DEFENSE GETS SUMMARY JUDGMENT ON LIABILITY WHERE CAR REPORTED STOLEN THREE DAYS BEFORE ACCIDENT

Court: Supreme Court, Appellate Division, Second Department, New York

Case: Rohr v. City of New York

Date: Dec. 27, 2011

From: New York attorney Gary E. Rosenberg (personal injury and accident attorney and lawyer; serving Bronx and Queens; Queens injury lawyer)

Comment: Defendant moves for summary judgment on the issue of liability because his car was stolen -- and he had reported it stolen -- three days before the accident. Even though the accident victim claims that the defendant might have violated New York's Vehicle & Traffic Law by leaving his keys in the car, the court holds that such a violation, even if proven, was too remote in time to the three-days-later accident to change its decision.

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RELATED POSTS:

"EMERGENCY DOCTRINE" APPLIED TO MULTI-VEHICLE CROSS-OVER AUTO ACCIDENT; SUMMARY JUDGMENT & CASE DISMISSAL GRANTED TO ONE CAR (Posted by Queens injury lawyer Gary E. Rosenberg on Dec 4, 2011)

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n an action to recover damages for personal injuries, the defendant Sun Yun Na appeals from an order of the Supreme Court, Kings County (Velasquez, J.), dated November 4, 2010, which denied his motion for summary judgment dismissing the complaint and all cross claims insofar as asserted against him.

ORDERED that the order is reversed, on the law, with one bill of costs, and the motion of the defendant Sun Yun Na for summary judgment dismissing the complaint and all cross claims insofar as asserted against him is granted.

On February 28, 2008, at approximately 1:00 A.M., the plaintiff, Laura Rohr, was a passenger in a vehicle owned by the defendant Desmond Hunte and operated by the defendant Sydney Suvalin. The Suvalin/Hunte vehicle was struck from the rear by a vehicle owned by the defendant Sun Yun Na (hereinafter the appellant) and operated by the defendant Isaac Batista. On February 25, 2008, the appellant had reported his vehicle stolen. The plaintiff commenced this action against, among others, the appellant. The appellant moved for summary judgment dismissing the complaint and all cross claims insofar as asserted against him, and the Supreme Court denied the motion.

The appellant established, prima facie, his entitlement to judgment as a matter of law by presenting evidence that his vehicle had been stolen about three days prior to the subject accident and was being operated without his permission or consent at the time of the accident (see Devellis v. Lucci, 266 A.D.2d 180, 697 N.Y.S.2d 337; Delfino v. Ranieri, 131 Misc.2d 600, 501 N.Y.S.2d 248). In opposition, the respondents failed to raise a triable issue of fact. Even if the appellant violated Vehicle and Traffic Law 1210(a) on the day of the theft by leaving the key to the vehicle in its ignition, the lapse of three days between the theft of the vehicle and the injury‑producing event vitiated any proximate cause between the appellant's purported negligence and the accident as a matter of law (see Devellis v. Lucci, 266 A.D.2d 180, 697 N.Y.S.2d 337; Delfino v. Ranieri, 131 Misc.2d 600, 501 N.Y.S.2d 248; cf. Johnson v. Manhattan & Bronx Surface Transit Operating Auth., 71 N.Y.2d 198, 206-207, 524 N.Y.S.2d 415, 519 N.E.2d 326). Contrary to the plaintiff's contention, the motion was not premature, since she failed to demonstrate that further discovery would lead to additional relevant evidence (see CPLR 3212 [f]; Abraham Natural Foods Corp. v. Mount Vernon Fire Ins. Co., 84 A.D.3d 1281, 924 N.Y.S.2d 171; Wood v. Capital One Fin. Corp., 82 A.D.3d 1214, 919 N.Y.S.2d 863).

Accordingly, the Supreme Court should have granted the appellant's motion for summary judgment dismissing the complaint and all cross claims insofar as asserted against him.

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