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In Corwin v. NYC Bike Share, LLC, No. 14-CV-1285,
2017 WL 1399034 (S.D.N.Y. Apr. 13, 2017), the Southern District of New York granted
a Motion for Summary Judgment in favor of Alta Planning + Design + Architecture
of New York, PLLC (“APD”) against the City of New York (the “City”) based on
deviations from APD’s design of a bike share station which the Court concluded
constituted an intervening cause of the alleged damage.
On April 10, 2012, the City
entered into an agreement with NYC Bike Share, LLC (“NYCBS”) for the design,
construction, operation, maintenance, and publicizing of “Citi Bike,” a network
of self-service bike share stations with publicly available bicycles. The agreement required NYCBS to design and
install on-street bike parking stations with appropriate protections and
markings from adjacent parking and moving traffic, including non-permanent
bollards and paint markings. NYCBS contracted
with APD to provide planning and site design of the Citi Bike stations. Without APD’s knowledge or approval, the
footprint of one such station was enlarged, to include a temporary riding lane,
and a concrete wheel stop.
On October 25, 2013, Ronald D.
Corwin was injured while riding a Citi Bike when he collided with the concrete
wheel stop. Mr. Corwin sued the City and
APD, among others. The City filed cross
claims against APD for indemnification and contribution based on APD’s alleged
negligent design of the station.
The City argued APD’s design was
defective and contributed to Mr. Corwin’s injury because APD failed to insist
on conspicuous wheel stop colors or to call for shorter, less intrusive wheel
stops. The Court rejected this argument,
noting the question at issue was whether APD’s design for the Station played a
causal role in the particular accident in question, not whether including the
wheel stop was professionally negligent.
The Court held the wheel stop was a deviation from APD’s design, and
this was an “absolute defense to liability,” because it had cut off the causal
link between Mr. Corwin’s injuries and APD’s design.
The Court’s decision in Corwin is good for a design
professional. It reaffirms that an architect
or engineer is not liable where construction deviates from the design. As the Court explained, deviations from an
architect or engineer’s design extinguishes the causal connection between a defect
and an injury suffered by a third party.