Councilwoman Letitia James has quietly dropped her much-mocked personal injury lawsuit that sought unspecified damages from an itinerant laborer because she bumped her leg on a legal trailer hitch on the back of his legally parked car.
“The case has been withdrawn and will be discontinued, and the appropriate papers have been filed,” said James’s high-powered and politically connected attorney, Sanford Rubenstein, who had initially boasted that he couldn’t wait to take the councilwoman’s case to a jury.
Rubenstein said he withdrew the case at the request of his client.
James later told The Brooklyn Paper that she dropped the case because it had become “a distraction from important issues like firehouses closing, police being laid off and daycare centers closing.”
Before dropping the suit, the Democratic lawmaker, who makes $122,500 a year as the people’s representative in Fort Greene and Clinton Hill, sought damages for wounds she claims to have sustained on July 11 when she walked into a four-inch hitch protruding from David Day’s parked car.
James told this newspaper the bump caused a seven-inch scar on her leg.
“The doctor said it was a deep laceration and he wanted to give me stitches, but I said no,” said the courageous councilwoman, who refused to provide this newspaper with her medical records.
Day, who was loading recyclables in his 1993 Chevy Astro van at the time of the accident, said the scratch was no more than three inches and not very deep.
James sued, claiming in court papers she sustained “serious, severe and permanent [injuries] to her limbs and body.”
How serious her injuries were is a matter of contention. The alleged accident occurred weeks before her re-election campaign last year, a fight she waged with her customary vigor. Additionally, several of James’s Council colleagues told this newspaper that they did not recall James limping or using crutches during the summer.
After this newspaper broke the story of the councilwoman’s lawsuit, everyone from Internet commenters to bloggers to the editorial page of the Daily News openly mocked James.
“[She is an] idiot who is suing a man because she bumped her shin,” posted “Bob.” “The people who agree with her are part of the problem with New York City.”
But until last week, James was not dissuaded from her bump-and-scratch suit, saying that she would only drop the case if Day removed the hitch — but the feisty 61-year-old Texan refused, noting state law allows such automotive appendages.
But something changed, though with little public fanfare. In fact, Day said he only found out that the lawsuit was dropped because he ran into James herself near her on Clifton Place near his apartment.
“She just got out of her car and came over to me, shook my hand and said, ‘You won the case. Congratulations,’ ” said Day.
The laborer said he doesn’t hold any grudges against the lawmaker. But when James again suggested that he remove the hitch, he shook his head.
“It’s part of my work. It’s my livelihood and I paid to put it on there,” he said.
For her part, James said she could have handled the issue differently.
“I wanted him to remove the hitch when not in use, but he refused,” James said. “I did file the suit, but he’s the one who brought it to the media.
“But in the end, the Texan wins,” James added. “I’ll focus on the issues that really matter to my constituents, and we’ll all move on.”