New York City is almost without parallel in terms of the number of street-related hazards residents and visitors encounter daily, from taxi doors suddenly whooshing open into traffic to bicyclists having to swerve to avoid large potholes.
It all comes with the territory and, for the most part, the courts have taken the view that drivers and operators are responsible for avoiding such obstacles. If their vehicles strikes another, they are responsible for the collision and presumed at fault.
However, Manhattan car accident lawyers know the exception to this has always been a double-parked car.
A ruling issued last month by Manhattan State Supreme Court Justice Arlene Bluth underscored this point in stating that “double-parking is the only exception to the rule,” citing previous case law indicating the front stopped care is presumed to be not negligent in this situation. Usually, if a driver hits another from the rear, that driver is found negligent. However, if a victim was double-parked at the time of impact, Bluth wrote, it’s a matter best left to a jury.
The justice went on to reason that being struck from the rear could be a reasonably foreseeable consequence on a bustling Manhattan street when already stopped and double-parked. She indicated there could be some situations in which the defendant could be entitled to a summary judgment. She cited a few, such as if the defendant was forced to stop suddenly because a child darted out in front of the vehicle or a bee flew in the car or something frightened her. However, simply making the decision to pull over and stop and wait for a parking spot may not be reason enough, as was the situation here – and it’s common enough throughout the city.
According to court records, a woman was double-parked and had pulled over as she waited for another driver to leave her parking spot on 51st Street, near the intersection of 10th Avenue. As she waited, another vehicle, sped down the street and slammed into her and several other cars on the road.
Although the owner of that vehicle was later found (she was not driving the vehicle, though she could potentially be found vicariously liable for the actions of the driver), she was not in court that day. Bluth indicated the most relevant matter before the court at that moment was the fact that the other driver had been double-parked at the time of the crash.
When she later sued for negligence, the judge refused to grant her motion for summary judgment – a ruling reported on by The New York Law Journal.
Is it possible the court would find negligence on the part of someone waiting for a parking space with their brake or hazard lights on? Maybe not total negligence, but perhaps a double-parked driver could be found at fault to some degree. Per the doctrine of pure comparative negligence, his or her damage award could be lessened by the determined degree of fault.
It’s also worth noting that in the 1996 case of Ferguson v. Gassman, justices concluded that owners of improperly parked cars may be held liable for plaintiffs injured by negligent drivers of other vehicles, depending on other issues of foreseeability and proximate causes unique to a particular case.
The Law Offices of Nicholas Rose, PLLC offers free consultations. Call 1-877-313-7673.
Double-Parking Is Exception on Liability in Rear-End Crashes, Judge Says, May 27, 2014, May 27, 2014, By Marc Santora, The New York Times
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Williams v. Weatherstone: New York Appellate Court Rules School Owed No Duty of Care to Special Ed Student, May 25, 2014, Manhattan Car Accident Lawyer Blog