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New York Court Says Question of Fact Precluded Summary Judgment to Town in Motorcycle Accident Case

In addition to proving that the defendant owed the plaintiff a legal duty of some sort and that this duty was breached in some manner, the plaintiff in a Syracuse motorcycle accident case must also be able to prove that this breach of duty was the proximate cause of the accident for which he or she seeks to recover money damages. Without proof of the element of causation, the plaintiff’s case will fail.

It is not unusual for the defendant in such a case to attempt to get the case dismissed on the grounds that there are no material facts at issue and that, thus, a jury trial is unwarranted. In such a situation, the defendant is basically saying, “Even if everything the plaintiff says is true, I can’t be held liable as a matter of law.”

A fair number of negligence cases end with just such a motion, but the entry of summary judgment is not necessarily fatal to the plaintiff’s case. The appellate court is there to review the trial court’s decision – and to set an erroneous entry of summary judgment aside, if necessary.

Facts of the Case

In a recent case appealed from the Supreme Court of Saratoga County, the plaintiff was a man who was seriously injured in an accident involving his motorcycle and the defendant motorist’s sedan. The motorcyclist filed suit against both the motorist and the defendant town, alleged that their negligence was the cause of the accident. The motorist filed a cross claim against the town, agreeing with the motorcyclist that the town should be held liable for the accident.

The town filed a motion for summary judgment, asking the trial court to dismiss both the motorcyclist’s suit against it and the motorist’s cross claim against it. The trial court granted the motion, thereby dismissing the case as to the town.

The Appellate Court’s Holding

The New York Appellate Division, Third Department reversed the trial court’s entry of summary judgment to the town and remanded the case for further proceedings. The appellate tribunal began by acknowledging that the accident occurred at a “three-way, skewed Y-shaped intersection” where two roads met. At the time of the crash, the motorcyclist was attempting to make a turn; his motorcycle then collided with the sedan driven by the motorist, who was also executing a turn. Both the motorcyclist and the motorist alleged that the town had negligently constructed and negligently maintained the roadway, thus contributing to the cause of the accident.

The trial court had apparently based its decision to grant summary judgment on 1) the rule that the alleged failure of a governmental entity to provide additional warnings of an allegedly dangerous road condition will not be deemed to be a proximate cause of a collision where the drivers were well acquainted with the intersection and 2) the fact that both the motorcyclist and the motorist “had some familiarity with the intersection.” In the reviewing court’s view, this approach overlooked the issue of whether additional traffic control devices were necessary and would have prevented the accident. Because a question of fact existed as to the town’s negligence and whether it was a proximate cause of the crash at issue, summary judgment was inappropriate, in the appellate tribunal’s opinion.

Contact a Syracuse Motorcycle Accident Lawyer

Serious personal injuries and even wrongful death can result from the negligence of individuals, businesses, and governmental entities. If you or a loved one has been hurt in a motorcycle accident, truck wreck, or automobile collision, you need to talk to an attorney to learn more about the process of holding the negligent party responsible for your medical costs, lost earnings, and other damages. For an appointment with an experienced motorcycle accident attorney, please call DeFrancisco & Falgiatano, LLP at 315-479-9000 (or contact us via this website if you prefer).

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