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Liu v. Lowe

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2019 WL 2439770
Supreme Court, Appellate Division, Second Department, New York.
Yong Dong LIU, Appellant,
v.
Michael LOWE, et al., Respondents.
2018–05748
|
(Index No. 702953/17)
|
Argued – March 14, 2019
|
June 12, 2019
Synopsis
Background: Bus driver filed personal injury action against truck driver, alleging truck driver negligently rear-ended him while he was stopped within berm of highway. The Supreme Court, Queens County, Pam Jackman Brown, J., entered order denying bus driver’s motion for summary judgment. Bus driver appealed.

[Holding:] The Supreme Court, Appellate Division, held that truck driver was negligent in striking bus driver.

Reversed; motion granted.

West Headnotes (5)

[1]
Judgment

A plaintiff is not required to show freedom from comparative fault in order to establish her or his prima facie entitlement to judgment as a matter of law on the issue of liability.
Cases that cite this headnote

[2]
Automobiles

A rear-end collision with a stopped or stopping vehicle establishes a prima facie case of negligence on the part of the operator of the rear vehicle, thereby requiring that operator to rebut the inference of negligence by providing a nonnegligent explanation for the collision.
Cases that cite this headnote

[3]
Automobiles

Truck driver was negligent in striking bus driver from behind on highway, where bus became disabled several hours prior to accident, bus driver parked bus completely within berm of highway and placed emergency reflective tripods on roadway behind bus while he waited for tow truck, truck driver struck rear of bus, and driver admitted following accident he had been tired and must have fallen asleep behind the wheel.
Cases that cite this headnote

[4]
Automobiles

A showing that a defendant fell asleep while driving raises a rebuttable presumption of negligence.
Cases that cite this headnote

[5]
Evidence

Portion of police accident report containing defendant driver’s admission, that he must have fallen asleep behind wheel prior to rear-ending bus driver on highway, was admissible, in bus driver’s personal injury action against truck driver.
Cases that cite this headnote

Attorneys and Law Firms
Caesar and Napoli, P.C., New York, N.Y. (Kelsey M. Crowley and Robert Stein of counsel), for appellant.
Pillinger Miller Tarallo, LLP, Elmsford, N.Y. (John A. Risi and Patrice Coleman of counsel), for respondents.
REINALDO E. RIVERA, J.P., JEFFREY A. COHEN, JOSEPH J. MALTESE, VALERIE BRATHWAITE NELSON, JJ.

DECISION & ORDER
*1 In an action to recover damages for personal injuries, the plaintiff appeals from an order of the Supreme Court, Queens County (Pam Jackman Brown, J.), entered April 13, 2018. The order denied the plaintiff’s motion for summary judgment on the issue of liability.

ORDERED that the order is reversed, on the law, with costs, and the plaintiff’s motion for summary judgment on the issue of liability is granted.

On May 12, 2015, at approximately 11:30 p.m., a bus operated by the plaintiff was stopped within the berm of a highway when it was struck in the rear by the defendants’ tractor trailer. The plaintiff subsequently commenced this personal injury action against the defendants. Before any depositions were taken, the plaintiff moved for summary judgment on the issue of liability. The Supreme Court denied the motion. The plaintiff appeals.

[1] [2]A plaintiff is no longer required to show freedom from comparative fault in order to establish her or his prima facie entitlement to judgment as a matter of law on the issue of liability (see Rodriguez v. City of New York, 31 N.Y.3d 312, 76 N.Y.S.3d 898, 101 N.E.3d 366; Buchanan v. Keller, 169 A.D.3d 989, 95 N.Y.S.3d 252; Merino v. Tessel, 166 A.D.3d 760, 87 N.Y.S.3d 554). A rear-end collision with a stopped or stopping vehicle establishes a prima facie case of negligence on the part of the operator of the rear vehicle, thereby requiring that operator to rebut the inference of negligence by providing a nonnegligent explanation for the collision (see Tutrani v. County of Suffolk, 10 N.Y.3d 906, 908, 861 N.Y.S.2d 610, 891 N.E.2d 726; Grant v. Carrasco, 165 A.D.3d 631, 84 N.Y.S.3d 235; Lopez v. Dobbins, 164 A.D.3d 776, 777, 79 N.Y.S.3d 566).

[3] [4] [5]Here, in support of his motion, the plaintiff submitted an affidavit that established, prima facie, that the defendant driver was negligent when his tractor trailer struck the rear of the plaintiff’s stopped vehicle (see Motta v. Gomez, 161 A.D.3d 725, 726, 72 N.Y.S.3d 840; O’Rourke v. Carucci, 117 A.D.3d 1015, 986 N.Y.S.2d 521). The plaintiff averred that a few hours prior to the accident, the bus he was operating became disabled. He then parked the bus completely within a berm and placed emergency reflective tripods on the roadway behind his bus. He was waiting for a tow truck when the defendants’ vehicle struck the rear of the bus without any warning. In addition, the plaintiff submitted a copy of the police accident report, which contained the defendant driver’s admission that he had been tired and must have fallen asleep behind the wheel. “[A] showing that a defendant fell asleep while driving raises a rebuttable presumption of negligence” (Spivak v. Heyward, 248 A.D.2d 58, 60, 679 N.Y.S.2d 156). Contrary to the defendants’ contention, the portion of the police accident report that contained the defendant driver’s admission was admissible (see Kraynova v. Lowy, 166 A.D.3d 600, 602, 87 N.Y.S.3d 653; Mastricova v. Ruderman, 164 A.D.3d 1435, 1436, 82 N.Y.S.3d 546; Lezcano–Correa v Sunny’s Limousine Serv., Inc., 145 A.D.3d 766, 767, 43 N.Y.S.3d 129; Scott v. Kass, 48 A.D.3d 785, 851 N.Y.S.2d 649).

In opposition, the defendants failed to raise a triable issue of fact. Counsel’s affirmation, standing alone, was insufficient to raise a triable issue of fact (see CPLR 3212[b]; Roche v. Hearst Corp., 53 N.Y.2d 767, 769, 439 N.Y.S.2d 352, 421 N.E.2d 844; Lazarre v. Gragston, 164 A.D.3d 574, 575, 81 N.Y.S.3d 541; Bentick v. Gatchalian, 147 A.D.3d 890, 892, 48 N.Y.S.3d 171).

*2 Accordingly, the Supreme Court should have granted the plaintiff’s motion for summary judgment on the issue of liability.

RIVERA, J.P., COHEN, MALTESE and BRATHWAITE NELSON, JJ., concur.
All Citations
— N.Y.S.3d —-, 2019 WL 2439770, 2019 N.Y. Slip Op. 04753

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