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New York Appellate Court Denies Summary Judgment to County in Motorcycle Accident Case

A Syracuse motorcycle accident can cause serious, life-threatening personal injuries or even death. Those who have been hurt or lost a loved one in a motorcycle crash have certain legal rights, including the right to file a negligence claim against the person or persons responsible for the accident. If the claim is successful, the victim or his or her family may receive payment for medical treatment, lost earnings, pain and suffering, and other losses caused by the accident. It is important that legal action be taken promptly, as there is a strict statute of limitations in these types of cases. Claims not filed within the time set by state law are likely to be dismissed.

Facts of the Case

In a recently decided appellate court case, the plaintiff was the guardian of a motorcyclist who was injured in a 2012 accident that occurred when the motorcyclist hit a utility pole after swerving to avoid a car that was exiting a driveway. The guardian filed separate lawsuits against the driver of the car and the county in which the accident occurred, alleging that the motorist was negligent in the operation of his vehicle and that the county was negligent in failing to maintain the vegetation along the street where the accident occurred and in designing the street with a certain curvature. After the suits were consolidated, the county filed a motion for summary judgment, which the Supreme Court of Tompkins County denied. The county appealed.

The Decision of the Appellate Court

The New York Appellate Division, Third Department, affirmed the lower court’s decision to deny the county’s motion for summary judgment. The court first noted that the driver of the automobile that had pulled out in front of the motorcycle had explained that he did so because his view was obstructed by trees, bushes, and the curve of the road. According to the appellate tribunal, it was undisputed that the county had a duty to maintain the street in a reasonably safe condition; that duty included trimming vegetation within the street’s right-of-way to assure visibility of traffic.

As the party moving for summary judgment, the county had the burden of showing that there were no genuine issues of material fact. In a case such as the one at bar, that generally required the moving party to show that it had no prior notice, either actual or constructive, of the alleged defect. According to the motorist, a representative of the county had been to his home a year before the accident and had looked at a tree that the motorist had asked to have removed because it was blocking his view of the street. Notably, the county’s representative had refused to remove the tree because, in his opinion, it did not present a road hazard. There was also testimony from another county employee to the effect that the county had a policy of mowing grass along its roads twice per summer.

Under these facts, the reviewing court agreed with the lower tribunal that there was a question of fact as to whether the county had, at the least, constructive notice of the condition at issue. The court noted that there were also factual issues as to whether the offending vegetation was within the county’s right-of-way and as to whether the highway had been defectively designed.

Contact a Motorcycle Accident Lawyer

Motorcycle accidents often end tragically, leaving a family to care for a catastrophically injured loved one or to mourn his or her passing, if the wreck proved fatal. If your family has been impacted by a Syracuse motorcycle crash caused by someone else’s negligence, please call the attorneys of Defrancisco & Falgiatano, LLP at 315-479-9000 and schedule an appointment to get started on your case.

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