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SKETCHES OF COURT: Parties found equally negligent in car accident trial

February 22, 2016 By Alba Acevedo Brooklyn Daily Eagle
Court sketch by Alba Acevedo
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In this courtroom sketch, Hon. Loren Baily-Schiffman listens as attorney Michael Russo (standing) addresses the jury in his opening statements during the pedestrian-motor vehicle accident trial Edwin Baez v. Girlies Ambulette. Russo is trial counsel to the law offices of Herschel Kulefsky and represents the plaintiff. Court reporter Nancy Messano (seated, center) records the proceedings. 

In March of 2012, Baez exited a Fulton Street shopping mall store and crossed the sidewalk to the curb. He was mid-block between Bridge and Lawrence streets and claims to have paused to look both ways before stepping into the street. Fulton Street is a limited-access road with no parking lane, open only to bus traffic. 

An ambulette, in this case a high-top van that could accommodate as many as nine passengers, was moving up the narrow roadway. Glen Harrison, behind the wheel of the ambulette, testified that he heard a snapping sound to his right and briefly continued before being alerted by passersby that he had hit a pedestrian. The snapping sound was the passenger-side mirror detaching as it struck Baez. The ambulette and driver were represented by defendants’ attorney Salvatore DeSantis (at left), of the law firm Molod Spitz & DeSantis. 

The driver and pedestrian did not see each other before the impact, and the parties contested liability in the bifurcated trial. Russo claims the driver was negligent in not exercising care and sought to bolster his case by eliciting a passenger’s testimony who did see the plaintiff at the moment of impact from the back seat of the ambulette. DeSantis faulted the pedestrian for being outside of the crosswalk and failing to yield to traffic. 

The jury ascribed negligence equally to both parties, and the trial was resolved pursuant to a high-low agreement that resulted in a settlement of 50 percent of $515,000.  

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