Stopped Middle Driver in Chain-Reaction Car Accident Held Not Liable

In Cabrera v Thomas, No. 13472, 2020-04779, 29663/18E, 2021 N.Y. Slip Op. 02060, 2021 WL 1216540 (N.Y.A.D. 1 Dept., Apr. 01, 2021) – a case arising from a multiple-vehicle “chain reaction” car accident – the court affirmed the summary judgment dismissal in favor of the middle vehicle.

From the decision:

Plaintiffs sustained injuries as a result of a three-car collision that occurred when they were passengers in a vehicle that was struck in the rear by defendant Delvalle’s vehicle while stopped at a traffic light. In support of his motion, Delvalle demonstrated that his vehicle had been stopped behind plaintiffs’ vehicle at the light when it was rear-ended by a vehicle driven by defendant Christopher Thomas, causing Delvalle’s vehicle to be propelled into the vehicle in which plaintiffs were passengers.

In a chain-reaction collision, responsibility presumptively rests with the rearmost driver, here, defendant Thomas (see Chang v. Rodriguez, 57 A.D.3d 295, 869 N.Y.S.2d 427 [1st Dept. 2008]). Plaintiffs contend that an issue of fact exists as to Delvalle’s negligence because, based on their testimony, there was a second impact between Delvalle’s vehicle and the front vehicle. However, it is undisputed that Delvalle’s vehicle was stopped prior to the initial collision. Thus, plaintiffs failed to demonstrate a basis for finding that Delvalle was at fault in connection with the collision and did not raise a triable issue of fact so as to defeat Delvalle’s motion (see Mustafaj v. Driscoll, 5 A.D.3d 138, 773 N.Y.S.2d 26 [1st Dept. 2004]; Smith v. Seskin, 49 A.D.3d 628, 629, 854 N.Y.S.2d 420 [2d Dept. 2008]).

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