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Summary Judgment Denied by New York Court Following Accident Involving Disabled School Bus

A Syracuse school bus accident case begins with the question of whether the defendant owed a particular duty of care to the plaintiff. Sometimes, the duty in question was specific (like the duty to drive no faster than a certain speed in a school zone in which children are present), but sometimes it was more general (such as the duty to keep a proper lookout).

Once a duty has been established, the next question is whether that duty was breached. If it was, the third inquiry is whether the defendant’s breach of duty was the proximate cause of the plaintiff’s damages. Generally speaking, in order for a breach of duty to have been the proximate cause in a particular case, the harm must have been foreseeable (and not just a “fluke” or “freak accident.”)

If the first three elements can be proven by a preponderance of the evidence, the plaintiff must then prove his or her “damages.” The damages element speaks to the harm that befell the plaintiff as a proximate result of the defendant’s breach of duty and may include pain and suffering, medical expenses, lost wages, and the like.

Facts of the Case

A recent case appealed from the Supreme Court of Bronx County involved a claim brought by the plaintiff, a passenger on a school bus that allegedly became disabled on a public road. The plaintiff’s suit named several parties as defendants, including the bus company that owned the bus, the bus driver who operated the bus, and a motorist who rear-ended the bus while driving a separate vehicle. Prior to trial, the bus company and the bus driver filed a motion for summary judgment, asserting that they were entitled to judgment as a matter of law. The supreme court denied the bus company and bus driver’s motion, prompting them to seek appellate review.

The Court’s Ruling

The New York Appellate Division, First Department, affirmed the lower court’s order denying summary judgment to the bus company and the bus driver. The court began by acknowledging that the plaintiff had testified that the bus had been moving along at approximately 20 m.p.h. and that the bus had come to a “gradual stop” in the right lane after it experienced some type of mechanical problem. Because this testimony conflicted with the defendant bus driver’s testimony to the effect that the bus “stopped abruptly” such that he was not able to steer it out of the lane (and, presumptively, onto the shoulder), the reviewing court found that there was a triable issue of fact and that, accordingly, summary judgment was inappropriate.

The court also held that there were factual issues on the question of comparative negligence due to conflicting testimony as to whether the defendant bus driver had activated the hazard lights on the bus and/or placed reflective triangles behind it after it became disabled.

To Speak to a Syracuse Attorney About a Car Accident

An experienced motor vehicle or school bus accident attorney can help you gather crucial evidence following a crash caused by another’s negligence and can assist you in filing the proper paperwork and litigating your case towards a favorable settlement or jury verdict. At DeFrancisco & Falgiatano, LLP, our team of experienced professionals represent those who have been hurt in bus wrecks, car accidents, and truck collisions throughout the greater Syracuse and Upstate New York areas. For an appointment to learn more about how we can help you pursue fair compensation for injuries suffered by you or a loved one, call us at 833-200-2000 or use the “contact us” form on this website.

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