On March 23, 2004 at around 6:00 A.M. a van was being driven by a man who fell asleep at the wheel. He ran his van into the rear of a commercial commuter van that was double-parked on First Avenue near East 94th Street in Manhattan. A passenger who had just boarded the commercial commuter van and was not yet belted in to her seat was injured. She filed a lawsuit alleging that the commercial commuter van driver and the company that he worked for were just as liable for the accident as the man who fell asleep at the wheel and ran in to the back end of the commercial commuter van. Is there a DUI criminal charge in the offing?
The commercial commuter van driver and his company dispute this fact. They feel that a driver who is asleep at the wheel is more likely to cause a truck accident than the fact that the commercial commuter van was double parked. It was argued that while it could be a foreseeable event that a person who is asleep while driving will hit another car; it is also a foreseeable event that a commercial commuter van that is double parked on a busy Manhattan street for five minutes will be struck in the rear end by another vehicle. The issue at question is one of proximate cause. Is a person or company liable for personal injury resulting from an accident when they were merely in a place that sets a greater possibility for an accident to occur just as responsible for the accident as the person who directly stumbles in to the place that is already set up for a disaster? The court cited several precedent cases that allow for each side of this argument.
Ultimately the Supreme Court of Bronx County found that the motions by the driver of the commercial commuter van and the company that he worked for were possibly liable for the accident and the injuries which occurred as a result of the incident. Their request for summary judgment on liability which was denied by the district court is still denied. The Supreme Court agrees with the district court in this matter and affirms their decisions.
While courts can find it difficult to determine who holds the most fault in a truck accident, especially where both parties hold some sense of the liability, it is up to a jury to determine ultimate responsibility.
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