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NY Appellate Division Rules that a Driver Didn’t Have Enough Proof to Uphold Summary Judgment on ‘Sole Proximate Cause’ Argument

There are several different important thresholds in your personal injury case. One of these is when your opponent asks the court to award summary judgment in its favor. If you lose, then your case is over and you receive zero compensation. If you win, then you can continue proceeding with your case, giving you the opportunity to secure a favorable verdict or, alternately, a fair settlement. Clearing this threshold means, in part, understanding what is required for a summary judgment and knowing how to argue persuasively to the court that your opportunity is not entitled to that judgment. For the legal advice and strategies your case needs, make sure you contact a skilled New York injury attorney about your accident.

For an example, there’s the case of M., a bicyclist who was walking alongside her bike on a street that was beneath an overpass. A vehicle driven by J. hit M., running over her foot. M. suffered a broken foot and sued J. for her damages. In his defense, J. argued that the “Sole proximate cause” was M.’s negligence. That, he asserted, meant that he was entitled to summary judgment in his favor and the case against him should be thrown out. The trial judge agreed with J. and issued an order granting summary judgment in favor of the driver, thereby ending the bicyclist’s case.

M. appealed and she won. The ruling from the Appellate Division highlights just how high a hurdle it was that J. was trying to clear. To win, he had to have enough evidence to demonstrate to the court that there was not possible interpretation of the facts that would allow a reasonable jury (or judge in a non-jury trial) to concluded that J. was in any way negligent at all.

That is an important thing to keep in mind in a defense motion for summary judgment in your personal injury case, where the defense argues that you (as the plaintiff) were 100% to blame for the accident. If there exists any interpretation of the facts that is reasonable and that places any of the blame on the defendant, then the defense isn’t entitled to the summary judgment it seeks and you (as the plaintiff) are entitled to take your case forward to trial.

When you need to do this, there are several different ways to “poke holes” in the defense’s argument. Sometimes, the key to defeating a request for summary judgment may lie in the defendant’s own testimony. In M.’s case, one of the reasonable interpretation of J.’s testimony was that his driving diligence was less than perfect. Specifically, his testimony raised the reasonable possibility that he failed “to see that which he should have seen … through the proper use of his senses” and failed to “exercise due care to avoid colliding with any bicyclist[ or] pedestrian.” This meant that there it was reasonable to conclude that J. was, at least in part, to blame for the accident. That meant that M. was entitled to proceed with her case.

An ancient Chinese proverb teaches that a “journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step.” So it is with your personal injury ligation. Whether your desire is to “have your day in court” and take your case all the way to trial, or whether you are open to accepting a settlement, your successful outcome begins with taking the first steps, like filing your action and defeating a defense motion for summary judgment. Before that, though, you should make sure you’re armed with skilled counsel to help you with each of these steps. The skilled Queens injury attorneys at Newman, Anzalone & Newman have been helping injured people for four decades. To put our experience to work for you, schedule a free consultation with one of our highly qualified attorneys. Contact us toll-free at 877-754-3099 or through our website.

More Blog Posts:

How to Question Your Opponent Thoroughly to Get the Information You Need for Your New York Personal Injury Case, New York Personal Injury Lawyers Blog, May 2, 2018

Brooklyn Pedestrian Wins Judgment in Her Favor After a Driver Crashed Into Her, New York Personal Injury Lawyers Blog, March 6, 2018

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