Possible Explanation for Rear-End Collision Precludes Summary Judgment in Favor of Rear-Ended Plaintiff

In D’Agostino v. YRC, Inc., the Appellate Division, Second Department affirmed the denial of summary judgment on liability in favor of the plaintiff, who was struck in the rear.

Here are the facts:

During the late night hours of October 22, 2010, the plaintiff was driving in the northbound right lane of Interstate 87, near Tuxedo, when her vehicle was involved in a collision with a tractor-trailer. As a result of the collision, the plaintiff’s vehicle became disabled and was stopped in the right lane. As the plaintiff sat in her vehicle after the collision, it was struck from behind by a tractor-trailer operated by the defendant Peter J. Timpe, Jr., and owned by the defendant YRC, Inc. (hereinafter YRC), a trucking company.

While the general rule is that “[a] rear-end collision with a stopped vehicle establishes a prima facie case of negligence against the driver of the moving vehicle,” the “defendant can overcome the presumption of negligence by providing a nonnegligent explanation for the collision” including, but not limited to, “sudden or unavoidable circumstances.”

In this case, “although the plaintiff established her prima facie entitlement to judgment as a matter of law by demonstrating that YRC’s vehicle struck the rear of her vehicle while it was stopped in the right lane …, the YRC defendants raised a triable issue of fact as to whether they had a nonnegligent explanation for the collision.”

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