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Court of Appeals Limits Burden of Proving Faulty Highway Design Caused Deadly Accident

On June 7, 2018, New York's highest appellate court clarified a longstanding rule regarding the liability of a municipality for failing to promptly install a recommended four-way stop sign at an intersection in the Town of Ontario. A motorcyclist with the right of way traveling north on Route 350 collided with a pick-up truck that had stopped at a stop sign before making a right turn from a side street into the intersection of Route 350. There had been 14 similar right-angle collisions at the same intersection which prompted a traffic safety study begun four years earlier, but the four way stop sign was never installed. 

 The 43 year old motorcyclist was killed leaving behind a boy age 15 and a daughter age 10. The motorcyclist's wife/passenger, was severely injured with permanent disabling injuries. The family was awarded over $7,000,000 but the trial Judge dismissed the claims holding that there was no proof that a four-way stop sign would have prevented the accident. The Court of Appeals disagreed and explained: “We have never required accident victim's to identify a specific remedy and prove it would have been timely implemented and prevented the accident...it was the State's burden to take reasonable steps in a reasonable amount of time. Instead, it did nothing.”

As a general rule a municipality has a qualified immunity from any claims involving the design of a roadway. However, a municipality has a duty to keep its roads reasonably safe and when it “is made aware of a dangerous condition and does not take action to remedy it”, the State may not invoke the qualified immunity doctrine. 

Ronald C. Burke, Esq

Trial Attorney with 30+ Years of Experience Attorney Ronald C. Burke, Esq. has more than 30 years of experience and has focused his career on representing clients in cases involving personal injury, medical malpractice and legal malpractice. He is a seasoned trial lawyer and has won many seven-figure settlements and verdicts for his clients over the years, including many case victories listed among the largest in the history of the New York State. He has been featured in the news and is a regular lecturer for the New York County Lawyers Association, as well as having lectured before the New York State Bar Association. Ron is also an attorney with Kelner & Kelner, a New York personal injury law firm. Awards and Accolades Mr. Burke's awards and accolades are many. Among them, he has been included in New York Super Lawyers® each year since 2010, and he has received the highest-possible AV® Rating from Martindale-Hubbell®. Verdict Search, a part of the New York Law Journal, frequently recognizes his notable successes after winning some of the highest settlements and verdicts in past years. He was also featured in their list of the "Top New York Verdicts of 2011" and "Top New York Settlements of 2012." He is a member of the New York State Bar Association and is licensed to practice law in the U.S. District Court for the Southern and Eastern Districts of New York, as well as before the United States Supreme Court. When Attorney Burke is not handling legal malpractice cases, he is highly involved in the local community. He is a member of the Village of Rockville Centre Volunteer Fire Department, has served on the local school board and as Chairman of the local Zoning Board. Learn more about Attorney Burke and how he can skillfully handle your malpractice case by contacting the Law Offices of Ronald C. Burke, Esq. right away to schedule your complimentary case evaluation. Our firm is here to help! Contact a New York Legal Malpractice Attorney Our firm provides each client's case with thorough preparation and aggressive representation, ensuring that you win the best possible results for your case whether it is settled or goes to trial. As a seasoned trial lawyer, Mr. Burke can provide the strong and relentless representation you need to establish negligence in a legal malpractice case and to recover any damages you may have suffered. Our firm can recover compensation for pre-trial and trial malpractice, violations of fee arrangements, loss of income, pain and suffering, and much more. Contact us today!

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