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Sanchez v. United States

United States District Court, S.D. New York

February 17, 2015

CHRISTIAN SANCHEZ, Plaintiff,
v.
UNITED STATES OF AMERICA, Defendant.

OPINION AND ORDER

J. PAUL OETKEN, District Judge.

Plaintiff Christian Sanchez sues the United States under the Federal Tort Claims Act ("FTCA"), 28 U.S.C. §§ 1346(b), 2671-2680, for the alleged negligent driving of a federal employee, which Sanchez claims caused him serious injuries. He seeks damages in the amount of $2, 000, 000. Before the Court is Sanchez's motion for summary judgment on the issue of liability only. For the reasons that follow, the motion is denied.

I. Background

The following facts are not in dispute unless otherwise noted.[1] This action concerns an accident that occurred on May 13, 2011, at approximately 3:30 p.m., on York Avenue between East 88th and 89th Streets in New York City. (Pl. SUF ¶¶ 3, 12-13.) The accident involved a collision between a vehicle driven by Steven Deck and a bicycle operated by Sanchez. ( Id. ¶¶ 4-7.)

At the time of the accident, Deck was an Investigator Specialist employed by the Federal Bureau of Investigation ( id. ¶ 9), and was taking part in surveillance activities in connection with his employment (Shore Aff. Ex. 6 ("Deck Tr.") at 18:16-21). He was driving south on York Avenue in a Dodge Avenger, traveling alone. ( Id. at 18:7-9; Pl. SUF ¶¶ 6, 20.) As he was driving, he decided to turn around. (Deck Tr. 35:5-12.) He made a U-turn at East 88th Street, into the northbound lanes of York Avenue. (Pl. SUF ¶ 21.)[2] He executed the turn at a speed of 10 to 15 miles per hour. ( Id. ¶ 23.) At the same time, Sanchez-who had just left work and was on his way home-was traveling north on York Avenue on his bicycle. (Shore Aff. Exs. 4-5 ("Sanchez Tr.") at 98:4-99:4.)

When Deck turned into the northbound lanes of York Avenue, he and Sanchez collided. The details of the collision are disputed. Deck testified in his deposition that he did not see Sanchez when he made the turn (Deck Tr. at 42:22-43:7), and that the accident occurred when his turn was nearly complete, at which point the vehicle was facing forward, at a 45-degree angle with the road ( id. at 45:5-9, 46:20-23). Sanchez testified that he first observed Deck's vehicle a block away, double parked on the southbound side of York Avenue, and did not see it again until it hit him from behind. (Sanchez Tr. at 107:12-110:25.) Based on this testimony, Sanchez contends that Deck caused the collision when his vehicle struck Sanchez (Dkt. No. 38, Memorandum of Law in Support of Motion for Summary Judgment ("Pl. Memo"), at 1), while the Government argues that Deck's testimony, along with the Police Accident Report ( see Shore Aff. Ex. 2), support the conclusion that Sanchez caused the accident when he struck Deck's vehicle from behind (Dkt. No. 41, Memorandum of Law in Opposition to Motion for Summary Judgment, at 9).

II. Legal Standards

A. Summary Judgment

Summary judgment is appropriate when "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); see Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 322 (1986) (citing Rule 56). A fact is material if it "might affect the outcome of the suit under the governing law, " Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 248 (1986), and a dispute is genuine if, considering the record as a whole, a rational jury could find in favor of the non-moving party, Matsushita Elec. Indus. Co. v. Zenith Radio Corp., 475 U.S. 574, 587 (1986).

"It is the movant's burden to show that no genuine factual dispute exists." Vt. Teddy Bear Co. v. 1-800 Beargram Co., 373 F.3d 241, 244 (2d Cir. 2004). If the movant meets this initial burden of production, the non-moving party must then identify specific facts demonstrating a genuine issue for trial. Celotex Corp., 477 U.S. at 324. In determining whether there is a genuine dispute as to a material fact, the court views all evidence in the light most favorable to the nonmoving party and draws all reasonable inferences in that party's favor. See Okin v. Vill. of Cornwall-on-Hudson Police Dep't, 577 F.3d 415, 427 (2d Cir. 2009). The court's role is not to "weigh the evidence or resolve issues of fact." Lucente v. Int'l Bus. Mach. Corp., 310 F.3d 243, 254 (2d Cir. 2002). Rather, "it is confined to deciding whether a rational juror could find in favor of the non-moving party." Id. (citing Anderson, 477 U.S. at 249).

B. FTCA

Sanchez brings his claim under the FTCA, which provides that tort liability for an accident based on the alleged negligence of a United States employee is governed by the laws of the state where the accident occurred-in this case, New York. Makarova v. United States, 201 F.3d 110, 114 (2d Cir. 2000). Under New York law, a plaintiff must establish three elements in order to succeed on a negligence claim: (1) that the defendant owed the plaintiff a duty of care; (2) that the defendant breached that duty; and (3) that the breach was the proximate cause of the plaintiff's injuries. See, e.g., Lombard v. Booz-Allen & Hamilton, Inc., 280 F.3d 209, 215 (2d Cir. 2002) (citing Merino v. N.Y.C. Transit Auth., 218 A.D.2d 451, 457 (N.Y.App.Div. 1996)).

III. Discussion

A. Negligence ...


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