Appellate Court Declines Opportunity to Apply Government Immunity in Bicycle Accident Case Against City

Late last year, an appellate court in New York issued a written opinion in a bicycle accident case, affirming a lower court’s decision not to apply governmental immunity. In the case, Turturro v. City of New York, the court determined that the alleged negligence was regarding a “proprietary function,” rather than a governmental one, and therefore government immunity was not appropriate.

City IntersectionThe Facts of the Case

The plaintiff, a 12-year-old boy, was riding his bike on a four-lane New York street at 6:30 in the evening when he was struck by a vehicle traveling at an estimated speed of 54 miles per hour. The speed limit was 30 miles per hour. The driver was cited for reckless driving in a criminal case, and he pleaded guilty.

The plaintiff then filed a civil lawsuit against the driver as well as the City of New York. Evidence was presented that several citizens and lawmakers had written to the Department of Transportation, asking the city to do something about the dangerous road. Specifically, citizens were concerned that drivers were speeding and drag-racing. The city presented evidence that in response to the letters, it had commissioned a study on motorists’ speed and notified the police of the findings. However, the plaintiff pointed out that no traffic-calming measures – such as road bumps, rumble strips, or raised crosswalks – were implemented. After a jury trial, a verdict was issued in favor of the plaintiff. Specifically, the jury determined that the driver was 50% at fault, the city 40% at fault, and the plaintiff 10% at fault.

In a post-trial motion, the city asked the court to reverse the jury’s verdict, arguing that the city was entitled to government immunity. The city explained that it had commissioned a study and taken action to remedy the speeding issue. However, the court determined that immunity was not appropriate in this situation. The court explained that governments may be immune from lawsuits when it comes to the design of roadways in some situations, but not all. In order for immunity to be proper, the government’s actions in carrying out the planning process must be reasonable, and the government is under a continuing duty to ensure that the roadway is safe. The court determined that the city’s response to the study in notifying the police was not a sufficient means of solving the problem of speeding and drag racing. Thus, sufficient evidence was presented by the plaintiff to overcome the city’s qualified immunity.

Have You Been Injured in a New Mexico Traffic Accident?

If you or a loved one has recently been injured in a New Mexico car accident, you may be entitled to monetary compensation from one or more parties. In some cases, accidents occur not only due to a motorist’s negligence but also due to the poor design or maintenance of a roadway. In these cases, the government entity overseeing the roadway may also be liable. Call the dedicated New Mexico personal injury attorneys at the Fine Law Firm at 505-889-FINE to learn more about lawsuits against negligent motorists and government entities. Calling is free, and you will not incur any obligation by discussing your case with one of our attorneys.

More Blog Posts:

Appellate Court Affirms Trial Judge’s Decision to Dismiss Case Due to Violation of Statute of Limitations, New Mexico Personal Injury Lawyer Blog, January 3, 2017.

State Supreme Court Partially Reverses Judgment in Personal Injury Case Involving Claims of Governmental Immunity, New Mexico Personal Injury Lawyer Blog, December 1, 2016.