City Sued over Killing of Baby Apolline by Recidivist Reckless Driver on a ‘Dangerous’ Street
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The city Department of Transportation and NYPD were negligent — and bear a substantial responsibility — regarding the death last year of a 3-month-old baby after an unlicensed driver with a long record of recklessness struck another car as he was being chased by police on a “dangerous” Fort Greene road, a bombshell new lawsuit alleges.
The parents of baby Apolline Mong Guillemin filed a suit on Tuesday in Kings County Supreme Court holding not only driver Tyrik Mott responsible for his daughter’s death, but also seeking damages from the city for “serious, severe and permanent personal and emotional injuries by reason of the negligence, recklessness and carelessness and wanton and willful acts and/or omissions” of the DOT and NYPD.
“We call on the city to resolve this case quickly so my clients can get closure with their lives,” said Harris Marks, lawyer for Julien Mong and Marion Guillemin.
Mott killed Apolline on Sept. 11, 2021 after driving at high speed the wrong way on Gates Avenue, police said, then striking another car that slammed into the child, Guillemin and Mong, killing the baby and severely injuring Guillemin. Mott’s car had been slapped with 106 camera-issued speeding and red-light tickets since 2017 — and he had driven with a suspended license — yet had been allowed to keep driving.
The suit specifically calls out “the design, construction … and maintenance of the intersection of Vanderbilt Avenue and Gates Avenue” and alleges that the roads “remain in a dangerous and hazardous condition [because the city] failed to design, construct … and maintain [them] in a reasonably safe condition thereby creating dangerous and hazardous conditions.”
Marks told Streetsblog that his suit named the city for much the same reason that lawyers for the family of Anthony Turturro sought damages from the city after the 12-year-old was run down and killed by a speeding driver on Gerritsen Avenue in 2004. In that case, the city was held partially responsible, and was forced to pay $8 million in damages because, plaintiffs argued, the Department of Transportation was well aware that the roadway was unsafe — locals called it a “racetrack.”
The Turturro verdict was affirmed by the state’s highest court in 2017, making it easier to seek damages from the city. Marks told Streetsblog that part of the impetus of the suit is to make sure no one has to suffer what his client is going through.
“It’s too late for my client, but how many more lives need to be lost before the city wakes up and does something about these dangerous interactions?” he said.
Seizing on language from the Turturro ruling, the suit, which is seeking an undisclosed sum, argues that DOT “received actual or written notice prior to Sept. 11, 2021” about the danger and “failed and/or neglected to make timely repairs to correct and remove said dangerous and hazardous conditions.”
The suit also holds the DOT responsible for “failing to enforce the Reckless Driver Accountability Act” (as the Dangerous Vehicle Abatement Act was previously known), which would have allowed the city to seize Mott’s car because “he had amassed more than the requisite number of camera violations.”
The only way to seize the car of such drivers is if they fail to take the required safety course — but the DOT delayed inception of those courses during the very period when Mott would have been required to take it
The suit also blames the NYPD, whose unidentified officers “acted in wanton disregard in their unsafe pursuit of Mott’s vehicle for running a red light” prior to the crash. “Defendants engaged in pursuit when circumstances warranted discontinuance, and failed to adhere to the NYPD patrol guide.”
“The risks to the public,” the suit continues, “outweighed the danger to the community if the suspect was not immediately apprehended.”
Marks declined to discuss his clients’ emotions as the lawsuit is filed, except in generalities.
“This is an impossible situation for Julien and his family,” the lawyer said. “His daughter had her whole life ahead of her.”
He also said that Apolline’s mother, Marion Guillemin, remains in “constant medical treatment” for injuries she suffered in the crash.
“Her injuries are severe and have required multiple surgical interventions,” he said.
The DOT referred questions to the city Law Department. The NYPD declined to comment. A spokesman for the Law Department said only, “The crash that killed baby Apolline was a horrific tragedy. We will review the case and respond in the litigation.”
Since the crash that killed Baby Apolline, the city has proposed to build a plaza on the squibb end of Gates Avenue, closing it off to car traffic in a way that would, in theory, prevent car drivers from driving the wrong way up Gates.
In addition to the civil suit, Mott is facing a criminal trial for the crash. He was charged last year with manslaughter. His next court appearance is on Aug. 24. Marks said he should also be held financially responsible via the civil suit.
“He had so many speeding tickets and a suspended license, and he never should have been on the road,” Marks said. “He is certainly one of the factors in why this accident occurred, so he is a necessary party to this proceeding.”
A lawyer for Mott did not respond.
Read the full lawsuit here: