A 12-year-old boy was struck by a car driving 25 miles per hour over the speed limit. The area where the boy was struck is known for speeding drivers. The municipality has received many complaints about this danger, but did nothing to prevent its reoccurrence.
Can the municipality be held responsible for the boy’s injuries?
The Traditional View
Typically, with respect to keeping roadways safe, a municipality is responsible for such things as drainage, fixing potholes, and erecting guiderails. Historically, their responsibility did not go as far as prevention of unlawful activity, such as speeding. But on December 22, 2016, the Court of Appeals broke this traditional view and found that the City of New York could be liable under the circumstances described above.
The New Decision: Municipalities can be held responsible for injuries caused by speeding drivers
According to the Court of Appeals, the highest court in New York State, when a municipality is made aware of a dangerous traffic condition, it must undertake a reasonable study to attempt to correct the danger. If the municipality fails to conduct a traffic study, does an inadequate traffic study, does a study but does not implement a reasonable plan to correct the danger, or fails to timely implement a plan to correct the danger then it may be held liable to people who are injured by the known danger.
In other words if the municipality fails in its responsibility to keep citizens safe from a known danger, the municipality can be held liable.
In Turturro v City of New York, the Court held that the City may be held responsible for damages suffered by a 12 year old boy when the City had knowledge of a dangerous stretch of road, yet failed to take reasonable steps to keep the roadway in a reasonably safe condition.
The Court did not suggest that a municipality has a duty to keep its roadways free from all unlawful and reckless driving. Rather, the Court pointed out that the City had received numerous complaints of speeding on this street and that the City never conducted a study or attempted to implement “traffic calming measures to deter speeding.”
Overall, this means greater liability for municipalities, who now have a greater responsibility to maintain safe roadways for New Yorkers.
New York Takes Action
Although this decision was recently published, New York’s Department of Transportation had already begun a statewide plan to invest $110 million over the next five years to improve pedestrian safety in New York. The State will examine all 200,000 crosswalks, which do not have signals, in the state. Further, the State has given Albany and Schenectady, among eighteen other locations, priority for improvements. The goal is to reduce pedestrian fatalities by 20 percent and serious injuries by 10 percent.
At LaMarche Safranko Law, we advocate for families and victims of pedestrian and bicycle crashes.
If you or someone you know has been a victim of a pedestrian or bicycle accident, contact us today for a free consultation.