New York State Court of Claims

New York State Court of Claims

LASRADO v. THE STATE OF NEW YORK, #2003-016-052, Claim No. 103106


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:
Omrani & Taub, P.C.
By: Michael Taub, Esq. and Alex Omrani, Esq.
Defendant's attorney:
Eliot Spitzer, Attorney GeneralBy: Gwendolyn Hatcher, AAG
Third-party defendant's attorney:

Signature date:
July 14, 2003
New York

Official citation:

Appellate results:

See also (multicaptioned case)

This decision follows the liability trial of the claim arising from a vehicular accident that involved claimant Kevin Lasrado, who was driving a vehicle owned by his father, Loyola Lasrado. References herein to "Lasrado" and "claimant" in the singular will mean the younger Lasrado.

On the afternoon of January 7, 2000, Mr. Lasrado, who lived in Queens with his parents, drove across the Queensboro Bridge into the east side of Manhattan in his father's 1988 Ford Escort. The bridge deposited Lasrado on Second Avenue, and he made a couple of left turns in order to reach First Avenue. Claimant recalled that he turned onto First Avenue from 57th Street and stayed in one of the middle lanes of the Avenue heading north. The day was sunny and the pavement was dry and free of ice or snow.

Lasrado testified that he drove a couple of blocks and was fully stopped at a red light at around 59
th or 60th Street when his car was struck in the rear by a black sedan. The sedan's impact pushed claimant's car forward and it "touched the guy's bumper in front of me." He had a brief conversation with the driver of the car in front of him, a taxi cab, who "asked me if I was okay...he had looked at his car, but nothing happened to his car because it was [a] light tap... so he just left ... he was on duty and he had to go..." Lasrado roughly estimated the time of the accident as around 4 or 5 pm.
The vehicle that struck claimant from behind was a Crown Victoria driven by Robert Holden, an employee of the State. According to claimant, Mr. Holden got out of his car and asked,
"are you all right." In addition to claimant, Holden was the only witness at trial. His recollection of events varied considerably from claimant's:
I stopped at a red light at 59th Street. The light turned green. I proceeded to go north where I had no cars in front of me. One car swerved in front of me. I slowed down. And then I had to slam on the brakes, because the car in front of me put its brakes on, and it was a green light.
If claimant's version of events obtains, then defendant is fully liable.
See for example, Agramonte v City of New York, 288 AD2d 75, 732 NYS2d 414 (1st Dept 2001). For Lasrado to prevail, the evidence that supports his claim must appeal to this trier of fact as more nearly representing what took place than the evidence opposed to the claim (PJI 1:23 & 1:60). Weighing the two views, mindful of Lasrado's prior conviction of a crime,[1] I conclude that claimant's version of events is more credible than that of the State's driver.
Granted, claimant initially said that the Ford Escort had no rear end damage and had not been involved in an accident prior to January 7, 2000, but then later corrected himself and conceded there had been some previous damage above the car's right rear taillight, which he said happened while it was parked overnight in front of his family's home in Queens (marked by claimant with a small black circle in the four photographs that comprise def exh A). Otherwise, Lasrado's demeanor was matter of fact, his testimony was not pat and his answers came across as believable - - if he was not sure or could only estimate, he said so. But he was quite certain, and credibly so, that he never swerved from one lane into Holden's.

Holden was less believable. He added, or elaborated to, his above-quoted statement that Lasrado not only swerved in front of him, but that claimant's vehicle had actually come to halt
even though the light was green. Such was not credible. The following exchange with Holden took place on cross-examination:
Q. Now, did you tell the police that the other vehicle crossed into your lane?
A. I believe so.
Q. You believe so or you know so?
A. I believe so.
Q. Are you guessing or are you sure?
A. I believe so.
Unlike Lasrado, Holden was precise about matters that do not credibly lend themselves to precision and was vague about matters that do not credibly lend themselves to vagueness. For example:

- Holden testified he was traveling at "seven miles an hour" when Lasrado crossed into his lane, and "three miles [an] hour" at the point of impact (he said he was not looking at his speedometer);
- When asked if prior to the accident, he had ever driven the vehicle before, Holden responded, "Possibly. I'm not sure." That a driver could not recall if an accident occurred the first time he drove a car is highly unlikely. However, it should be noted that Holden's purpose in taking the Crown Victoria that day was to fill it with gas; perhaps he was responsible for a number of similar state vehicles - - but he did not offer this to explain his inability to recall.
In view of the foregoing, I find the defendant to be fully liable for Lasrado's accident of January 7, 2000. The parties will be contacted by the Court as to the damages phase of this case.

July 14, 2003
New York, New York

Judge of the Court of Claims

[1] Morales v State of New York, 183 Misc 2d 839, 845, 705 NYS2d 176, 180 (Ct Cl 2000), affirmed 282 AD2d 245, 722 NYS2d 860 (1st Dept 2001).