Feroleto Law, Buffalo NY

SUN GLARE DOES NOT ALWAYS PROVIDE BASIS FOR EMERGENCY DOCTRINE

As a Buffalo and Western New York personal injury attorney I have to stay on top of the most recent case law. Oftentimes a defendant in a motor vehicle crash will claim that they are not responsible because they are blinded by the sun. The Court of Appeals addressed this issue in Lifson v. City of Syracuse. In Lifson, the Court of Appeals held that emergency doctrine is not warranted where conditions should be properly anticipated.

The fact were as follows:

Klink testified that he stopped at the stop sign to make the left turn onto Harrison Street, but that his view of oncoming traffic was partially obstructed by parked cars in the left-hand lane of Harrison Street and he had to “creep up” in order to see the approaching vehicles. He had noticed that there were pedestrians crossing Harrison Street to his left, but he also 496*496 asserted that he had looked in that direction and “cleared the road” before making the turn. He further testified that he had been looking to his right, toward the oncoming traffic when he started turning. He maintained that, when he looked back to his left, mid-turn, he was blinded by the sun, “all of a sudden.” His reaction was to look down and to his right and, when he looked up, the first object he saw was Ms. Lifson. Although he applied the brakes, he was unable to avoid hitting her, having seen her only a fraction of a second prior to impact. At the time of the accident, Ms. Lifson had been wearing a red coat. There was no evidence that Ms. Lifson darted out in front of Klink’s car, or that Klink was traveling at an excessive rate of speed.

The Court of Appeals held: 

While Klink did not drive this particular route often, he was familiar with the general area since he worked in the MONY Towers. Klink was about to turn to the west at a time of day that the sun would be setting. It is well known, and therefore cannot be considered a sudden and unexpected circumstance, that the sun can interfere with one’s vision as it nears the horizon at sunset, particularly when one is heading west. This is not to say that sun glare can never generate an emergency situation but, under the circumstances presented, there is no reasonable view of the evidence under which sun glare constitutes a qualifying emergency.

Therefore, claiming the sun was in the defendant size does not necessarily, and often times will not, warrant charging the jury with emergency doctrine. Although defense attorneys will often argue this, the Lifson case should provide plaintiffs attorney with valid grounds for defeating this argument.

At Feroleto Law we have the experience to properly try cases if needed. Please call us as we can assist you with your cases.