New York State Court of Claims

New York State Court of Claims

SANCHEZ v. THE STATE OF NEW YORK, #2008-033-593, Claim No. 113018


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):

James J. Lack
Claimant’s attorney:
Litman & Litman, P.C.By: Jeffrey E. Litman, Esq.
Defendant’s attorney:
Andrew M. Cuomo, New York State Attorney GeneralBy: John L. Belford, IV, Assistant Attorney General
Third-party defendant’s attorney:

Signature date:
December 24, 2008

Official citation:

Appellate results:

See also (multicaptioned case)


This is a timely filed claim by Carlixto Sanchez (hereinafter “claimant”) and Jayme Sanchez.[1] The claim is for negligence by the State of New York (hereinafter “defendant”) as the result of a motor vehicle accident on April 20, 2005. The accident occurred at the intersection of Front Street[2] and Locust Avenue, Uniondale, New York. The claim of Jayme Sanchez is derivative in nature. On June 17, 2008, a bifurcated trial was held on the issue of liability.

At the location of the accident, Front Street is a non-divided, east/west roadway with one lane of traffic in each direction. Each lane has a shoulder adjacent to it. There are “No Stopping Anytime” signs along the south side of Front Street.[3]

Claimant has a limited recollection of the events leading to the accident. At the time of the accident, he lived approximately three blocks from the accident site. Claimant recalls arriving home from work and then taking his motorcycle to the local deli for milk at approximately 6:30 p.m. At trial, claimant testified that he bought the milk and then recalls being on Front Street heading home.[4] Claimant described the traffic as heavy but flowing. He testified that he was in a line of vehicles proceeding at approximately 20 to 30 m.p.h. Claimant averred that he remained on the roadway and was not weaving in and out of traffic or using the shoulder as a travel lane.

Claimant called Frank Pearson as a witness. Mr. Pearson is an employee of the NYS Department of Transportation (hereinafter “DOT”). He has been employed by DOT for almost 27 years. In 2002, he became the Director of Traffic Engineering and Safety and held that position on the accident date. The witness testified that DOT receives accident information from the Department of Motor Vehicles. DOT uses that information to identify various locations which may need to be studied to see if some type of traffic control or safety is needed in a particular location.

The witness stated that his office received complaints from citizens concerning parking on Front Street. The original complaints were forwarded to DOT through the Town of Hempstead and by State Senator Kemp Hannon.[5] In addition to incoming correspondence, the witness also reviewed correspondence sent by him or DOT in response to the complaints.

One of the letters (Exhibit 3) was a request for “No Stopping Anytime” signs on Front Street from Locust Avenue to Chester Street. Another letter was for “No Parking” signs on both sides of Front Street from Locust Avenue to Chester Street (Exhibit 6).[6] In response to the “No Stopping Anytime” signs, DOT responded such a restriction already existed on the south side of Front Street, but that several of the signs were missing (Exhibit 13). DOT made an assurance the signs would be replaced. After conducting an investigation, DOT responded concerning the “No Parking” signs (Exhibit 18).[7] The response stated that a portion of the area on the south side of Front Street had “No Stopping Anytime” signs. As to the non-covered areas, DOT made a determination that the road shoulders were adequate for parking. The original thrust of the request for the “No Parking” signs was to prevent double parking. DOT responded that double parking was an illegal activity which was enforced by local law enforcement.

Mr. Pearson also testified about the accident history at the intersection of Front Street and Locust Avenue (Exhibit 1).[8] Mr. Pearson stated that during the 10 years prior to claimant’s accident, there were 20 accidents at the intersection of Front Street and Locust Avenue. The witness did not deem this to be significant as it averaged two accidents per year.
Detective John Lapine, of the Nassau County Police Department, was called by the defendant to testify. Detective Lapine testified concerning the investigation by the police into the accident. The parties stipulated to the police investigation file of the accident being moved into evidence. The police investigation concluded that the accident was caused by claimant’s inexperience on a motorcycle. The report noted that claimant was an unlicensed motorcycle operator. The report concluded that the driver of the other vehicle was proceeding west and was attempting to make a left to proceed south on Locust Avenue. The report further concluded claimant was traveling east in the shoulder lane to pass vehicles at the intersection. The damage to the other vehicle was to the right rear. A 21 foot skid mark from claimant’s motorcycle was noted near the painted white line separating the travel lane from the shoulder lane.[9] A statement by the other driver’s passenger indicated that claimant was traveling in the shoulder lane prior to the accident.

