Defense Verdict for GVK Partner Patrick Cooney in Three Vehicle Highway Accident

May 9, 2023

Congratulations to Pat Cooney. Following a three week trial in Erie County, New York, the jury returned a verdict finding that our client, Kelvin Sharpe, a bus operator for Pine-Hills/Trailways, was not responsible nor did he contribute to the happening of the accident.

Seven of the passengers brought suit against our clients with combined settlement demands of over 6M. A “Litigation Coordination” order directed liability be tried in Erie County (1st suit filed). Two of the damages cases which are venued in Supreme Court, Bronx County will now be tried against the tractor trailer driver and his employer only.

The lawsuit arose from a 3 vehicle accident occurring at 2:30 a.m., on November 6th2014, on I81, just south of Syracuse New York. Before the accident, defendant Tarbell (25/50 policy) left his car abandoned in the left passing lane in a perpendicular manner across the lane. Codefendant, a tractor trailer driver, who was traveling in the right lane before the accident admitted to the police that the car was “practically invisible” and you could not see it before “you were on top of it”.

The tractor trailer driver pulled over to the right to see if anyone was in the car. Unfortunately he pulled over in an area where the shoulder tapered because there was a bridge ahead, leaving his trailer “half in and half off” the right travel lane. As the driver was exiting his cab, he saw the bus and another uninvolved tractor trailer approaching. He realized there was going to be an accident.

The bus struck the Tarbell vehicle at 65 mph., throwing the vehicle 100’ down the highway. It came to a rest on the left median. Kelvin remembers little to nothing about the accident. With expert testimony, use of police photos, DDEC data, ECM data and other investigation we were able to reconstruct the accident. Kelvin made an evasive maneuver to the right, gradually moving across the right lane (to prevent bus from tipping over), struck the guide rail and regained some control by turning back to the left. Unfortunately, Mr. Sharpe was not able to ride the guide rail and stop the bus because the tractor trailer was parked on the roadway. The driver of tractor trailer had tried to move, but was not able. Much of the testimony which tried to establish the tractor was on the shoulder was easily refuted with introduction of 2 photos showing the damage to the bus and the tractor trailer. The trailer sustained heavy damage to its right side. The left front of the bus (driver’s compartment) sustained massive damage. The off-setting damage clearly established the tractor trailer was in the right lane when it was struck by the bus.

Allegations against Mr. Sharpe included reckless driving, speeding, failure to break and failure to use high beams. The 2nd tractor trailer operator, who escaped the accident, provided favorable testimony. The jury deliberated for 2.5 hours finding the Tarbell vehicle 70% negligent and the tractor trailer 30% negligent.