To succeed in a motion for summary judgment in New York, a plaintiff must show that he or she is entitled to judgment as a matter of law through evidence in admissible form. Once the plaintiff has made this showing, the defendant can defeat the motion by showing that there is a triable issue of material fact.
Sometimes the evidence of negligence is so strong that a plaintiff can succeed in a motion for summary judgment as to liability, as in the recent case of Guerrero v. Millo. In this case, the plaintiff filed suit following an automobile accident. She sued both the driver of the other vehicle and that vehicle’s owner, who was riding as a passenger at the time. The plaintiff averred that she was driving north in the right lane and the defendant was also going north in the lane to her left. She claimed that the accident happened when the defendants’ vehicle tried to merge into her lane “without warning” and struck her vehicle. The Supreme Court granted partial summary judgment for the plaintiff on liability, and the defendants appealed.
The Appellate Division found that the plaintiff had made a prima facie showing that she was entitled to partial summary judgment. The defendants had submitted affidavits in which they stated that neither of them saw the plaintiff’s vehicle before the accident. They also stated that the collision happened when the defendant driver began merging into the right lane.
The Appellate Division noted that the defendants essentially admitted that the defendant driver was negligent by violating New York traffic law in changing lanes when it was unsafe. Although the defendant owner stated that she had seen a “fast moving shadow” that she thought was the plaintiff’s vehicle, this statement was merely speculation and therefore insufficient to raise an issue of fact as to the plaintiff’s potential speeding. The court also rejected the defendants’ argument that summary judgment was premature because discovery had not been completed. The Appellate Division noted that the “mere hope” that discovery might turn up evidence that would support denial of the motion for summary judgment is insufficient to warrant denial of the motion. The Appellate Division unanimously affirmed the Supreme Court’s decision, finding no triable issues of fact.
The issue of liability is not always as easy for a plaintiff to overcome as it was in this case. Here, the plaintiff was able to show that the defendant hit her vehicle when he tried to merge into her lane. The defendants were unable to provide any “non-negligent explanation” for the collision. This case illustrates that it is possible for a plaintiff to obtain a partial summary judgment as to liability in a New York automobile accident.
If you have been injured in an automobile accident, a skilled New York automobile accident attorney can help you.
The Law Offices of Nicholas Rose, PLLC offers free consultations. Call 1-877-313-7673.
Guerrero v. Millo, January 28, 2016, Supreme Court of the State of New York, Appellate Division, First Judicial Department
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