Questions of Fact Preclude Summary Judgment for Plaintiff in Car Accident Case

Car accident cases typically involve questions of fact, such as who had the red/green light, who entered the intersection first, whether a driver was looking at their cell phone at the time of impact, etc. – the list goes on and on. This is why it may be difficult for one party to a car accident case to obtain summary judgment – generally, a judicial determination as a matter of law – on the issue of liability.

A recent example of this principle is Parris v. Gonzalez-Martinez, 2015 NY Slip Op 05104, decided by the Appellate Division, First Department on June 16, 2015.

In this car/intersection accident case, plaintiff moved for partial summary judgment on the issue of liability. The Supreme Court, Bronx County, denied that motion. The First Department affirms. The court explained that plaintiff was not entitled to summary judgment because she “failed to show the absence of material issues of fact as to her comparative negligence.”

The court further explained:

Defendant testified that he stopped at an intersection, looked to his right (the direction of oncoming traffic), and observed that plaintiff’s vehicle was at a corner one block away. Defendant further testified that he began to move his vehicle because he believed that he had time to cross over the intersection, as plaintiff’s vehicle was “at the other corner.” He also testified that he blew his horn five seconds before the vehicles collided, and that the impact occurred between the front bumper of his vehicle and the front driver’s side of plaintiff’s vehicle. Accordingly, issues of fact exist as to which driver entered the intersection first, which driver had the right-of-way, and whether plaintiff could have exercised reasonable care to avoid the collision.


In addition, the fact “[t]hat defendant’s approach in the intersection was regulated by a stop sign and no traffic control devices regulated plaintiff’s approach is not a basis for awarding plaintiff summary judgment”, and “even if plaintiff had the right-of-way, she was still obliged to be vigilant for oncoming traffic as she traveled down the street.”

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