Among New York City’s multitude of nicknames is “the city that never sleeps.” Being “the city that never sleeps” means that New York’s streets are heavily trafficked by both vehicles and pedestrians, both during the day and at night. This, of course, creates a distinct risk of injury to you as a pedestrian, and the possibility of needing the legal system to recover compensation for those injuries. In one recent Manhattan accident, a pedestrian won his case after the Appellate Division, First Department, in a ruling that provides important knowledge for anyone hurt in a pedestrian accident, decided that pedestrians cannot be found comparatively negligent for failing to notice traffic coming from behind them while they are crossing in a crosswalk and with the right of way.
The pedestrian in this case, Patrick Quintavalle, was trying to cross 41st Street while walking along Third Avenue in the Murray Hill neighborhood of Manhattan one night in July 2014. Having the light in his favor, Quintavalle began crossing in the crosswalk. He only made it about halfway, though, before an airport shuttle bus driven by Nestor Perez III struck him as it turned from 41st onto Third. The bus ran over the pedestrian’s foot, which caused multiple fractures and led to the amputation of two of his toes.
Quintavalle sued. In his case, he asserted that the undisputed proof showed that he was hit while crossing in the crosswalk with the right of way. Based on this, he argued to the trial court that he was entitled to summary judgment in his favor, holding the driver 100% at fault. The driver, though, argued that there were still some facts in dispute that required a trial. Namely, the driver contended that the pedestrian was partly at fault for failing to observe the bus pulling through the intersection (and failing to get out of the way). The trial court agreed with the driver and rejected Quintavalle’s summary judgment motion.
The pedestrian appealed and obtained a more favorable outcome before the Appellate Division. The appeals court noted that Quintavalle was in the crosswalk, that he was crossing with the right of way, and that the bus driven by Perez approached from behind the pedestrian. The fact that Perez’s bus came up from Quintavalle’s rear was key. Under established New York caselaw, pedestrians like Quintavalle have no legal duty to look out for vehicles like Perez’s that are approaching from behind, the court stated in its opinion.
Requiring pedestrians to look out for vehicles coming up behind them while crossing with the right of way would be wrong on many levels, the court decided. The only way Quintavalle could have observed the bus would have been by “continually turning around and checking behind him as he walked.” Creating such a rule of potential pedestrian comparative liability would effectively give “the pedestrian an affirmative obligation to continually check for vehicles coming from every direction while in the process of crossing the street.” Demanding this level of caution from pedestrians was both unreasonable and unsafe, in the court’s determination.
Having concluded that Quintavalle had no duty to look behind him for vehicles turning into the intersection, the appeals court removed any possibility that he could be partially at fault. The court ordered the case sent back to the trial court so that the trial court could award summary judgment to the pedestrian.
If you’ve been injured as a pedestrian by a negligent driver, you need experienced legal counsel on your side to help you seek damages for the harm you’ve incurred and get back to the life you were living before your accident. The hardworking Queens pedestrian accident attorneys at Newman, Anzalone & Newman can provide you with not only skilled and determined legal advocacy but also top-quality personal service. To schedule a free consultation with one of our attorneys, contact us toll-free at 718-896-2700 or through our website.
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