This case involves a collision between a plaintiff’s vehicle and a police vehicle operated by Officer Kelly Rougeux of the Niagara Falls Police Department. The plaintiff sought damages for injuries sustained in the accident, alleging negligence on the part of Officer Rougeux.
Vehicle and Traffic Law § 1104 grants certain privileges to drivers of authorized emergency vehicles engaged in emergency operations. These privileges include the ability to exceed speed limits, disregard traffic signals, and proceed through red lights, provided it does not endanger life or property. However, these privileges are not absolute. The law mandates that even in emergency operations, drivers must operate their vehicles with “due regard for the safety of all persons.” If an emergency vehicle’s operation involves reckless disregard for others’ safety, the driver can be held liable for resulting damages.
In the context of a negligence case, if a driver is engaged in exempt conduct under § 1104(b) during emergency operations, the reckless disregard standard applies. This standard demands more than ordinary negligence and holds the driver accountable for injuries caused by the reckless exercise of privileges. On the other hand, if the injury results from conduct not covered by the specified privileges, ordinary negligence principles come into play. The determination of which standard applies can significantly impact the outcome of a case and the amount of damages awarded. Understanding these distinctions is essential for evaluating the conduct of emergency vehicle drivers and establishing liability in personal injury claims arising from accidents involving such vehicles.
Plaintiff Alejandrina Torres-Cummings collided with a police car, suffering serious injuries. The incident occurred at an intersection as Officer Rougeux patrolled the area in response to a police call. The plaintiff moved for summary judgment, claiming Officer Rougeux’s negligence. The court, however, denied the motion, citing conflicting deposition testimonies regarding the color of traffic signals at the intersection. Plaintiff also failed to establish her non-negligence, leading to the denial of summary judgment on the affirmative defense of comparative negligence.
The central issue is whether the court erred in denying the plaintiff’s motion for summary judgment on negligence, comparative negligence, and the emergency operation defense under Vehicle and Traffic Law § 1104.
The court affirmed the denial of the plaintiff’s motion for summary judgment. It concluded that genuine issues of fact existed regarding the color of traffic signals, preventing a determination of negligence as a matter of law. Additionally, the court upheld the denial of summary judgment on comparative negligence, as plaintiff failed to establish her non-negligence. The court also rejected the motion to dismiss the emergency operation defense under Vehicle and Traffic Law § 1104, citing the existence of factual disputes surrounding Officer Rougeux’s emergency operation.
The central issue in this case revolves around the determination of negligence concerning a collision at an intersection between the plaintiff’s vehicle and a police vehicle operated by Officer Kelly Rougeux. Plaintiff sought summary judgment on negligence and serious injury, contending she had a green traffic signal. However, the defendant officer claimed she saw a green light but looked away before the collision.
Plaintiff failed to establish negligence, as her submissions created a material factual dispute over the traffic signal’s color. Her testimony clashed with the officer’s, who, due to looking away, couldn’t confirm the signal’s state. This discrepancy in witness accounts raised a genuine issue of fact regarding the color of the traffic signal at the intersection during the accident.
Regarding Vehicle and Traffic Law § 1104, plaintiff aimed to dismiss the emergency operation defense. However, the court upheld this defense because plaintiff didn’t conclusively show the officer’s conduct was outside the law’s exempt privileges. The officer’s pursuit of a suspected law violator, who had stopped at a gas station, kept her engaged in an emergency operation. Thus, plaintiff couldn’t establish the defense’s lack of merit as a matter of law.
In essence, the court’s decision hinged on unresolved factual disputes regarding the traffic signal and the officer’s engagement in an emergency operation, precluding a summary judgment in plaintiff’s favor.