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Sindle v. New York Transit Authority

Citation. 33 N.Y.2d 293, 307 N.E.2d 245 (1973)
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Brief Fact Summary.

On the last day of school, plaintiff was on the bus home with his classmates when they started to destroy the bus out of excitement for the summer break. The bus driver informed them that he was taking them to the police station, at which point the plaintiff tried to jump out the window of the bus. He landed on the ground and was then run over by the bus, causing severe personal injury.

Synopsis of Rule of Law.

Restraint or detention under reasonable circumstances imposed for the purpose of protecting property or preventing injury of persons in one’s lawful possession or custody is not unlawful.


At about noon on June 20, 1967, the 14-year-old plaintiff boarded a school bus home. It was the last day of school for the term, and the students on the bus were in a boisterous mood. This excitement turned into vandalism and destruction of the bus, including broken windows, dome lights, and ceiling panels. There is no indication that the plaintiff partook in this destruction. On at least one occasion, the bus driver admonished the children about the noise and destruction. After a stop at Annadale station, the driver inspected the damage at the back of the bus. He then announced his intention to drive the bus to the St. George police station. Upon hearing this, the plaintiff attempted to jump out the window of the bus. He either succeeded in jumping or he fell, and the rear wheels of the bus ran over his midsection. The plaintiff suffered severe injuries as a result.


Was the trial court correct to deny the motion to amend and exclude evidence of justification?


No. The trial court abused its discretion. The judgement is reversed and a new trial is ordered.


The burden of proof for the defense of justification lies with the defendant, but the trial court did not even allow the defendant to introduce evidence in their defense. This is particularly salient given that the bus driver, entrusted with the care of these children, was acting in his role to protect them and his personal property. He has a duty to take reasonable measures to ensure the safety and protection of both the children and the property. Further, a jury could find that the plaintiff acted negligently per se by violating statutes that prohibit jumping from a moving vehicle. This would bar the plaintiff from recovering for the subsequent bodily injuries.

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