On appeal from Superior Court of New Jersey, Law Division, Middlesex County, Docket No. L-8538-06.
NOT FOR PUBLICATION WITHOUT THE APPROVAL OF THE APPELLATE DIVISION
Before Judges Fuentes, Gilroy and Simonelli.
Defendants EQR-Ravens Crest Vistas, Inc. and Equity Residential Properties Management Corporation (collectively "Equity") appeal from a jury verdict awarding plaintiff Bobbie K. Quick $75,000 in compensatory damages for injuries she sustained when she slipped and fell on defendants' property.*fn1
This was the second jury that considered the question of damages in this case. The first time this case was tried, a different jury considered both liability and damages. That jury found defendants liable, but it awarded plaintiff only $15,000 in compensatory damages.
Thereafter, plaintiff moved for a new trial as to damages only pursuant to Rule 4:49-1, or in the alternative, for an additur. After considering the arguments of counsel, the trial court granted plaintiff's motion for a new trial on the issue of damages without addressing the alternative relief of an additur.
We now reverse the trial court's ruling granting plaintiff's motion for a new trial on damages, vacate the second jury's award of $75,000, and reinstate the original award of $15,000, as augmented by post-judgment interest pursuant to Rule 4:42-11. Giving due deference to the trial judge's "feel of the case" and acknowledging that this figure is at the lower end of the spectrum of what reasonable minds would consider to be adequate compensation, we are satisfied that the trial court erred in setting aside the original award of $15,000. We reach this conclusion because the original award, although low, is supported by the evidence presented at trial. As such, it does not shock our collective judicial conscience.
Because the only question properly before us concerns the quantum of damages, we will primarily limit our recitation to facts that relate solely to this issue.
On March 2, 2005, at approximately 5:00 a.m., plaintiff was walking her dog when she fell on a stairway landing at the Ravens Crest Apartment complex. According to plaintiff, she went down the steps and after [she] got to the bottom step, stepping off the bottom step, [she] put [her] right foot on the landing quickly [and] it slipped out from under [her] and [she] went up and then landed on [her] left ankle under [her] butt and the top of [her] thighs.
She testified that ice caused her to slip and fall to the ground. By contrast, according to plaintiff's daughter, Pamela Miller Capra, although there was ice on the landing, when she went to assist her mother immediately after the fall, she did not see ice or snow on the steps.
From the scene of the accident, plaintiff was transported by ambulance to a hospital. Dr. Stuart Levine was the emergency room physician who first treated plaintiff. After reviewing x-rays taken of plaintiff's ankle, Dr. Levine diagnosed her with a "bimalleolar equivalent ankle fracture." He recommended surgery to treat the injury, scheduled the operation for March 9, 2005, and discharged plaintiff with interim instructions to ameliorate her discomfort until the date of the surgery.
Plaintiff was fifty-six years old at the time of the accident. She was unable to walk during the week between the accident and the surgery. She was anxious, fearful, and suffered "a lot of pain," that she described as "lightening bolts . . . running up your leg." In addition, the ...