In Jeffers v Style Tr. Inc. decided in October 2012, the Supreme Court Appellate Division, First Department, reversed a summary judgment finding for the defendants in a car accident case dealing with the serious injury threshold. The Supreme Court initially ruled that the defendants had shown that the plaintiff had not sustained a serious injury, as defined by Insurance Law section 5102(d). On appeal, the Appellate division found that the defendant did not meet its prima facie burden and, even had it met this burden, the plaintiff had raised a triable issue of fact that should have allowed the case to go to trial.
The Court noted that the defendant’s expert made conclusory statements regarding his opinion that the plaintiff did not suffer the injury in the accident, failing to support these statements with medical proof. Plaintiff’s expert, on the other hand, raised issues including reduced range of motion in her knee, difficulty with everyday activities, and the need for post-accident surgery. Also, the Court decided that the defendant skirted the issue of causation, while the plaintiff showed that prior to the accident she had no symptoms.
Insurance Law section 5102(d), referenced above, defines a “serious injury” under New York law. One of the ways an injured party in a car accident case can prove a “serious injury” is to show, through objective evidence, “a medically determined injury or impairment of a non-permanent nature which prevents the injured person from performing substantially all of the material acts which constitute such person’s usual and customary daily activities for not less than ninety days during the one hundred eighty days immediately following the occurrence of the injury or impairment.” In other words, the injured party’s customary daily activities must be hindered for roughly three of the six months following the date that the injury occurred. The Court in this action determined that the defendant did not establish the absence of this type of injury. The plaintiff claimed to have missed eleven months of work following her injury, and the defendant offered no evidence to refute this claim.
As always, the reversal of summary judgment does not mean a victory for the plaintiff. It simply means that the Court found that evidence of a triable issue of fact existed such that it would be proper to allow a jury to decide the facts of the case. The ultimate outcome is yet to be determined. The First Department’s decision can be found here on the NY Courts website.