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Terry v. Lester Coggins Trucking, Inc.

Other Lower Courts

January 3, 2008

Robert Terry, Plaintiff,
v.
Lester Coggins Trucking, Inc., Philip Lester Eddings, Michael D. Falkouski, Jr., Susan Falkouski, as Administratrix of the Estate of Michael D. Falkouski, Sr., David M. Fernandes, Margaret M. Buffaline, Paul T. Buffaline, Zewu Chen, and Andrea Mitchell Wilkinson, Defendants.

Editorial Note:

This case is not published in a printed volume and its disposition appears in a table in the reporter.

COUNSEL

Hacker Murphy, LLP Attorneys For Plaintiff

Wilson, Elser, Moskowitz, Edelman Dicker LLP Attorneys For Defendant Andrea Mitchell Wilkinson

Thuillez, Ford, Gold, Butler Young, LLP Attorneys For Defendants Lester Coggins Trucking, Inc. And Philip Lester Eddings

Horigan, Horigan, Lombardo Kelly, P.C.Attorneys For Defendants Margaret M. Buffaline and Paul T. Buffaline

Hiscock Barclay, LLP Attorneys For Defendant/Third-Party Plaintiff Zewu Chen

OPINION

George B. Ceresia, J.

The above-captioned action arises out of a chain-reaction motor vehicle accident which occurred on the evening of April 3, 2003 in the westbound lanes of Interstate 90 (hereinafter "I-90") at a point where the roadway crosses the Hudson River from Rensselaer County to Albany County, on what is known as the Patroon Island Bridge. The weather was rainy. The temperature was cold. There is evidence that the surface of the Bridge was icy.

The unfortunate series of accidents commenced shortly after a vehicle operated by defendant/third-party plaintiff Zewu Chen (hereinafter "defendant Chen") in the far left lane passed a vehicle operated by defendant Andrea Mitchell Wilkinson in the middle lane, as both approached the Patroon Island Bridge. Defendant Chen allegedly lost control of his vehicle on the Bridge, and drove head-on into a concrete barrier separating the eastbound and westbound lanes of I-90. Defendant Chen's vehicle came to rest blocking both the left and center lanes of traffic. Defendant Wilkinson (who estimated that she was traveling between forty and fifty miles per hour) commenced to slow her vehicle as soon as she saw defendant Chen lose control of his vehicle, but she was unable to avoid a collision with said vehicle. Defendant David Fernandes was also traveling on I-90 in a westerly direction at that time, in the far left travel lane. He testified at his pre-trial deposition that as he crossed the easterly end of the Bridge he was traveling at the speed limit (fifty-five miles per hour). He tapped his brakes and realized that the Bridge was icy. He observed defendant Chen's vehicle blocking the left and center lanes. He observed defendant Chen in his vehicle looking at him, and that defendant Chen's driver side door was in his direct path. Defendant Fernandes attempted to avoid defendant Chen's vehicle by moving over to the middle lane. He lost control of his vehicle, started "drifting", and struck several water barrels that separated I-90 from the I-787 exit ramp. His vehicle then bounced back off of the water barrels into a vehicle operated by defendant Margaret M. Buffaline. At about the same time third-party defendant Robert Chenette was traveling on I-90 westbound in the right lane, operating a UPS vehicle. He estimated at his pre-trial deposition that as he approached the Bridge he was traveling forty-five to fifty miles per hour. He observed the accident of defendant Fernandes (both impacts), and attempted to slow his vehicle down. He was unable to slow down fast enough to avoid sliding into the vehicle in front of him. The UPS truck came to rest positioned sideways across the I-90/I-787 exit ramp, facing north.

At the same time defendant Philip Lester Eddings was operating a tractor trailer truck (owned by defendant Lester Coggins Trucking, Inc.) in the middle lane of I-90 westbound. He intended to take the exit to I-787. He was traveling at fifty or fifty five miles per hour. As he approached the Bridge he slowed down and moved into the right lane in preparation of exiting I-90. He observed a UPS vehicle, approximately three or four hundred feet away, blocking the exit ramp, with a white vehicle just behind it. Defendant Eddings applied his brakes, after which the tractor trailer began to slide. When the tractor trailer came to rest it was blocking the westbound travel lanes of I-90. Before coming to rest it struck a vehicle operated by non-party William Morgan

While all of the foregoing was occurring, a vehicle operated by defendant Michael Falkouski, in which the plaintiff was a passenger, was in the process of entering the westbound lanes of I-90 near the Patroon Island Bridge. Defendant Falkouski was initially in the far right lane, but changed to the middle lane, and then the far left lane while on the Bridge. He was traveling thirty or forty miles per hour. After entering the left lane he looked up and observed a jack-knifed tractor trailer blocking the roadway approximately ten car lengths up ahead. He tried to stop, slid to the right, struck a vehicle, slid back to the left and struck the tractor trailer head on. Shortly thereafter Mr. Falkouski's vehicle was struck from behind several times.

Defendant Wilkinson has made a motion for summary judgment to dismiss the complaint, as well as all cross-claims and counterclaims. Plaintiff and defendants Lester Coggins Trucking, Inc. and Philip Lester Eddings oppose the motion. Defendants Margaret M. Buffaline and Paul T. Buffaline, by separate motion, also move for summary judgment. Plaintiff and ...


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