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Does The Operator Of A Snowplow Need To Operate By The Rules Of The Road? (NY)

January 29, 2021

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<p style="text-align: justify;">In <em><a href="">Kaffash v. Village of Great Neck Estates</a>,</em> the Appellate Division, Second Department addressed whether the defendants were entitled to summary judgment on the issue of liability after the defendant struck the plaintiff while operating a snowplow.</p>
<p style="text-align: justify;">On the date in question, one of the defendants was operating a snowplow owned by his employer (co-defendant). While moving the plow in reverse, the rear bumper struck the plaintiff in the back while plaintiff was walking in the middle of the street. The defendants eventually moved for summary judgment dismissing the complaint as asserted against them.</p>
The court stated, “A snowplow operator 'actually engaged in work on a highway' is exempt from the rules of the road and may be held liable only for damages caused by an act done in 'reckless disregard for the safety of others”. (citations omitted). Reckless disregard requires more than a momentary lapse in judgment. (citations omitted). "This requires a showing that the operator acted in conscious disregard of a known or obvious risk that was so great as to make it highly probable that harm would follow". (citations omitted).
<p style="text-align: justify;">The defendants were able to show they were entitled to summary judgment by submitting the testimony of the defendant – operator which stated: 1) he was traveling at a speed of five to seven miles per hour; 2) that the lights and beeping alert were activated at the time of the accident; and 3) that the defendant was looking in the mirrors of the snowplow and did not see the plaintiff prior to the accident. As such, the Court held that the defendant did not act recklessly, and plaintiff failed to show a triable issue of fact.</p>
<p style="text-align: justify;">This decision serves as a reminder that the plaintiff has a higher burden to meet when alleging personal injuries against the operator of a snow plow while engaged in work on a highway.</p>
<p style="text-align: justify;">Thanks to Corey Morgenstern for his contribution to this post.  Please email <a href="">Georgia Coats</a> with any questions.</p>

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