$1,500,000 Settlement against the State of New York for Wrongful Death of Man Killed in Motor Vehicle Accident

Court and County

Court of Claims, New York

Plaintiff Description

We represented the estate of the driver who died in this motor vehicle accident. The decedent had no wife or children, and so his parents, who he'd been supporting, acted on behalf of his estate.

Description of Case

The decedent was driving eastbound on the Grand Central Parkway. It was late, around 3 a.m. At some point, he lost control of his vehicle due to black ice covering the roadway, causing him to spin out and strike a tow truck which was responding to an accident which had occurred earlier that night.

The cause of this accident was a portion of the road which would become wet with groundwater as the result of insufficient drainage. It was thought that this water came from a nearby marsh up on the shoulder of the road. When the water there would get too high, it would flow back through the pipes and out of the manhole cover, causing the leaky condition. It was observed that there would be water and ice on this road even when the weather was clear and dry.

The crucial matter in this case was: who was responsible for this icy condition? It was determined that two components caused this hazard in conjunction with one another. For one, the drainage installed at the area was not sufficient for the amount of water present. Secondly, it was determined that the icy conditions had not been appropriately salted or sanded, nor had signage warning of the ice been erected.

Accusations were made against both the State of New York, as well as New York City. The State was responsible for installing sufficient drainage, as that goes beyond the issue of regular maintenance. State officials, it was argued, had more than ample time to install appropriate drainage at the area, which had already caused so many accidents before this fateful night.

We also argued that New York City was responsible for failing to salt the area or to erect the proper signage to warn oncoming motorists. This accusation against the City settled separately for $2 million.

Injuries

Our client's decedent was severely injured in the accident and died later that day from his injuries. It was later determined that the decedent suffered a basilar skull fracture and brain stem contusions. Initially, from viewing the injuries and the aftermath of the scene, authorities did not believe the driver or his girlfriend, who was in the passenger seat, were likely to die from the crash. The roof of the vehicle had to be taken off so the two passengers could be taken to the hospital.

At the time of the accident, the decedent lived with his parents and was financially supporting them. A claim was being made on the parents' behalf for the loss of support from their son, who paid for a majority of their living expenses. A claim was also made for conscious pain and suffering.

Settlement

This case settled before trial for $1,500,000; a second case against New York City for the same accident settled for $2,000,000 at a separate date.

Handling Attorneys

This matter was handled by Daniel P. O'Toole and Frederick C. Aranki.