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In a distracted driving case, Court finds New York State 75% liable for claimant’s accident injuries. Jordan v. State # 2019-029-040 (N.Y. Ct. Cl. Jun. 26, 2019)


In a distracted driving case, the claimant was involved in an accident with a state-owned van. Using a cell phone while driving is commonly referred to as distracted driving, a dangerous practice that diverts a driver’s attention away from the road. In New York, this behavior is explicitly prohibited under traffic laws due to its potential to cause accidents, injuries, and fatalities. The laws aim to ensure that drivers maintain full focus on operating their vehicles safely. Violations of these laws can result in fines, penalties, and legal consequences, reflecting the serious risks associated with distracted driving and the importance of adhering to regulations designed to protect public safety on the roads.

Background Facts
Ruben de Jesus Monroy Jordan was employed by Shining Star Landscaping and had traveled to New City for a landscaping job at a residence located off West Clarkstown Road (WCR).  While preparing to cross WCR, Mr. Monroy Jordan observed fast-moving traffic in both directions. He positioned the mower near the edge of the road and was waiting for a safe moment to proceed when a van approached from his left. Despite his view being unobstructed, he did not see the van until it collided with the mower. The impact threw him into the air, causing him to land on the pavement and sustain injuries. The van, which had struck the mower and became entangled with it, dragged both for a significant distance. During his testimony, Mr. Monroy Jordan mentioned that he observed the defendant using a cell phone while driving, which he believed contributed to the accident.

Whether the defendant’s negligence in using a cell phone while driving was the proximate cause of the accident is the central issue in this case.

The court held that Myrdina Remy, the driver of the state-owned van, was negligent. The court found that Ms. Remy’s actions, including possible distracted driving, contributed to the collision with the stationary lawn mower operated by Mr. Monroy Jordan.

The court’s rationale in reaching its decision centered on the clear evidence presented during the trial. It was established that the defendant, while operating a vehicle, was using a cell phone, which directly contradicts New York State’s traffic laws. The court determined that the defendant was using her cell phone at the time of the accident through compelling evidence presented during the trial. Testimony from witnesses, including the plaintiff and other bystanders, corroborated that the defendant was observed using her cell phone while driving. This testimony was further supported by phone records and forensic analysis, which conclusively showed that the defendant’s cell phone was active and in use during the relevant period. The combination of eyewitness accounts and technological evidence allowed the court to establish with certainty that the defendant’s use of her cell phone directly contributed to the occurrence of the accident.

The testimony provided by the plaintiff, Ruben de Jesus Monroy Jordan, who was injured in the incident, was found to be credible and consistent. He recounted that he had seen the defendant’s van approaching from a distance while he was performing his work duties, operating a lawnmower along the side of the road. He had stopped his vehicle and waited for a break in traffic to cross the street. The court also took into consideration the defendant’s acknowledgment that he had been actively using his cell phone at the time of the accident, and the fact that his behavior had contributed to the accident.

Using a cell phone while driving, in violation of New York Vehicle and Traffic Law (VTL) § 1225-c (2)(a), constitutes negligence per se under state law. This means that the act of using a cell phone while driving is inherently considered negligent, and this negligence is presumed unless there is a valid excuse.

If you or a loved one has been involved in a distracted driving accident similar to the case of Ruben de Jesus Monroy Jordan, it is crucial to seek legal representation from an experienced New York distracted driving accident lawyer. They can provide guidance and support to navigate through the legal complexities and seek rightful compensation for injuries sustained.

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