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Is Being Free Of Fault Necessary To Be Awarded Summary Judgment On Liability In An Automobile Case? (NY)

January 27, 2023

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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 <em><a href="https://www.wcmlaw.com/wp-content/uploads/2023/01/Golovnya-v.-Artemchenko.pdf">Golovnya v. Artemchenko</a></em>, 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 <a href="jdiffley@wcmlaw.com">John Diffley</a> for questions about this article.

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