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One Accident, One Plaintiff, Two Lawsuits, Different Defendants and No Collateral Estoppel

January 10, 2008

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In Sneddon v. Koeppel Nissan Inc., 2007 NY Slip Op 10524, AD Index 2006-06909 (Queens Co. Index 11249/05) plaintiff claims he was struck by a Nissan Pathfinder that suddenly accelerated while the driver was attempting to park. Plaintiff commenced his first action against the driver and successfully moved for summary judgment, whereupon the trial court found the driver's negligence to be the "sole proximate cause" of plaintiff's injuries.
Two years after that action settled, plaintiff brought a second lawsuit for products liability and negligent repair against Nissan North America, Koeppel Nissan, Inc., and Habberstad Nissan, Inc., who were not parties in the first lawsuit. The trial court granted the defendants' motion to dismiss, determining plaintff was collaterally estopped from asserting anything other than the driver's negligence caused his accident.
The Appellate Division - Second Department reversed, stating that the doctrine of collateral estoppel does not apply since the issues in the first and second lawsuits are "discrete and not identical."
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