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Putting Car Collision Defenses to Rest (NY)

June 21, 2019

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<p style="text-align: justify;">In New York, liability is almost certain against the driver of a vehicle that hits another vehicle in the rear.  The reason is that the ‘stop short’ defense is not admissible by courts, as drivers should follow other vehicles at a safe enough distance that they can avoid colliding with a vehicle that happens to stop short.   However, exceptions are made under the “Emergency Doctrine.”</p>
<p style="text-align: justify;">In<em> <a href="">Kabir v Yousuf </a></em>the defendant hit a vehicle in the rear and injured the plaintiff, who was a passenger of his vehicle.  At trial, the defendant asked the court to charge the jury with the “Emergency Doctrine” defense.  The lower court denied the application and the defendant appealed.</p>
<p style="text-align: justify;">The Second Department reversed and held that the court erred in not allowing the jury to hear the charge.  The Appellate Division found that the defendant driver hit a vehicle that had stopped short when the driver of the first vehicle noticed “six to seven mattresses sprawled all over the highway.”  The appellate court reasoned that “where some reasonable view of the evidence establishes that an actor was confronted by a sudden and unforeseen occurrence not of the actor's own making, then the reasonableness of the conduct in the face of the emergency is for the jury.”  Applying this principle to the facts of this motor vehicle accident, the Court held that the reasonableness of defendant’s conduct in the face of the emergency was for the jury to determine, even though it was the driver of the first vehicle that was actually faced with this emergency.  A new trial on liability was ordered.</p>
<p style="text-align: justify;">Thanks to George Parpas for his contribution to this post.  Please contact <a href="">Georgia Coats</a> with any questions.</p>


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