The Second Department, reversing Supreme Court, determined the defendant police officer (Hurley) was engaged in an emergency operation when the officer’s car struck the plaintiffs’ car as the officer made a turn onto the street where plaintiffs’ car was at a stop sign. Although the officer thought the urgency had diminished and had turned off the siren and lights, he was awaiting word that the emergency was over. The police had been called by a resident who saw someone on her porch who then ran into the woods. Another officer had stopped a man who explained he was looking for his dog. That story was being checked out when the accident occurred:
The fact that Hurley believed the call was no longer a “high” priority and had deactivated the lights and siren on his vehicle does not, as the plaintiffs contend, mean that Hurley was no longer engaged in an emergency operation … . An “emergency operation” is statutorily defined to mean, among other things, “[t]he operation . . . of an authorized emergency vehicle, when such vehicle is . . . responding to . . . the scene of a[ ] . . . police call” (Vehicle and Traffic Law § 114-b … ). Since Hurley was responding to the scene of a police call at the time of the accident, he was engaged in an emergency operation … .
… Hurley was engaged in privileged conduct at the time of the accident, as the driver of an authorized emergency vehicle is permitted to, inter alia, “[d]isregard regulations governing directions of movement” (Vehicle and Traffic Law § 1104[b] …). As such, Hurley’s conduct was governed by the reckless disregard standard … .
The reckless disregard standard “demands more than a showing of a lack of due care under the circumstances’—the showing typically associated with ordinary negligence claims. It requires evidence that the actor has intentionally done an act of an unreasonable character in disregard of a known or obvious risk that was so great as to make it highly probable that harm would follow’ and has done so with conscious indifference to the outcome” … . “This standard requires a showing of more than a momentary lapse in judgment” … . Here, although Hurley’s conduct may have constituted a momentary lapse in judgment, it did not rise to the level of reckless disregard for the safety of others … . Proce v Town of Stony Point, 2020 NY Slip Op 04195, Second Dept 7-22-20