Defendants in New York personal injury cases often attempt to prevent a case from going to trial by moving for summary judgment. To succeed in a motion for summary judgment, the defendant must show that it is entitled to judgment as a matter of law. To make this showing, the defendant must establish that there is no triable issue of fact. Generally, a defendant’s motion for summary judgment should not be granted if there is conflicting evidence that speaks to an element of the claim.
In the recent case of Davidson v. New York City Transit Authority, the defendant moved for summary judgment despite its own driver’s inconsistent testimony about the accident. The plaintiff was injured when she fell as she exited a city bus, and she sued the New York City Transit Authority (NYCTA). The NYCTA moved for summary judgment, arguing that it had not breached its duty to provide the plaintiff with a safe place to exit the bus.
New York case law has held that a common carrier, like a city bus, must stop at a safe place for its passengers to enter and exit the vehicle. The common carrier may be liable if the driver stops the bus in a location that requires the passenger to cross a dangerous or defective path to board or exit the bus. Even if the driver stops at an unsafe location, the common carrier may not be liable if the driver did not know of the dangerous condition.
Thus, the defendant could succeed in its summary judgment motion by showing that the driver did not stop in an unsafe location or that the driver could not see and was therefore unaware of the dangerous condition.
The plaintiff testified that the ground onto which she stepped as she exited the bus was uneven. The court noted that the marked area appeared to be near a tree well. The plaintiff further testified that it looked like there had been some patchwork on the sidewalk where she fell. She marked a photograph to show where the bus had stopped, and the court noted that the patchwork appeared to be visible.
The bus driver’s testimony seemed to be inconsistent. When she was asked if she had seen the plaintiff step off the bus, she said she did not recall. She testified that the plaintiff took a couple of steps before she fell, but she also testified that she didn’t witness the plaintiff take the steps.
The NYCTA argued that it was not liable because the plaintiff had taken several steps after she got off the bus. The court found, however, that the NYCTA had not provided sufficient evidence to show that it was entitled to judgment as a matter of law. The driver had testified that the plaintiff took several steps but also testified that she had not seen the plaintiff take the steps. Furthermore, the plaintiff’s testimony that she fell as she stepped off the bus contradicted the driver’s testimony.
The defendant also argued that the defect was not visible to the driver. The court noted that the issue of whether the driver could have seen the alleged defect was central to the determination of whether the NYCTA had breached the duty to provide a safe place to board and exit the bus, but it found the defendant had failed to show the driver’s knowledge or assessment of the conditions. The defendant did not reference any part of the driver’s testimony that indicated whether she saw the area where the plaintiff fell. The court found there were triable issues of fact regarding the driver’s ability to see the concrete patchwork from the driver’s seat. The court also noted that “patchwork” in a sidewalk is considered a substantial defect in the sidewalk under the Rules of the City of New York. Additionally, the Rules prohibit patching and require any sidewalk flag that contains a substantial defect to be replaced.
Our New York bus accident attorney knows the importance of evidence, even at the summary judgment stage of a case. Here, it was not just the internally inconsistent testimony of the driver but also the plaintiff’s own testimony and the photographs that allowed the case to survive summary judgment. If you have been injured on or while exiting a bus, a skilled New York attorney can help you.
The Law Offices of Nicholas Rose, PLLC offers free consultations. Call 1-877-313-7673.
Davidson v. New York City Transit Authority, August 15, 2016, Supreme Court of the State of New York, New York County
More Blog Entries:
New York Bus Accident Injuries Targeted by NHTSA’s New Seat Belt Rule, January 18, 2014, New York City Personal Injury Lawyer Blog
Image: FreeImages.com / chaobell