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Details Matter in Seeking Summary Judgement In New York Auto Cases

December 1, 2023

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In New York automobile accident cases, before considering moving for summary judgement, the moving party must be certain that there are no possible triable issues of fact. Although this may appear obvious, courts continue to deny summary judgment motions if there is any wiggle room for the non-moving party, particularly where there is potential wrongdoing by both parties.

 

For example, in Policart v Wheels LT, plaintiff was injured in a car accident where she had the right of way. There was a stop sign governing the defendant’s entrance to the intersection, but not one for plaintiff. The trial court granted plaintiff’s motion for summary judgment, in part, because of the general rule that “a driver who fails to yield the right-of-way after stopping at a stop sign is in violation of Vehicle and Traffic Law § 1142(a) and is negligent as a matter of law." However, on appeal the Second Department reversed and denied plaintiff’s motion, holding that plaintiff failed to eliminate all issues of fact as to whether she was free from any comparative negligence in failing to avoid the accident, despite having the right of way.

 

The takeaway from Policart is that New York courts will grant summary judgement in auto accident cases only when the movant successfully accounts for all triable issues of fact. Even when the facts seem obvious, such as the plaintiff having the right of way and defendant running a stop sign, courts may still refuse to grant summary judgment where any fact issues as to liability exist.

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