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Standoff On Wheels: Summary Judgment Denied In Rear-End Crash Case

December 15, 2023

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In the dynamic landscape of traffic incidents, rear-end collisions stand as one of the most prevalent yet legally intricate scenarios, particularly within the context of New York state laws. In Bhattarai v Louie, 2023 NY Slip Op 06232 (2d Dept. 2023), the plaintiff was injured in a rear-end collision to his vehicle. The plaintiff moved at the end of discovery seeking summary judgment on liability and seeking to dismiss the defendant’s affirmative defenses for comparative negligence of the plaintiff. In New York, a plaintiff can successfully move for summary judgment and any argument for comparative fault can only reduce the damages award at trial. However, the defendant in this case submitted an Affidavit stating that the plaintiff’s vehicle made a sudden and unexpected stop in the middle of the block with no vehicle traffic or pedestrian traffic in front of him. The trial court denied the plaintiff’s summary judgment motion and the Second Department affirmed the trial court decision.

 

“The defendants raised a triable issue of fact as to whether the defendant driver had a nonnegligent explanation for the collision (see Sokolowska v Song, 123 AD3d 1004Fernandez v Babylon Mun. Solid Waste, 117 AD3d 678, 679). The plaintiff's affidavit failed to provide sufficient details to demonstrate, prima facie, that he was not comparatively at fault in causing the accident (see generally Kanfer v Wong, 145 AD3d 985Jimenez v Batista, 123 AD3d 668, 669).” The Second Department concluded that the plaintiff’s sudden stop without any apparent reason was sufficient to cause a triable issue of fact precluding summary judgment against the defendant on the issue of liability.

 

This case highlights a small shift in the Court’s usual analysis for rear-end accidents. Usually, this fact pattern provides a sufficient prima facie argument for summary judgment in plaintiff’s favor establishing liability against the rear vehicle. Here, the Second Department supported the trial court’s legal reasoning that a vehicle should not be allowed to make a sudden stop without any reason, and then assert complete liability on behalf of defendants when struck in the rear by defendant’s vehicle. The jury will be left to decide comparative fault based upon the facts presented by each party.


Bhattarai v. Louie
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