United States District Court, E.D. New York
For Plaintiff: Oren J. Cohen, Esq., LAW OFFICE OF OREN J. COHEN, Staten Island, NY.
For Defendant: John M. Downing, Jr., Esq., DOWNING & PECK P.C., New York, NY.
MEMORANDUM AND ORDER
John Gleeson, United States District Judge.
Plaintiff Erica Sciarrone brings this diversity action against defendants Brian C. Juliano and Olde Grandad Industries Inc., alleging that their negligence caused her to be injured in an automobile accident in Staten Island on December 22, 2011. Defendants now move for summary judgment on grounds that Ms. Sciarrone is barred from recovery because she has not made a prima facie case of " serious injury" as required by New York Insurance Law § 5102(d). Plaintiff, in turn, cross-moves for summary judgment on the issue of Defendants' liability.
The following undisputed facts are based upon the parties' Local Civil Rule 56.1 statements and supporting materials. Any disputed facts are noted and have been viewed in the light most favorable to the plaintiff. See Adickes v. S.H. Kress & Co., 398 U.S. 144, 157-59, 90 S.Ct. 1598, 26 L.Ed.2d 142 (1970). On December 22, 2011, Ms. Sciarrone, who was driving her car, was stopped at a red light near the intersection of Arthur Kill Road and Drumgoogle Road, in Staten Island, New York. Defendant Brian C. Juliano, an employee of Defendant Olde Grandad Industries Inc., was driving a truck that rear-ended Ms. Sciarrone's stopped car. Though only Ms. Sciarrone's hands made contact with the interior of the car upon impact, Ms. Sciarrone asserts, and Defendants dispute, that she immediately experienced a headache and nausea, as well as pain in her neck, arm and back.
When the police arrived at the scene of the accident, Ms. Sciarrone declined the offer of an ambulance. She drove to her house to drop off her damaged car, and then her husband drove her to the emergency room at the Staten Island University Hospital. Sciarrone Dep. 32:11-33:17. The examining physician at the hospital diagnosed Ms. Sciarrone with a concussion but gave her no treatment and took no x-rays or MRIs. Ms. Sciarrone walked out of the hospital on her own power approximately one hour later. Sciarrone Dep. 33:18-35:7. About one month later, Ms. Sciarrone began receiving treatment from various doctors for injuries that she maintains were the result of the accident.
In January 2013, thirteen months after the accident, and two months after the complaint in this case was filed, Ms. Sciarrone fell while walking on the stairs at her home and sustained a fracture to her ankle. Ms. Sciarrone contends that she fell because she was dizzy, and that this dizziness was a result of the injuries she suffered in the automobile accident thirteen months prior.
Ms. Sciarrone originally brought this case in the New York State Supreme Court for Richmond County on November 1, 2012. Pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1446(b) and 28 U.S.C. § 1332, the Defendants removed the case to this court on October 29, 2013. These motions followed.
A. Defendants' Motion for Summary Judgment
1. The No-Fault Framework
Under Rule 56 of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure, the Court shall grant summary judgment " if the movant shows that there is no genuine dispute as to any material fact and the movant is entitled to judgment as a matter of law." Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(a). The substantive law governing the case will determine those facts that are material, and " [o]nly disputes over facts that might affect the outcome of the suit under the governing law will properly preclude the entry of summary judgment." Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 248, 106 S.Ct. 2505, 91 L.Ed.2d 202 (1986). Summary judgment is warranted only if " the evidence is such that a reasonable jury could not return a verdict for the nonmoving party." Id. Moreover, " the inferences to be drawn from the underlying facts . . . must be viewed in the light most favorable to the party opposing the motion." Matsushita Elec. Indus. Co. v. Zenith Radio Corp., 475 U.S. 574, 587-88, 106 S.Ct. 1348, 89 L.Ed.2d 538 (1986). Once the moving party has met its burden, the " opponent must do more than simply show that there is some metaphysical doubt as to the material facts . . . . Where the record taken as a whole could not lead a rational trier of fact to find for the nonmoving party, there is no 'genuine issue for trial.'" Scott v. Harris, 550 U.S. 372, 380, 127 S.Ct. 1769, 167 L.Ed.2d 686 (2007) (quoting Matsushita Elec. Indus. Co., 475 U.S. at 586-87 (1986)).
Under New York law, a claimant cannot bring suit for a personal injury arising out of an automobile accident " except in the case of a serious injury." N.Y. Ins. Law § 5104(a). To qualify as a " serious injury, " the claimed ...