Defense of Road Design Claim on Appeal

Latha Raghavan successfully defended a road design claim on appeal following the trial court’s dismissal of the comlaint. The plaintiff, a back seat passenger in a car driven by his friend, was severely injured becoming a paraplegic, as a result of a single car accident when the driver lost control at a blind hill and hit a utility pole. The plaintiff claimed that his car had to swerve around another vehicle coming in the opposite direction as they met at the crest of the hill. Plaintiff retained road design experts in support of his claim that the hill should and could have been removed when work was done on the roadway several years earlier. Deposition testimonies showed that either the driver of plaintiff’s car or the driver of the car approaching in the opposite direction failed to keep to the right of the roadway as they approached the blind hill but plaintiff argued that had the hill been removed years earlier then the drivers would have had sufficient sight distance to avoid sudden swerves at the crest. For the defense, Ms. Raghavan argued that since one of the drivers failed to stay to the right on this unmarked rural road with which both drivers were familiar, the County cannot be liable even if the road was not properly designed. Further defense experts showed that the Cornell Rural Road guidelines applied and were met.