$1,700,000 Settlement for Driver Who Had Right of Way at a Four-Way Intersection

DATE OF SETTLEMENT

08/23/2001

COURT AND COUNTY

Supreme Kings

AGE AND OCCUPATION OF PLAINTIFF

At the time of the accident, Plaintiff was a 29-year-old iron worker.

DESCRIPTION OF CASE

Plaintiff was driving his car when he approached a four-way intersection normally controlled on each way by stop signs. On the day of the accident, the stop sign controlling the flow of traffic coming from Defendant's way was damaged and downed. It was undisputed that Plaintiff had arrived at the intersection prior to Defendant, giving him the "right of way" to proceed through the intersection once traffic so permitted. Plaintiff entered the intersection after lawfully stopping and observing his surroundings. Plaintiff noticed Defendant's car approaching the intersection to his right, however, since Plaintiff was under the impression that the driver would stop, he proceeded through the intersection as one typically would. Defendant, on the other hand, acted recklessly by failing to notice the downed sign and/or any other observable indications that he was supposed to stop prior to entering the intersection.

There were two issues of liability at the center of this case. The first involved assessing Defendant's liability for the accident. Defendant had not been exercising proper and reasonable care in the operation of his car when he proceeded into an intersection without slowing, stopping, or observing what was available to observe.

The second and more significant issue, with respect to the legacy of this case, was vicarious liability imposed upon the Codefendant as a result of their technical ownership of the car. Under the doctrine of vicarious liability in New York State, a vehicle owner can be held liable in an unlimited capacity for the negligent operation of said vehicle absent any negligence on the part of the owner himself.

Defendant's car was leased to him by Codefendant, an automobile dealership. The policy insuring the Codefendant dealer offered substantially more coverage than that provided by the Defendant driver. This allowed Plaintiff to recover a sum much greater than would have been possible had vicarious liability not implicated Codefendant dealership in the negligent operation of its vehicle leading up to the accident.

Perhaps the most important legacy of this case was that it was decided prior to the enactment of the 2006 Graves Amendment, codified as 49 U.S.C. § 30106. This 2006 Federal statute was enacted by the Bush administration and provided that lessors of vehicles or rental companies cannot be held liable for negligent acts committed by the lessor/rentee. As such, in today's post-Graves Amendment era, decisions as favorable to the Plaintiff as these are much less likely to occur.

INJURIES/DAMAGES

As a result of the accident, Plaintiff suffered both an exacerbation and activation of lumbar and sacral discs that he had herniated in a prior automobile accident. Plaintiff's L-3 through S-1 vertebral discs were previously injured in a 1991 auto accident. The 1998 auto accident both activated and exacerbated Plaintiff's herniated back to the extent that he required medical treatment and eventual surgery. Plaintiff treated for two weeks after the 1998 accident and then resumed treatment nine months thereafter. Plaintiff resumed working as an ironworker, however, his injuries were so severe that they impeded his ability to work. Plaintiff had no other choice to deal with the daily pain but to resort to lumbar surgery in October 2000.

SETTLEMENT AMOUNT

This case settled prior to trial with the plaintiff recovering in the amount of $1.7 Million.

ATTORNEYS

This case was handled by Jeffrey A. Block, Esq.