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More than 15 years have passed since the plaintiffs were injured in a New York bus accident, but their search for justice and compensation continues. The latest chapter in their saga came last October, when the New York Court of Appeal reached a decision in their favor. The litigation continues, however.
In 1994, Gloria Doomes and her two infants were among the passengers returning from a visit to Raybrook State Correctional Facility aboard a bus owned and operated by Best Transit Corp. During the trip, the bus driver fell asleep at the wheel and veered from the right-hand lane to the left, and onto the median and a sloping embankment. The driver woke up and tried to regain control, but was unable to, and the bus rolled over several times. Doomes and other injured passengers sued several entities, including the bus manufacturer, Warrick Industries, for failing to install seatbelts, among other things.
The jury found Warrick liable for negligence in failing to install seatbelts and awarded $8 million to Doomes and multi-million dollar verdicts to the other plaintiffs, as well. These awards were reduced by the court, but most still remained as multi-million dollar judgments. Warrick appealed, claiming that the plaintiff’s state law claims were preempted by the presence of federal regulations passed by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, which do not require seat belts on that particular type of bus, except for the driver. The Appellate Division of the Supreme Court, First Department, agreed and reversed the decision of the trial court.
The Court of Appeals of New York reversed the appellate department’s decision, finding no express or implied preemption. In fact, federal law states specifically that “Compliance with a motor vehicle safety standard prescribed under this chapter does not exempt a person from liability at common law” 49 USC 30103(e) The case, Doomes & c. v. Best Transit Corp. et al., has now been sent back (remanded) to the Appellate Division for consideration of issues raised on appeal but not yet determined by that court.
New York City personal injury attorney Leandros Vrionedes handles bus accident cases involving negligence and manufacturer liability for defective products. If you have been injured in a New York bus accident, contact Leandros A. Vrionedes, P.C. for a free consultation.