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Tuesday, July 16, 2024 | Back issues
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Jewish Nonprofit Off the Hook in Bus Stop Mishap

(CN) - A woman who was backed over by her sister while waiting for a bus cannot sue the Jewish nonprofit that owned the loading zone, a federal judge ruled.

On the night of Aug. 14, 2010, accident, Sarah Rotenberg had been planning to return to her home in Brooklyn, N.Y., via the Lake Charter bus service after visiting her sister, Chana Shereshevsky, to observe the Jewish Sabbath in Lakewood, N.J.

The bus picked passengers up at the parking lot for Capitol Motel, owned by the nonprofit Chevra Shas which promotes "the education in secular Orthodox Jewish studies, including but not limited to synagogue services [and] day camp facilities."

Shereshevsky drove her sister to the stop and waited as the bus pulled in and parked behind her car. After helping with her sister's luggage, Shereshevsky returned to the driver's seat and Rotenberg stood with the assembled passengers.

Shereshevsky then reversed into the passengers, her sister included, who allegedly wound up underneath the vehicle and required hospitalization.

Rotenberg sued the bus company, Chevra Shas and her sister, who was cited for careless driving. The court noted that it is unproven whether the car accelerated unexpectedly because of a malfunction.

U.S. District Judge Freda Wolfson granted Lake Charter and Chevra Shas summary judgment on Jan. 24, holding that Shereshevsky's action is a superseding intervening cause that exculpates the other defendants.

The judge tossed aside the claim that it was "eminently foreseeable" that a car backing out of a parking space could strike someone standing in the lot.

"I conclude that (1) it was not reasonably foreseeable to either Lake Charter or Chevra Shas that by using the Capitol Motel parking lot as a bus stop, a person in a parked car - who was in the parking lot for purposes related to the bus service - would reverse her automobile into the group of individuals waiting to board the bus; or (2) even if it was foreseeable that a person in a parked car would try to operate their car to leave the parking stall and exit the parking lot while the bus and its passengers were still present nearby, it was not foreseeable that this individual would operate her car in the extraordinarily negligent manner that Shereshevsky did - i.e., by failing to apprise herself of the whereabouts of the bus or passengers parked behind her car," the unpublished ruling states.

The fact that only Shereshevsky was cited for reckless driving on the night of the incident also indicates that her actions are a superseding cause, the judge ruled.

"Accordingly, I find that regardless of any duty owed to plaintiff by Lake Charter or Chevra Shas, Shereshevsky's unilateral action to reverse her car in the parking lot without waiting for the passengers to board the Lake Charter bus, or for the bus to depart, is an intervening cause that supersedes any action of Lake Charter or Chevra Shas," Wolfson wrote.

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