The Fourth Department, over a dissent, determined the initial accident was not the proximate cause of the third accident in which plaintiff was injured. In the initial accident a car driven by Sheehan struck a barrier. The Sheehan car was left in the roadway. Plaintiff, who was not injured, got out of the Sheehan car and went to a safe area. The Sheehan car was then struck by another car driven by a non-party. Plaintiff went back to the accident scene where he was injured when there was yet another collision involving a third car driven by Gilray. The majority held that the initial accident created a condition for the accident which injured plaintiff, but was not the proximate cause of that accident:
Sheehan’s negligence, if any, ” did nothing more than to furnish the condition or give rise to the occasion by which [plaintiff’s] injury was made possible and which was brought about by the intervention of a new, independent and efficient cause’ ” … . Prior to the Gilray accident, the situation resulting from the first accident “was a static, completed occurrence” with plaintiff and all of the passengers of Sheehan’s vehicle safely off the roadway … . The Gilray accident arose from a “new and independent cause and not as [the] consequence of [Sheehan’s] original act” … . “The risk undertaken by plaintiff” in returning to the roadway was created by himself … .
FROM THE DISSENT:
Under the circumstances of this case, a factfinder could reasonably conclude that a foreseeable consequence of Sheehan’s negligence in losing control, striking the barrier, and leaving the disabled vehicle obstructing the left lane of a divided roadway without activating the flashing hazard lights at night is that motorists, unable to see the vehicle at they approached, would strike it… . In determining that the situation resulting from Sheehan’s accident was a static, completed occurrence prior to Gilray’s collision, the majority fails to account for the critical facts that the disabled vehicle was not moved safely off the roadway and instead remained in a position of peril obstructing the left lane without its flashing hazard lights activated, and that plaintiff was injured while positioned near the disabled vehicle … . Plaintiff’s positioning of himself in the area of the disabled vehicle where he was susceptible to further harm is also foreseeable. The fact that plaintiff, as a passenger involved in a vehicular accident, would leave a place of safety to return to the vehicle to speak with a responding officer—particularly where, as here, plaintiff was best positioned to provide the officer with information given the condition and preoccupation of Sheehan and the other passengers—is “an entirely normal or foreseeable consequence of the situation created by [Sheehan’s] negligence”… . Serrano v Gilray, 2017 NY Slip Op 05523, 4th Dept 7-7-17
NEGLIGENCE (TRAFFIC ACCIDENTS, INITIAL ACCIDENT FURNISHED A CONDITION FOR THE SUBSEQUENT ACCIDENT WHICH INJURED PLAINTIFF, BUT WAS NOT THE PROXIMATE CAUSE OF THE SUBSEQUENT ACCIDENT 4TH DEPT)/TRAFFIC ACCIDENTS (PROXIMATE CAUSE, INITIAL ACCIDENT FURNISHED A CONDITION FOR THE SUBSEQUENT ACCIDENT WHICH INJURED PLAINTIFF, BUT WAS NOT THE PROXIMATE CAUSE OF THE SUBSEQUENT ACCIDENT 4TH DEPT)/PROXIMATE CAUSE (TRAFFIC ACCIDENTS, INITIAL ACCIDENT FURNISHED A CONDITION FOR THE SUBSEQUENT ACCIDENT WHICH INJURED PLAINTIFF, BUT WAS NOT THE PROXIMATE CAUSE OF THE SUBSEQUENT ACCIDENT 4TH DEPT)