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New York Partner Argues “Emergency Doctrine,” Achieves Dismissal in Appellate Court

Partner Robert G. Macchia successfully argued an appeal for a Litchfield Cavo client in New York Supreme Court, Appellate Division, Second Department, ultimately winning the dismissal of the claim against said client. The claim was brought by the guardian of an 8 year old boy who ran from behind a bus and into the vehicle operated by Litchfield Cavo’s client. The guardian alleged that this collision resulted in the young boy sustaining severe brain trauma and significant, long-term cognitive deficits.

The plaintiff argued that our client violated several New York Vehicle and Traffic Laws including one requiring a driver to reduce his or her speed when approaching an intersection and “when any special hazard exists with respect to pedestrians.” The plaintiff claimed that a “special hazard” existed because the intersection was a known bus stop for several school buses. Plaintiff also claimed the street was crowded with young children and parents, and therefore qualified as a “special hazard.”

However, Robert argued that the claims against our client should be dismissed based on the “emergency doctrine,” which provides “that those faced with a sudden and unexpected circumstance, not of their own making, that leaves them with little or no time for reflection…may not be negligent if their actions are reasonable and prudent in the context of the emergency.”

Robert successfully argued that deposition testimony of non-party witnesses, including the plaintiff’s mother, supported the application of the defense. Robert cited case law establishing that although the existence of an emergency and the reasonableness of the response is generally a jury question for the purposes of the application of the emergency doctrine, that issue may be determined by the court as a matter of law. The lower court agreed and dismissed the complaint in favor of our client.

The plaintiff’s attorneys appealed. However, the New York Appellate Division agreed with the lower court and affirmed the dismissal of the complaint.

For additional information on Litchfield Cavo’s appellate practice, click here. To learn more about appellate cases involving personal injury claims in New York, please contact Robert Macchia at 212.792.9762.