Is Being Free Of Fault Necessary To Be Awarded Summary Judgment On Liability In An Automobile Case? (NY)Though automobile accidents, large and small, are things we try to avoid at all costs, sometimes they do happen. If there is competing testimony in a case as to how a car accident did happen, summary judgment on liability may be ruled out. Recently, in Golovnya v. Artemchenko, 210 A.D.3d, (2d Dep’t November 30, 2022), a defendant, who was awarded summary judgment on liability by the lower court, had it taken away on appeal for failing to establish, prima facie, entitlement to judgment as a matter of law because she did not demonstrate freedom from fault in the happening of the accident. The Court reasoned that proximate causation could only be decided as a matter of law when only one conclusion could be reached from the facts. Here, the Court considered the deposition testimony of the plaintiff and defendant which illustrated conflicting explanations of the accident. Such conflicting explanations pointed to the possibility of more than one proximate cause of the accident, and it is the task of the trier of fact to determine the issue of proximate cause. It was in light of the “conflicting testimony regarding the manner in which the accident occurred” that the defendant failed to eliminate triable issues of fact. Neither party was awarded summary judgment on the issue of liability. This case is a reminder of the importance of the element of proximate causation, comparative negligence, and factual particularity. Please contact John Diffley for questions about this article.Read More
A Tale Of Two Transit Authorities: Relation Back Doctrine Found Not to Apply Where Defendants Were Not United In InterestIn New York, a claim asserted against a new defendant will “relate back” to the date of the original claim if plaintiff establishes that (1) both claims arose out of the same conduct, transaction, or occurrence; (2) the new defendant is united in interest with the original defendant, and by reason of that relationship can be charged with notice of the institution of the action such that the new defendant will not be prejudiced in maintaining its defense on the merits by the delayed claim; and (3) the new defendant knew or should have known that, but for a mistake by the plaintiff as to the identity of the proper parties, the action would have been brought against the new defendant as well. See CPLR 203(b). The Appellate Division, Second Department recently addressed the “relation back” doctrine in Chandler v. New York City Transit Authority. In that case, plaintiff was allegedly injured after a city bus driver closed the door on plaintiff’s hand and began to drive away. Plaintiff commenced an action only against the New York City Transit Authority, an improper party. After the statute of limitations expired, plaintiff moved for leave to amend the action to include Metropolitan Transit Authority Bus Company, the proper entity. The Supreme Court denied the motion, finding that the claims against the newer defendant did not relate back to the initial pleading. The Second Department affirmed, holding that while both claims arose out of the same conduct, transaction, or occurrence, plaintiff failed to establish that the Transit Authority defendants were united in interest. To do so, it must be shown that the defendants “stand or fall together and that judgment against one will similarly affect the other.” In a negligence action, to be united in interest further means that “the defenses available to two defendants will be identical, and thus their interests will be united, only where one is vicariously liable for the acts of the other.” Since plaintiff could not make such a showing, the court affirmed the denial of plaintiff’s motion to name the Metropolitan Transit Authority Bus Company as a defendant. The takeaway from Chandler is that New York has specific requirements for claims asserted against newer defendants after the expiration of the statute of limitations to “relate back” to claims made in the initial complaint. Claims not meeting these requirements are subject to challenge and dismissal. Thank you to Rebecca Pasternak for her contribution to this post. Please contact Andrew Gibbs with any questions.Read More
Millions of Americans document their lives and activities on social media sites such as Facebook, Instagram and TikTok. When a person becomes injured in an accident and files a personal injury lawsuit, should defendants be permitted access to plaintiff’s social media?
In Gentile v. Ogden, the New York Appellate Division, Second Department, recently addressed this question in a case involving a car accident. Plaintiff in that case alleged that she suffered serious neck, back and shoulder injuries that prevented her from performing her daily living activities. In light of such claims, defendants moved to compel the disclosure of all relevant social media activity from all of plaintiff’s social media accounts for a period of three years before the accident. The Supreme Court granted the motion and plaintiff appealed.
The Second Department recognized that CPLR §3101(a) requires full disclosure of all matter material and necessary in the prosecution or defense of an action regardless of the burden of proof. It further observed that in order to receive such disclosure, a party need only show that the items sought are reasonably calculated to provide relevant information, not that the items actually exist. In rejecting plaintiff’s arguments and affirming the Supreme Court, the Second Department found that the defendants demonstrated that the plaintiff’s social media accounts were reasonably likely to yield relevant evidence regarding her alleged injuries and loss of enjoyment of life.
The Gentile decision confirms that a personal injury plaintiff’s social media activity is fair game in discovery where his or her physical condition is at issue and the request is tailored to seek information relevant to their damages claims.
Thank you to Gabriella Scarmato for her contribution to this post. Please contact Andrew Gibbs with any questions.Read More
In a recent case in the New Jersey Appellate Division, the court held that when there are claims stemming from multiple car accidents, the burden is on the defense to prove that the resulting injuries were not caused solely by the accident in which they are the defendant, rather they must demonstrate that there are multiple different causes for the injuries.
In 2015, the Plaintiff was involved in a worker’s compensation claim that damaged her spine. One year later in 2016, she was involved in a three-car accident where she was treated for injuries prior to a second car accident in 2018. Following this 2018 accident, she claimed her injuries became much worse and her pain accelerated. The trial judge dismissed the case upon a motion for summary judgment filed by defendant due to the reasoning that plaintiff’s expert report did not compare the prior injuries of the worker’s compensation injury to the acceleration caused by the two subsequent accidents.
When considering defendant’s motion, the court relied on Davidson v. Slater, where the Supreme Court of New Jersey stated that “a plaintiff could carry her burden of moving forward in her non-aggravation case by demonstrating the existence of a permanent injury resulting from the automobile accident without having to exclude all prior injuries to the same body part.” Davidson v. Slater, 914 A.2d 282, 284 (2007). In the case at hand, defendants alleged that the plaintiff was the party that had to show proof of which accident caused which specific injuries and aggravations, but the Appellate Division found that the burden of proving the causative effect of multiple collisions in relation to injuries is with the defendant.
Thanks to Domenica Tomasetti for her contributions to this post. Please feel free to contact Tom Bracken with any questions.Read More