Grievously Injured Bicyclist Who Went Through Red Light

Roadway design cases against municipalities pose some of the most challenging litigation hurdles in the field of civil justice. In order to even get to the point where an attorney may be given the opportunity to present the case at trial, there must be evidence to overcome the "qualified immunity" enjoyed by all municipalities in this State. Specifically, it is not enough to show that the municipality, the City of NY in this case, was negligent; it is necessary to show there were a multitude of accidents in the same location without any action taken thereafter by the City, or in a case such as ours without prior accidents, that the City did not use any reasonable basis to configure the roadway and/or its traffic signals.

Through five years of diligent discovery and asking the right questions at depositions, Bill Hepner was able to uncover the evidence necessary in this case to arguably overcome the stringent requirements of the law, and convince the City that it would be taking a substantial risk by not settling this action, in which our client was partially paralyzed after she traveled through a red light and collided with a driver who had a $25,000 insurance policy.

Shortly before the commencement of trial by Bill, Cliff Shapiro was able to negotiate a $1.1 million settlement with the City. This was because Bill was able to establish that the intersection, a large location in Brooklyn which included a down ramp from an elevated portion of the BQE, was confusing to travelers, with respect to the way its traffic signals were placed and timed.

Bill had to overcome the qualified immunity arguments of the City, as well as the fact that no prior bicyclists or drivers had been sufficiently confused in the past to result in them passing a red light and having an accident as our client did. This case was made more difficult by the fact that plaintiff was familiar with the area.

The result in this difficult liability case serves to highlight the importance of creative, diligent lawyering, as well as the obvious respect our firm enjoys from conservative and difficult defendants such as the City of New York. Subsequent to the settlement with the City, Bill negotiated an additional $200,000 settlement with the State of NY, against which a separate action was pending due to the State's limited involvement. Very often a roadway will have implications for both the State and City of New York.

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