The other driver, Paul Squires, was also called to testify by defendant. Mr. Squires described the traffic as heavy - “bumper to bumper”. The witness had a passenger in the car and was headed west on Front Street. Mr. Squires stopped at the intersection of Front Street and Locust Avenue to make a left to proceed south on Locust Avenue. A truck heading east on Front Street stopped before the intersection and waved for Mr. Squires to make his left turn. The witness said he began to creep forward to make sure no other traffic was coming into the intersection. As he was making the left, claimant’s motorcycle impacted the rear of Mr. Squires’ vehicle on the passenger side. The witness said he saw claimant a split second before the impact. At the time the witness saw him, the claimant was between the truck (that waved Squires into the intersection) and the sidewalk.

It is well established that the State is required to maintain its roads and highways in a reasonably safe condition to prevent foreseeable injury (Kissinger v State of New York, 126 AD2d 139). The State, however, is not an insurer of the safety of its roads (Tomassi v Town of Union, 46 NY2d 91). The fact that an accident occurs will not, however, create the presumption of liability (Tomassi v Town of Union, supra). Liability cannot attach unless the ascribed negligence of the State in maintaining a particular highway is a proximate cause of the accident (Hearn v State of New York, 157 AD2d 883, lv denied 75 NY2d 710). In addition, as to the drivers on the roadways, they must see what there is to be seen (Weigand v United Traction Co., 221 NY 39).

Claimant seeks to hold defendant negligent for either not conducting a study or not conducting an adequate study of the traffic congestion due to parking on the shoulder in the area of the accident location. Claimant points to the accident history of the intersection of Front Street and Locust Avenue as support. During the 10 year period prior to claimant’s accident there were 62 accidents (Exhibit 1).1[0] Out of the 62 accidents the Court found the following: 10 were minor and not reported; 23 involved rear end accidents; 1 unknown; 1 due to driver losing consciousness; 2 with drivers backing up; 3 right turn accidents; 2 involving alcohol; 7 involving pedestrians/bicyclists; 3 involving parked cars pulling out; 2 involving parked cars; and, 8 involving left turns.1[1] In examining the three years prior to the accident date, only 8 accidents occurred.1[2] Of these 8 accidents, the Court found: 3 rear end accidents; 2 involving right turns; 1unknown accident; 1 left turn accident at New York Avenue; and, 1 left turn accident at Locust Avenue.

The Court agrees with Mr. Pearson’s opinion that such an accident history is not significant. The accident history, during the time that DOT would study and the time frame which concerned the citizen complaints of parking, had nothing to do with congestion due to parking. The Court finds no merit to claimant’s contention of negligence by DOT.

The accident’s sole proximate cause was claimant’s conduct. It is unknown why claimant pulled into the shoulder lane, but the Court finds that claimant did, in fact, pull into the shoulder lane and proceeded into the intersection while Mr. Squires was making a left turn. Claimant was not the first vehicle in line at the intersection and should have remained in the travel lane and waited with the rest of traffic.

Based upon the foregoing, the Court finds in favor of defendant and dismisses the claim. All motions not specifically ruled upon are denied.

Let Judgment be entered accordingly.

December 24, 2008
Hauppauge, New York

Judge of the Court of Claims

[1].The claim is deemed timely filed as a result of this Court granting claimants permission to file a late claim pursuant to Court of Claims Act §10 (6).
[2].Front Street is also known as State Route 102.
[3].The signs face eastbound traffic.
[4].When claimant testified at his deposition, he had no recollection of anything after buying the milk.
[5].See Exhibits 3 - 18.
[6].In reviewing the Exhibits, the Court finds that these two letters comprise the list of complaints for this area. There are repeat requests for the same relief which was forwarded by several sources. The remainder of the letters are contact letters by DOT to the various people who sent in the original letters.
[7].The original complaint was sent to DOT on or about May 1, 2004 (Exhibit 6). The result of the investigation was sent on November 16, 2004 (Exhibit 18).
[8].The Court allowed claimant to enter a DOT printout of a 10 year accident history at the mile marker where claimant’s accident occurred (the Court notes the parties stipulated the mile marker contained in the police accident report was incorrect). The data was divided into “non-intersection accidents”, “intersection accidents - New York Avenue”, and “intersection accidents - Locust Avenue”.
[9].In examining the police photos (Exhibits D and H), the Court notes the skid mark is in the travel lane of the roadway.
1[0].This includes all three types of accidents contained in the report.
[1]1.Of these left turn accidents only 4 are attributable to the intersection of Front Street and Locust Avenue.
1[2].This is the time frame that Mr. Pearson said DOT would use for study purposes.