On April 1, 1987, a New York City Department of Sanitation employee was injured at work. That day, he was working with another employee of the New York City Department of Sanitation who was assigned to drive the truck. The injured employee was loading bags of garbage into the truck when the tailgate of the truck popped open and struck him in the groin area. As a result of the accident the Nassau employee suffered serious and permanent physical injuries. The injured employee alleges that the cause of the accident that day was that the other employee had failed to ensure that the tailgate pins locking the tailgate were free from obstruction and fully engaged.
A safety report that was issued following the incident states, “. . .it was apparent that 1 1/2 [inches] of debris by the left pin, and 1 1/4 [inches] of debris by the right pin. This debris, it appears, held the tailgate away from the body of the truck making it unable for the pins to rise to the proper level. The pins being unable to rise to the proper position enabled the tailgate to force open under pressure of cycling when the truck became loaded.” It was exposed that the pins were not checked that date at the beginning of the driver’s shift or when the vehicle was dumped prior to the truck accident. Failure to clear the debris out of the tailgate was a violation of department regulation teletype #86-3431.
Department regulation # 86-3431 states that the operator of a garbage truck in the city is not to rely on the electronic indicators in the cab area of the truck to determine if the tailgate is properly secured. He must get out and visually check the pins to make sure that they are not blocked by debris. The Suffolk safety inspector found debris in both of the pins and it was this debris that kept the pins from locking and permitted the tailgate to open. The supervisor that date stated that the driver was at fault and that he would be duly disciplined. The driver was not disciplined.
The court found that on the date of the accident it was the driver’s responsibility to check the pins. The driver stated that he did examine them. There are unresolved factual matters as to how the accident occurred and what the proximate cause of the accident was. Any summary judgments would be inappropriate in such a case. It was referred for trial.
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