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Plantiff Slips and Falls Disembarking From a Bus

At the time of the accident, it was snowing and plaintiff was a passenger on defendants’ bus which got stuck in snow and slush at a bus stop in the Bronx. Plaintiff and the other passengers disembarked at the bus stop onto the sidewalk to wait for another bus. After waiting approximately 20 minutes, another bus arrived and stopped alongside the stranded bus. A New York Injury Lawyer said when plaintiff walked into the street and in front of the stranded bus to get on the second bus, she slipped and fell on the snow in the road and fractured her right elbow.

Plaintiff initiated a personal injury action alleging negligence on the part of defendants for their failure to equip the stranded bus with snow tires or snow chains, and for failing to provide plaintiff with a safe place to board the second bus.

The jury found defendants liable for failing to equip the bus with proper snow tires or chains but did not find defendants negligent, for failing to provide a safe place to board the replacement bus. The jury awarded plaintiff $450,000 in damages.

Defendants moved to set aside the verdict and dismiss plaintiff’s action, or alternatively, to reduce the award.

Defendants argued, inter alia, that since the jury found defendants not negligent on the issue of a safe place for plaintiff to board the replacement bus, it was inconsistent to find that defendants’ failure to install snow tires on the disabled bus was a substantial factor in causing plaintiff’s injuries.

Defendants further argued that the manner in which the slip and fallhappened was so attenuated from the alleged act of negligence that the failure to install snow chains or tires cannot be deemed a substantial factor in causing the accident.

The trial court denied the motion.

Hence, the instant appeal.

A Suffolk County Personal Injury Lawyer said that in accordance with law, to establish negligence, plaintiff is required to prove the existence of a duty, that is, a standard of reasonable conduct in relation to the risk of reasonably foreseeable harm; a breach of that duty and that such breach was a substantial cause of the resulting injury.

In ascertaining whether a defendant’s conduct constitutes a substantial factor in bringing about the harm of which the plaintiff complains, consideration should be given to: the aggregate number of factors involved which contribute toward the harm and the effect each had in producing it; whether the defendant had created a continuous force active up to the time of the harm, or whether the situation was affected by other forces for which the defendant was not responsible; and the lapse of time.

Here, plaintiff failed to prove that defendants have a duty to put snow tires or chains on buses in snowstorms. And even if such duty existed, the alleged negligent act of failing to put snow chains or tires on the bus was not a substantial factor in causing plaintiff’s slip and fall as she walked to the replacement bus.

Simply put, plaintiff did not introduce any evidence that snow tires are ever used on city buses, or that the normal tires are inadequate for snow conditions. Nor was there any evidence that chains were ever used or that they were useful on city buses. Indeed, the only evidence as to snow tires was that city buses never use them, and the only evidence as to chains was that it is physically possible to put them on the wheels of a bus.

Moreover, plaintiff did not introduce any evidence to show that chains would have prevented the bus from becoming stuck in the snow. Consequently, a Westchester County Personal Injury Lawyer said the jury’s verdict that defendants were negligent in not so equipping their buses was based entirely and improperly on speculation.

In any event, even if defendants had such a duty, its breach was not a substantial factor or the proximate cause of plaintiff’s injuries as she walked to the replacement bus. Plaintiff had disembarked from the first bus at least 20 minutes prior to her fall. She was not struck by a bus that did not have snow tires or chains; her injuries did not result from the bus becoming involved in an accident due to a failure to have snow tires installed on the bus.

Further, the mere fact that the bus had come to a purportedly negligent stop is not a proximate cause of a subsequent accident remote from that stop. In this case, the claimed negligence, i.e., failing to equip the bus with snow tires or chains, would have merely furnished the condition or occasion for the bus to become stranded; it was not the cause of plaintiff’s subsequent slip and fall.

The fact that plaintiff would not have gotten off the bus and slipped and fell but if not for the bus becoming stranded in the first place is not a sufficient basis for imposing liability. Defendants discharged any relevant duty they had to plaintiff by providing her a safe place to alight from the stranded bus.

In one of the court’s rulings, “a common carrier’s duty of care to an alighting passenger is to stop at a place where the passenger can alight safely and towards that end to exercise reasonable and commensurate care in view of the dangers to be apprehended”.

Here, plaintiff alighted safely and waited in safety for another bus for 20 minutes after alighting. Thus, defendants fulfilled their duty to plaintiff.

The court did not address the issue of defendants’ duty to provide a safe place for plaintiff to board since the jury determined that defendants had met this duty.

Consequently, the court finds that defendants breached no duty of care to plaintiff; action dismissed.

Accidents occur almost anywhere at any time. Some of these accidents are the result of natural causes while some are caused by someone’s negligence. It is on the latter cause that liability may arise. If you are involved in such a case, you must consult with an NY Personal Injury Lawyer. Contact Stephen Bilkis & Associates and have a free consultation with one of our NY Slip and Fall Attorneys.

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