Lead vehicle driver's non-negligence goes unrebutted; court grants summary judgment to defendant in chain collision

Ray v. Paris Limousine Service Corp., et al., 300606/2016 (Sup. Ct. Bronx Cty. Dec. 31, 2018)

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Defendant was traveling in stop-and-go heavy traffic at a speed of one to five miles per hour when struck from behind by plaintiff's vehicle. Applying well-settled law, a Bronx court granted summary judgment on liability to the defendant, dismissing the Complaint against him.

By statute, a driver of a motor vehicle is prohibited from following another vehicle "more closely than is reasonable and prudent, having due regard for the speed of such vehicles and traffic upon and the condition of the highway." Vehicle and Traffic Law sec. 1129(a). In this case, however, it was plaintiff who followed the defendant, yet defendant was alleged to have caused plaintiff's damages with a negligently sudden stop.

The Honorable John R. Higgitt, J.S.C. found that the plaintiff's and co-defendant's opposition failed to raise any triable issue of fact to rebut the prima facie showing that defendant was not negligent. Co-defendant submitted an affidavit averring that two separate accidents had occurred: one when plaintiff struck the moving defendant; the other when co-defendant in opposition struck plaintiff. Maybe there were two accidents, the court found, but that only raised a question of fact as to plaintiff's own negligence, not that of the moving defendant.

Nor would the court deny summary judgment on the ground of incomplete discovery. The motion was not premature, because information as to why the accident occurred reasonably rests within the Plaintiff's and co-defendant's own knowledge. Having raised no issue of fact, they could not defeat summary judgment on the "mere hope that a party might be able to uncover some evidence during the discovery process".

AGF&J associates Jay S. Gunsher and Seth A. Nirenberg briefed the defendant's motion.