Highest Appeals Court Holds NYC Liable for $20M Award to 12 yr old Bicyclist Struck By Speeding Motorist
On December 22, 2016 the New York State Court of Appeals upheld a jury verdict against New York City and a speeding motorist who struck a 12 year old boy/bicyclist who was crossing Gerritsen Avenue, Brooklyn in the middle of the block. Police investigators determined that the motorist was going 54 mph in a 30 mph zone based on skid marks. The jury awarded the boy $35.5 million dollars. The Trial Court reduced the award to $26 million dollars. An intermediate Appellate Court agreed with the City that the award was still too high and reduced it again to $20 million dollars. The boy suffered traumatic brain injuries resulting in significantly impaired cognitive and motor functioning preventing him from ever working.
The jury found that the boy was 10% at fault, the speeding motorist 50% at fault, and the City 40%. The motorist likely had at best $100,000 in auto insurance coverage - many people only purchase the minimum required of $25,000. Once found 1% or more responsible, the City will be required to pay upwards of 90% of the award, since the boy was 10% responsible. Why would the City be held liable?
The City had received numerous prior complaints that cars were speeding on Gerritsen Avenue which was often used for drag racing. Many people in the neighborhood had described Gerritsen Avenue as a racetrack and even local politicians had implored the City do do something. A municipality has a legal duty to keep its roads safe from dangerous potholes as well as reckless drivers. The jury agreed with the plaintiff's roadway expert who explained that the City should have, but never conducted a proper roadway study and implemented a plan to resolve the dangerous "racetrack" like conditions. The expert explained how the City should have implemented "traffic calming measures" including: speed bumps, narrowed lanes, rumble strips and raised cross walks which are known to slow down traffic.