United States District Court, S.D. New York
For Alvin Peralta, Plaintiff: Joshua Brian Irwin, LEAD ATTORNEY, Gregory J. Cannata, Esq., New York, NY.
For Luis E. Quintero, Daniel J. Gonsalves, Defendants: John M. Downing, Jr, LEAD ATTORNEY, Downing & Peck, P.C., New York, NY.
MEMORANDUM DECISION AND ORDER
FRANK MAAS, United States Magistrate Judge.
This personal injury action was removed to this Court from Supreme Court, Bronx County, on May 15, 2012. The defendants did not file a jury demand until 588 days later. In the absence of any rationale for their delay other than mere inadvertence, I found that the defendants had waived their right to a jury trial. The case then was tried before me on January 8, 9, and 13, 2014. I have considered the evidence at that trial, as well as the parties' post-trial submissions. Pursuant to Rule 52(a) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure, I now make the following findings of fact and conclusions of law with respect to the issues of liability and damages.
A. Findings of Fact
On the evening of March 6, 2010, plaintiff Alvin Peralta (" Peralta" ) was driving his 1992 Honda Accord on Eldridge Street on the lower east side of Manhattan. His friend Melvin Sanchez was in the front passenger seat of the car.
As Peralta approached the intersection of Eldridge and Rivington Street, a 2006 Volkswagen Jetta driven by defendant
Luis Quintero (" Quintero" ) also was approaching the intersection from Rivington Street. The owner of the Jetta, Daniel Gonsalves (" Gonsalves" ) was in the front passenger seat.
The parties agree that there was a stop sign on Rivington Street, but not Eldridge Street, where the streets intersected. The parties further agree that both are one-way streets. Whether Quintero stopped at the stop sign and what happened next are the critical issues. Peralta contends that Quintero failed to yield to his passing vehicle and struck the passenger side of the Accord, causing the vehicle to move to the left. Peralta further contends that the impact was sufficient to cause both passenger-side doors of his Accord to deform, although they still could be opened and closed with difficulty after the collision.
Quintero, to the contrary, testified that he came to a full stop and was inching into the intersection to make a right turn when Peralta's car suddenly swerved around him. He described the Accord's speed as faster than normal, but conceded that he did not know if Peralta was traveling more than thirty miles per hour. Curiously, Quintero maintains that there was no accident. Instead, Quintero alleges that he and Gonsalves got out of their car after Peralta's car stopped simply because he felt something might have happened. Quintero also testified that the police were called to the scene even though there was no damage to either vehicle.
Simply put, Quintero's version of events makes no sense. First, if Quintero had been successfully making a right turn and Peralta swerved around him, there would have been no reason for Quintero to stop or for him and his passenger to exit their car. Second, although Quintero claimed that there was no impact, a police officer responding to the scene prepared a Police Accident Report in which he noted that " Veh. 2 [the Jetta] stated he was going straight while veh. 1 [the Accord] speeded and caused veh. 2 to hit veh. 1." (Pl.'s Ex. 1 at 1). Presumably, if there was no physical evidence that a motor vehicle accident had occurred, or if Quintero or Gonsalves had so stated, the officer preparing the report would have made note of what might prove to be a fraudulent insurance claim. Third, although Quintero testified that he was making a right turn just before the non-accident, the police report indicates that " veh[icle] 2" -- presumably either Quintero or Gonsalves -- stated that their vehicle was " going straight" when the accident occurred. (Id.). Consistent with that description, the police diagram of the incident reflects a " t-bone" collision in which Quintero struck the middle of the passenger side of Peralta's car. (Id.). Finally, Sanchez requested medical attention and was ...