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Plaintiff suffered a spinal injury from a dislodged parking sign. Honer v. McComb, 6 N.Y.S.3d 849 (N.Y. App. Div. 2015)


In Honer v. McComb, 6 N.Y.S.3d 849 (N.Y. App. Div. 2015), the County of Monroe appealed a decision denying their motion for summary judgment, which sought to dismiss the complaint against them. The incident involved a parking sign that became dislodged and struck the plaintiff, resulting in a catastrophic spinal injury.

Background Facts
On May 3, 2006, a vehicle driven by John Doe and owned by Kelly McComb struck a parking sign on a sidewalk. The sign, after being hit, detached from its base and flew through the air, hitting the plaintiff, who was standing nearby. This caused the plaintiff to sustain severe spinal injuries.

The County of Monroe was responsible for the City of Rochester’s traffic engineering services, including the maintenance of the parking sign. In 1999, the County had reinstalled the sign after it was reported to be bent. The reinstallation involved attaching the sign to a channel post, which was secured into the ground but left part of the base post exposed above the ground. The sign remained in this position until the accident in 2006.

The plaintiff filed a lawsuit against the County, claiming that their negligence in reinstalling the sign caused her injuries. The County sought summary judgment to dismiss the complaint, arguing they did not owe a duty of care to the plaintiff and that their actions were not the proximate cause of her injuries.

Whether the County of Monroe was negligent in their reinstallation and maintenance of the parking sign and whether this negligence was a proximate cause of the plaintiff’s injuries.

The court denied the County’s motion for summary judgment. The court determined that the County owed a duty of care to the plaintiff and that there were factual disputes regarding the proximate cause of the plaintiff’s injuries. Therefore, the case was allowed to proceed to trial.

The court’s decision rested on several key points. The court found that the County owed a duty of care to the plaintiff based on their agreement with the City of Rochester. This agreement placed the responsibility of maintaining traffic signs on the County. The court cited precedents stating that a contractual obligation to maintain safety can extend to third parties, such as pedestrians. The County’s comprehensive agreement with the City meant they had entirely taken over the City’s duty regarding traffic signs, creating a duty of care towards the plaintiff.

The court addressed whether the County’s alleged negligence was a proximate cause of the plaintiff’s injuries. Although the County presented an expert’s affidavit suggesting they were not the proximate cause, the plaintiff’s expert provided conflicting testimony. The plaintiff’s expert argued that the County improperly installed a breakaway signpost, which contributed significantly to the accident. The expert noted that the improper placement of the sign post one foot above the ground increased the risk of it becoming a high-flying projectile when struck, rather than bending closer to the ground. These conflicting expert opinions presented issues of fact that needed to be resolved by a jury.

The County contended that the court did not address their entitlement to summary judgment against McComb, the vehicle owner. The court clarified that the County was entitled to summary judgment regarding McComb’s liability. McComb had admitted ownership of the vehicle and agreed that she was liable to the plaintiff due to Doe’s negligence. However, this did not absolve the County from potential liability.

The court’s denial of the County’s motion for summary judgment means that the case will proceed to trial. This decision underscores the complexity of determining negligence and proximate cause in personal injury cases, especially when multiple parties and conflicting expert testimonies are involved.

If you or someone you know has suffered a spinal injury due to negligence, it is essential to seek expert legal guidance. A knowledgeable New York spinal injury lawyer can help navigate the complexities of personal injury claims and work to secure the compensation you deserve. At Stephen Bilkis & Associates, we understand the intricate details of such cases and can help you build a strong case. Contact us today to discuss your case and take the first step towards achieving justice and securing your future.

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