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United States District Court, S.D. New York

March 17, 2004.


The opinion of the court was delivered by: KEVIN FOX, Magistrate Judge


The above-captioned action arises out of an automobile accident, which occurred on December 27, 1996, near the entrance to the Holland Tunnel in the borough of Manhattan, City of New York. The action was removed from the New York State Supreme Court to this court by the defendants, based on diversity of citizenship. New York law governs this action.

Before the Court is a motion for summary judgment, made pursuant to Fed.R.Civ.P. 56 by the plaintiffs. The defendants failed to respond to the motion in the time allotted by the Court.

  Based upon the submissions made by the plaintiffs, the Court finds that the following facts are not in dispute. Defendant Andrew Wiederman ("Wiederman") was, on the date noted above, operating a 1984 Jeep vehicle with the permission and consent of its owner, Wiederman's father Franz Wiederman. Wiederman was traveling along Varick Street, heading for the Holland Tunnel. He recalls that the traffic was heavy as he approached the tunnel and he described it as "stop-and-go" traffic. Plaintiff Adrienne Schwall ("Schwall") was operating a motor vehicle in the traffic lane to the immediate right of the traffic lane in which Wiederman was traveling. At Page 2 some point, Schwall changed lanes and her vehicle moved in front of the Jeep that Wiederman was operating. Wiederman noticed that Schwall's vehicle was coming to a stop because he observed the brake lights on Schwall's vehicle engage. According to Wiederman, Schwall's vehicle stopped abruptly. Wiederman then "slammed" on the brakes of his Jeep. The brakes locked and Wiederman's Jeep skidded. The front bumper of Wiederman's Jeep came into contact with the rear bumper of Schwall's vehicle. This litigation followed.

  Summary judgment may be granted in favor of the moving party "if the pleadings, depositions, answers to interrogatories, and admissions on file, together with the affidavits, if any, show that there is no genuine issue as to any material fact and that the moving party is entitled to judgment as a matter of law." See Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(c); see also D'Amico. v. City of New York, 132 F.3d 145, 149 (2d Cir.). cert. denied, 524 U.S. 911, 118 S.Ct. 2075 (1998). When considering a motion for summary judgment, "[t]he court must view the evidence in the light most favorable to the party against whom summary judgment is sought and must draw all reasonable inferences in his favor." L. B. Foster Co. v. America Piles. Inc., 138 F.3d 81, 87 (2d Cir. 1998) (citing Matsushita Electric Industrial Co. v. Zenith Radio Corp., 475 U.S. 574, 587, 106 S.Ct. 1348, 1356 [1986]).

  The moving party bears the burden of showing that no genuine issue of material fact exists. See Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 323, 106 S.Ct. 2548, 2552 (1986). Once the moving party has satisfied its burden, the non-moving party must come forward with "specific facts showing that there is a genuine issue for trial." Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(e); see Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 250, 106 S.Ct. 2505, 2511 (1986). Page 3

  In order to defeat a motion for summary judgment, the non-moving party cannot merely rely upon the allegations contained in the pleadings, and "must do more than simply show that there is some metaphysical doubt as to the material facts." Matsushita, 475 U.S. at 586 n. 11, 106 S.Ct. at 1355 n. 11. "[T]he mere existence of some alleged factual dispute between the parties will not defeat an otherwise properly supported motion for summary judgment." Anderson, 477 U.S. at 247-48, 106 S.Ct. at 2510. The non-moving party must offer "concrete evidence from which a reasonable juror could return a verdict in his favor." Anderson, 477 U.S. at 256, 106 S.Ct. at 2514. Summary judgment should only be granted if no rational jury could find in favor of the non-moving party. See Heilweil v. Mount Sinai Hospital, 32 F.3d 718, 721 (2dCir. 1994).

  Under New York law, "a rear-end collision with a stopped vehicle establishes a prima facie case of negligence on the part of the operator of the second vehicle. This rule has been applied when the front vehicle stops suddenly in slow-moving traffic . . . even if the sudden stop is repetitive . . . when the front vehicle, although in stop-and-go traffic, stopped while crossing an intersection . . . and when the front car stopped after having changed lanes." Johnson v. Phillips, 261 A.D.2d 269, 271-272, 690 N.Y.S.2d 545, 547-548 (App. Div. 1st Dep't 1999). When a rear-end automobile collision occurs, an injured occupant of the front vehicle is entitled to summary judgment on liability unless the operator of the following vehicle can provide a non-negligent explanation in evidentiary form for the automobile collision. See Leal v. Wolff, 224 A.D.2d 392, 393, 638 N.Y.S.2d 110, 111-112 (App. Div.2d Dep't 1996).

  In the case at bar, the defendants have riot submitted to the Court any evidence that provides a non-negligent explanation for the rear-end automobile collision which is the subject of Page 4 this action. Under the circumstances, the plaintiffs are entitled to summary judgment on the issue of liability. Accordingly, the plaintiffs' application for summary judgment, made pursuant to Fed.R.Civ.P. 56, is granted. The trial of this action, which is scheduled to commence on April 5, 2004, will be a trial on the issue of damages solely.



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