There are three southbound lanes—two through lanes and a left-hand-turn lane—at the intersection of West Henrietta Road and Brighton Henrietta Town Line Road. YK testified that she was traveling in the left travel lane. She had stopped for a red traffic light, and was just beginning to move forward slowly toward the congested intersection when her car was hit.
In October 2005 and February 2006 YK brought actions, subsequently consolidated, against Monroe County, JD and others, alleging serious injury under New York’s No–Fault Law. In May 2008, defendants moved for summary judgment to dismiss the complaints. In July 2008, YK cross-moved for partial summary judgment on liability. The parties disputed whether Vehicle and Traffic Law § 1104 applied, making JD liable for the accident only if he acted with “reckless disregard for the safety of others in accordance with Vehicle and Traffic Law § 1104[e] and Saarinen v Kerr holding that the standard of care under Vehicle and Traffic Law § 1104 is reckless disregard and addressing the conduct required to show recklessness. On 26 September 2008, Supreme Court awarded summary judgment to defendants. Was DUI involved?
The court concluded that JD’s conduct was covered by section 1104, and that YK had not raised a triable issue of fact as to whether he acted with reckless disregard.
On 30 December 2009, the Appellate Division reversed the decision. The majority held that the reckless disregard standard in section 1104(e) is limited to accidents caused by conduct privileged [16 N.Y.3d 222] under section 1104(b). Because JD’s injury-causing conduct was not exempt under this provision, the majority concluded that the applicable standard for determining liability was the standard of ordinary negligence. DWAI is another issue.
The court further observed that a rear-end collision with a vehicle in stop-and-go traffic creates a prima facie case of negligence with respect to the operator of the rear vehicle. Therefore, partial summary judgment on liability in favor of the person whose vehicle was rear-ended is appropriate in the absence of a non-negligent explanation for the accident. Concluding that Kabir had met her burden on the cross motion and that defendants had not put forward a non-negligent explanation, the court reinstated the complaint against defendants and granted YK’s cross motion for partial summary judgment on liability.
The dissenting judges interpreted section 1104 differently, taking the position that the reckless disregard standard was applicable to any injury-causing conduct of a driver of an emergency vehicle involved in an emergency operation. On 19 March 2010, the Appellate Division granted defendants leave to appeal, and certified to us the question of whether its order was properly made. The court affirms and therefore answers the certified question in the affirmative.
In Riley v County of Broome, Section 1104 was put in place in 1957 as part of what is now title VII of the Vehicle and Traffic Law, which was intended to create a uniform set of traffic regulations, or the rules of the road to update and replace the former traffic regulations, and bring them into conformance with the Uniform Vehicle Code adopted in other states. DWI could have been involved.
Subdivision (a) of this provision empowers the driver of an authorized emergency vehicle when involved in an “emergency operation” to exercise the privileges set forth in this section , but subject to the conditions herein stated. The statute then lists these privileges in subdivision (b): “stop, stand or park irrespective of the provisions of this title [VII]; proceed past a steady red signal, a flashing red signal or a stop sign, but only after slowing down as may be necessary for safe operation; exceed the maximum speed limits so long as he does not endanger life or property; and, disregard regulations governing directions of movement or turning in specified directions” (Vehicle and Traffic Law § 1104[b]).”