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October 18, 2010

Owners of Improperly Parked Vehicles may be Liable for Injuries Sustained by Pedestrians Struck by Cars

In Hopkins v. Ambrose, the Third Department recently re-affirmed that owners and operators of parked vehicles may be held liable where an accident is the result of illegal parking.

In August 2007, Patrick Ambrose was traveling home from work at approximately 1:00 a.m. when the vehicle he was operating struck Charles Hopkins, III. Mr. Ambrose was approaching the Hitchin Post bar in the Town of Colesville, Broome County, travelling eastbound in the passing lane of Route 7. As he drew nearer to the bar, a pick-up truck driven by co-defendant Lucas Petkash had backed onto Route 7 and came to a stop in Mr. Ambrose's lane of travel facing him head on. Mr. Ambrose slowed and moved into the right-hand lane. Mr. Hopkins stepped out from behind the parked pick-up truck and was struck by the vehicle driven by Mr. Ambrose.

Mr. Hopkins commenced a personal injury action against Ambrose and Petkash along with the owners of their respective vehicles. Petkash and the owner of the vehicle he was operating moved for summary judgment claiming that they could not be held liable as a matter of law. In opposition, Plaintiff argued that liability could attach to the owner and operator of the parked vehicle because the accident was foreseeable and discovery reflected that the improperly parked car was the proximate cause of plaintiff's injuries.

In support of his argument, Plaintiff submitted affidavits from eye witnesses, one of whom was seated inside Petkash's vehicle at the time of the accident, stating that Petkash backed the truck onto Route 7 and stopped it in the middle of the road facing west. Those eyewitnesses also attested that they observed the plaintiff approach Petkash's parked truck to speak with the occupants and was subsequently hit by Ambrose while walking away from the truck.

The Supreme Court rejected Plaintiff's contention and granted Petkash's motion to dismiss. Plaintiff appealed the dismissal of his complaint to the Appellate Division, Third Department, which issued a reversal.

In reaching this determination, the Third Department relied upon Boehm v. Telfer, 250 A.D.2d 975 (3d Dep't 1998), in which the Appellate Division denied a defendant's motion for summary judgment because plaintiff raised factual issues regarding whether the driver of a bread truck was negligent in the manner in which he parked his truck. The Appellate Division also cited to the Court of Appeals decision in Ferrer v. Harris, 55 N.Y.2d 285 (1982) which upheld a jury determination of negligence where evidence introduced at trial demonstrated that a double-parked car reduced a driver's ability to see a pedestrian and blocked a lane that might have provided the driver room to maneuver to avoid the accident. The Court of Appeals found this evidence sufficient to support the jury's finding that negligence of the owner of the double parked vehicle was a proximate cause of the accident.

As such, the Third Department found that Plaintiff Hopkins raised sufficient issues of material fact about whether Petkash had negligently parked his truck, thereby obstructing the roadway and contributing to the accident, warranting denial of the defendants' motion for summary judgment.

If you require further information regarding the information presented in this Legal Alert and its impact on your organization, please contact any of the members of the Practice Area.


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