On October 24, 2009 at approximately 4:15 a.m. a Nissan was north bound on the Seaford Oyster Bay Expressway when the driver, the son of the owner, saw a license plate in the roadway and attempted to avoid hitting it. The Nissan swerved, lost control and then struck a concrete divider wall. The operator of the vehicle stated that following the one car accident, he collected the license plate and called a tow truck to come remove his vehicle.
Following the accident, the Suffolk operator of the Nissan discovered that the license plate had come from a vehicle that had been involved in an accident on the opposite side of the expressway six days earlier. He filed a lawsuit claiming that the tow truck company that had removed the driver’s vehicle from the first accident had not removed the debris from the roadway properly according to Traffic Law § 1219 (c ).
Vehicle and Traffic Law § 1219 (c ) states that “[a]ny person removing a wrecked or damaged vehicle from a highway shall remove any glass or other injurious substance dropped upon the highway from such vehicle”. Several precedent cases were discussed with varying degrees of applications to the accident in question. Ultimately the question at hand deals with the liability of the tow truck driver or the owner of the vehicle from the previous accident to be responsible for any debris that was left in the roadway that could and did cause an additional accident.
The Supreme Court in this case was approached the night before trial with a request for summary judgment in the case of the owner of the vehicle that was involved in the first accident. It was decided that since she had no knowledge or responsibility to the removal of the vehicle which was done by the tow service that her request for summary judgment was appropriate and was approved.
The second request for Summary Judgment came from the tow service because they state that they were hired and directed by the City and that they responded accordingly. They were dispatched to the one side of the expressway where they collected a vehicle and cleared all debris. They were unaware of any debris that had gone over the median wall onto the other side of the expressway and did not intentionally leave any debris behind.
The Nassau Court agreed and so ordered for summary judgment on the side of the towing service that no liability be assigned to them in this case.
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