A Special Relationship

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Q: At an intersection, proceeding through a yield sign, a westbound vehicle collided with mine, which was northbound and not governed by a traffic-control device.  Neither of us intended to turn at the intersection.  When I had almost cleared the intersection, the westbound vehicle struck my right rear, causing my vehicle to roll over.  For each of us, the view of the street from which the other driver was approaching was somewhat obstructed by hedges.  I want to sue the town.

A: No town is an insurer of the safety of its roads.  It cannot be that the absence of a stop sign or traffic signal rendered the westbound driver unaware of the need to stop.  The yield sign gave the westbound driver all the warning – all the notice of danger – that a stop sign would have afforded.  The westbound driver should have seen the yield sign and should have been aware that his view of northbound traffic was obstructed.  His failure to stop, not the type of sign, was the proximate cause.

Most likely, the town has a code provision providing that no obstructions to vision, including landscaping, shall be erected or maintained in proximity to an intersection.  With one exception, our law is that the town is not liable to you for failure to enforce such a statute or regulation.  The exception is where the town has voluntarily assumed a special relationship with you beyond the duty that is owed to the public generally.

A ‘special relationship’ requires the presence of four elements: (1) an assumption by the town of an affirmative duty to act on behalf of you; (2) knowledge on the part of the town’s agents that inaction can lead to harm; (3) some direct contact between the town’s agents and you; and (4) your justifiable reliance on the town’s affirmative undertaking.  An example might exist if the town had directed you to travel on this route.  From what you have said, there was no special relationship.

By: Scott Baron,
Attorney at Law Advertorial

The law responds to changed conditions; exceptions and variations abound. Here, the information is general; always seek out competent counsel. This article shall not be construed as legal advice.

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