New York State Court of Claims

New York State Court of Claims

BROWN v. THE STATE OF NEW YORK, #2009-009-030, Claim No. 110037 and 108961, Motion No. M-75473


Synopsis


Claimant’s motion requesting that the Court reconsider its prior decision was denied.

Case Information

UID:
2009-009-030
Claimant(s):
LINDA M. BROWN and LINDA M. BROWN as Administratrix of the Estate of WAYNE BROWN
Claimant short name:
BROWN
Footnote (claimant name) :

Defendant(s):
THE STATE OF NEW YORK
Footnote (defendant name) :

Third-party claimant(s):

Third-party defendant(s):

Claim number(s):
110037 and 108961
Motion number(s):
M-75473
Cross-motion number(s):

Judge:
NICHOLAS V. MIDEY JR.
Claimant’s attorney:
LADUCA LAW FIRM, LLP
BY: Anthony J. LaDuca, Esq.,Of Counsel.
Defendant’s attorney:
HON. ANDREW M. CUOMO
Attorney General
BY: Edward F. McArdle, Esq.,
Assistant Attorney GeneralOf Counsel.
Third-party defendant’s attorney:

Signature date:
September 30, 2009
City:
Syracuse
Comments:

Official citation:

Appellate results:

See also (multicaptioned case)
2009-009-031


Decision

Claimant has brought this motion requesting that this Court reconsider its prior Decision by which it dismissed, following trial, the within two claims (Claim No. 110037 and Claim No. 108961), and that it grant her judgment on these two claims notwithstanding such decision, pursuant to CPLR § 4404(b).

In addition to oral argument, the Court has reviewed its prior decision and considered the following papers in connection with this motion:
Notice of Motion, Affirmation 1,2


Memorandum of Law (in Support) 3


Affirmation In Opposition, with Exhibit 4


Affirmation of Anthony J. LaDuca, Esq. (submitted after oral argument) 5


Defendant’s Memorandum of Law (submitted after oral argument) 6

These two claims against the State were filed as a result of a motorcycle-truck accident which occurred on April 27, 2003 at the intersection of New York State Route 350 and Paddy Lane in the Town of Ontario, Wayne County. In that accident, claimant Linda Brown suffered personal injuries, and her husband, Wayne Brown, died from the injuries he suffered.

In its decision on liability[1] this Court found that although an “intersection study” had been commenced by the Department of Transportation in February, 1999, it had not been completed at the time of the accident involving claimant and her husband in April, 2003, and in fact had been abandoned prior to completion. As a result, this Court found that the State could not rely upon the qualified immunity defense provided by Weiss v Fote (7 NY2d 579), since the study had not been completed within a reasonable time. This Court, however, also found that the failure of the State to complete this intersection study was not a proximate cause of the accident forming the basis of these claims.

Claimant contends that this Court misconstrued the decision of the Court of Appeals in the landmark case of Friedman v State of New York (and the companion case of Muller v State of New York) (67 NY2d 271), which held that the State’s delay in implementing a safety plan was a proximate cause of the injuries suffered by claimant in that case. Specifically, claimant contends that the failure of the State to conduct or complete its study in this matter was a proximate cause of the accident which occurred herein, and that this Court erred by requiring claimant to prove which mitigating actions should have been taken by the State had it timely conducted the study.

As stated in the Court’s original decision, it is well settled that the State has a non-delegable duty to adequately design, construct and maintain its roadways in a reasonably safe condition (Friedman v State of New York, supra). Furthermore, there is no dispute that the State is entitled to a “qualified immunity” from liability based upon its highway planning decisions, unless its study and decision is plainly inadequate or was arrived at without any reasonable basis (Alexander v Eldred, 63 NY2d 460; Friedman v State of New York, supra). Since this Court found that a study was not timely completed in this matter, it determined that the State was not entitled to the “qualified immunity” defense provided by Weiss.

In its original decision, therefore, this Court found that claimant had established her burden of establishing that the State had notice of a dangerous condition and had failed to take reasonable measures to remedy that condition (Fowle v State of New York, 187 AD2d 698). Although the State was not entitled to the “qualified immunity” provided by Weiss, this Court further determined that claimant still had the burden of proving that defendant’s breach of its duty in failing to address a dangerous condition was a proximate cause of the accident herein (Donaghy v Bilotti, 159 AD2d 478, lv denied, 76 NY2d 702).

Based on the testimony at trial, this Court concluded that even if a traffic study had been conducted and completed, it would not have prevented this tragic accident. While claimant believes that this Court had improperly required her to prove which mitigating action would have prevented this accident, this Court in fact had merely summarized testimony as to the numerous options available which, even if implemented, would not have prevented this accident from occurring.

Accordingly, even though it is deeply sympathetic to the fact that claimant not only suffered serious personal injuries in this accident, but also lost her husband, this Court finds that it must adhere to its original decision that the failure of the State to implement a safety plan for this intersection within a reasonable period of time was not a proximate cause of the accident which occurred.

Therefore, it is

ORDERED, that Motion No. M-75473 is hereby DENIED.


September 30, 2009
Syracuse, New York

HON. NICHOLAS V. MIDEY JR.
Judge of the Court of Claims




[1]. Brown v State of New York, Ct Cl, July 31, 2008, Midey, J., Claim Nos. 108961 and 110037.