Rivera v. Fox

In Rivera v. Fox, 20 Conn. App. 619, 569 A.2d 1137, cert. denied, 215 Conn. 808, 576 A.2d 538 (1990), the Court held that the operation of a motor vehicle is a question of law to be determined by the court. Id., 621. In Rivera, the plaintiff's decedent was killed when his motor vehicle struck a stationary, unoccupied truck owned by the department. Id., 620. A department employee had driven the truck to a point in the highway to assist in the cleanup of a fatal accident. Id. "He positioned the truck partly in the left travel lane of the highway and partly on the left shoulder and walked at least 500 feet to the site of that accident. He left the vehicle with its engine running and its strobe lights and four way flashers on and set up flares on the road behind the vehicle. His purpose was to alert oncoming drivers to debris from the accident that was obstructing the highway. Almost two hours later, while the employee was still working at the accident site, the decedent's vehicle collided with the truck and the decedent was killed." Id. In conducting a legal analysis to determine whether the employee in Rivera was operating the truck, this court examined the case law of the courts of states with a similar statute and Connecticut case law concerning the construction of operating a motor vehicle. Id., 623-24. "The general rule established by these cases and others in the context of various statutes is that operation of a motor vehicle occurs when there is a setting in motion of the operative machinery of the vehicle, or there is movement of the vehicle, or there is a circumstance resulting from that movement or an activity incident to the movement of the vehicle from one place to another." Id., 624. The court granted the department's motion to dismiss because "both parties agree that at the time of the collision the department truck was being used as a warning signal. The truck was not parked incident to travel." Id.