Recovery for New York City Transit Authority Bus Passenger
The law firm of Michael J. Redenburg, Esq. P.C. recently resolved a New York City Bus Accident lawsuit for a client who sustained personal injuries when a motor vehicle came into contact with the bus she was a passenger in near the intersection of Fordham Road and Southern Boulevard in Bronx, New York.
The driver of the car moved for Summary Judgment which is a way for a litigant to get out of a case by filing legal documents in Court and alleging that based on the law, they should not be in the case. The driver of the car argued that she was “stopped/or slowed down” because of an emergency created by an NYPD vehicle. She testified at her deposition that she was traveling on Fordham Road, which consisted of three lanes in each direction separated by a grassy median. When she was near the intersection of Fordham Road and the Bronx River Parkway, she stopped in the middle lane to allow a NYPD vehicle, which was traveling in the opposite direction, to make a U-turn in the roadway. She testified that she was stopped for approximately three seconds before the bus struck the rear of her vehicle.
Court Analyzes Case
Pursuant to the Vehicle and Traffic Law §1129(a), when a driver of a motor vehicle approaches another automobile from the rear, he or she is bound to maintain a safe rate of speed, to keep control over his or her vehicle, and to exercise reasonable care to avoid colliding with the other vehicle. Thus, a rear end collision with a stopped or stopping vehicle creates a prima-facie case of liability regarding the operator of the moving vehicle and imposes a duty of explanation on the operator of the moving vehicle to excuse the collision by providing a non-negligent explanation, such as a mechanical failure, a sudden stop of the vehicle ahead, an unavoidable skidding on wet pavement or some other reasonable excuse.
The Emergency Doctrine
The emergency doctrine recognizes that “when an actor is faced with a sudden and unexpected circumstance which leaves little or no time for thought, deliberation or consideration, or causes the actor to be reasonably so disturbed that the actor must make a speedy decision without weighing alternative courses of conduct, the actor may not be negligent if the actions taken are reasonable and prudent in the emergency context,” provided the actor had not created the emergency. The court ruled that the driver of the car demonstrated that her vehicle was struck in the rear by the NYCTA bus while she was stopped or stopping. However, the driver of the car was not allowed to get out of the case on Summary Judgment because the bus operator testified at deposition that the police vehicle had not entered the roadway when the collision occurred, and that the driver of the car swerved her vehicle in front of the bus. Therefore, there was an issue of fact that precluded summary judgment.
The Court did find, however, that the firm’s client was entitled to Summary Judgment on the issue of liability because she was a passenger on the bus and seated when the accident occurred. Ultimately, the case resolved favorably for the firm’s client soon before jury selection in Bronx Supreme Court.