Plaintiff Properly Awarded Summary Judgment in Hit-in-Rear Case

In Urena v. GVC Ltd., 2018 NY Slip Op 02426 (App. Div. 1st Dept. April 10, 2018) – a rear-end car accident case – the court affirmed the lower court’s decision to grant plaintiff’s motion for summary judgment judgment on the issue of liability and dismissal of all affirmative defenses and counterclaims alleging comparative fault.

The First Department reiterated the well-settled rule that “[a] rear-end collision with a stopped or stopping vehicle establishes a prima facie case of negligence on the part of the driver of the rear vehicle, and imposes a duty on the part of the operator of the moving vehicle to come forward with an adequate, nonnegligent explanation for the accident.”

Applying the law to the facts of the case, the court explained:

[D]efendant driver’s assertion that plaintiffs’ vehicle stopped abruptly does not explain why defendant driver failed to maintain a safe distance, and is insufficient to constitute a nonnegligent explanation… . Defendant driver’s further argument that the accident occurred because he could not complete a lane change, also fails to constitute a nonnegligent explanation. If he had to complete the attempted lane change to avoid striking the vehicle in front of him, he failed to maintain a safe distance, and the fact that another vehicle prevented him from completing the lane change does not constitute an emergency not of his own making.