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Defendant exits twelve-car collision case unscathed; Court grants summary judgment dismissing claims and cross-claims

Grosswirth v. Prata, Index No. 53681/2016 (January 17, 2019)

A Westchester County court granted summary judgment to a defendant vehicle operator, dismissing not only claims by the plaintiff but cross-claims and third-party claims too.

Defendant operated vehicle number three out of the twelve involved in an accident that occurred on the Hutchinson River Parkway. Plaintiff was a passenger in vehicle four, which struck defendant's vehicle after it too was struck from behind and propelled forward. Evidence showed defendant had been at a complete stop for at least three seconds, and quite possibly more, before his vehicle was struck in the rear.

The court found that such evidence - that defendant brought his vehicle safely to a stop behind vehicle number two before being struck in the rear - established his prima facie entitlement to judgment as a matter of law. Plaintiff and co-defendants contended that certain inconsistencies in deposition testimony created a triable issue of fact sufficient to defeat the motion. No so. Competing versions of the timing of the accident, or number of impacts between the vehicles, could not change the undisputed fact that defendant had come to a stop before being struck from behind. "Simply put, neither plaintiff nor the codefendants submitted an affidavit from a person with personal knowledge of the facts so as to raise a triable issue of fact as to whether any culpable conduct by [the defendant] contributed to the happening of the subject accident."

AGF&J associate Jay S. Gunsher represented the defendant and briefed and argued the motion.