Plaintiff Awarded Summary Judgment in Auto Accident Case Where Defendant’s “Sneezing Fit” Was Documented in Police Report

Negligence cases, particularly those arising from car accidents, involve many facts, and hence questions of fact that are typically for a jury. However, there are situations where a plaintiff might be entitled to judgment as a matter of law.

One example of such a situation is the case of State Farm Fire & Cas. Co. v. Adri Leasing Corp., 48 Misc. 3d 1220(A) (N.Y. Dist. Ct. 2015), decided earlier this year.

The court explained that while “[p]olice reports are normally not admissible as evidence under the business records [hearsay] exception … [they] may be admissible if it is found that the statement therein contains an admission against interest” and that “[s]ummary judgment may be granted on the issue of liability when a police report contains an admission against interest.”

Applying the law to the facts, the court found:

[D]efendant was the sole and proximate cause of the accident. Notwithstanding the fact that the plaintiff’s police report is unsworn, the defendant’s statement recorded therein that she “had a sneezing fit” when she hit the plaintiff’s car constitutes an admission against interest. This case is factually similar to that of Grange v. Jacobs, [11 AD3d 582, 783 N.Y.S.2d 634, 635 (2d Dept 2004)][, where] the defendant’s admission that he had fallen asleep while driving constituted an admission against interest, allowing the court to consider the police accident report for summary judgment. The only difference in the present case is that the defendant driver had a “sneezing fit.” Therefore, this court grants the plaintiff’s cross-motion for summary judgment on the issue of liability. (Emphasis added.)

This case does not, of course, stand for the broad proposition that where a defendant driver has a “sneezing fit” they are automatically liable.