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If traveling on New York City buses, you should expect to encounter plenty of jerks along the way. No, not the people you meet; they are great. But the bus itself will jerk and jolt as it starts and stops, maneuvering from traffic to curb and back again. Some of these movements will be more sudden and violent than others. If a sudden bus movement causes you to fall and results in an injury, is the bus company liable, or is this just something that you have to learn to live with? The answer is, it depends.
Buses and common carriers can be liable when their passengers are injured due to a sudden, abrupt movement, like a turn, start or stop, but only if the injured plaintiff can show that the movement was “unusual and violent.” The plaintiff must do more than just characterize the motion of the bus as unusual and violent in the complaint. The plaintiff must show it by some objective evidence, such as by showing the force propelled the plaintiff halfway down the length of the bus.
These requirements were recently addressed by the Nassau County court in Jones v. MTA. In that case, the plaintiff fell when the bus pulled out from the curb and into traffic “abruptly” and made a “sudden movement” into a moving lane. The court found that this was merely the plaintiff’s characterization of the bus movement, despite the fact that the plaintiff’s fall caused her “to sustain a facture and tendon tear requiring surgical intervention.” The fact of her injury alone was not sufficient for the court to accept the bus’ movement as unusual or violent, and the court dismissed the case.
We have talked in this blog about what it takes for a plaintiff to survive a motion for summary judgment (see Not All Eye Injuries Are Serious Injuries). Here the defendant was able to convince the court that the plaintiff’s initial showing was nothing more than her own characterization of the stop as sudden and violent. Expect the defendant in any case to strongly deny liability, and be prepared to marshal the facts in your case to support your position from the very beginning, or your case may be over before it is even started. If you have been injured while traveling on a bus in Long Island or throughout the New York City metropolitan area, contact Leandros A. Vrionedes, P.C. for a free consultation with an experienced New York personal injury attorney.