A state appeals court ordered a new trial Tuesday in the negligence case of a man injured in a sinkhole, ruling that the trial judge committed reversible error by precluding certain evidence and directing verdicts for the defendants.
An Appellate Division, First Department, panel found Bronx Supreme Court Justice Mary Ann Brigantti should not have stopped plaintiff Myles Gonzalez from introducing two-week-old accident-site photos and highway specifications related to where the sinkhole appeared on a Bronx street.
The panel also found Brigantti wrongly quashed two witness subpoenas and later she “erred in granting defendants’ motions for a directed verdict, as there was evidence sufficient to support a reasonable jury’s finding that the city and Halcyon were affirmatively negligent.”
Justices John Sweeny, Angela Mazzarelli, Karla Moskowitz and Marcy Kahn reversed Brigantti’s 2015 judgment for defendant New York City and its pavement restoration contractor, third-party defendant Halcyon Construction Corp, and reinstated Gonzalez’s complaint against the city and the city’s third-party complaint against Halcyon.
Ruling in Gonzalez v. City of New York, 42064/12, the panel said Gonzalez had authenticated accident-site photos. Regarding concerns they were too old to fairly depict the scene, they said further trial testimony “could have explained how and why the scene depicted … did or did not differ from the scene on the day of the accident.”
Senior Corporation Counsel Elizabeth Freedman and Fay Ng represented the city. Law Department spokesman Nicholas Paolucci said, “We are disappointed by this decision and are prepared to present our case before the lower court.”
Andrew Zajac of McGaw, Alventosa & Zajac represented Halcyon, but did not return a call. Seth Harris, of Burns & Harris, representing Gonzalez, said that “important evidence was unfairly blocked by the trial judge and a directed verdict improperly granted depriving this man of his opportunity to present relevant evidence.”