Councilwoman Letitia James has filed a personal injury suit against an itinerant laborer after she allegedly injured herself walking into his legally parked truck.
The Democratic lawmaker, who makes $122,500 a year as the people’s representative in Fort Greene and Clinton Hill, is seeking an unspecified amount of damages for wounds she claims to have sustained on July 11 when she walked into a four-inch trailer hitch protruding from David Day’s parked car.
James sustained “serious, severe and permanent [injuries] to her limbs and body” and “she will be caused to suffer … continuous pain and inconvenience,” according to court papers filed last month in Brooklyn Supreme Court by James’s attorney Robert Mijuca of the powerful law firm of Rubenstein and Rynecki.
The court documents also allege that the injuries caused James to be unable to attend to her usual occupation — though the alleged pain and suffering occurred on the eve of the councilwoman’s re-election campaign, one that she waged with her typical vigor against two primary rivals.
She bounced to an easy victory. Additionally, several of James’s Council colleagues told this newspaper that they did not recall James limping or using crutches during the summer.
But court papers paint a very different scenario of the events of July 11 on Fulton Street between S. Portland Avenue and S. Oxford Street.
The lawsuit claims that James “came into contact with the exposed, unprotected hitch,” contact that led to “great physical and mental pain” — though the actual body part that was damaged is not cited.
James claims that Day’s hitch is illegal and that her injuries resulted “solely [from] the careless and negligent manner in which [he] owned and maintained his motor vehicle.”
But Day says that the hitch is legal. He said he was loading recyclables into his car from the curbside when James parked closely behind him. She bumped into the hitch when walking between the cars to the sidewalk, he said.
She had a scratch on her shin, Day recalled, and he didn’t think much of it until receiving notification that he was being sued. Since then, he’s waged a one-man crusade to ward off the councilwoman’s suit.
“Please don’t go forward with it,” he wrote to James in February. “You are famous and powerful while I’m a nobody without means who’s done you no harm. Pursuing this course to court can bring only ruin all around.”
He also pointed out that he makes roughly one-tenth of James’s salary, meaning that the lawmaker would likely not get much in a settlement.
As such, James shouldn’t bank on a cash bonanza similar to the one that Borough President Markowitz received in 2003, two years after the notorious slip and fall in an ice-slicked Albany parking lot that resulted in an ankle broken in three places. Markowitz was on crutches for weeks.
On Wednesday, James responded to news coverage of her lawsuit, maintaining that she is fighting the case against the Everyman laborer on behalf of … everyman.
“It’s a public safety issue,” said James. “My car was parked and his car was parked. His hitch was exposed. … This lawsuit could be ended today if he removed it.”
The councilwoman claims that she discussed this with Day, but he refused to remove the hitch. Day claims that he got the hitch from a U-Haul dealership, and that it is legal.
Legal or not, James retorted that the hitch was “rusty” and 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.
The larger irony of James’s suit, of course, is that the councilwoman, not Day, may be the person who broke traffic regulations.
Walking between two parked cars could be jaywalking.