When Schulman Blitz, LLP’s client, a life long New Yorker and avid cyclist, was riding her bicycle on her normal route through Central Park’s cycling path one summer morning, she approached the 79th Street transverse and ran into a traffic sign that had been placed in the middle of the cycling lane, causing our client to sustain serious injuries including multiple facial fractures.
Schulman Blitz, LLP was retained to represent the injured cyclist, and our investigation revealed that the sign that our client struck was not a suitable sign to be used on cycling paths. Not only was the sign itself improper, but the placement of the sign in the middle of the path was also also dangerous and a violation of the applicable codes and statutes.
During the course of Schulman Blitz, LLP’s investigation, we discovered that the City of New York, along with the Central Park Conservancy and New York City Department of Parks and Recreation (the entities responsible operating Central Park) are required, pursuant to Federal law, to only use signs which have been approved for cyclists, which are listed in a government publication known as the Manual on Uniform Traffic Control Devices (MUTCD). We also discovered that the City of New York has their own guidelines, which are contained in the New York Supplement to the MUTCD, which expand the federal guidelines.
It became readily apparent that the sign our client struck was did not conform to either Federal or New York law, and we would discover that the City employees who were responsible for the placement of the signs on the Central Park cycling path had not only failed to follow the standards set forth in the the MUTCD, and New York’s supplement, but were not even aware of the requirements.
Schulman Blitz, LLP commenced a lawsuit against the City of New York, the New York City Department of Parks and Recreation and the Central Park Conservancy, all of whom initially denied responsibility. Shortly after commencement of the action, the defendants made a motion to dismiss the case, which was summarily denied because we were able to show, through the use of an expert witness, that the defendants failed to comply with the applicable law.
The defendants’ motion to dismiss was the beginning of what would be many years of denying responsibility, and stonewalling, by the City of New York, including years of failing to exchange evidence relevant to the accident.
Schulman Blitz, LLP, aware from prior experience litigating against the City of New York, that the best way to handle the City’s stonewalling, is to be persistent and refuse to take no for an answer. This approach would eventually pay off – after three years of litigation, including twenty four court appearances, we would receive the evidence needed to prove our client’s case.
The documents and deposition testimony Schulman Blitz, LLP was able to procure from the City would show that the City had blatantly ignored Federal and State requirements for years, and many of the signs being placed on the cycling path were not safe for cyclists, and were being placed haphazardly in dangerous locations on the path. Schulman Blitz, LLP would also discover that the City was aware of cyclists who had been hurt by these dangerously placed signs and did nothing about it.
Once we completed the discovery phase of the litigation, the City attempted to escape liability one last time by filing a second motion to dismiss, which was again denied.
On the eve of trial, Schulman Blitz, LLP was able to negotiate a settlement in the amount of $250,000 to resolve the case.
The lesson one can learn from this case is that when litigating against the City of New York, do not take no for an answer. Be persistent, keep making motions to have the City turn of the documents that they are required to, and keep holding depositions until you have what you need to prove the case.