Leonard Shoulders, 33, was waiting for a bus when the ground under his feet proved to be a sinkhole, giving out from under him and sending him tumbling at least 12 feet into a dark abyss and onto a pile of rats. Shoulders was rescued by the fire department after 30 minutes and was then hospitalized and has now filed a lawsuit against the city.
"These rats were crawling all over him and he was fearful of screaming out because he didn’t want them to go in his mouth or further agitate them," Nicolas Bagley, the attorney for Shoulders, told Gothamist.
Shoulders fractured his spine and was paralyzed in the fall, according to his attorney. He is still in a rehabilitation facility in the city and recovering from spinal surgery, Gothamist reported. His lawyer said, "we're not sure if he's going to ever regain full function."
Following the fall, the city’s Buildings Department issued a full vacate order on the building next to the sinkhole alleging that the basement space underneath the sidewalk had fallen into disrepair, according to the Daily News.
In a lawsuit filed Monday in Bronx Supreme Court against the building’s owner and the city, Shoulders accused the building owner of failing to maintain the sidewalk or the basement below.
Bagley told Gothamist that they have been unable to locate the actual owner of the building.
The total amount of damages sought by Shoulders will be determined by the extent of his permanent injuries and psychological trauma, according to his attorney.
When asked for comment on this story, a spokesperson for the city’s Law Department told Inside Edition Digital in a statement: “We’ll review the case when we get it.”