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Glens Falls facing lawsuit over Lake George trolley crash

Glens Falls facing lawsuit over Lake George trolley crash

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Trolley bus

A Greater Glens Falls Transit System trolley bus waits at a stop along Beach Road in the village of Lake George. A year after a city-owned trolley struck an Albany County woman at the intersection of Canada Street and Beach Road in Lake George, the city is now being sued over the incident.

GLENS FALLS — An Albany County woman who was struck by a city-owned trolley bus in the village of Lake George last year has sued the city, seeking an unspecified sum of money in damages.

Poonam Chawla of Cohoes filed a lawsuit June 22 in state Supreme Court in Warren County, seeking monetary damages for the Aug. 30, 2019, accident, in which she was dragged under a Greater Glens Falls Transit System trolley while attempting to cross Canada Street at the intersection of Beach Road.

Glens Falls, Greater Glens Falls Transit System and Elizabeth Rose, the trolley’s operator at the time, are defendants in the case.

The defendants, represented by Murphy Burns LLP, an Albany law firm, have denied any wrongdoing and sought to dismiss the case, while blaming Chawla for the accident, according to court documents filed on Aug. 18.

The case remains pending.

The lawsuit was filed seven months after Chawla filed a notice of claim, seeking compensation for “severe and permanent personal injuries,” as well as expenses and other damages she claims to have suffered.

The claim went unanswered, which triggered the lawsuit.

Chawla suffered multiple injuries, according to the Oct. 22, 2019, claim. They include two collapsed lungs; multiple rib and hip fractures; liver damage; kidney failure; and facial lacerations.

She also required multiple surgeries, a helicopter transport and inpatient hospitalization and rehab, the claim states.

An initial investigation of the accident last year by the Warren County Sheriff’s Office found that Chawla, who was walking south along Canada Street, ran in front of the trolley outside of a crosswalk as it moved west along Beach Road, and that the vehicle’s operator could not avoid striking her.

Warren County Sheriff Jim LaFarr did not return a phone call seeking comment on Wednesday.

But in court documents, Chawla and her lawyer, Robert Bruschini of Martin, Harding & Mazzotti, put the blame solely on Rose, the trolley’s operator, arguing that Chawla was a “lawful pedestrian” at the time of the accident.

Rose took her eyes off the road when a passenger on board the trolley asked her a question, according to the lawsuit.

While she was distracted, Rose ran into Chawla’s backpack and she got dragged under the trolley, the lawsuit says. Chawla was standing in the median between the eastbound and westbound lanes of Beach Road at the corner of Canada Street at the time of the accident, according to the lawsuit.

The lawsuit accuses Rose of numerous traffic infractions, including failure to safely operate a trolley, failure to ensure the path was safe before proceeding and failure to yield to a pedestrian, among other things.

“The motor vehicle owned by defendants, city of Glens Falls, and operated by the defendant, Elizabeth D. Rose, was so carelessly, recklessly and negligently managed, operated and controlled that the same was caused to come into violent contact with plaintiff, Poonam Chawlaw,” the lawsuit reads.

The city and Rose deny the claims, and the city has moved to dismiss the lawsuit, asking the court to compensate the city for the cost of responding.

Chad Arnold is a reporter for The Post-Star covering the city of Glens Falls and the town and village of Lake George. Follow him on Twitter @ChadGArnold.

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