NY State Liable for Toll Taker's Assault

March 8, 2002 (PLANSPONSOR.com) - A New York State Thruway toll collector who repeatedly punched a motorist in the face when she didn't paid the correct toll, was still doing his assigned job - albeit in an unauthorized way - so the state was liable for his behavior.

That was the ruling from New York Court of Claims Judge Edgar Nemoyer who awarded $12, 459 in damages in a lawsuit against the state by Niki Lynn Seifert. Seifert was the motorist who claims toll collector John LaBelle beat her up in April 1998 at a Thruway exit after she only paid part of the toll.

Seifert claimed she had taken a different route home from her job as an athletic trainer at a suburban Buffalo high school, which required a longer Thruway trip than normal. She said she handed over the usual amount, drove away, but then stopped and backed up when she said LaBelle began yelling at her.

Seifert said instead of taking the additional money, LaBelle struck her in the face. Bystanders called police who arrested LaBelle, according to court records.

“Obviously, the [state] did not authorize LaBelle’s assaultive behavior, which was certainly irregular and in disregard of instructions,” Nemoyer wrote. “Nevertheless, it appears to the court that LaBelle was acting in furtherance of his employer’s business and performing his assigned duties. Consequently, the court finds LaBelle was acting within the scope of his employment when he assaulted claimant.”