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Hazard lights signaled disabled vehicle; Summary Judgment granted where defendant vehicle owner waited 45 minutes for assistance before rear-end collision

Carmen Rodriguez v. George Rodriguez, Matadeen Chandrika, Jose Barzallo, Jose Zumba, Index No. 153682/2016 (Sup.Ct. March 11, 2019)

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A New York County court granted the defendant's motion for summary judgment upon evidence that he did not breach any duty to plaintiff and was not liable for injuries she received while riding as a passenger in another vehicle.
The record demonstrated that plaintiff was a passenger in a vehicle operated by a co-defendant when that vehicle was involved in a rear-end accident with another co-defendant who had safely stopped behind the moving defendant's broken-down vehicle.

The moving defendant had been travelling in the middle lane of traffic on the Bronx River Parkway when his right front tire without any warning malfunctioned and turned sideways, forcing the defendant to bring the vehicle to an immediate stop in the middle lane of the Parkway. Moving defendant, once stopped, immediately engaged his emergency lights to warn oncoming vehicles of the hazard. He made several calls to the police for assistance and waited for 40-45 minutes for someone to arrive. Meanwhile the vehicle could not be moved to the shoulder. Before help came, the co-defendants' vehicles collided.

Plaintiff and the co-defendant whose vehicle plaintiff occupied contended that there existed an issue of fact on the part of moving defendant being a cause of the accident in failing to move his vehicle off of the roadway and in failing to properly warn oncoming vehicles of the hazard caused by his stopped vehicle. The Court found that the co-defendant who had safely brought his vehicle to a stop, within his deposition testimony confirmed that moving defendant had his hazards properly activated warning oncoming vehicles of the hazard. The Court further found that moving defendant took all appropriate actions and could not have safely moved his vehicle off of the roadway and had no other place to go while waiting for help to arrive.

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