New York State Court of Claims

New York State Court of Claims

SIMS v. THE STATE OF NEW YORK, #2009-045-502, Claim No. 114396


Synopsis



Case Information

UID:
2009-045-502
Claimant(s):
BELINDA E. SIMS
Claimant short name:
SIMS
Footnote (claimant name) :

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

Third-party claimant(s):

Third-party defendant(s):

Claim number(s):
114396
Motion number(s):

Cross-motion number(s):

Judge:
GINA M. LOPEZ-SUMMA
Claimant’s attorney:
Law Offices of Joseph B. FruchterBy: Paul S. Ehrlich, Esq.
Defendant’s attorney:
Hon. Andrew M. Cuomo, Attorney GeneralBy: Todd A. Schall, Assistant Attorney General
Third-party defendant’s attorney:

Signature date:
March 17, 2009
City:
Hauppauge
Comments:

Official citation:

Appellate results:

See also (multicaptioned case)



Decision

A bifurcated trial concerning the issue of liability only was held in this matter on February 24, 2009. The subject claim arose on August 24, 2006 at 2:00 p.m. when claimant’s stopped vehicle was struck in the rear by a State owned vehicle operated by defendant’s agent.


Claimant, Belinda Sims, testified that she was driving south on Route 111 in Islip when she came to a stop at a red traffic light at the intersection of Route 111 and Spur Drive. Route 111 is a two-way street that runs North and South. Claimant credibly testified that she was stopped at the light for approximately ten seconds and that there were four vehicles stopped in front of her vehicle. She explained that she saw a vehicle, described as a yellow truck, through her rearview mirror, continuously coming toward her vehicle. The yellow truck then hit her vehicle in the rear, which caused her vehicle to move forward and come into contact with the vehicle preceding hers.

Claimant called John Petroff to also testify at the trial. Mr. Petroff stated that he has been employed by the New York State Department of Transportation for three years as a Civil Engineer 1. He explained that on the day of the accident he was returning to his office in Garden City from an auto upholstery repair shop. He had been at the repair shop to pick up a seat for the truck he is normally assigned to drive. He testified that after he left the repair shop he was driving on Route 111 at approximately ten miles per hour. He described the traffic at the time as “stop and go” when he saw claimant’s vehicle with the brake lights on. He also stated that he was unaware of any traffic lights controlling the intersection. He explained that he then put his foot on the brake pedal; however his foot slipped so that only his toes, rather than the ball of his foot, touched the brake pedal . He testified that his vehicle “lurched” forward and hit the rear of claimant’s vehicle. He then saw claimant’s vehicle slide into the vehicle in front of it. He stated that he did not have a sufficient amount of time to reapply his brakes prior to striking claimant’s vehicle.

A driver of a motor vehicle is under a duty to not follow another vehicle more closely than is reasonable and prudent, having due regard for the speed of the vehicles, the traffic upon the highway and the condition of the highway (see Vehicle and Traffic Law § 1129[a]). “It is well settled that ‘a rear-end collision with a stopped [or stopping] vehicle establishes a prima facie case of negligence on the part of the driver of the rear vehicle’” (Tutrani v County of Suffolk, 10 NY3d 906, 908 [2008]). Once a prima facie case has been established against the driver of the rear vehicle, that driver is then required to rebut the inference of negligence by providing a nonnegligent explanation for the collision (Harrington v Kern, 52 AD3d 473 [2d Dept 2008]; Klopchin v Masri, 45 AD3d 737 [2d Dept 2007]).

The explanation provided by the driver of defendant’s vehicle that there was stop and go traffic, that his foot slipped off the brake pedal so that only his toes were touching the pedal and that he did not have time to reapply the brakes is insufficient to rebut the inference of negligence. Therefore, the Court finds that defendant, through its agent, was negligent in the operation of its vehicle and was the sole cause of the accident.

Accordingly, the Court finds defendant one hundred percent liable for the happening of this accident. A trial on the issue of damages will be held as soon as practicable.

The Clerk of the Court is directed to enter interlocutory judgment accordingly.


March 17, 2009
Hauppauge, New York

HON. GINA M. LOPEZ-SUMMA
Judge of the Court of Claims