New York State Court of Claims

New York State Court of Claims

HENDERDORF v. THE STATE OF NEW YORK, #2003-009-41, Claim No. 106096, Motion No. M-66738


Claimant's motion for summary judgment on the issue of liability was granted, the Court finding negligence as a matter of law in this claim involving a collision between claimant's vehicle and a State Trooper vehicle.

Case Information

Claimant short name:
Footnote (claimant name) :

Footnote (defendant name) :

Third-party claimant(s):

Third-party defendant(s):

Claim number(s):
Motion number(s):
Cross-motion number(s):

Claimant's attorney:
BY: Michael G. Bersani, Esq.,Of Counsel.
Defendant's attorney:
Attorney General
BY: Roger B. Williams, Esq.,
Assistant Attorney GeneralOf Counsel.
Third-party defendant's attorney:

Signature date:
August 25, 2003

Official citation:

Appellate results:

See also (multicaptioned case)


Claimant has brought this motion seeking an order granting her summary judgment on the issue of liability.

The following papers were considered by the Court in connection with this motion:
Notice of Motion, Affidavit, with Exhibits 1,2

Memorandum of Law 3

Correspondence dated June 17, 2003, from Roger B. Williams, Esq., Assistant Attorney General 4

This claim seeks damages for personal injuries allegedly suffered by claimant in a motor vehicle accident which occurred on April 2, 2001, at the intersection of State Route 38 and Turnpike Road in the Town of Throop, Cayuga County.

There is no dispute as to the facts and circumstances surrounding this accident. On April 2, 2001, claimant was approaching the aforesaid intersection, proceeding north on Route 38. The intersection is controlled by a traffic light, which flashes yellow for northbound and southbound traffic on Route 38, and flashes red for vehicular traffic proceeding east and west on Turnpike Road. In addition to the traffic control device, stop signs are also located at the intersection for eastbound and westbound traffic on Turnpike Road. As claimant approached this intersection, she noticed a New York State Police vehicle proceeding east on Turnpike Road, and she observed the vehicle slowing as if it was coming to a stop at the intersection. As claimant proceeded through the intersection, however, the collision with the State Police vehicle occurred.

Robert Frost, a New York State Trooper, conducted an investigation and reconstruction of this accident. He concluded (see deposition testimony of Robert Frost, set forth as Exhibit E to Items 1,2) that Trooper Thurman, the operator of the State Police vehicle involved in this accident, failed to yield the right-of-way while entering the intersection. He further determined that claimant had violated no provisions of the Vehicle and Traffic Law. He also concluded that between two and four seconds transpired between the time that Trooper Thurman moved out from the stop sign on Turnpike Road until the time that this collision occurred.

Based on these undisputed facts, claimant now moves for summary judgment as to liability. The State, as evidenced by the correspondence from its attorney (see Item 4) has conceded the issue of the State's negligence.

Summary judgment is the procedural equivalent of a trial (Andre v Pomeroy, 35 NY2d 361) and should be granted only when it has been established that there is no triable issue (Moskowitz v Garlock, 23 AD2d 943). Generally, summary judgment is not appropriate in negligence actions, but may be granted when there are no genuine issues to be resolved at trial (McGraw v Ranieri, 202 AD2d 725).

In this case, deposition testimony has established that claimant was traveling at a lawful speed, that she had the right-of-way, and that although she observed the State Police vehicle approaching the intersection, she did not see it again until it had entered the intersection when she had no time to avoid the collision.

Claimant has therefore established that the sole proximate cause of this accident was Trooper Thurman's failure to yield the right-of-way (see, Matt v Tricil, Inc., 260 AD2d 811). Furthermore, no issues have been raised with regard to any comparative fault on the part of the claimant. Although claimant had initially observed Trooper Thurman approaching the intersection, she was entitled to anticipate that Trooper Thurman would obey the flashing red light and stop sign at the intersection. Accordingly, as a matter of law claimant is entitled to an order granting summary judgment in her favor on the issue of liability.

The issue of whether claimant has suffered a "serious injury" within the meaning of Insurance Law, § 5102 is to be determined at the trial on damages.

Therefore, it is

ORDERED, that Motion No. M-66738 is hereby GRANTED; and it is further

ORDERED, that the Clerk of the Court is hereby directed to enter judgment on the issue of liability in favor of the claimant, in accordance herewith.

The Court will schedule a conference on this claim for purposes of scheduling a trial, limited solely to the issue of damages, as soon as reasonably practicable.

August 25, 2003
Syracuse, New York

Judge of the Court of Claims