If a defendant driver claims that he was blinded by the setting sun and could not see the pedestrian, will the driver have a defense?
New York’s top court says no. See Lifson v. City of Syracuse (No. 157, October 13, 2011).
Mrs. Lifson, a pedestrian, was struck and killed by an automobile while she was crossing a downtown street in Syracuse. The defendant driver claimed that as he was driving west at sundown, he was blinded by the setting sun and that he could not see Mrs. Lifson.
The driver urged the emergency doctrine defense. The emergency doctrine holds that when defendant is confronted with an emergency not of his own making, defendant will be excused from liability if he acted reasonably. In other words, defendant will not be liable if he is faced with an unexpected emergency.
The Court of Appeals said that the emergency doctrine would not be applicable here. The court said that being blinded by a setting sun while travelling west is foreseeable. This does not constitute an unforeseen emergency. The driver should have taken extra precautions.
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Mark E. Seitelman, 10/13/11, www.seitelman.com.