An appellate court has ruled that a New York Department of Motor Vehicles employee who suffered an injury when a student crashed during a driving test may proceed with a lawsuit against a driving school and the student. The decision overruled an earlier decision from a lower court.
The Appellate Division, Second Department unanimously decided that the defendants in the case failed to prove that legal action was prevented because of the doctrine of assumption of risk. According to the panel, the fact that the plaintiff knowingly entered a vehicle operated by a motorist without a license simply raised a “tri-able issue of fact” regarding her comparative negligence.
The accident at the center of the case occurred in September 2010, when the victim was reportedly administering a driving test to a student driver. Not long after the test began, the student ran directly into a street sign while attempting to make a right turn at a Queens intersection. The instructor attempted to use the passenger-side brake in the vehicle before the collision happened, but the brake failed. The instructor suffered a torn meniscus and rotator cuff, requiring surgeries.
In the lawsuit, the instructor claimed that the school was negligent in its maintenance and management of the vehicle and that the student was negligent in her operation of the vehicle. The school countered by arguing that the instructor assumed the risk of getting into the vehicle with an unlicensed driver, which the Appellate Court rejected.
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