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Court Finds Defendant Liable for Orange County Car Crash

Auto Accident Law

In 2009, we filed a lawsuit on behalf of our client who was injured in a car crash at the intersection of West Avenue and State Route 84 in the Village of Chester. Our complaint alleged that the accident occurred when the defendant failed to stop at a stop sign and collided with the plaintiff in the intersection, resulting in a fracture of his right knee (patella).

Before trial, we filed a motion for summary judgment on the issue of liability. The defendant opposed our motion and also filed a cross-motion for summary judgment, claiming that our client did not suffer a “serious injury” which would support the lawsuit for damages under New York law.

On a motion for summary judgment, the moving party must establish a “prima facie” case demonstrating that no triable issue of fact exists. If the other party cannot rebut this finding, the court grants the motion as a matter of law.

Court Grants Plaintiff’s Motion

In our motion, we showed that the defendant’s negligence was the sole cause of the accident. The defendant claimed that she did in fact stop at the stop sign for “ten minutes” and looked both ways before entering the intersection and did not see our client. Even if this were true, it misses the point. The defendant had the stop sign, and our client had the right-of-way. Failing to yield the right-of-way is negligence as a matter of law. We established our prima facie case for negligence, and the defendant did not raise any issue that our client was negligent or submit any other possible cause for the accident. The New York Supreme Court, Orange County, granted our motion on the issue of liability.

Court Denies Defendant’s Motion

Regarding the defendant’s cross-motion, we had submitted evidence that the plaintiff’s patella fracture prevented him from performing substantially all of his usual and customary daily activities for at least 90 days during the 180 days following the accident. This type of 90/180 injury is a “serious injury” according to New York Insurance Law section 5102.

The defendant submitted doctor reports claiming either that our client did not suffer a patella fracture, that the crash merely aggravated a pre-existing injury, or even that the plaintiff’s claimed injury was entirely due to a pre-existing condition. All this evidence does, though, is raise triable issues of fact that would need to resolved at trial. The defendant set up a “battle of the experts,” and the credibility of opposing experts is a matter for the jury, not a matter to be decided by the judge pre-trial. The defendant’s motion for summary judgment was denied.

The defendant appealed the denial of her motion. On appeal, the court in Poverud v. Kwartler held that the defendant failed to establish her prima facie case, so the plaintiff did not need to raise a triable issue of fact in opposition. The denial of defendant’s motion was upheld on appeal.

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