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Middle Car In “Chain Collision” Can Escape On Summary Judgment

February 10, 2023

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Defending a rear-end collision when plaintiff is in a stopped car can be difficult, the cards are stacked against you and generally speaking, so is the law. Plaintiff only needs to establish that they were stopped as prima facie showing that the operator of the rear vehicle was negligent. However, the Second Department has recently held that, the same rules do not apply for a “middle” car in an accordion accident.

In the matter of <em><a href="https://www.wcmlaw.com/wp-content/uploads/2023/02/Liya-Robinson-v.-New-York-City-Transit-Authority-and-Ghilan-Noman-Ali.pdf">Liya Robinson v. New York City Transit Authority and Ghilan Noman Ali</a>,</em> 2023 N.Y. Slip Op 00683, Ms. Robinson brought suit to recover for personal injuries resulting from a multiple car pileup. Here, Ms. Robinson was sitting at a red light, when a New York City Bus struck her from the rear, resulting in two other cars being struck. Ms. Robinson brought suit against the NYCTA, as well as the drivers of the two vehicles in front of her.

While it may seem clear that the two front vehicles would have no liability in such an action, and in fact summary judgment was held awarded in their favor, the court widened its holding, specifically stating that “in a chain-collision accident, the defendant operator/owner of the middle vehicle may establish prima facie entitlement to judgment as a matter of law by demonstrating that the middle vehicle was properly stopped behind the lead when it was struck from behind by the rear vehicle and propelled into the lead vehicle.” <em>Id.</em>, citing <em>Nicola v Nicolas</em>, 208 AD3d 791, 793.

Thus, the mere fact that the insured was in a rear-end collision and was not the lead, is not dispositive of the action. In fact, if they were in the middle of the collision, they may be able to successfully obtain summary judgment and share no liability whatsoever.

Thanks to Christopher Palmieri for his assistance in this post.  Should you have any questions, please contact <a href="tbracken@wcmlaw.com">Tom Bracken</a>.

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