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Lynch-Fina v. Paredes

Lynch-Fina v. Paredes

Court Discusses Whether Section 388 of the Vehicle and Traffic Law was Limited to only Negligence

The plaintiff, who was the administratrix of the estate of the decedent, who was a young infant bought an action against the defendants who were the owner of the motor vehicle and the driver of the motor vehicle. The driver of the motor vehicle pled guilty to manslaughter in the second degree. The owner of the motor vehicle requested summary judgment as the liability under section 388 of the Vehicle and Traffic Law imposed on her as owner only extended to negligent acts rather than negligent and reckless conduct. The defendant used the case of Ingle v. Mark, 58 Misc.2d 895 where there was a refusal by the criminal court to make the owner guilty of punitive damages because the driver had acted in a grossly negligent manner.

The court held that contrary to the defendant’s argument the statute was not only limited to negligent conduct but also to reckless and gross negligent conduct. If the court were to allow a holding based on the defendant’s argument, it would result in absurdity and impose an inconsistent standard with authorities such as O’Neill v. Hamill, 22 A.D.2d 691 which held that evidence of DWI driving while intoxicated, as a statutory violation, would be prima facie proof of negligence, sufficient to impose liability upon a finding of a causal connection. The purpose of section 388 of the VTL was to ensure that where injury or death was caused when the owner consented or permitted the driver to operate their motor vehicle, they will be financially responsible. Additionally, the word negligence in the section was board to cover both gross negligence and reckless acts. Therefore, the proposed interpretation of the statute by the defendant would defeat the purpose it sought to accomplish.

The case of Ingle v Mark which the defendant cited was distinguishable. In Ingle it held that section 388 cannot to be used to make an owner liable for punitive damages based on reckless conduct or morally culpable conduct. However, in the present case the defendant wanted to be shielded from responsibility where the driver acted recklessly or was grossly negligent when the acts rationally and realistically fell within the scope of the statute.

A Queens County Personal Injury Attorney can assist with any matter associated with driving while intoxicated. A New York City Lawyer knows how to act in your best interest to ensure that your entitlement to damages is not defeated by summary judgment. At Stephen Bilkis & Associates, we offer excellent legal services to assist you with your legal problems to achieve the best results. Our offices are conveniently located throughout New York City and we offer free consultations.

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