$1.25 Million Settlement for Driver Rear-Ended by a Front End Loader

In an auto accident case, our client was sitting in his car at a red light on Archer Avenue in Queens. Suddenly, his vehicle was rear-ended by a New York City Sanitation vehicle that was in the process of removing snow from the roadway. As a result of the accident, our client suffered consistent back pain and needed spinal fusion surgery. While the City Defendants argued that there was no liability because the sanitation vehicle had been removing snow from the road, Partners Stephen Murphy and Michael Hurwitz obtained a $1,250,000 settlement for the plaintiff.

Court and County
Supreme Court, Queens County

Age and Occupation of Plaintiff
At the time of the accident, our client was a 49-year-old independent taxi driver.

Description of Case
The accident occurred on a winter night in Queens, at the intersection of Archer Avenue and 153rd Street. At the time of the incident, our client was stopped in his vehicle at a red light. Without warning, he was struck in the rear by a New York City sanitation vehicle. The vehicle, a front end loader, was in the process of removing snow from the roadway; while reversing to dump snow it had picked up, it struck Plaintiff's vehicle in the rear.

Defendants argued that a general negligence standard, which could have found the front end loader driver at fault for his general lack of care when moving his vehicle, did not apply to this case. Rather, a reckless standard applied because the front end loader was engaged in snow removal efforts, which are exempt from general liability. The City further argued that their vehicle operator did not operate the vehicle with reckless disregard for others and therefore, they maintained no liability. Plaintiff argued that the City vehicle operator did act in a manner that illustrated reckless disregard for the safety of others, and therefore the City was liable to Plaintiff.

The City's motion for summary judgment was pending when the matter resolved.

Injuries and Damages
Plaintiff was transported by ambulance from the scene of the accident to the Emergency Department at Queens Hospital Center with a chief complaint of back pain radiating down the right leg. After discharge, Plaintiff went to a physical medicine and rehabilitation (PM&R) facility with worsening pain in his lower back, radiating to his lower extremities. He was immediately started on a course of physical therapy. Despite this treatment, Plaintiff's pain became worse with each passing day. Plaintiff underwent an MRI examination of the lumbar spine, which revealed traumatic disc herniations at the L3-L4, L4-L5, and L5-S1 segments with spinal canal and nerve root impingement. This prompted surgical evaluation for the lower back by a pain management specialist. A few months later, Plaintiff underwent surgery consisting of a Percutaneous Discectomy at the L5-S1 segment, as well as epidural steroid injection. When continued treatment and the above referenced surgery failed to provide relief, Plaintiff was referred to a spine specialist for further evaluation. Ultimately, our client underwent a lumbar spinal fusion at the L3-L4 segment.

The defendants argued that Plaintiff's spinal injuries were preexisting, degenerative in nature, and not related to the accident. They also argued that all diagnostic studies failed to illustrate any traumatically induced injury. Further, Defendants argued that no further treatment was necessary and that Plaintiff could engage in all activities of his daily life without any restrictions.

Settlement
This matter settled for $1,250,000.

Handling Attorneys
This case was handled by Firm Partners Stephen J. Murphy and Michael J. Hurwitz.