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Broken traffic lights system

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8 July 2014
Car Accidents

In March of 2007, while driving west on 60th Street in Brooklyn, a vehicle operated by the a woman was struck at the intersection of 60th Street and Third Avenue by a vehicle operated by the defendant, which had been proceeding south on Third Avenue. The force of the impact redirected the woman’s vehicle southbound onto Third Avenue, where it struck a stanchion supporting the Gowanus Highway. As a result of the accident, the woman sustained serious physical injuries.

The injured woman, and her husband suing derivatively, commenced this action against the City of New York and the defendant driver. The plaintiffs alleged that the City negligently failed to properly inspect and discover that the traffic light at the subject intersection was defective. They claimed that the traffic light was improperly turned at a 45–degree angle so that the light appeared to control traffic traveling both westbound on 60th Street and southbound on Third Avenue, proximately causing the collision.

The case proceeded to a jury trial. At the conclusion of the trial, the jury found that the City was 75% at fault in the happening of the accident, that the injured plaintiff was 25% at fault, and that the defendant driver was not negligent. The jury awarded damages to awarding the principal sums of $225,000 to the injured woman for past pain and suffering, $262,500 to the injured woman for future pain and suffering, and $37,500 to the woman’s husband for loss of services. The City moved to set aside the verdict, which the lower court denied. The City appealed.
The Second Department held that Contrary to the City’s contention, the verdict was not contrary to the weight of the evidence. The Second Department held that, “a jury verdict should not be set aside as contrary to the weight of the evidence unless the jury could not have reached the verdict upon any fair interpretation of the evidence,” adding that “when a verdict can be reconciled with a reasonable view of the evidence, the successful party is entitled to the presumption that the jury adopted that view.” 

Here, the Court held that a fair interpretation of the evidence, which included testimony from a nonparty witness who worked at an auto body shop located on Third Avenue between 60th and 61st Streets that the subject traffic light had been turned at an angle two to four months prior to the accident and that he had called 311 to report the condition, supported the jury’s verdict that the City was 75% at fault in the happening of the accident. Accordingly the Appellate Division held that , the lower court properly denied that branch of the City’s motion which was pursuant to CPLR 4404(a) to set aside the jury’s verdict as contrary to the weight of the evidence

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