New York car accident attorneys often seek to have the court determine the defendant is liable through summary judgment. It is also common for defendants to move for summary judgment. When a court grants summary judgment, it is deciding part or all of a case as a matter of law.
Regardless of which party files the motion, the process is the same. The moving party must establish a prima facie case of entitlement to judgment as a matter of law. If the moving party makes a prima facie case, the opposing party has the burden of showing there is a triable issue of fact that would prevent judgment as a matter of law. Each party must meet their respective burden through evidentiary proof in admissible form. Such evidence may include witness affidavits and expert reports. If the non-moving party successfully raises a triable issue of fact, summary judgment is denied. If the non-moving party does not show there is a triable issue of fact, the court will grant the motion for summary judgment.
Generally, for a court to grant summary judgment on the issue of liability, the material facts of the accident cannot be in dispute. If the opposing party submits evidence in an admissible form that raises a triable issue of fact, summary judgment is not appropriate. The court does not weigh the evidence at the summary judgment stage; it instead determines if there is evidence making the prima facie case and raising a triable issue of fact.
A New York court recently denied a defense motion for summary judgment due to conflicting evidence regarding how the accident occurred. The plaintiff in this case was a pedestrian who was hit by the defendant’s vehicle. The plaintiff claimed he emerged from the back of a bus, but the defendant said the plaintiff stepped out from in front of the bus. The plaintiff’s location was important because it affected whether the defendant was able to see him before the collision. The defendant also testified that he was going 25 to 27 miles per hour and that the bus was about two and a half car lengths from the traffic light. These facts, the court noted, created an issue as to whether the defendant was going too fast and whether he would have had time to react if his speed were slower. The court noted that the conflicting accounts of the events of the accident raised credibility questions, but it was not the court’s role to assess credibility during a motion for summary judgment.
Thus, even facts that may seem minor, such as whether the plaintiff was at the front or the back of the bus, can be sufficient to prevent summary judgment. Such facts can have a significant effect on liability.
An experienced New York car accident attorney knows when to file a motion for summary judgment and how to oppose a defense motion for summary judgment. If you have been seriously injured in an accident, call the Law Offices of Marc S. Albert at 1.855.252.3788 for assistance with your case.
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