New York State Court of Claims

New York State Court of Claims
MOTTA v. STATE OF NEW YORK, NEW YORK STATE THRUWAY AUTHORITY and NEW YORK STATE DIVISION OF STATE POLICE, # 2019-054-019, Claim No. 121655, Motion No. M-93248

Synopsis

Summary judgment awarded to defendant dismissing the claim, traffic control by State trooper entitled to government immunity.

Case information

UID: 2019-054-019
Claimant(s): JOHN J. MOTTA, JR. and MICHELLE ACEVEDO
Claimant short name: MOTTA
Footnote (claimant name) :
Defendant(s): STATE OF NEW YORK, NEW YORK STATE THRUWAY AUTHORITY and NEW YORK STATE DIVISION OF STATE POLICE
Footnote (defendant name) :
Third-party claimant(s):
Third-party defendant(s):
Claim number(s): 121655
Motion number(s): M-93248
Cross-motion number(s):
Judge: WALTER RIVERA
Claimant's attorney: HARLAN A. PLATZ, PLLC
By: Harlan A. Platz, Esq.
Defendant's attorney: HON. LETITIA JAMES
Attorney General for the State of New York
By: Rachel Zaffrann, Deputy Assistant Attorney General
Third-party defendant's attorney:
Signature date: April 5, 2019
City: White Plains
Comments:
Official citation:
Appellate results:
See also (multicaptioned case)

Decision

The following papers numbered 1-3 were read and considered by the Court on defendants' motion to dismiss:

Notice of Motion, Attorney's Supporting Affirmation and Exhibits........................1

Attorney's Affirmation in Opposition and Exhibits..................................................2

Defendants' Reply Affirmation and Exhibit.............................................................3

This claim arises out of an accident that occurred at approximately 11:00 a.m. on September 11, 2011, when claimant, John J. Motta, Jr.,(1) was driving his motorcycle, along with other motorcyclists, as a participant in a September 11th tribute ride that proceeded southbound on the New York State Thruway. It was undisputed that approximately 2,000 motorcyclists participated in the 17-mile journey from Orange County to New York City. Near the exit 14 interchange, a motor vehicle struck claimant, causing him to sustain severe injuries.

The claim alleges that the New York State Police was negligent in its failure to properly channel motor-vehicle traffic away from the motorcyclists participating in the tribute. It is further alleged that the State Police failed to prevent the offending motorist from entering the New York State Thruway at an entrance ramp off Old Nyack Turnpike in Spring Valley, Rockland County, which should have been made inaccessible by the State Police (Claim, 12). Claimants do not allege that the State Police had either a special duty to claimant or a special relationship with claimant.

It is noted that claimants also filed a complaint in New York State Supreme Court against various parties including the police departments of Westchester County, Rockland County, the Town of Mount Pleasant and the Town of Clarkstown, based on the same allegations of wrongdoing alleged in this claim (Defendant's Ex. D). By Decision and Order dated June 5, 2015, the New York State Supreme Court awarded summary judgment to the defendants dismissing the complaint, as a matter of law, based upon the doctrine of government immunity and claimants' failure to establish a special relationship to enable claimants to maintain a claim against a public entity performing a governmental function (Motta v Pignard, Sup Ct, Westchester County, Adler, J., index No. 68819/2012; Ex. E).

So too here, the Court notes that, under the doctrine of governmental immunity, the State cannot be held liable for the negligent performance of a classic governmental function such as traffic control by the State Police, absent a special duty to claimant, and no such showing has been made in this matter (see Balsam v Delma Eng'g Corp., 90 NY2d 966, 968 [1997] [municipality bears no liability for its negligence in failing to avert traffic or close roadway as traffic regulation is a classic government function immunized under the doctrine of government immunity]; Lynch v State of New York, 37 AD3d 772 [2d Dept 2007] [state trooper's failure to divert traffic was protected by qualified immunity and there was no special duty to claimant]). Furthermore, the Court finds that there are no genuine issues of material fact regarding the applicability of the doctrine of qualified immunity in the case at bar.

Accordingly, defendants' motion for summary judgment dismissing the claim, as a matter of law, is hereby GRANTED.

April 5, 2019

White Plains, New York

WALTER RIVERA

Judge of the Court of Claims


1. The claim of Michelle Acevedo, claimant's wife, is derivative.