The Fourth Department, reversing Supreme Court, determined defendant’s motion to dismiss the complaint in this traffic accident case should not have been granted. Plaintiff pulled into defendant’s lane of traffic to go around a mail truck. Just prior to the collision with plaintiff two other cars had passed the mail truck by pulling into defendant’s lane, yet plaintiff had not disengaged the cruise control. There was a question of fact whether defendant responded appropriately to the emergency:
A person facing an emergency is “not automatically absolve[d] . . . from liability” … . In determining whether the actions of a driver are reasonable in light of an emergency situation, the factfinder must consider “both the driver’s awareness of the situation and [the driver’s] actions prior to the occurrence of the emergency” … .
Defendant admitted that, after she noticed the mail truck, she observed two motor vehicles pass it by pulling out from behind the truck, crossing completely into the westbound lane, and returning to the eastbound lane of travel, but she nevertheless continued in the westbound lane without deactivating her cruise control. She then saw plaintiff’s vehicle cross over into her lane “possibly to see if there was oncoming traffic” before it reentered the eastbound lane. It was not until that point that plaintiff deactivated her cruise control, which had been set to 45 miles per hour. We conclude that issues of fact exist whether, given her observations, defendant responded reasonably under the circumstances … . Carollo v Solotes, 2023 NY Slip Op 05803, Fourth Dept 11-17-23
Practice Point: Here plaintiff entered defendant’s oncoming law to pass a mail truck and collided with defendant. Usually an emergency will absolve a driver of liability. But there was evidence two other cars had pulled into defendant’s lane to pass the mail truck and defendant did not disengage the cruise control. Therefore there was a question of fact whether defendant responded reasonably to the emergency.