This action arises from a motor vehicle accident which occurred at or near the intersection of Hempstead Turnpike and Lincoln Road, Franklin Square, County of Nassau, State of New York. The accident involved two vehicles, a 1998 Mercedes Benz owned and operated by plaintiff and a 1994 Ford Pick-Up Truck owned and operated by defendant. Plaintiff commenced the action by the filing and service of a Summons and Verified complaint for damages.
A Lawyer said that, it is plaintiff’s contention that at the time of the car accident his vehicle was stopped at a red light on Hempstead Turnpike, and had been so for approximately ten seconds, when it was violently struck in the rear by defendant’s vehicle. In his Affidavit in Support of his motion, plaintiff states, there is nothing to my knowledge and belief that I could have done to avoid this truck accident. My actions of obeying the New York State Vehicle and Traffic Laws were obviously no factor in causing this accident. Based upon Defendant’s conduct and the physical objective facts, it is clear that the Defendant’s negligence was the sole cause of this truck accident and that the Defendant’s conduct fell well below the standard of reasonable care that one should employ and utilize when operating a motor vehicle within the State of New York.
Plaintiff moves, pursuant to CPLR § 3212, for an order granting partial summary judgment against defendant on the issue of liability upon the ground that there are no triable issues of fact and that, as a matter of law, plaintiff is entitled to such judgment; and, upon granting summary judgment, for an order setting this matter down for an assessment of damages. Defendant opposes the motion.
Plaintiff argues that there are no questions of fact to be determined by a jury in connection with the issue of liability in this matter.
Defendant first argues that plaintiff’s summary judgment motion should be denied as premature because the Examinations Before Trial have not yet been conducted. In opposition to plaintiff’s motion, defendant submits his own Affidavit in which he claims that he has a non-negligent reason for not being able to stop and thus there are issues of fact in this matter. Defendant states “on the day of the car accident, I was traveling about 25 m.p.h. westbound on Hempstead Turnpike, approaching Lincoln Road in Hempstead, New York. It was a windy, rainy morning. When I was about 80′ from the intersection there was a small yellow school bus in the left of the two west bound lanes. I then began to apply my brakes and started to slow down. I turned on the right directional signal to go into the right lane, with my foot still on the brake pedal. However, after entering the right lane, the brakes were no longer slowing down my vehicle. The front of my vehicle struck the rear of plaintiff s vehicle. After the accident I exited my vehicle and saw a white plastic garbage bag and other garbage including empty egg cartons, papers and cardboard on the roadway under my tires, which was the cause of my being unable to stop or turn the vehicle to avoid the impact. The garbage placed at the curb for garbage pickup apparently was blown into the street by the weather. Police responded to the scene and I advised the police officer of the garbage that caused the car accident. The police officer confirmed the garbage as the cause of the accident. Defendant also submits the Police Accident Report in support of his opposition, in which the responding officer wrote in the Accident Description/Officer’s Notes section, “MV1 and MV2 were in collision. MV1 OP stated that he tried to stop but due to debris in the road and slippery pavement his vehicle skidded and struck MV2. Findings of investigation revealed the cause.” Defendant therefore argues that issues of fact exist with respect to the allegations of his negligence.
The issue in this case is whether defendant is liable for damages caused by the accident, warranting plaintiff’s grant of partial summary judgment on the issue of liability.
The Court held that, it is well settled that the proponent of a motion for summary judgment must make a prima facie showing of entitlement to judgment as a matter of law by providing sufficient evidence to demonstrate the absence of material issues of fact. To obtain summary judgment, the moving party must establish its claim or defense by tendering sufficient evidentiary proof, in admissible form, sufficient to warrant the court, as a matter of law, to direct judgment in the movant’s favor. Such evidence may include deposition transcripts, as well as other proof annexed to an attorney’s affirmation.
If a sufficient prima facie showing is demonstrated, the burden then shifts to the non-moving party to come forward with competent evidence to demonstrate the existence of a material issue of fact, the existence of which necessarily precludes the granting of summary judgment and necessitates a trial. Further, to grant summary judgment, it must clearly appear that no material triable issue of fact is presented. The burden on the court in deciding this type of motion is not to resolve issues of fact or determine matters of credibility, but merely to determine whether such issues exist. It is the existence of an issue, not its relative strength that is the critical and controlling consideration. The evidence should be construed in a light most favorable to the party moved against.
The Court said that, when the driver of an automobile approaches another automobile from the rear, he or she is bound to maintain a reasonably safe rate of speed and control over his or her vehicle and to exercise reasonable care to avoid colliding with the other vehicle pursuant to New York State Vehicle and Traffic Law § 1129(a). A rear end collision with a stopped vehicle establishes a prima facie case of negligence on the part of the operator of the offending vehicle. Such a collision imposes a duty of explanation on the operator.
As noted, a rear-end collision with a stopped or stopping vehicle creates a prima facie case of liability with respect to the operator of the rearmost vehicle, thereby requiring the operator to rebut the inference of negligence by providing a non-negligent explanation for the collision. Vehicle stops which are foreseeable under the prevailing traffic conditions, even if sudden and frequent, must be anticipated by the driver who follows, since the following driver is under a duty to maintain a safe distance between his or her car and the car ahead. Drivers must maintain safe distances between their cars and the cars in front of them and this rule imposes on them a duty to be aware of traffic conditions including stopped vehicles. See VTL § 1129(a). Drivers have a duty to see what should be seen and to exercise reasonable care under the circumstances to avoid an accident.
The Court held that, plaintiff, in his motion, has demonstrated prima facie entitlement to summary judgment on the issue of liability against defendant. Therefore, the burden shifts to defendant to demonstrate an issue of fact which precludes summary judgment.
After applying the law to the facts in this case, the Court finds that defendant has demonstrated an issue of fact which precludes summary judgment by providing a non-negligent explanation for the collision, specifically the alleged condition of the debris on the road which caused his car to skid and strike plaintiff’s vehicle. As discussed above, said condition was confirmed in the Police Accident Report.
Therefore, plaintiff’s motion, pursuant to CPLR § 3212, for an order granting partial summary judgment against defendant on the issue of liability upon the ground that there are no triable issues of fact and that, as a matter of law, plaintiff is entitled to such judgment; and, upon granting summary judgment, for an order setting this matter down for an assessment of damages is hereby denied.
Drivers operating their vehicle must exercise reasonable care while driving especially when the automobile approaches another automobile in the rear. If you are involved in a car or truck accident, and believed to have a non-negligent explanation for the collision, you need the help of a Nassau Car Accident Attorney. Nassau Injury Attorney or Nassau Criminal Attorney at Stephen Bilkis and Associates can defend your case from possible damages that you may be held liable for.