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Municipal Liability – Plaintiff suffers catastrophic injuries when he collides into the firetruck parked across highway – Paraplegia.

Fairfield County, CT

In this motor vehicle negligence matter, the plaintiff alleged that the defendant town was negligent in improperly positioning the town’s fire truck on the highway and failed to properly warn oncoming motorists by using a sufficient number of traffic cones on the highway. The defendant denied liability and maintained that it was immune since it was in the performance of discretionary governmental duties.

The 48-year-old male plaintiff was operating his motor vehicle on southbound Interstate 95 on September 3, ________, when at approximately 4:10 a.m., his vehicle crashed into a fire truck owned by the defendant town which was parked across two lanes of the highway. Investigation disclosed that the defendant had responded to a tractor trailer accident on the Interstate at approximately 1:50 a.m. The tractor trailer accident had resulted in an oil spill and the defendant positioned the fire truck diagonally across two lanes of the southbound interstate to close off a portion of the highway north of the tractor trailer and oil spill.

As a result of the collision with the fire truck, the plaintiff suffered significant injuries that rendered him paraplegic. The plaintiff brought suit against the defendant town alleging negligence and nuisance. The plaintiff alleged that the defendant town was negligently in improperly positioning the fire truck on the highway, had failed to use a sufficient number of traffic cones on the highway and had failed to properly set up a temporary traffic control zone when it closed off two lanes of the highway. The plaintiff’s wife brought a loss of consortium claim.

The defendant town denied the allegations. The town denied negligence and maintained that it was immune from liability since it was in the performance of discretionary governmental duties. The town further asserted that it had not created the nuisance on the highway and that all of its actions in the matter were both reasonable and lawful. One of the key issues in the case was whether the Manual on Uniform Traffic Control Devices created a mandatory duty on the part of the town and its emergency responders as to how cones and flares are set out on the highway during the management of traffic incidents on highways. The defendant contended that the Manual provided guidelines and not mandatory standards. The plaintiff could not prove otherwise.

The matter proceeded to trial over a period of four weeks - two weeks of jury selection and two weeks of trial.At the conclusion of the trial, the jury deliberated approximately four hours and returned its verdict in favor of the defendant and against the plaintiff. The plaintiff has filed a motion to set aside the verdict and a motion for a new trial which are both presently pending.

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