2/3/2011North Carolina Appeals Court Rules in Death Caused by Red Light Camera
Appellate court absolves Fayetteville, North Carolina and its contractor for death directly caused by a red light camera.
The North Carolina Appeals on Monday exonerated the owners of the red light camera that killed a twenty-four-year-old. The heavy device had fallen onto the Ford Mustang in which Elizabeth May was a passenger on May 17, 2007. May's family sued the city of Fayetteville, where the camera was located, and Affiliated Computer Services (ACS), the for-profit company that owns and operates the red light camera program.
The family argued that placing the camera in the median of the busy state highway 24 created a significant and avoidable danger because, had the red light camera not been there, May would still be alive. Prior to the accident, May had been doing shots at Secrets Cabaret with her friend, Danielle Polumbo. Polumbo and May got into the Mustang and at around 1am Polumbo misjudged the left-hand turn onto Sycamore Avenue and struck the pole. The red light camera tumbled onto and crushed the vehicle's roof, taking May's life.
Fayetteville's attorneys argued that they were not responsible because the accident occurred on a state road. The three-judge appellate panel agreed.
"We affirm the trial court's granting of the city's summary judgment motion," Chief Judge John C. Martin wrote in his decision. "First we note that the city owed plaintiffs no affirmative duty to keep N.C. 24 in a safe condition for plaintiffs' decedent... Municipalities do not generally owe any duty to individuals injured on roads that are part of the state highway system."
After an examination of the difference in contractual duties between the North Carolina Department of Transportation and Fayetteville, the court turned to the broader question of whether the city or the private contractor could be held liable given that May knew, or should have known, that she was putting herself in danger as passenger in a car with a driver who was obviously drunk.
"We hold, therefore, that, by voluntarily riding and continuing to ride with Ms. Polumbo under such circumstances and conditions as would have compelled an ordinarily prudent man in the exercise of ordinary care for his own safety to not ride with the 'appreciably impaired' Ms. Polumbo, Ms. May committed an act of contributory negligence which proximately contributed to her injuries and death as a matter of law, and which bars any recovery from ACS or the city for her death," Judge Martin concluded.
As a result the ruling, the court granted summary judgment in favor of the city and ACS. A copy of the decision is available in a 65k PDF file at the source link below.