A state appeals court in New York last month upheld a $7.1 million verdict over an accident caused by negligent road work signage in New York City. The court said that liability should be reapportioned between the city and contractor. The city and Burtis Construction Co. Inc. appealed the 2013 jury verdict that had been returned in favor of James Gregware, who was injured in a five-car pileup. The jury found the incident was caused by Burtis’ inadequate signage warning drivers of two closed lanes. The appeals court said the evidence did not support the jury’s finding of 65 percent liability for the city and 35 percent for Burtis.
The appeals court also found that the city did not deserve a new trial even though the Plaintiff’s lawyer had called a city witness a liar during the trial. The city hired Burtis to repair a seam in the municipally owned highway in Manhattan in 2006. In the middle of the night on May 20 of that year, Mr. Gregware was driving on the highway and struck one of three cars that hit one another after the first driver tried to merge toward the highway’s one open lane. Gregware, then 41 years old, had exited his vehicle to speak with the other drivers and was seriously injured when a fifth car crashed into the vehicles. Gregware spent three weeks in the hospital and more than a month in a nursing home, and underwent five surgeries on his knee and is expected to need four more during his lifetime, according to the appeals court’s summary of the case.
In the October 2013 trial, a jury found the city 65 percent liable for the accident and Burtis 35 percent responsible. It awarded the Plaintiff $6 million for past and future pain and suffering, and $1,125,000 to his wife for past and future loss of consortium. The appeals court found the amount of the award reasonable, but said that evidence of the contractor’s role in setting up the inadequate lane closures could not support a finding of 35 percent liability, as the city had at most only failed to verify the safety of the site.
The appeals court also overturned the lower court’s denial of a post-trial motion for summary judgment in which the city said Burtis had indemnified it in the road work contract. It was unclear whether or not that portion of the ruling would require Burtis to pay the entirety of the judgment regardless of the ultimate apportionment of liability.
Contact us today for a free legal consultation with an experienced attorney.
Fields marked *may be required for submission.
If you would like to subscribe to the Jere Beasley Report digital edition, simply visit our Subscriptions page and provide the necessary information or call us at 800-898-2034.
Attorney Advertising - Prior results do not guarantee a similar outcome.