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Emergency Doctrine Rescues Taxi Driver (NY)

March 18, 2016

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<span style="color: #1f497d; font-family: 'Calibri','sans-serif'; font-size: 11pt;">Under the “emergency doctrine”,  if a driver is faced with a sudden and unexpected circumstance which leaves little or no time to consider alternative courses of conduct before making a speedy decision, that driver is not negligent if his or her reactions are reasonable and prudent in the emergency.</span>
<span style="color: #1f497d; font-family: 'Calibri','sans-serif'; font-size: 11pt;">In <em><a href="http://blog.wcmlaw.com/wp-content/uploads/2016/03/Kandel-v-FN-Taxi-Inc..pdf" rel="">Kandel v FN Taxi, Inc.,</a> </em> the plaintiff was injured when he was pinned between two vehicles after a multi-vehicle accident.  The plaintiff and one of the defendants had been involved in an accident after sliding on ice.  Their cars were stopped in the right lane of a three-lane highway when a vehicle belonging to a non-party crashed into the median and came to rest in the left lane.   A yellow cab, after rounding a curve, saw the other vehicles stopped in the left and right lanes.  The driver stepped on his brakes, but a sheet of black ice on the highway caused the cab to slide and hit  the plaintiff’s vehicle pinning the plaintiff between his own car and the other vehicle in the right lane.  </span>
<span style="color: #1f497d; font-family: 'Calibri','sans-serif'; font-size: 11pt;">The cab driver and owner successfully moved for summary judgment, arguing that the emergency doctrine precluded plaintiff from pursuing a negligence claim against them.  The decision was affirmed on appeal.  The Second Department found that the cab driver was faced with an emergency when he observed three crashed vehicles blocking two lanes of traffic.  There was no evidence the driver was speeding, nor did he have reason to believe there would be black ice on the road on an otherwise dry day.   </span>
<span style="color: #1f497d; font-family: 'Calibri','sans-serif'; font-size: 11pt;"> </span><span style="color: #1f497d; font-family: 'Calibri','sans-serif'; font-size: 11pt;">The court held that under these particular circumstances, the cab driver acted reasonably when he hit the brakes and tried to steer the taxi clear of the other vehicles.  Although the reasonableness of a driver’s actions can raise a triable issue of fact to defeat summary judgment, the court found that plaintiff did present any evidence that the cab driver either contributed to or could have avoided hitting plaintiff’s car.   </span>
<span style="color: #1f497d; font-family: 'Calibri','sans-serif'; font-size: 11pt;">Thanks to Sheree Fitzgerald for her contribution.</span>
<span style="color: #1f497d; font-family: 'Calibri','sans-serif'; font-size: 11pt;">For more information, contact Denise Fontana Ricci at <a href="mailto:dricci@wcmlaw.com">dricci@wcmlaw.com</a>. </span>
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