Plaintiffs sometimes must file a lawsuit before they have all of the information they need to prove their case. The defendant may hold information necessary to prove liability. The plaintiff may be able to obtain this information through the discovery process. Defendants often move for summary judgment in such cases, but simply pointing to the gaps in the plaintiff’s case is not enough. The defendant must show that it is entitled to judgment as a matter of law.
One New York court recently considered whether summary judgment was appropriate when the plaintiff could not identify the individual who caused her injuries in Kurcias v. 1043 Restaurant Corp. but did know the identity of his employer. The plaintiff was injured when a bicycle delivery person struck her as she crossed the street. She was able to provide a general description of the man on the bicycle. She saw an employee of the defendant restaurant come out and speak to the cyclist. The cyclist then left.
Five or ten minutes after she was hit, the plaintiff went into the restaurant and was offered ice for her hand. She came back to the restaurant two weeks later and asked the manager for the name of the cyclist. The manager asked if she had not already got the man’s name, and she told him she had not. The manager then said, “We don’t know anything.” The plaintiff saw the cyclist again six weeks later, riding a bike that looked like the one that struck her. He was wearing a vest with the restaurant’s name on it.
The plaintiff and her husband filed suit against the restaurant and the driver as “John Doe.” The restaurant moved for summary judgment, arguing that the three delivery persons deposed and other employees testified to having no knowledge of the incident. The defendant also argued that the plaintiff was unable to show that the person who struck her was an employee of the restaurant. The defendant argued that the plaintiff failed to prove the accident was caused by or even related to the restaurant.
The court noted, however, that this is not the standard at the summary judgment stage. Gaps in the plaintiff’s proof are an insufficient basis for summary judgment. To succeed in obtaining summary judgment, the defendant must affirmatively show it is not liable. Here, three delivery persons were deposed, but there were five or six employed by the restaurant. Without additional evidence showing a lack of liability, the question of whether one of the delivery persons who was not deposed was involved remained. The defendant failed to submit evidence that those people did not fit the plaintiff’s description.
The court found that there were issues of fact that should be decided by the jury. It is the jury who should decide if the plaintiff’s testimony that she saw the man who hit her wearing the restaurant’s vest several weeks later is credible. It is also up to the jury to determine whether the defendant had knowledge of the accident’s cause.
An accident victim should generally try to get the identifying information of the responsible person immediately after the accident. Our New York pedestrian accident attorney understands, however, that in the moments following an accident, surprise and pain can prevent the victim from getting that information. This case shows that a case may proceed, even with some gaps.
If you have been seriously hurt due to someone else’s negligence, call 1-877-313-7673. The Law Offices of Nicholas Rose, PLLC offers free consultations.
More Blog Entries:
New York Defendant Not Entitled to Summary Judgment Because Pedestrian Crossed Outside Crosswalk, September 22, 2016, New York City Injury Lawyer Blog
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