A Decade Later, New Evidence Vacates SJ Decision
September 2, 2021
In Abrams v. Berelson, venued in Supreme Court, Richmond County, the court granted the plaintiff's motion to renew and set aside an order granting the defendant summary judgment that was granted 10 years earlier.
The case stemmed from an accidental shooting that occurred in the home owned by the defendant on November 3, 1997. The plaintiff and a co-worker, Michael Torres, were hired to clean carpets and perform generally cleaning out of the home following the death of the defendant's mother. During the course of the cleaning, Torres found a gun in a bedroom and accidentally shot his co-worker, the plaintiff.
In a 2000 decision, the court granted the defendant's summary judgment motion holding that the plaintiff could not establish actual or constructive notice of the injury-producing condition. Specifically, the plaintiff could offer no proof to establish where the rifle was found, whether it was visible and apparent or how long it was present in the house prior to the shooting. In granting the motion, the court stated that the only person who could testify as to the location of the rifle was Torres and at that time, he had given no testimony and could not be located by either party.
The plaintiffs, after a diligent search, located Mr. Torres and submitted an affidavit from him in which he admitted that he had made himself hard to find after the police determined the shooting was an accident. He stated the he lived with family members over the years and instructed them to advise others, especially the plaintiff's family, that they did not know how to contact him.
Based on this affidavit, Torres' willingness to appear for a non-party deposition and the discovery that the police had not destroyed the rifle in question, the court set aside the summary judgment order and ordered an expedited discovery schedule.
Thanks to Maju Varghese for his contribution to this post.