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Thomas Moore: Former NYU student who fell from fire escape wins 29 million dollar suit

New York Post By Julia Marsh, March 8, 2017 | 5:24pm

A former New York University athlete won a $29 million verdict in Manhattan court Tuesday ​– one that cannot be appealed — ​over a 2008 fall from a fire escape that left her a paraplegic.

“She’s just overwhelmed by the whole thing,” the woman’s attorney, Thomas Moore, told The Post.

 “She cried with joy and thanksgiving. She just kept saying, ‘I don’t believe it,'” Moore said.

Anastasia “Sasha” Klupchak, who was an honors student and varsity soccer player, is guaranteed the $29 million from the building owner East Village Associates after her lawyer struck an unusual deal with defense counsel on Monday.

Called a “high low settlement” the parties agreed that if the jury came back with a verdict that was less than $13 million, the defense would pay $13 million; but if they arrived at a figure over $29 million, the landlord would cough up $29 million.

The four women, two men jury deliberated​ ​for three days following the four week trial before Manhattan Supreme Court Justice Joan Madden.

Even though the majority of the jury awarded a whopping $39.5 million, one holdout juror found that Klupchak​ ​was at least partially responsible for her injuries. The college student had been drinking and the defense argued that she treated the fire escape like a balcony instead of an emergency escape route.

The dissent means that the overall verdict is subject to a 25 percent reduction, bringing the total payout to just over $29 million​ ​– or the high ​cap agreed to by the parties ahead of the verdict.

“This litigation has been going on all these years,” Moore said about the 2009 case. “I wanted Sasha to have closure and get on with her life rather than wait for an appeals process that could take two years.”

The pre-verdict deal means the award cannot be appealed. Before trial, the court had found that the landlord of the East Village walk-up, at 82 Second Ave., was liable for the then 22-year-old’s 2008 fall because a 1949 law prohibited the type of fire escape on the building.

The outdated escape is called a vertical ladder as opposed to the more-modern versions with staircases.

Klupchak was visiting a friend at 82 Second Ave. in November 2008 and they went out for a smoke on the fourth-floor fire escape behind the building just before midnight.

As she turned to climb back through the kitchen window, she fell through an unguarded opening in the fire escape platform. She plummeted 12 feet to a neighboring roof below and her spine was severed.

Her attorney, Thomas Moore, noted that there was no provision in the lease that said tenants couldn’t hang out on the fire escape. He also got the landlord, Bernard McElhone of East Village Associates, to admit under cross examination that “tens of thousands of New Yorkers regularly” hang out on the structures.

Even though Klupchak is paralyzed from the waist down, she has pursued a PhD in film studies from Emory University and now teaches at Agnes Scott College in Atlanta.

The landlord’s attorney, Peter Kopff, said that his client’s insurance company pushed for the settlement. He added,”our position was that the recreational use of the fire escape is unlawful and dangerous.


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A former NYU student was was paralyzed from the waist down after falling from a fire escape.
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