Feng v. Tao
Court Discusses Summary Judgment Motion in a Four Chain Car Accident
The plaintiff was involved in a four-car chain car accident while stationary at the red light. The first defendant requested summary judgment as he asserted that he was not liable for the injuries the plaintiff suffered as his motor vehicle which was behind the plaintiff was propelled into the vehicle. The defendant also claimed that the fourth driver was convicted for driving while intoxicated DWI as a result the accident occurred because of his negligence in failing to maintain a proper lookout, failing to maintain a proper speed and failing to keep a safe distance from the vehicle in front. The third driver moved for a cross motion for summary judgment as they were not liable for the accident as the drunken driver struck their vehicle.
The criminal defendant who was driving the last vehicle testified at the hearing that he had limited memory of the incident but he had four bottles of beers before leaving his job. He stated that he struck the third vehicle while driving very slowly. He did not remember whether the vehicle in front of him was stationary or whether there was any other vehicle in front of the vehicle he struck. He was arrested for driving while intoxicated and pled guilty to the charged. The driver of the third vehicle stated that he was at a complete stop because the vehicle in front of him came to gradual stop. The third driver further stated that his vehicle was struck after being stationary for about 5-6 seconds causing him to propel into the second vehicle. The second driver testified that he was behind the plaintiff’s vehicle waiting for the red traffic signal at the intersection ahead of him. After making a complete stop he stated that his vehicle was struck by the third driver after which the fourth driver was arrested.
The second driver relied on a copy of the pleadings; a copy of plaintiff’s amended verified bill of particulars; a copy of the police accident report and copies of the transcripts of the examinations before trial of the four drivers involved in the accident for summary judgment. The plaintiff’s Queens County Personal Injury Attorney opposed the motion for summary judgment by the second driver because the moving papers contain no evidence in admissible form to support the motion. Counsel maintains that the deposition transcripts were not signed by the respective parties and as such not in the admissible form. In addition, the plaintiff’s counsel asserted that the third driver’s cross-motion is an improper vehicle for seeking affirmative relief from a non-moving party. The Personal Injury Queens County Attorney of the fourth driver also contended that the deposition transcripts were inadmissible because they were not properly executed in compliance with section 3116 of the Civil Procedure Law Rules. Therefore, there was not sufficient evidence which was admissible to show an entitlement to summary judgment. The counsel for the second driver stated that he was entitled for summary judgment as he lawfully stopped at a red traffic signal when his car was rear-ended by the third vehicle which propelled his vehicle into the plaintiffs’ vehicle. The sole proximate cause of the accident was the fourth driver’s negligence when he rear ended the third driver’s motor vehicle because he was intoxicated. Drug possession was not charged.
The movants who requested summary judgment had to show an evidentiary basis for the court to grant summary judgment. Where the movants showed an entitlement to summary judgment then the burden shifted to the opposing party to show why summary judgment should not be granted. The law created a prima facie case for negligence on the part of the driver where there was a rear end collision. Therefore, the driver must prove non-negligent operation. The third driver testified that he was stationary when his motor vehicle was struck by the fourth driver. The second driver also gave the same explanation when he was struck by the third defendant. In multiple-car, chain-reaction accidents the courts have recognized that the operator of a vehicle which has come to a complete stop and is propelled into the vehicle in front of it as a result of being struck from behind is not negligent inasmuch as the operator’s actions cannot be said to be the proximate cause of the injuries resulting from the collision. Therefore, the court found that the plaintiff and the fourth driver failed to show triable issues as the intoxicated driver was the proximate cause of the accident.
In addition, the criminal court held that the contentions of the plaintiff and the fourth driver regarding the admissibility of the deposition transcripts were baseless. The transcripts were certified by the court reporter and the respective parties did not raise objections regarding the accuracy. Thus, the transcripts were admissible albeit they were not signed by the parties but they adopted the deposition. Therefore, the second and third vehicles involved in the four-car chain reaction automobile accident were not liable to driver of first car, in personal injury action filed by driver against the owners of the three other cars involved in the accident; owners of the second and third cars both testified that they were completely stopped at a red light when they were rear-ended, and the owner of the fourth car, was the proximate cause of the multi-car accident.
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