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Emergency Doctrine Upheld (NY)

March 27, 2019

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<p style="text-align: justify;">In <a href="https://www.wcmlaw.com/wp-content/uploads/2019/03/Santana-v.-Metropolitan-Transp.-Co..pdf"><em>Santana v. Metropolitan Transp. Co.</em></a><em>, </em>the Appellate Division, First Department affirmed a Supreme Court decision involving the application of the “emergency doctrine” to excuse a defendant’s alleged negligent actions.</p>
<p style="text-align: justify;">After a near collision when a car suddenly cut off a Metropolitan Transportation Company (MTA) bus, the plaintiff filed a lawsuit in New York County Supreme Court naming The City of New York and the MTA as defendants asserting that the bus driver acted negligently by applying the brakes and turning the bus to avoid another vehicle entering into the bus’ lane.</p>
<p style="text-align: justify;">The MTA moved for summary judgment, claiming that the emergency doctrine required immediate action, and the bus driver’s reaction of pressing the brake with enough force while turning the bus slightly to prevent a collision with the car entering the bus’ lane was a reasonable response to the emergency.  The plaintiff opposed the summary judgment motion, arguing that there was an issue of fact regarding the propriety of the emergency doctrine, because the car had tried to enter the bus’ lane once prior.  Also, the plaintiff presented a procedural argument in opposition, claiming that the MTA’s answer did not plead the emergency doctrine as an affirmative defense.</p>
<p style="text-align: justify;">New York County Supreme Court issued a decision granting the motion, and dismissing the Complaint.  On appeal, the Appellate Division addressed the application of the emergency doctrine, and affirmed the findings by the trial court.  The Appellate Division found that there was no question that the bus driver did not create the emergency, or could have otherwise avoided the collusion.  Due to the emergency situation, the MTA driver was required to take immediate action, and his action was an appropriate response to the emergency.  Lastly, the Appellate Division found that the trial court providently exercised its discretion in determining that it would consider the emergency doctrine affirmative defense even though it was not pleaded in the MTA's Answer.</p>
Thanks to George Parpas for his contribution to this post.

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