon 300 feet of road that was a “sheet of ice,” Frederick said, causing him to lose control and collide into another vehicle that had already piled up near two other crashed cars.
Favors’ knees bashed into the taxi’s dash, and he suffered torn meniscuses in his knees and a herniated disk in his back’s lumbar region. Eventually, Favors, now 56, had six surgeries including multiple arthroscopic knee and knee replacement surgeries, and received physical therapy.
At this spring’s two-and-a-half-week liability trial, Favors proved that the Port Authority ultimately had control over the sprinkler system, Frederick said. He said the Port Authority had argued for years that other defendants, including The Brickman Group, a contracted landscaping company and subcontractor Metro Irrigation and Maintenance, were responsible.
In addition, Frederick said he and his team showed that the Port Authority, according to its own policies, was supposed to have shut down the sprinkler system for the cold season a week before the accident took place.
But there had been a late planting of shrubbery that year, and in the days before Nov. 22, 2008, the average temperatures had been warm, the jury was told.
On the morning of the accident temperatures were only in the 20s.
Frederick said he believes one key to winning millions of dollars in damages was using a series of medical witnesses who all had treated Favors themselves.
“He had a complicated course of medical treatment, but I think it carried a lot of weight with the jury that all of the doctors who testified for him actually treated him,” rather than using outside experts, Frederick said.
“It was a very long haul for Robert Favors,” the attorney added, referring to the fact that the suit began in 2009, “but it gave him a great deal of satisfaction to receive the verdict.”
Pavel Kandell, a town car cab driver who also crashed at the scene, filed a separate action that was eventually consolidated with Favors’. Kandell settled for an undisclosed amount before Favors’ damages trial this month, Frederick said.
Both the liability and damages trials were presided over by Brooklyn Supreme Court Justice Edgar Walker.
In settlement discussions prior to the liability trial, Favors’ last demand was for $5 million and the Port Authority’s last offer was for $1.25 million, Frederick noted.