This is a timely filed claim by Carlixto Sanchez (hereinafter
“claimant”) and Jayme Sanchez.
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
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.
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
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
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
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
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
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).
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
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.
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
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
In examining the three years prior
to the accident date, only 8 accidents
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.