In Rampersaud v. Parmanand, a Queens trial court issued a decision explaining the circumstances under which summary judgment is appropriate in a rear-end collision case.
Plaintiff Rampersaud was a passenger in a car driven by Parmanand when it was struck in the rear by a car driven by Cunningham. Defendant driver Parmanand (and co-defendant owner of the car Parmanand was driving) moved for summary judgment, on the ground that
their vehicle was stopped at the time of the accident and plaintiff’s alleged injuries were caused solely by the negligence of co-defendant Cunningham who struck the Parmanand vehicle in the rear.
The court denied the motion, finding issues of fact as to the rear-ended driver’s fault.
Initially it recited the law applicable to hit-in-the-rear cases:
When the driver of an automobile approaches another automobile from the rear, he or she is bound to maintain a reasonably safe rate of speed and control over his or her vehicle, and to exercise reasonable care to avoid colliding with the other vehicle. It is well established law that a rear-end collision with a stopped or stopping vehicle creates a prima facie case of negligence on the part of the driver of the rearmost vehicle, requiring the operator of that vehicle to proffer an adequate, non-negligent explanation for the accident.
Applying this standard, the court held that there was sufficient evidence to deny defendant driver’s motion. Specifically:
[A]lthough Cunningham testified that the Parmanand vehicle was stopped at the stop sign prior to his striking the vehicle in the rear, he also testified that the lead vehicle started to proceed into the intersection and then immediately stopped again due to traffic. … In view of Cunningham’s testimony that the Parmanand vehicle started and then suddenly stopped there is a triable issue of fact as to whether Parmanand negligently caused or contributed to the accident and whether there is a nonnegligent explanation for the rear-end collision.
If anything, this case illustrates that a rear-end collision does not always mean that the rear-ending driver is 100% at fault.