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Hit in the Rear on the Highway

The plaintiff driver while stopped on the highway was struck in the rear by the defendant motor vehicle driver in Queens, New York. BBNR made a motion asking the court to determine that the defendant was at fault as a matter of law. The judge granted our motion and the only issue left for a jury to decide was how much money to award. The case settled shortly after winning this decision.

DARCI J. KOEHL V. JOSEPH R. ROMANO

Supreme Court, Queens County, Index No. 28940/11

Upon the foregoing papers it is ordered that plaintiff’s motion for an order granting summary judgment in their favor on the issue of liability against defendants pursuant to CPLR 3212 on the ground that there are no triable issues of fact and that, as a matter, of law, the plaintiff is entitled to such judgment is granted, for the following reasons:

The action arises out of an automobile accident that occurred on May 20, 2011, at interstate 495 near Exit 49N, Huntington, New York, in Suffolk County. Thereafter, the plaintiff commenced the instant action to recover for personal injuries sustained.

Plaintiff moves for summary judgment on the basis that there is no issue of liability to be determined. In support of the motion, plaintiff has submitted her affidavit and the Police Accident Report for the subject accident. Plaintiff Darci J. Koehl stated in her sworn affidavit that she was operating her car and was stopped in traffic. After being fully stopped for approximately thirty to forty seconds, plaintiffs’ car was hit in the rear by a vehicle operated by defendant Joseph R. Romano. Plaintiff states that she learned defendant’s name when he handed her information and defendant then left the scene after she told him that she had to call the police. The police responded, plaintiff gave the police officer the defendant’s information and a Police Accident Report was generated. The Police Accident Report states in pertinent part that Vehicle# l was traveling eastbound on I 495 in middle lane when Vehicle #2 rear ended Vehicle#1. Defendant opposes this motion claiming that he does not waive his rights and opportunities to defend on damages if the plaintiff is granted summary judgment on the issue of liability.

It is well settled that where a vehicle is lawfully stopped, there is a duty imposed upon the operators of vehicles traveling behind it in the same direction to come to a timely halt. Therefore, a rear-end collision with a lawfully stopped vehicle creates a prima facie case of liability in favor of the operator of the stationary vehicle unless the operator of the moving vehicle can come forward with an adequate, non-negligent explanation for the accident. Parra v Hugbes, 79 AD3d AD3d 1113 (2d Dept. 2010.) If the operator of the moving vehicle cannot come forward with any evidence to rebut the inference of negligence, the operator of the stopped vehicle may properly be awarded judgment as a matter of law. Lampkin v Chan, 68 AD3d 727 (2d Dept. 2009.) Defendant Joseph R. Romano has not raised any issue of fact and failed to submit any evidence in opposition to the motion. Defendant does not deny the plaintiffs affidavit that she was stopped in traffic after being fully stopped for approximately thirty to forty seconds when the plaintiffs’ car was struck in the rear by defendant’s vehicle or that the accident was due to any other reason than his own negligence. Consequently, the defendant is liable as as matter of law and thus, the plaintiff is entitled to summary judgment on the issue of liability. The Court notes that its determination does not involve the issue of whether the plaintiff suffered “serious injuries” and the matter shall proceed to trial on the issue of damages.

Dated: March 27, 2012

TIMOTHY J. DUFFICY, J.S.C.

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