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Rugg v. State

Supreme Court of New York, Appellate Division

May 21, 1954

CLAYTON A. RUGG, JR., Appellant,
v.
STATE OF NEW YORK, Respondent. Claim No. 31178.

Page 180

APPEAL from a judgment in favor of defendant, entered August 7, 1953, upon a decision of the Court of Claims (LOUNSBERRY, P. J.), dismissing the claim of appellant upon the merits.

COUNSEL

Ernest B. Morris and Harold W. Katz for appellant.

Nathaniel L. Goldstein, Attorney-General (Richard H. Shepp and Wendell P. Brown of counsel), for respondent.

HALPERN, J.

In this case, the Court of Claims found that the State 'was negligent in failing to provide the travelling public adequate warning of the dangerous condition that existed on this curve and the approach to the narrow bridge' but it nevertheless dismissed the claim upon the ground that the negligence of the State was not 'the proximate cause of the accident'.

We affirm the finding of the State's negligence but we cannot accept the finding that there was no causal connection between the negligence and the accident.

The accident happened upon a State highway running in a generally easterly direction from Glens Falls to Hudson Falls. For the greater part of its length, the highway was a three-lane, concrete road, 27 feet in width, but as it approached an old bridge crossing a canal, the road narrowed to 20 feet to conform to the width of the bridge. Also, the bridge was so located with respect to the highway that the road had to turn sharply to the south in order to reach the bridge. The curve ended against the bridge on the right hand side and was 10 feet from the bridge floor at the center line. The curve was a very sharp one, described in engineering terms as a 22-degree curve, which would normally call for a sign warning of the approach to a right angle curve.

The Court of Claims correctly characterized this as a dangerous situation, of which motorists should have been warned by reflectorized signs, notifying them that they were approaching a sharp curve and that speed should be drastically reduced. There were no signs of that kind. There was a sign reading 'Narrow Bridge' approximately 180 feet west of the bridge but whether the sign was reflectorized was in dispute. The Court

Page 181

of Claims properly held that this sign was not an adequate warning of the nature of the danger. ( Canepa v. State of New York, 306 N.Y. 272.)

The claimant's home was in Jamestown, New York; he was a salesman for the National Gypsum Company in the Adirondack territory and he had lived in Glens Falls for about ten months before the accident.

About 1:00 A.M. on April 5, 1948, the claimant was driving from Glens Falls easterly to Hudson Falls to take some friends home. He was driving about '35 or 40' miles per hour. As the Court of Claims found, he 'apparently did not recognize the curve and the bridge until he was upon it'. He then applied his brakes but the automobile skidded ahead across the highway and struck and broke four guardrail posts at the north end of the bridge. The plaintiff suffered severe injuries as a result of the accident.

The claimant testified that his normal route in making business calls did not take him over this part of the highway but that he had been over the bridge on casual trips, all during the daytime; at one point, he testified that he had been over it 'two or three' times, at another point, that he had been over it 'several' times. The claimant answered in the affirmative when asked on cross-examination: 'You knew that the bridge was there at ...


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