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Summary Judgment Denied For Vehicle Struck From Behind Where Proximate Cause Was An Issue (NY)

January 27, 2023

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The general rule in New York for rear-end accidents with a vehicle that is stopped or stopping is that there is a rebuttable presumption of negligence on the part of the driver that hits the vehicle in front of them. Accidents involving multiple vehicles can involve competing testimony and questions of fact that can make summary judgment difficult.

For example, in<em> <a href="https://www.wcmlaw.com/wp-content/uploads/2023/01/Houslin-v.-New-York-City-Tr.-Auth..pdf">Houslin v. New York City Tr. Auth.</a></em>, plaintiff was a passenger in a vehicle which was struck by another vehicle, then collided with the rear of a bus owned by the MTA and NYC Transit Authority. The Transit defendants moved for summary judgment on the basis that the bus was struck from behind and therefore they had no liability. The Supreme Court denied the motion on the basis that fact issues existed as to the proximate cause of the accident and liability of the Transit defendants.

The Appellate Division, Second Department affirmed, finding that the Supreme Court properly denied the Transit defendants’ motion, as “there can be more than one proximate cause of an accident.” The Court found that given the conflicting deposition testimony as to the cause of the accident, issues of fact remained as to whether the bus had been operated negligently, and if so, whether that negligence contributed at all to the accident.

The takeaway from the <em>Houslin</em> case is that summary judgment is not guaranteed in a rear-end hit case where there is conflicting deposition testimony and evidence that the driver struck from behind had some degree of negligence in the accident.

Thank you to Rebecca Pasternak for her contribution to this post. Should you have any questions, please contact <a href="agibbs@wcmlaw.com">Andrew Gibbs</a>.

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