There's an old legal truism that applies to situations like this: res ipsa loquitur, or the thing speaks for itself. The classic example is a barrel of flour that rolls out of the second story window of a bakery, crushing a man standing below. While one might not be able to point to the exact negligent behavior that led to the man's death, absent some negligence, in storing the barrels, securing the windows, or in transporting flour, he would not have been killed.
This seems perfectly applicable to the case of Ronald Sinvil, 36, who was crushed by a street sweeper. You've seen these vehicles. They move slower than a grandmother on a Hoveround. So how did such a slow moving vehicle manage to accidently run over a man who, minutes earlier, was asking his girlfriend for directions to her apartment?
Sinvil's family is asking the same question and have filed a lawsuit in order to get answers, reports the Daily News. The official NYPD accident report merely states that he slipped and fell beneath the glacial-paced fourteen ton street sweeper. According to the New York Post, Sinvil first stepped in the path of the sweeper, then after a honk, jumped back on the curb. The driver of the vehicle, which was reportedly only travelling a few miles per hour, thought it was clear to proceed. Somehow, the victim ended up under the rear wheels.
Street sweepers are incredibly loud and painfully slow (especially if you are stuck driving behind one). It is almost unimaginable that any able-bodied individual could be run over by such a vehicle without having the time to jump out of the way first. It is also unimaginable that the driver could not see a pedestrian, given the slow speed.
Which brings us back to the res ipsa. While there are certainly speculative possibilities about what could have happened, such as intoxication or distracted driving or walking, it is quite possible that there will never be a definitive answer.
Nonetheless, that doesn't prohibit recovery in a lawsuit, which is ever more important considering Sinvil was supporting his young daughter. One could argue that a street sweeper cannot run over a pedestrian absent negligence of the driver. The accident speaks for itself. Then again, you could make the same argument about a pedestrian's own negligence in walking in front of a street sweeper.
- Speak to a New York Personal Injury Attorney (FindLaw)
- Proof in a Negligence Case (FindLaw's Learn About the Law)
- Res Ipsa Loquitur (FindLaw's LawBrain)
- National Guard Truck Barrels Over Elderly Pedestrian (FindLaw's New York Personal Injury Law Blog)