New York City is not liable for a car hitting two pedestrians while being chased by police through the Bronx in icy conditions, a unanimous Appellate Division, First Department, panel has ruled. The April 23 ruling in Rodriguez v. City of New York, 23513/04, reversed a March 2012 decision by Bronx Supreme Court Justice Larry Schachner denying the city's motion to dismiss the case.
The crash happened in January 2004, when police began chasing a car whose driver appeared too young to drive and which had a broken side-view mirror and defective brake light. The car ran two red lights and struck the pedestrians after losing control and skidding while making a turn. The pedestrians sued the driver and the city.
Vehicle and Traffic Law §1104 allows police to break traffic laws when engaged in an emergency operation. However, Schachner denied the city's motion to dismiss, ruling there were issues of fact as to whether the police were actually engaged in an emergency. The panel reversed, saying the drivers' undisputed running of red lights alone established that the police were protected by Vehicle and Traffic Law §1104.
The panel rejected a quote from a witness in a newspaper article that the police had bumped into the driver as unsupported hearsay. It said that another statement that the car was driving at 50 miles per hour when making the turn did not establish that the police were driving that fast. The panel said that "nothing in the record is sufficient to raise an issue of fact as to whether the police officers engaged in reckless conduct" and dismissed the case against the city. Justices Richard Andrias, John Sweeny , Leland DeGrasse , Helen Freedman and Rosalyn Richter sat on the panel.