On November 14, 2012, the Supreme Court Appellate Division, Second Department, affirmed the Supreme Court’s finding of summary judgment for the plaintiff in an automobile collision action from Nassau County. The facts surrounding the case are simple. The plaintiff’s vehicle was stopped when it was struck from behind by the defendant’s vehicle. Quoting Volpe v. Limoncelli, 74 AD3d 795, the Court stated that “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 defendant attempted to provide a ‘nonnegligent explanation,” claiming that the reason for the collision was the existence of an emergency situation. Citing the legal concept of collateral estoppel, however, the Court ruled that this issue was precluded from the appeals proceedings. The doctrine of collateral estoppel prevents an issue previously decided from being relitigated in a subsequent proceeding. At a previously held framed-issue hearing, the issue of whether the defendant was faced with an emergency situation was “actually litigated, squarely addressed and [it was] specifically decided”. Thus, the defendant’s defense of the emergency situation was not permitted, and as such the defendant failed to raise a triable issue of fact, and summary judgment for the plaintiff was affirmed on appeal.
The Appellate Court’s decision can be found on the New York Official Reports website here.