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Bronx County, NY

In this action, the plaintiff contended that the defendant, NYCHA, negligently failed to repair the front door intercom/buzzer system despite complaints that it had been malfunctioning for approximately six months. The plaintiff contended that as a result, a rapist gained access when another tenant arrived home and opened the front door. The rapist brought the infant plaintiff to the roof where he raped and sodomized her. The plaintiff maintained that the alarm which automatically activated when the door was opened, was designed to sound for three seconds only, contending that a long sounding alarm would probably have prevented the assault. The infant plaintiff contended that the psychiatric injuries have been severe and caused her to miss school for a year before returning. The plaintiff maintained that the psychological injury will continue to some degree permanently. The rapist was indentified and imprisoned and would have been on the jury sheet.

The plaintiff maintained that the family had made numerous complaints about the buzzer/intercom system and that no repairs were made. The defendant denied receiving notice from the plaintiff. The defendant maintained that complaints are logged into the computer and contended that the absence of any mention of such complaints on the computer reflected that no such complaints were made. The plaintiff would have pointed out that the defendant had control of the computer and would have denied that the defense position regarding actual notice should be accepted. The plaintiff would have also presented evidence from other tenants that the system had been malfunctioning for approximately six months and the plaintiff would have maintained that the defendant clearly had constructive notice.

The attack occurred at approximately 6:00 p.m. in January. The plaintiff contended that because the buzzer system was not functioning, she had to wait five to six minutes for another tenant to arrive home to use her key. The plaintiff maintained that in the interim, the assailant arrived, pushed the intercom and waited for the other tenant to return, entering the building with both of them. The three entered the elevator. The plaintiff contended that when the other tenant exited the elevator on the sixth floor, the rapist put a gun to her head and brought her to the roof.

The plaintiff’s security expert contended that the failure of the Housing Authority to have a rooftop alarm that sounded significantly longer than three seconds was improper and that it was likely that a long shrill sound would have deterred the rapist from continuing. The plaintiff could not point to any statute, ordinance or regulation that mandated a longer sounding alarm.

The defendant’s security expert contended that the alarm as designed was proper. The plaintiff countered by confronting the defendant’s expert with a transcript of his testimony in a prior case in which he was an expert for the plaintiff which was defended by the same defense counsel. The prior case had settled during trial and no transcripts had been previously ordered. The plaintiff maintained that in the previous case, the expert concluded that the alarm should have lasted considerably longer.

The plaintiff maintained that in the several-year period following the assault, she had great trouble sleeping. The plaintiff also contended that she missed many months from school and had to repeat the eighth grade. The plaintiff contended that although the infant plaintiff’s psychiatric condition has improved to some extent, she will permanently suffer emotional symptoms and fragility. The plaintiff contended that the infant plaintiff lost her innocence in the attack that evening and that it is doubtful that she will ever be able to completely regain her trust in others. The plaintiff would have argued that the jury should consider that although the emotional pain may well diminish over time, it is highly likely that it will remain to some degree for the remainder of her life.

The case settled immediately before summations for $________.

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