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Sunday, July 14, 2024 | Back issues
Courthouse News Service Courthouse News Service

Court Reverses Wrongful Death Suit Against State

(CN) - New York state was held liable for the death of a motorist whose car skidded off a snowy bridge 36 hours after another fatal accident happened in the same manner on that bridge, a New York appeals court ruled.

The family of William Gardner sued the state when his car slid on an icy highway bridge, hit a snowbank packed against the concrete barrier and launched off the bridge to the roadway below.

A similar accident had taken place there 36 hours earlier. Media reports say the first accident caused the death of Jason Rhoades, the former mayor of East Syracuse. Both accidents reportedly occurred on a stretch of Interstate 81 in Syracuse.

The trial court had ruled in the state's favor, finding that the state lacked the resources to fix the bridge's hazardous condition despite having notice of the problem.

Last week, however, the justices of the state's Rochester-based fourth department appellate court overturned the ruling and granted the Gardners judgment on liability.

"Only 2.1 inches of snow fell between the two accidents, including 0.2 inches that fell on the day of the decedent's accident," the ruling states. "There is no fair interpretation of the evidence that defendant's response to a deadly condition by removing minimal snow and ice accumulations while failing to remove the snowbank that caused the fatality was reasonable."

The court remanded the case for a determination of damages.

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