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Steuer v. Town of Amherst

Appellate Division of the Supreme Court of New York, Fourth Department
Dec 30, 2002
753 N.Y.S.2d 257 (N.Y. App. Div. 2002)

Opinion

CA 02-01253

December 30, 2002.

Appeal from a judgment of Supreme Court, Erie County (Sconiers, J.), entered October 17, 2001, after a jury verdict, in favor of plaintiff and against defendant Town of Amherst in the amount of $200,357.15.

DE MARIE SCHOENBORN, P.C., BUFFALO (JOSEPH DE MARIE OF COUNSEL), FOR DEFENDANT-APPELLANT.

HOGAN WILLIG, PLLC, AMHERST (JOHN B. LICATA OF COUNSEL), FOR PLAINTIFF-RESPONDENT.

PRESENT: GREEN, J.P., PINE, HURLBUTT, BURNS, AND GORSKI, JJ.


MEMORANDUM AND ORDER

It is hereby ORDERED that the judgment so appealed from be and the same hereby is unanimously affirmed without costs.

Memorandum:

Plaintiff commenced this action seeking damages for injuries she sustained in a one-vehicle accident on a road maintained by the Town of Amherst (defendant). Plaintiff alleged that the accident was caused by a significant elevation differential between the newly repaved roadway and the shoulder of the roadway. The jury found that defendant was negligent and awarded plaintiff damages in the amount of $195,000, and Supreme Court denied defendant's motion to set aside the jury verdict. We reject the contention of defendant that reversal is required based on plaintiff's failure to plead or prove that it had prior written notice of the dangerous condition of the roadway pursuant to Town Law § 65-a (1). Prior written notice is not required where, as here, plaintiff establishes that defendant "acted affirmatively to create the dangerous condition" ( Nixdorf v. East Islip School Dist., 276 A.D.2d 759, 759; see Agrusa v. Town of Liberty, 291 A.D.2d 620, 621; Mayer v. Town of Brookhaven, 266 A.D.2d 360, 361). The fact that the repaving work on the roadway was performed by an independent contractor does not relieve defendant of liability ( see Lopes v. Rostad, 45 N.Y.2d 617, 623; McAllen v. City of New York, 270 A.D.2d 43, 44).

Contrary to defendant's further contention, plaintiff established that the roadway was not reasonably safe for vehicular traffic based upon the elevation differential between the roadway and the shoulder ( see Bottalico v. State of New York, 87 A.D.2d 807, 808, affd 59 N.Y.2d 302; cf. Green v. County of Allegany, 300 A.D.2d 1077 [Dec. 30, 2002]). The repaving work performed by the independent contractor was limited to the roadway and raised the level of the roadway approximately 1½ inches, and defendant failed to raise the level of the shoulder after the repaving work was completed. The resulting elevation differential between the roadway and the shoulder ranged from 1½ to 3 inches. Plaintiff's expert testified that the elevation differential at the approximate location where plaintiff first left the roadway was greater than the maximum acceptable differential pursuant to the applicable New York State standards. Plaintiff's expert and defendant's former superintendent of highways each testified that the elevation level depicted in photographs of the accident scene was unacceptable and would impede the ability of motorists to return safely to the roadway after veering onto the shoulder. Also contrary to defendant's contention, it cannot be said as a matter of law that plaintiff's familiarity with the roadway "superseded any negligence on [defendant's] part," and thus the issue of causation was properly left to the jury ( Appelbaum v. County of Sullivan, 222 A.D.2d 987, 990; see Alexander v. Eldred, 63 N.Y.2d 460, 467-469).

We reject defendant's further contention that the court erred in admitting the testimony of plaintiff's expert. The expert's opinion was properly based on facts in the record ( see Hambsch v. New York City Tr. Auth., 63 N.Y.2d 723, 725-726). The fact that the roadway had been repaved two months before the accident occurred and the expert did not inspect the scene of the accident until one month after the accident does not render his testimony inadmissible.

The court properly charged the jury on the emergency doctrine ( see Caristo v. Sanzone, 96 N.Y.2d 172, 175; Kuci v. Manhattan Bronx Surface Tr. Operating Auth., 88 N.Y.2d 923, 924; see generally Rivera v. New York City Tr. Auth., 77 N.Y.2d 322, 327, rearg denied 77 N.Y.2d 990). The court also properly allowed the jury to consider the aggravation of a preexisting condition as an injury caused by the accident. Plaintiff set forth that injury in her bill of particulars and thus it was sufficiently pleaded ( see Behan v. Data Probe Intl., 213 A.D.2d 439, 440; De Mento v. Nehi Beverages, 55 A.D.2d 794). The testimony of plaintiff's medical expert that sinusitis and temporomandibular joint dysfunction were interrelated was sufficient "to signify a probability as to the requisite causal connection," and, contrary to defendant's contention, the expert's opinion was "supported by a rational basis" ( Matter of Matusko v. Kennedy Valve Mfg. Co., 296 A.D.2d 726, 727; see Matott v. Ward, 48 N.Y.2d 455, 461). Furthermore, plaintiff and her treating physician testified that plaintiff has suffered an increased number of sinus infections since the accident.

Finally, we do not address the "questions presented" listed in the table of contents of defendant's brief but not discussed therein. Those "questions presented" are deemed abandoned ( see Ciesinski v. Town of Aurora, 202 A.D.2d 984).


Summaries of

Steuer v. Town of Amherst

Appellate Division of the Supreme Court of New York, Fourth Department
Dec 30, 2002
753 N.Y.S.2d 257 (N.Y. App. Div. 2002)
Case details for

Steuer v. Town of Amherst

Case Details

Full title:MELISSA A. STEUER, PLAINTIFF-RESPONDENT, v. TOWN OF AMHERST…

Court:Appellate Division of the Supreme Court of New York, Fourth Department

Date published: Dec 30, 2002

Citations

753 N.Y.S.2d 257 (N.Y. App. Div. 2002)
753 N.Y.S.2d 257

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