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New YorkCourt Discusses Establishing Liability for Negligence and Grossly Negligent Conduct

When catastrophic accidents cause multiple fatalities, it is not uncommon for surviving family members to seek to recover damages from the parties that caused or contributed to the accident. Simply showing that a tragedy occurred is not sufficient to establish fault, though. Instead, plaintiffs pursuing claims following deadly collisions must show that defendant owed the deceased parties a duty of care, and the breach of the duty is what lead to their deaths, as discussed in a recent New York opinion arising out of a fatal limousine crash. If you lost a loved one in a car accident, it is prudent to meet with a Syracuse personal injury attorney to discuss what you must prove to recover compensation.

The Facts of the Case

Reportedly, in October 2018, a tragic collision caused the death of twenty people. The accident occurred when the brake system of a stretch limousine failed, and the limousine crashed into the parking lot of a restaurant. The driver, seventeen passengers, and two people standing in the parking lot lost their lives. The plaintiffs, representatives of the estates of the deceased individuals, filed a lawsuit against multiple parties, including the chauffeur company that owned the limousine and the auto body shop that regularly performed repairs on it. The auto body shop moved to dismiss the plaintiffs’ claims of negligence and grossly negligent conduct, arguing the plaintiffs could not establish it owed a duty to the decedents. Upon review, the court denied the auto body shop’s motion.

Establishing Liability for Negligence and Grossly Negligent Conduct

Pursuant to New York law, a court evaluating a defendant’s motion to dismiss must accept plaintiffs’ assertions as true and grant them every possible inference. The court’s duty is not to determine whether plaintiffs can ultimately prove their claims but instead whether they have stated a cause of action.

In New York, a plaintiff averring a defendant is liable for negligence or grossly negligent conduct must show that the defendant owed the plaintiff a duty, the defendant breached that duty, and the breach proximately led to the plaintiff’s harm. The court explained that in the subject case, the plaintiffs alleged that the auto body shop had a contractual duty to repair and inspect the limousine.

The court noted that contractual obligations generally will not give rise to tort liability to third parties, there are exceptions, such as where the contracting party’s failure to exercise reasonable care in the performance of the duties launches an instrument of harm. Here, the court found that the exception applied, and the plaintiff plausibly alleged that the auto body shop should be liable. Thus, the court denied the defendant’s motion.

Speak to a Trusted Syracuse Lawyer

While automobile accidents often arise out of reckless driving, they can be caused by other forms of negligence as well. If you lost a loved one in a fatal car accident, you should speak to an attorney about your potential claims. At DeFrancisco & Falgiatano Personal Injury Lawyers, our trusted attorneys take pride in helping people harmed by the carelessness of others fight to protect their interests, and if you hire us, we will advocate tirelessly on your behalf. You can reach us via our form online or at 833-247-8427 to set up a meeting.

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