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2003 Court of Claims case finally resolved

Judgment now worth $14 million with accrued interest

By: Bennett Loudon//June 12, 2018

2003 Court of Claims case finally resolved

Judgment now worth $14 million with accrued interest

By: Bennett Loudon//June 12, 2018//

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The New York State Court of Appeals has upheld a multi-million-dollar judgment for a fatal 2003 motorcycle-truck crash in Wayne County.

In 2015, Linda M. Brown was awarded $7 million for the accident that killed her 43-year-old husband, Wayne Brown, at the intersection of Route 350 and Paddy Lane in the town of Ontario.

Due to the accumulation of interest, the judgment has now doubled, said Anthony LaDuca, one of Brown’s attorneys.

Brown was also represented by Michael Steinberg and Norman A. Palmiere.

Wayne Brown died after the motorcycle he was operating struck a pickup truck that pulled out in front him as he headed north on Route 350 on April 27, 2003. Linda Brown, a passenger, suffered multiple injuries that have required 27 surgeries, LaDuca said.

The pickup truck was driven by Henry Friend, who was eastbound on Paddy Lane and entered the intersection after stopping at a stop sign.

Friend, who is now deceased, testified that he looked both ways and did not see the Browns’ motorcycle. There is a curve on Route 350, just south of Paddy Lane, that the Browns had not yet come around when Friend looked that way.

Linda Brown claimed the intersection was dangerous and that the state was aware of it and did nothing. The speed limit is 55 miles per hour on Route 350 and there were no warnings of a dangerous curve.

Between 1995 and 1999 there were 14 right-angle collisions at the intersection, according to the six-page Court of Appeals decision released Thursday.

Early in the case, attorneys for the state argued that the state was entitled to governmental immunity but Court of Claims Judge Nicholas V. Midey Jr. disagreed because a safety study of the intersection was never completed.

But Midey also ruled that Brown’s attorneys failed to establish that the state’s inaction was a proximate cause of Wayne Brown’s death and dismissed the claims.

Brown appealed and the Appellate Division of state Supreme Court, Fourth Department, ruled 3-2 that Brown only had to prove that the intersection presented a dangerous condition that was the proximate cause of the accident, her injuries and her husband’s death.

The case went back to Midey, who ruled accordingly: The curve, the speed limit and the lack of a four-way stop amounted to a dangerous condition that was the proximate cause of the accident. And Midey found that the state was 100 percent liable.

Midey “found for the Browns and determined that Mr. Friend was not responsible for the accident, which makes sense in view of the accident history there and the vertical curve that made noticing a north-coming vehicle very difficult,” Steinberg said.

The Fourth Department upheld Midey and the Court of Appeals affirmed that ruling in the latest decision.

Friend was found guilty of failure to yield right of way, a violation. But that conviction was not admissible to help the state establish that Friend was at fault.

“There’s a general rule in New York state law that minor infractions, traffic infractions, are really of no value,” Steinberg said.

“The level of care and representation is not considered to be high enough for those decisions to be given any weight in more substantial court cases,” he said.

Attorneys for the state did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

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