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Harlem Boy Killed While Walking to School

A tractor trailer struck a 6-year-old Harlem boy while he was walking to school with his brother on Thursday, February 28, 2013. The impact was fatal. The crossing guard who was supposed to be stationed at the corner notified police that, at the time of the incident, she had stepped away for a bathroom break.

The accident occurred at about 8 a.m. at the crossing of First Avenue at East 117th Street, about one block from his school. The boy was in a crosswalk with his 9-year-old brother as the truck turned onto the avenue. After the incident, the two boys were taken to Harlem Hospital, where one of them died.

The crossing guard has held the part-time position for 10 years. She was suspended from her job late Thursday for "failure to be on post."

Crossing guards work for the NYPD. According to the NYPD, short breaks for personal necessities, such as bathroom breaks, are acceptable. When they do take breaks, they must indicate those breaks in a memo book. The crossing guard that was supposed to be on duty at the time of this accident signed in at 7:30 a.m. but did not log her break in a memo book, neither did she tell a supervisor that she would be leaving.

The driver of the truck was cited for failure to yield to a pedestrian and failure to exercise due care, according to authorities. New York Codes state that failure to exercise due care can warrant 15 days in prison as well as heavy fines.

Each crossing guard in the city works anywhere from one to three shifts each day (mornings, lunch hour and after school is dismissed). Their hourly pay is approximately $10 per hour.

The intersection where this boy was killed is statistically more dangerous than others near it, according to a WSJ study of NYPD data. According to the study, “In a nine-month period ended April 2012, First Avenue and East 117th Street saw more vehicular incidents injuring pedestrians than any other intersection along 117th Street.”

From a preliminary reading of this incident it certainly seems that the focus of potential litigation on the deceased child's behalf would be against the tractor trailer driver and his employer, the owner of the tractor trailer. Those parties would certainly be the primary targets in a lawsuit for wrongful death.

The fact that the driver received multiple summonses for failure to yield to a pedestrian and failure to exercise due care are tremendously beneficial litigation tools. They alone cannot establish that the driver was negligent in the operation of his tractor trailer but are important tools in establishing his negligent actions.

The more interesting and complicated legal issues arise in a discussion pertaining to the possible negligence of the crossing guard in leaving her post. Obviously, the crossing guard's actions were the proximate cause of the accident; that was the infant-decedent being struck by the tractor trailer. However, was the crossing guard's failure to be present at the intersection the accident occurred one of the causes of the occurrence?

Categories: Pedestrian Accidents


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