The 1978 case of a white-haired man arrived at the Circuit Court one morning. The man entered the courtroom to testify in his $1 million lawsuit he filed against Edward H. White II Memorial Hospital.
He filed the lawsuit because he fell out of bed while admitted in the facility. The 50-year-old man claimed that the hospital staff was negligent when they left the railing down on his hospital bed. When he fell, he suffered a spinal injury.
The hospital refuted those claims and said that the patient had raised such a ruckus about having it up that they lowered it – against hospital policy – in order to hopefully prevent another coronary episode in the gentleman.
According to a doctor who practices in Queens and Staten Island and who has researched the case, the courtroom allowed special privileges to the injured man. For example, the Circuit Court Judge told the plaintiff that it was not necessary to raise his right hand when he was sworn in, because of his condition. The man was also allowed to sit in a chair in front of the jury to help him avoid the two small stairs into the testimony box.
While on the stand (in the chair), the plaintiff’s hands continually moved “as if he was trying to wake them up or remove something from their tips,” a report of the trial stated.
The 50-year-old man has told his attorney that he does not remember much of what happened to him in the hospital. He also explained his hands’ movements near the end of his testimony. He said that he thinks the movements go on when he’s not aware as his body’s way of attempting to ease the pain and discomfort which enveloped his entire body and was not helped by medicine. He said, “There is a burning, prickling sensation of the skin. It is like my body or skin is on fire, particularly in my hands. They almost constantly feel like they are going to burst open or burn up.”
The hospital tried to settle for $150,000, but the plaintiff wanted at least $400,000 and was expected to ask for upwards of $1 million dollars if the trial eventually went to trial.
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