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2 min read

Buffalo Police's Conduct Ruled Reckless in Personal Injury Suit

traffic cones toppled over and scattered in the middle of the street

In this personal injury case, plaintiffs sought damages for injuries sustained in an accident involving a police officer, the Buffalo Police Department (BPD), and the City of Buffalo. This blog post will provide a professional analysis of the case, highlighting the court's rulings and the key factors contributing to the final outcome.

The Trial Court's Rulings

Initially, the trial court denied the plaintiffs' motions for summary judgment on the issue of liability and for partial summary judgment dismissing affirmative defenses. Simultaneously, the court also denied the defendants' motions for summary judgment, with an exception of removing the BPD as a named defendant. This set the stage for the case to move on to the appellate court.

The Appellate Court's Analysis and Findings

The appellate court analyzed the case with regard to the Vehicle and Traffic Law, specifically considering the officer's conduct while operating an "authorized emergency vehicle" during an "emergency operation." The court acknowledged that the officer's actions fell within the framework of privileged conduct and emergency operation.

However, the appellate court made a crucial determination: the officer had acted with reckless disregard for the safety of others during the incident. Consequently, both the city and the officer were held liable. Additionally, the court ruled that the emergency doctrine, often applied in cases of emergency responders, did not apply in this instance.

Expert Affidavits and Officer's Testimony

The plaintiffs had submitted expert affidavits, which played a significant role in establishing that the officer had acted with reckless disregard for safety. The court noted that the officer's response to the call was disproportionate and overreactive, indicating a lack of consideration for others' safety. Furthermore, the officer's deposition testimony supported this finding, as he expressed no desire to change anything about the situation.

Proving Conscious Indifference

The court concluded that the officer's actions amounted to conscious indifference to the outcome, validating the plaintiffs' claims. On the other hand, the defendants failed to raise any triable issues of fact to counter the evidence presented by the plaintiffs.

The Rejected Cross-Appeal

The defendants attempted a cross-appeal, arguing that the court erred in denying their cross-motions for summary judgment. However, the court dismissed their appeal, highlighting that determining negligence and apportioning comparative fault would still be left to the jury's discretion.

Conclusion

This personal injury case involving a police officer, the BPD, and the City of Buffalo underscores the importance of responsible conduct even in emergency situations. Despite operating an authorized emergency vehicle, the officer's actions were characterized as reckless, resulting in a finding of liability for both the city and the officer. The case serves as a reminder that privileged conduct does not absolve individuals from their responsibility to exercise caution.

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