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Faulty Road Work Signs Cited in Injury-Causing Auto Pileup

Defendants in car accident lawsuits aren’t always other drivers and their insurance companies.

There are many entities – both on and off the road – that can play a role in causing a crash. For example, a bar that serves alcohol to a minor driver can be named a defendant under Florida’s dram shop laws. A manufacturer of a vehicle or vehicle equipment can be named for defective design resulting in a critical failure resulting in either a crash or exacerbated injuries in the crash. The owner of a vehicle can be named even if he or she wasn’t driving at the time of the wreck, per a theory of negligence known as vicarious liability.

The list goes on.

In the recent $6.125 million case of Gregware v. City of New York and Burtis Construction Co. Inc., defendants included the City of New York, as well as a construction company that contracted with the city for roadwork. The theory of negligence in this case had to do with construction road signs. Specifically, plaintiff alleged the signs did not adequately warn drivers of an upcoming lane closure. In so doing, plaintiff asserted defendants acted with reckless disregard for the safety of others.

At the time of the accident, the left and center lanes of the northbound side of West Side Highway were closed, leaving only the right lane available for passing. Plaintiff experts would later testify the manner in which motorists were notified of this fact was “totally inadequate,” and resulted in a severe deviation of typical standards. As a result, drivers had no choice but to suddenly merge right.

This crash happened in the spring of 2006, around 3 a.m. It was a five-car pileup. A five-car pileup happened when a taxi driver was merging from left to center lane and was rear-ended. Plaintiff was coming over a blind hill when he struck the second vehicle in the pileup.

As a result of the crash, plaintiff suffered injuries that were both severe and debilitating, including injuries to his legs, pelvis, shoulder and ribs. He had numerous fractures and torn ligaments, and both knees were “destroyed.” He underwent numerous surgeries, had to wear leg braces, lived in a nursing home for a time and even after discharge, had to attend thrice-weekly physical therapy sessions.

At 41, patient will suffer knee pain the rest of his life and will require four total knee replacement surgeries – two on each leg.

Plaintiff sued the city and construction company.

Following a six-week trial (that included some inflammatory statements from plaintiff counsel) and five days of jury deliberation, jurors awarded plaintiff $6.125 million – that’s $2.2 million for past pain and suffering, $3.8 million for future pain and suffering, $700,000 to plaintiff wife for loss of consortium and $425,000 for future loss of consortium.

City was deemed 65 percent liable, while construction company was 35 percent liable.

Trial court denied post-trial motions by defendants, finding evidence supported both liability and damages.

The New York Appellate Division, First Department, affirmed in part. It found the evidence was sufficient to support the verdict and damages. Evidence was sufficient that plaintiff was not negligent.

What the court reversed on was the apportionment of damages. The court found this was against the weight of the evidence, and the construction company should have been apportioned a greater amount than the city.

The court remanded on this issue alone.

Call Freeman Injury Law — 1-800-561-7777 for a free appointment to discuss your rights.

Additional Resources:

Gregware v. City of New York and Burtis Construction Co. Inc., Aug. 4, 2015, New York Appellate Division, First Department

More Blog Entries:

De Los Santos v. Brink – Vicarious Liability Limited to $600,000 in Florida Crash Case, July 29, 2015, West Palm Beach Car Accident Attorney Blog

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