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$1,500,000 Settlement for Motorcyclist Hit by Fire Truck

In a New York State case, a 37-year-old man was operating a motorcycle in Governors Island when he was hit by a fire truck at an intersection. As a result of the crash, he suffered injuries to his neck and knees requiring multiple surgeries . He filed a lawsuit against the Fire Department and its driver and the City of New York for negligence in operating the fire truck. Represented by Block O’Toole & Murphy, he was able to recover a $1.5 million settlement.


New York Supreme


Daniel P. O’Toole, Block O’Toole & Murphy LLP, New York, NY, trial counsel, Philip Sporn, New York, NY, New York, NY

On Aug. 29, 2005, plaintiff, 37, an asbestos remover, was motorcycling on the southbound side of Division Road, near its intersection at Wheeler Road, on New York’s Governors Island. When he reached the intersection, he began to execute a left turn onto the eastbound side of Wheeler Avenue. He encountered a fire truck that was being driven by an employee of the Fire Department of the City of New York. The truck’s driver was executing a left turn onto the southbound side of Division Road, from the westbound side of Wheeler Avenue. Plaintiff applied the motorcycle’s brakes, but he lost control of the motorcycle, separated from it and struck the front end of the truck. He claimed that he sustained injuries of his neck and knees.

Plaintiff sued the Fire Department of the City of New York and its operator, the city of New York. He alleged that the fire truck’s driver was negligent in the operation of his vehicle. He further alleged that the defendants were vicariously liable for the actions· of the truck’s driver.

Plaintiff’s counsel noted that Wheeler Road ended in a T-intersection at Division Road, where a stop sign would normally be. However, there was no stop sign at the intersection. Regardless, he argued that the firefighter had a duty to stop at the intersection.

A company that managed all work on the island measured the skid marks left by Plaintiff’s motorcycle and created a diagram depicting the marks. The skid marks measured 134 feet, which, it was determined, meant that Plaintiff was traveling 66 mph when he applied his motorcycle’s brakes. The motorcycle then slid an additional 100 feet after Plaintiff fell off of it.

Plaintiff’s counsel argued that there were no speed-limit signs on the street and, therefore, that the default speed limit of the state of New York, 55 mph, applied, given that the island is owned by the state.

In addition, Plaintiff’s counsel made an order to show cause, seeking to strike the answer for the city for withholding skid mark photographs until the eve of the original jury selection date, despite numerous discovery orders mandating their exchange.

The city contended that the speed limit on Governors Island was 15 mph and that there was no stop sign at the intersection. Thus, it contended that Plaintiff was traveling 51 miles more than the speed limit. In addition, the city pointed out that Plaintiff did not have a license and was not wearing a helmet.

arthroscopy; dislocated knee; fracture, C6; fracture, C7; fusion, cervical; knee replacement; stenosis; torn meniscus

Plaintiff sustained fractures of the lamina of his C6 and C7 vertebrae, which healed without surgery. However, he developed spinal stenosis-or narrowing-and ultimately required a fusion of C5 through C7. Plaintiff also sustained a complete dislocation of the left knee and a meniscal tear of the right knee. He underwent three surgeries to his left knee, including a total knee replacement, and arthroscopic surgery to his right knee.

Plaintiff contended that he remains disabled from employment. He also contended that he would require continued medical care and physical therapy. He sought recovery of damages for his past and future pain and suffering.

During the presentation of Plaintiff’s case, the parties negotiated a settlement. The defendants agreed to pay a total of $1.5 million.

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