Aguilar v. Bennett et al
ORDER: For the reasons stated in the attached, Plaintiffs 27 Motion for Summary Judgment is denied. The parties are directed to filed a Joint Proposed Pre-Trial Order by November 17, 2017. The trial dates for a jury trial have been set fo r December 11, 2017 and December 12, 2017 before Magistrate Judge Peggy Kuo. The jury selection will begin on December 11, 2017 at 9:30 a.m. in Courtroom 11C South. Ordered by Magistrate Judge Peggy Kuo on 10/23/2017. (Moon, Linda)
UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT
EASTERN DISTRICT OF NEW YORK
JOHN BENNETT and S&M TRANSPORT,
Peggy Kuo, United States Magistrate Judge:
Plaintiff Ramon Aguilar (“Plaintiff”), a citizen of New York, brings this personal injury
lawsuit against Defendants John Bennett (“Bennett”) and S&M Transport (together with Bennett
and S&M Transport, “Defendants”), both citizens of New Jersey. Plaintiff initially filed the lawsuit
in Kings County Supreme Court. Defendants thereafter removed the action to this Court, pursuant
to 28 U.S.C. § 1441(a)-(b) and this Court’s 28 U.S. § 1332(a) diversity jurisdiction. Plaintiff now
moves for summary judgment on the issue of Defendants’ liability, pursuant to Fed. R. Civ. P. 56(a).
The parties consented to jurisdiction of the Magistrate Judge. For the reasons set forth below,
Plaintiff’s Motion for Summary Judgment is denied.
On May 29, 2014, the tractor trailer operated by Defendant Bennett struck the back of
Plaintiff’s truck on the Long Island Expressway in Oyster Bay, New York. (See Gewirtz Aff. ¶ 10,
Dkt. 27-1.) The tractor trailer was owned by Defendant S&M Transport. (See id.) Plaintiff alleges
that this rear-end collision caused his truck to be pushed into the vehicle in front of him, and that he
sustained severe and permanent personal injuries as a result. (See Gewirtz Aff. ¶ 12; Comp. ¶ 23,
Plaintiff alleges that Defendants were “negligent, careless and reckless in the ownership,
operation, management, maintenance, supervision, use and control of the aforesaid vehicle,” and
seeks monetary damages for the alleged personal injuries and economic loss resulting from the
collision. (See Comp. ¶¶ 23, 26-27.)
Plaintiff now moves for summary judgment, claiming that there are no issues of material fact
because his truck was at a complete stop when it was struck by the tractor trailer. (See Gewirtz Aff.
¶ 12-13.) Defendants, however, contend that there is a dispute of material fact in that Plaintiff’s
vehicle stopped suddenly just before it was struck. (See Lamster Aff. ¶ 3-6, Dkt. 28.)
Standard for Summary Judgment
Summary judgment is proper “if the movant shows that there is no genuine dispute as to any
material fact and the movant is entitled to judgment as a matter of law.” Fed. R. Civ. P. 56(a). A
“genuine” dispute is one in which “the evidence is such that a reasonable jury could return a verdict
for the nonmoving party.” Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 248 (1986). The moving
party bears the burden of proving that no genuine factual issues exist. Giannullo v. City of New York.,
322 F.3d 139, 140 (2d Cir. 2003). A court resolving a motion for summary judgment draws all
reasonable inferences and resolves all ambiguities in favor of the nonmoving party. Anderson, 477
U.S. at 255; Pinto v. Allstate Ins. Co., 221 F.3d 394, 398 (2d Cir. 2000).
Plaintiff correctly states that, “[u]nder New York law, a rear-end collision establishes a prima
facie case of liability against the rear vehicle and imposes a duty of explanation on the operator of
that vehicle.” Krynski v. Chase, 707 F. Supp. 2d 318, 322 (E.D.N.Y. 2009) (quoting Hong v. Maher,
No. 02-CV-7825, 2004 WL 771127, at *2 (S.D.N.Y. April 14, 2004). However, the presumption of
negligence can be rebutted if Defendants provide “a non-negligent explanation for the collision.” Id.
at 323. An example of such a non-negligent explanation is “a sudden stop of the vehicle ahead.” Id.
Plaintiff maintains that his truck was at a complete stop when the rear of his truck was
struck by Defendants’ vehicle. (Aguilar Aff. ¶¶ 7-8, Dkt. 27-13.) However, Defendants dispute this
by pointing to Defendant Bennett’s testimony that he saw Plaintiff’s truck braking unexpectedly just
before he struck it. (Lamster Aff. ¶ 4; Dkt. 27-11 at 28.)
The factual dispute as to whether there was an “abrupt, sudden, or otherwise unreasonable”
stop prior to the collision, Krynski, 707 F. Supp. 2d at 324, is a genuine issue of material fact that
would “affect the outcome of the suit under the governing law.” Anderson, 477 U.S. at 248; see also,
Yi Fu Chen v. Spring Tailor, L.L.C., No. 14-CV-218, 2015 WL 3953532, at *7 (S.D.N.Y. June 29,
2015) (finding that courts have held that “an abrupt stop by a front car . . . can support a finding of
(at least) comparative fault.”). Construing the evidence in the light most favorable to Defendants as
the non-moving party, a reasonable jury could find that Defendants have articulated a non-negligent
explanation for the collision and that Plaintiff’s negligence contributed to the accident. Therefore,
since there remains a triable issue of fact as to Defendants’ liability, summary judgment is precluded.
Based on the foregoing, Plaintiff’s Motion for Summary Judgment is denied. Trial will go
forward on liability and damages.
United States Magistrate Judge
Brooklyn, New York
October 23, 2017
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