Too Many Auto Accidents Stop Causation Chain (NY)
In Smith v. Gray, 2022 WL 1418973 (2d Cir. 2022), the Second Circuit Court of Appeals affirmed a judgment of the United States District Court for the Eastern District of New York, and the Court found that a physician’s expert report needs to be specific and undisputed if a defendant puts forth persuasive evidence that the plaintiff’s injury is related to a preexisting condition in order for a plaintiff to recover under New York’s “No Fault Insurance Law.”
In Smith, the plaintiff admitted that he had been involved in multiple vehicular accidents, prior to the accident at issue, as well as one subsequent accident. The District Court granted Defendant’s motion for summary judgment, holding that Plaintiff had failed to raise a genuine issue of material fact as to whether the accident at issue proximately caused Plaintiff’s present injuries.
Under New York’s “No Fault Insurance Law,” a plaintiff cannot recover non-economic damages from a motor vehicle accident unless he sustains a serious injury. A serious injury includes a personal injury which results in significant limitation of use of a body function or system.
Here, the defendant made a prima facie showing that Plaintiff’s injury was not caused by the accident at issue. Defendant’s expert opined that there was no evidence of trauma from the alleged incident and that any injuries present on an MRI were likely of long-standing duration consistent with age-related conditions. Upon this showing, the burden shifted to the Plaintiff to raise a genuine issue of fact as to causation, which Plaintiff failed to explicitly do. Plaintiff’s expert report merely stated that Plaintiff’s “injuries to both his cervical and left shoulder were causally related to the accident [at issue].” This speculative expert conclusion was held to be insufficient to show causation exists between an incident and alleged injuries, given the many accidents at issue here. Additionally, to support causation, an expert report must explain its causality conclusion or rebut the notion that Plaintiff’s injuries were due to a pre-existing condition. This case reveals that targeted litigation tactics and focusing a motion on the same can yield successful results.
Thanks to Paige Baldwin on her contribution to this article. Should you have any questions, please contact Matthew Care.