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Soh v. Foulds

UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT SOUTHERN DISTRICT OF NEW YORK


October 24, 2007

HYUN SOH, PLAINTIFF,
v.
HEIDI RENEE FOULDS, JEANNE FOULDS, AND. JOHN/JANE DOES 1-5 DEFENDANTS.

The opinion of the court was delivered by: Hon. Harold Baer, Jr., District Judge

OPINION & ORDER

Plaintiff Hyun Soh ("Plaintiff") moves for partial summary judgment as to liability only on his negligence complaint against Defendant Heidi Renee Foulds ("Defendant"). For the reasons set forth below, Plaintiff's motion for partial summary judgment is denied.

I. FACTUAL BACKGROUND*fn1

Around mid-day on July 10, 2004, Defendant Heidi Renee Foulds was driving on Canal Street near Broadway in New York City. Plaintiff was driving a car directly in front of Defendant, and was rear-ended by Defendant. Defendant alleges that the accident occurred when Plaintiff made a sudden stop in "bumper to bumper" traffic. Plaintiff disputes this account, alleging that he was already at a complete stop at a red traffic signal at the time of the collision.

II. DISCUSSION

Summary judgment is granted only when there is no genuine issue of material fact and the moving party is thus entitled to judgment as a matter of law. Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 322-23 (1986). Further, in determining whether there is a genuine issue of material fact, the Court resolves ambiguities and draws all reasonable references in favor of the non-moving party. Matsushita Elec. Indus. Co. v. Zenith Radio Corp., 475 U.S. 574, 587-89 (1986).

At the outset, it is important to note that "summary judgment is 'highly unusual' in a negligence case, because such a case requires a determination of the reasonableness of a party's conduct, and 'the assessment of reasonableness generally is a factual question to be addressed by the jury.'" Maizous v. Garraffa, 2002 U.S. Dist LEXIS 13544, at *6 (E.D.N.Y. Apr. 30, 2007) (citing King v. Crossland Sav. Bank, 111 F.3d 251, 25 (2d Cir. 1997)). Furthermore, "[e]ven though a rear-end collision with a stopping or stopped vehicle constitutes a prima facie case of liability [under New York law], the driver of the rear car can rebut this presumption by offering a non-negligent reason for the accident, such as evidence that the Plaintiff contributed to the accident." Deraffele v. Kennedy, 2005 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 8608, at *3 (S.D.N.Y. Apr. 15, 2005). Such non-negligent explanations include "mechanical failure, unavoidable skidding on wet pavement, a sudden stop of a vehicle, or any other reasonable explanation." Mangual v. Pleas, 2004 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 5749, at *10 (S.D.N.Y. Apr. 5, 2004).

In the present case, Defendant contends that traffic was "bumper to bumper" and that Plaintiff came to a sudden stop in fron of her, causing Defendant to hit the rear of Plaintiff's car.*fn2 This explanation alone gives rise to a triable issue of fact.

III. CONCLUSION

Because material issues of fact remain on the issue of liability, Plaintiff's Motion for Partial Summary Judgment is DENIED.

The Clerk is instructed to close tis Motion and remove it from my docket.

SO ORDERED.


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