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The bus companies denied liability


One day in July, a the driver of a truck owned by a car leasing company, and leased to a delivery company experienced recurrence of a mechanical problem with the truck in which the accelerator pedal occasionally sticks, does not elevate automatically when the driver’s foot is off it, and which the driver is able to correct only by tapping the pedal with his foot. The driver called the mechanics responsible for the maintenance of the truck who instructed him to drive the truck back into Manhattan.

In the afternoon, the truck was travelling westbound on the Long Island Expressway when the pedal stuck again as the truck was descending an incline. At that point the Expressway curved slightly to the left. The driver looked at the pedal for a moment, during which period the truck swerved on to the shoulder of the Expressway, striking two parked buses. A passenger in the bus suffered very severe injuries to his legs.

The passenger filed an action for damages against the truck driver and the bus companies. The bus companies denied liability arguing that the buses were not the proximate causes of the injuries sustained by the passenger.

The court pointed out that City of New York’s Vehicle and Traffic Law provides that, except when necessary to avoid conflict with other traffic, or in compliance with law or the directions of a police officer or official traffic-control device, no person shall stop, stand or park a vehicle on a state expressway highway or state interstate route highway, including the entrances thereto and exits therefrom which are a part thereof, except in an emergency.

Likewise, the Traffic Regulations provides that stopping or parking or operation of a motor vehicle is prohibited on the berm or shoulder adjacent to a parkway or an expressway except for emergency purposes.

The court ruled that, in this case, the facts point out that the negligence of the bus owners was a substantial cause of the injuries sustained by the bus passenger. The court explained that negligence of the bus owners was closely, indeed immediately, connected in time and space to the injuries sustained by the bus passenger. The court pointed out that the statute and the regulation create a legal relationship between the operators of the bus and other vehicular traffic. The statute and the regulation were designed with an awareness that from time to time vehicles on high speed state highways go on to the shoulder under circumstances that make the presence of standing or parked vehicles a source of danger. It does not matter whether the truck driver in this case intended to go on to the shoulder because of mechanical failure, or to avoid another vehicle, or whether the truck did so because a steering wheel malfunctioned or as a result of driving error.

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