Following a six-day trial held in what an attorney described as an eerily quiet Bronx courthouse, a jury found for an on-duty Co-Op City peace officer who was riding a three-wheeled scooter when he says he was hit by a passing Metropolitan Transportation Authority bus.
The jury of four women and two men found the MTA 100% at fault for plaintiff Burt Burney’s injuries after a three-day liability trial, attorney Justin Blitz told the Law Journal. He said half of the jurors were in their 20s and the other half were in their 40s.
The case moved immediately to a damages trial and, after another three days, the jury awarded Burney $2.5 million for future pain and suffering, $1 million for past pain and suffering, $500,000 for future medical expenses and $200,000 for past medical expenses.
Blitz said the in-person trial, for which jury selection began on Oct. 13, was his first since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic.
“The jurors of the Bronx, they still use their logic, they still use their reason, they still listen to their evidence,” Blitz said. “Perhaps there’s a bit more empathy now that we’ve all been through such tragedy.”
Gregory Nelson of Morris Duffy Alonso & Faley appeared for the MTA, which declined to comment.
The trial for Burney’s case was held before Judge Adrian Armstrong, a New York Court of Claims judge sitting in the civil term for Bronx Supreme Court.
In Armstrong’s courtroom, jurors were masked and sat socially distant in the gallery. Throughout the courthouse at 859 Grand Concourse in the South Bronx, Blitz said, there was a stillness that wasn’t there during business hours in pre-pandemic times, when there could be as many as 20 trials being held simultaneously.
“There was … quite an eeriness to the courthouse. I’m used to all sorts of craziness, with lawyers running around,” he said. “I’ll be frank, by the end of the week there was a sense of calmness that I had about it that I started to rather enjoy.”