The Fourth Department, reversing the Court of Claims, determined the state’s motion for summary judgment in this “white out” traffic accident case should not have been granted. Claimants argued the state had notice of a recurring white=out condition caused by blowing snow on a portion of a state highway. Claimant’s decedent died in a multivehicle accident in white out conditions:
… [T]he claimants raised a triable issue of fact with respect to whether defendant had actual knowledge of “an ongoing and recurring dangerous condition in the area of the accident” … . Notably, claimants submitted a Highway Safety Investigation Report that was prepared by an employee of defendant in December 2008. The report states that it was written in response to the subject accident with the purpose of “evaluat[ing] the frequency and potential for similar accidents and evaluate potential countermeasures.” The report compared the number and severity of the accidents on that portion of highway to those occurring elsewhere on I-390, and noted that, “[a]lthough the number of accidents in the study area was lower, the severity of the accidents was [greater].” The report also noted that “[s]everal factors exist which increase the degree of risk of poor visibility and drifting due to blowing snow in this section.” Such factors included the large, flat airport property next to the highway, the “abrupt, topographic change due to the proximity of the airport runway and former Pennsylvania railroad embankment,” and the section’s slight reverse curve. The data thus suggested that “snow on the road [was] an issue to be addressed in this area” and that, although the number of accidents was not extraordinarily high, “their occurrence was sufficiently sensational, disquieting to the public, and disruptive to the traveling public and [defendant] to justify making more than ordinary efforts to prevent them.” Furthermore, the deposition testimony of employees of defendant established that, for years prior to the accident, blowing and drifting snow had been an issue on that section of I-390.
We also agree with claimants that the court erred in determining that defendant established that the lack of a snow fence was not a proximate cause of the accident. Klepanchuk v State of N.Y. Dept. of Transp., 2020 NY Slip Op 07766, Fourth Dept 12-23-20