A New York City police officer who was a passenger in a police vehicle rear-ended by a motorist can sustain a claim against the department, a Manhattan judge has held.
Acting Supreme Court Justice Frank Nervo said that even if the city had invoked the so-called “firefighter’s rule”—which says police officers and firefighters cannot recover for injuries resulting from the inherent dangers of their jobs— Jessica Alvarado would have a valid claim. The city did not claim General Municipal Law §205 as a defense.
Alvarado v. Ortiz, 113139/2010, arose from an incident in November 2009, when Alvarado was riding with a colleague to retrieve a bulletproof vest from a department shooting range.
The police cruiser was struck from behind by a motorist who claimed the officer had failed to signal a lane change. Alvarado suffered back injuries and sued the motorist, the driver of the police vehicle in which she was riding, the police department and the city.
Nervo granted summary judgment on liability and said damages and apportionment would be decided at trial. The judge said the facts of this case would have precluded a defense under §205.
“Riding as a passenger in a police vehicle for the sole purpose of retrieving a bullet-proof vest does not give rise to a particular danger a police officer is expected to assume as part of their duties, nor was plaintiff engaged in any specific police function that increased the risk of receiving the injuries complained of,” Nervo wrote.
Lisa Arden of Ewall & Ewall in Huntington represented the plaintiff. The city was defended by Assistant Corporation Counsel Michael Gibek. Sean Broderick of Yonkers represented the driver of the civilian vehicle.