Claim Of Injury On A City Bus Fails To Take Off From The Ground (NY)
In this week’s review, we study a quirky case where a plaintiff sued the MTA Bus Company because she sustained serious injury when she fell from a sudden and violent stop on a New York City bus. (Who among us has not been in this common situation at one point while living in New York City.)
In Orji v. MTA Bus Co., NY Slip Op 02811 (2d Dept. 2022), the plaintiff alleged the city bus stopped at a red traffic light at an intersection, causing her to lose her grip on the railing and fall. To establish a prima facie case of negligence against a common carrier for injuries sustained by a passenger as a result of the movement of the vehicle, a plaintiff must establish that the movement consisted of a jerk or lurch that was “unusual and violent” (Urquhart v. New York City Tr. Auth., 85 NY2d 828, 830, quoting Trudell v. New York R.T. Corp., 281 NY 82, 85; see, Mastrantonakis v. Metropolitan Transp. Auth., 170 AD3d 823, 824). “Moreover, a plaintiff may not satisfy that burden of proof merely by characterizing the stop as unusual and violent” (Mastrantonakis v. Metropolitan Transp. Auth., 170 AD3d at 824). There must be “objective evidence of the force of the stop sufficient to establish an inference that the stop was extraordinary and violent, of a different class than the jerks and jolts commonly experienced in city bus travel and, therefore, attributable to the negligence of defendant” (Urquhart v. New York City Tr. Auth., 85 NY2d at 830). The Appellate court indicated the MTA had the burden of proving the movement of the bus was not unusual and violent. (Mastrantonakis v. Metropolitan Transp. Auth., 170 AD3d at 825). The appellate court opined the MTA satisfied their burden for summary judgment because plaintiff testified that the sudden stop by the bus was not unusual and was not different from the regular jerks and jolts that she experienced while traveling on a city bus. Moreover, the plaintiff said she was the only person who fell after the sudden stop, and she could not testify how fast the bus was traveling before the sudden stop.
This case highlights a very specific standard of driving for city bus operators and that standard can be used by carriers in defense of bus companies transporting public passengers. The sudden stop and go traffic experienced by average New Yorkers every day may seem violent at times, but it comes with the territory. As a rule, bus operators with public patrons should always be mindful of any sudden movements which could cause an injury without even colliding with another vehicle. Of course, all of this liability can be mitigated if we simply drive a little slower in the city streets.
Thanks to Raymond Gonzalez for his contribution to this article. Should you have any questions, please contact Tom Bracken.