Driver’s Alleged Lack of Proper Attention Not Supported by Any Evidence in Auto Accident Case: Appellate Division Affirms Summary Judgment for Defendant

Linda A. Foreman v. Jihad Skeif, ___ A.D.3d ___, 2014 N.Y. Slip Op. 1837 (1st Dep't March 20, 2014)

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The Appellate Division, First Department, affirmed a lower court's Order granting the defendant's motion for summary judgment as to the issue of liability in a multi-vehicle accident in Bronx, New York. At the time of the accident, plaintiff was a passenger in the vehicle operated by her husband, a co-defendant.

Bronx Supreme Court Justice Alison Y. Tuitt had concluded that the defendant met his prima facie burden of establishing that the insured defendant was not negligent. Defendant's evidence showed that when the light turned green, he proceeded to go straight. In a "split second", co-defendant's vehicle cut in front of his vehicle, and, although he applied his brakes, he could not avoid the collision. There was no evidence that the defendant was traveling at an excessive rate of speed or otherwise failed to avoid the accident through his negligent conduct.

A five-Justice panel of the Appellate Division affirmed, agreeing that, based upon unrefuted evidence, the vehicle operated by co-defendant made a left turn across the path of the oncoming vehicle in violation of Vehicle and Traffic Law, Section 1141, and that defendant applied his brakes but could not avoid the collision.

The Appellate Division concluded that plaintiff failed to raise a triable issue of fact with any evidence supporting her claim that defendant could have avoided the accident by paying proper attention. Moreover, there is no evidence in the record that the defendant was speeding or was otherwise negligently operating his vehicle.

Plaintiff had alleged tears of the ACL and the medial meniscus of the left knee, as well an exacerbation of pre-existing injuries to her lumbar spine and cervical spine.

AGF&J associate Dennis Monaco briefed and argued the appeal.