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Gair, Gair, Conason, Rubinowitz, Bloom, Hershenhorn, Steigman & Mackauf is a New York Plaintiff's personal injury law firm specializing in automobile accidents, construction accidents, medical malpractice, products liability, police misconduct and all types of New York personal injury litigation.
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The Reckless Disregard Standard Of Care In New York Vehicle &Traffic Law Section 1104(e)

By Ernest R. Steigman

The Court of Appeals on February 17, 2011, in a 4 to 3 decision has just written an extremely interesting and important opinion (Kabir v. County of Monroe) regarding New York Vehicle & Traffic Law, Section 1104(e).

The Court held that the reckless disregard standard of care in V & T Law 1104(e) only applies when a driver of an authorized emergency vehicle involved in an emergency operation engages in the specific conduct exempted from the rules of the road by V & T Law 1104(b). Any other injury causing conduct of such a driver is now governed by the principles of ordinary negligence.

In Kabir the police officer was responding to a burglary alarm radio call. He did not activate his emergency lights or siren and was traveling well below the speed limits when he rear ended a vehicle in front of him which had stopped for a red light and was just beginning to slowly move forward. The officer admitted he had taken his eyes off the road for 2 to 3 seconds to look at the vehicle’s display panel.

The Court held that the reckless disregard standard did not apply and that ordinary negligence standard applied. In doing so, The Court of Appeals affirmed the Appellate Division decision (4th Dept.) (3-2 decision). The decision of the Court of Appeals is novel and far reaching. If the accident is not caused by the driver’s conduct spelled out in 1104(b), the reckless disregard standard will not be applied.

1104(b) permits four types of unlawful conduct. These are basically:

1. Stopping, standing or parking privileges;

2. Disobeying red lights or stop signs;

3. Speeding;

4. Disregarding regulations governing or direction of movement or turning.

It now behooves plaintiff’s to examine the precise conduct that caused the accident and attempt to argue that 1104(e) does not apply.

For example, suppose the officer in Kabir was exceeding the speed limit but the accident was caused by the officer’s taking his eyes off the road for 2 to 3 seconds to look at the display panel. Can plaintiff now argue that 1104(e) does not apply because speeding was not the proximate cause of the accident?

In a very strong dissent, Judge Graffeo joined by Judges Ciparick and Smith urged that all emergency vehicles should get the benefit of 1104(e).

The New York injury attorneys at Gair, Gair, Conason, Rubinowitz, Bloom, Hershenhorn, Steigman & Mackauf advocate for our clients’ full financial recovery through detailed, meticulous preparation for trial. If you have been injured in an automobile, truck or bus accident, please Contact our firm to discuss your case.