Summary Judgment Should Have Been Granted For Rear-Ended Plaintiff

A recent Appellate Division, Second Department, decision, Williams v. Spencer-Hall, illustrates the application of the general rule that:

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. Drivers have a duty to see what should be seen and to exercise reasonable care under the circumstances to avoid an accident. A rear-end collision with a stopped or stopping vehicle creates a prima facie case of negligence against the operator of the rear vehicle, thereby requiring that operator to rebut the inference of negligence by providing a nonnegligent explanation for the collision.

The court reversed the trial court’s denial of plaintiff’s motion for summary judgment on the issue of liability.

Specifically, it determined that plaintiff demonstrated herĀ prima facieĀ entitlement to judgment as a matter of law against the rear-ending driver and its operator by submitting “her own affidavit regarding the circumstances of the accident, including the fact that the vehicle in which she was a passenger … was stopped when it was struck in the rear by a vehicle owned by ICL.”

The court rejected ICL’s argument that the motion should have been denied as premature, since it “failed to submit any affidavits establishing that facts existed which were essential to justify opposition to the motion but were not in its possession in light of the fact that discovery had yet to be completed.”

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