On September 30, 2011, a woman submitted a charge against Nassau County for negligence in conducting its sanding/salting operations. She alleged that the operations were done in an unsafe manner, therefore causing the truck accident that injured her.
According to reports, County truck number 3124 was removing snow and salting the streets in Hempstead, New York. The woman said that she was standing between two parked cars in the street when suddenly, the truck threw a “metal projectile” that hit her left hand and forehad. During the hearing, both parties referred to the “metal projectile” as a reinforcement bar.
Because of the injuries she sustained, the woman charged Nassau County with negligence. The County then submitted a motion to the Court for a summary judgment to dismiss the woman’s complaint. To support this, the County brought forth as a witness the Equipment Supervisor and Acting Highway Maintenance Supervisor of the Hempstead Garage. The Supervisor had been an Equipment Operator before and had sanded, salted, and plowed the town roads. He said that although clogs sometimes occur in the opening to the funnel where the salt leaves the vehicle, the clogs are just frozen chunks of salt. He also said that there was never a time when a driver had reported a clog in the funnel from that wasn’t frozen salt. After seeing the piece of metal that hit the woman and injured her, he said that it looked like a reinforcement bar used in construction. However, it did not resemble any of the truck parts and he had no idea where it came from.
During the hearing, the Suffolk woman mentioned that there were other cars traveling down the road and on the other side of the street. She said that she was shielding her eyes from the sand when she saw the truck pass by. Because her eyes were closed when the truck accident happened, she only saw the piece of metal after. She did not see it come from the truck.
When a motion for summary judgment is submitted, the Court determines whether or not there is an important factual issue that should be resolved. The party submitting the motion is required to show that it has a right to summary judgment. In this case, the County was able to show this by demonstrating that the truck was not malfunctioning and therefore could not have thrown off the metal reinforcement bar that hit the woman.
The Court also finds that the woman’s arguments are weak. She said that the truck had a history of mechanical issues and that the County was negligent because it did not screen the salt before using it. However, she could not prove that the bar was seen in the salt before the accident, or that screening the salt before using it was required. Also, although part of the truck had been repaired a few weeks before the incident, there was no evidence that something was wrong with it.
The Law states that the liability for the owners or operators of “hazard vehicles” which do highway work only apply in situations where they recklessly ignored the safety of others. In this case, the County was able to prove that it did not operate the vehicle in a reckless way and without considering the safety of others.
When there are no factual issues to be resolved, and where the party which moves for a summary judgment shows that it has a right to receive that judgment, the Court will grant it. Therefore, the Court granted a summary judgment in favor of Nassau County.
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