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New York Defendants with Disabled Vehicle Denied Summary Judgment Based on Emergency Doctrine

Car Accidents

New York car accident attorneys know that the issue of liability can be complicated when multiple vehicles are involved in an accident. Liability is not always clear. A plaintiff sometimes needs to file suit against multiple defendants. A New York court faced a complex set of facts in a recent case.

The plaintiff was involved in an accident with another vehicle and a stalled box truck. The plaintiff filed suit against a number of defendants, including the driver and owner of the other vehicle, the driver of the box truck and his employer, and the tow truck driver and company. The court granted summary judgment in favor of the tow truck driver and towing company. The box truck driver and his employer also moved for summary judgment.

The plaintiff testified he first saw the stalled truck when the vehicle in front of him changed lanes. No one was directing traffic around the truck, and the truck did not have any lights on. The plaintiff slowed when he saw the truck. There was a vehicle in the left lane, so he moved into the right lane. The plaintiff said he had slowed to 30 miles per hour before the collision, and he had engaged his turn signal. The vehicle in the right lane struck the plaintiff’s rear passenger side. After the vehicle hit the plaintiff’s car, the plaintiff’s vehicle hit the right side of the rear of the disabled truck.

The defendant truck driver testified he had driven the box truck five days a week for more than three years with no issues or concerns with its mechanical condition before the accident. He said the truck shut down while he was going up the hill, without making any noises or showing any warning lights. It lost power and could not be started. He testified he immediately turned on the hazard lights, but he did not use the flares in the truck. He stated the tow truck had its flashing lights on and had been at the scene about five minutes before the accident. The tow truck driver was putting chains on the tires when the truck was struck. The impact pushed the box truck and the tow truck forward.

The tow truck driver testified that he turned on the hazard lights on top of the tow truck and pulled in front of the box truck. He testified the accident happened within a minute or two of his arrival.

The defendants also submitted an affidavit from the employee of the tow truck company responsible for the truck records, along with a copy of the records related to the truck involved in the accident. The records included an invoice from a truck sales company, noting the customer stated the truck slowed down, lost power, and died.

Counsel for the truck driver and his employer argued that the plaintiff failed to provide a non-negligent explanation for hitting the box truck. They further argued that they had established that they were entitled to summary judgment based on the emergency doctrine. They argued the stalled truck created an emergency. Furthermore, based on the maintenance records and the employee’s affidavit, there was no record of prior mechanical issues with the box truck.

In opposition of the motion for summary judgment, the plaintiff submitted an affidavit from a certified accident reconstructionist, who opined the box truck driver could have avoided the accident if he acted reasonably. He further opined that the failure of the vehicle was foreseeable.

The defendants argued that the truck stalling was an unforeseeable emergency situation. The court found that whether the emergency doctrine applied was a question of fact. The truck sales company invoice stated that the truck began slowing down before eventually losing power and dying. The court found there was a question of fact as to whether the defendant driver could have exercised due care and whether there was any comparative negligence.

The defendants did not meet their initial burden of making a prima facie case that they were entitled to summary judgment as a matter of law. The evidence presented by the defendants raised a question of fact. Thus, the court denied the defendants’ motion for summary judgment.

Liability can be resolved through summary judgment in some cases, but multiple vehicles may create factual questions that must be resolved at trial. If you have been seriously injured in a multi-vehicle accident, an experienced New York car accident attorney can assist you. Call the Law Offices of Marc S. Albert at 1.855.252.3788 to discuss your case.

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Images: / Victor Garcia