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New York City is not liable for an accident that occurred after a police officer instructed a 19-year-old without a driver’s license to move her mother’s car from an illegal parking spot, an appellate court has ruled. The ruling from the Appellate Division, Second Department, overturned a jury that found the city 75 percent liable for a $10 million award to a pedestrian who was hit by the car. The officer, Frances Knowles, did not know that the 19-year-old, Maithe Mero, did not have a driver’s license when he motioned to her to move the car from a no-standing spot on Jamaica Avenue in Queens. The teen, who had been sitting in the passenger seat of the car while her mother, Carmela E. Mero, went to a fish market, allegedly felt compelled to respond to the officer’s gesture. When the teen turned the corner, she lost control of the car and ran onto the sidewalk, hitting Deodat Persaud. Ms. Persaud had to have her right leg amputated below the knee and sustained other injuries. Ms. Persaud’s initial suit over the 1994 accident was summarily dismissed, but on appeal the Second Department found there was a triable issue of fact as to whether Officer Knowles was negligent in failing to ask the teen whether she was able to drive. At trial, an expert for Ms. Persaud testified that the officer’s actions � specifically, motioning someone sitting in a passenger seat to move a vehicle � deviated from standard police practice. The jury returned a $10 million verdict. In its second look at the case, though, the Second Department said this week that the expert’s testimony was speculative and unsupported by the evidence at trial. “The expert’s opinion was overwhelmingly contradicted at trial by the evidence adduced by the municipal defendants and by the training materials relied upon by the . . . expert himself,” the court wrote in Persaud v. City of New York, 2001-08217. The court also found the $10 million verdict excessive, and ordered a new trial on damages unless Ms. Persaud consented to a judgment of $5 million against only Ms. Mero and her daughter. Leonard Koerner, chief of the appeals division at the Corporation Counsel’s Office, said the ruling emphasizes that if a police officer acts reasonably, the city cannot be held liable. “It at least shows that there is a rule of reason,” Mr. Koerner said. Harris Zakarin of Rivkin Radler argued the appeal for Ms. Persaud. A spokeswoman for the firm said the decision was being reviewed. Justices Sondra Miller, Robert W. Schmidt, Sandra L. Townes and Stephen G. Crane concurred on the ruling.

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