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Second Department Considers Liability of NYC for Failure to Maintain Traffic Light

In Minemar v Khramova, 2006 NY Slip Op 03857, the plaintiff was stopped at a light behind a number of other cars.  The traffic light was apparently malfunctioning, and thus never changed from red to green. Each car waited approximately 30-60 seconds before entering the intersection.  The plaintiff did the same, looked down the intersecting one-way street before proceeding, and then entered the intersection, at which point he was struck by another vehicle driven by one of the defendants.

The plaintiff then filed a claim against, among others, the City of New York, and alleged that the City had negligently maintained the traffic light, thus proximately causing the accident.

I was somewhat surprised by the Court's holding:

In this case, where the plaintiff driver was fully aware of the malfunctioning traffic light and the consequent need to exercise caution in proceeding through the intersection, any negligence on the part of the City in maintaining the traffic light was not the proximate cause of the accident. Accordingly, the complaint insofar as asserted against the City should have been dismissed (see Bisceglia v International Bus. Machs., 287 AD2d 674, 676).

I haven't researched this issue, but it would seem to me that a jury could find that the accident would not have occurred but for the City's negligent maintenance of the traffic light, and thus liability should be apportioned between the City and any other negligent parties. 

I realize that the plaintiff could very well bear some fault for the accident, but the City should bear some liability as well.  That the plaintiff was aware of the malfunction should not, in my mind, absolve the City of all liability.  At the very least, it should be an issue of fact for the jury to decide.


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